Preparations for the pop-up shop is going extremely slowly what with this unfortunate/fortunate weather at the mo. The Jazz can’t complain to much tommorrow will be our third snow day, meaning an absence from our normal daily drudge.
God knows when, how or why but on one of our recent internet travels, we discovered the interesting world of La Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (SAPE).
The Sapeurs, for short, are a male subculture found in The Congo who are devoted to fashion. They really are a continuation of the interesting Dandy tradition that started in London and Paris in the 17th Century, that sadly has faded into absurdness here. It all started in the sixties, when a Congolese pop musician called Papa Wemba lead a rebellion against the new government’s strong anti-westernization stance. Papa Wemba, a flamboyant character, saw a lack of elegance of the “authentic” style that the government were championing (a boring bland suit), and adopted a look based on 1930’s dapper style – let’s just say his look took off BIG time.
Nowadays, even though the majority of The Sapeurs are from extremely impoverished areas, they still follow this religion that dictates they wear super expensive western suits and accessories, they will happily spend $10, 000 on a jacket!!! And even if they cannot afford an outfit, they will beg, borrow or steal clothing to look the part. There are even different sub-sects of SAPE (Paris vs Brussels, Brazzaville vs Kinshasa, Bacongo vs Mungali) with elements of gang rivalries, though it is mostly played out in their dress sense, for example the Brazzaville Sapeurs usually only wear three colours at any one time. Posing is a large part of the experience, showing off your outfit to its fullest potential and outdoing that of rival-gangs! They have clothing fights, where they flash their labels at opponents to try and out do each other.
The Jazz love a good suit and love COLOUR, so combine the two and you have some of the best outfits we’ve seen in a long time. We also dig that fashion plays such a big part in these guys lives, it transforms their perhaps gloomy situation into one of excitement, play and expression. Long live the Male Dandy! It isn’t so different from us girls spending ages glamming ourselves up for a night out on the town, gossiping about everyone’s outfits and swapping shopping habits, just to end up posing on the dancefloor.
All images are from this awesome book we want to own (potential xmas pressie anyone) Gentlemen of Bacongo by Daniele Tamagni.
Come on, who hasn’t forgone food in favour of a new dress?