The Sapeurs stands for Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), are a band of men who turn the art of dressing into a cultural statement, and abide by a code befitting of the gentlemanly clothes they don so resplendently each morning. The Telegraph, in an article published last year explained: “the Sapeurs sense of style is one of joyous exuberance, flamboyant colour, polished tailoring and impeccable attention to detail; suits in periwinkle pink, buttercup yellow and poison green, fat regatta stripes, Jeeves-esque bowler hats, handsome canes, plump bow-ties, polished brogues and jaunty evening scarves, draped just so. It’s a sartorial DNA that nods to 1920’s jazz age refinement and has its roots in the French colonisation of the Congo in the early part of the 20th century. Certain pockets of the Congolese took inspiration from this new influx of French elan; Paris sophistication and elegance became the sartorial goal. When Congolese immigrants visited France and returned laden with finery, the Sapeurs evolved into a fully-fledged style tribe, adapting European clothes with vibrant African flair”.
La Sape, an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (The Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) and hinting to the French slang word “sape” which means “attire”, is a social movement centered in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. An adherent of La Sape is called a sapeur. The movement embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial predecessor dandies as a means of resistance. They are in stark contrast with the environment they live in. There is no more civil war in Brazzaville, so now there are times for more happy moments. These men, they represent lightness and happiness. Here is a documentary sponsored by Guinness about them. Very interesting:
From a historical point of view the Sape can be traced back to the early years of colonialism in Africa. And especially places like Brazzaville and Kinshasa. During colonial times, white people would trade goods and services against clothes they brought from Europe. So European style accommodated to African taste started spreading throughout all the western coast of the continent.
In the 50’s, there was a true cosmopolitan and urban elite that brought prominence to the music scene. Nightclubs and beer halls made up the venues home to young people seeking music. La Sape was synonymous with Congolese rumba scene that surfaced and which Papa Wemba made music about the La Sape style. The post-colonial years brought some instability to Congo and many people were jobless. This made a lot of congolese to move abroad, to places like Paris or London. They brought la Sape with them and started to develop their own movement in the 2 European capitals.
Today, La Sape is stronger than never. It brings an exuberant flamboyance, giving somehow hope for brighter and lighter days. It opens as well the country to fashion and more European style revamped by African taste. It is an interesting phenomenon that put a smile on your face.
Info sourced at The Telegraph, Wikipedia and LeMonde.fr. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are used for illustration purposes only.