The Full Havana
Ah, perhaps it was the jogging suit that did it.
Take the dictator out of his romantically stylish army fatigues and put him in some Adidas wear and that revolutionary allure rapidly fades. If Castro had adopted white belt, white shoes, and sans-a-belt slacks - known in some quarters as The Full Cleveland - he'd have been gone much earlier.
I'm only half-joking but then Castro's "career" has been a study in the power of image-making.
For those who are infatuated with style, old Fidel was the "Go To" man among dictators. In truth, there wasn't much competition. Hitler and his cultish crew chose threads that just flat-out looked evil. Stalin's plain garb couldn't hide his eyes, which always seemed to be sizing someone up for a stint in the Gulag (possibly because he was), and Mussolini dressed like an usher in an ornate but slightly down on its luck theater.
Fidel's wardrobe, on the other hand, was Guerrilla Chic. Those military fatigues, even with creases, spared him the criticism that would have arisen if he'd taken to wearing gold chains, Hawaiian shirts, and alligator shoes. One glance at El Commandante and the Credulous of the Earth were eager to gush over his island prison's health care system. Although some troublesome critics occasionally found voice, Castro's reputation among many in the avant garde did not appear to suffer.
One of his principal executioners and another fashion plate, Che Guevara, is still a popular figure on mugs, t-shirts, and posters. Although Che was an early architect of Fidel's firing squads, he was quite photogenic and never slipped into jogging attire.
Less harmful versions of this image game can be spotted in the business world. We've all seen the CEO who looks the part while driving the company into a ditch. HR departments whisper about the rising young star whose appearance creates an instant halo effect in front of the interview panel but whose accomplishments, once scrutinized, do not seem to include much beyond wowing interview panels. All are testimonies to the power of the superficial.
Look the part, tap into some primal wish that you are genuine, and you'll be given a very long honeymoon period.
Of course, as Fidel would attest, it also helps if you jail your critics.