Clothing subcultures in Africa

Les Sapeurs
photo by Daniele Tamagni

The beautiful continent of Africa is the hallmark of diversity: its people,cultures and land vary greatly in the most beautiful of ways. Somehow, we all got the same parenting and governments that make memes rather relatable. I digress. Thousand dollar shoes owned by guys earning less than 100$ month? Burning of Italian designer labels as a show of wealth?Victorian dressing in this day and age? A metal culture in Botswana? All very plausible. How? Enjoy your read 🙂

La Sape

Congo,DRC.

  Sapeurs. Photo Courtesy

“White people invented the clothes, but we make an art of it.”

Abbreviated from Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes meaning “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”(ambiance maker,let that sink in) sapeurs, as adherents are known, bring life and color to their cities through elegant and oftentimes expensive clothing. This subculture is said to have originated as a quest for dignity in the 20s by Africans working for the colonial French. Wages for their labor would be paid in cash or secondhand clothes, of which they would seek to transform and out-dress their “masters”, with some saving for months to buy new clothes. Later, under the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko, the movement became a form of rebellion against the Authenticité ideology of the time that sought to decolonize Congo, banning ties and suits for an abacost(“à bas le costume” or “down with the suit”),a rather Mao-like style. Appearance goes hand in hand with manners for the sapeur ,advocating peace,respect and inspiration to others as ethos one must embrace. Of all their lofty ideas, the movement is set in relative hardship, leading to many a man questioning its relevance, given some sapeurs ignore seemingly more important financial obligations such as buying land or even school fees to dress up. Cloth stealing rackets in France exist sole to satisfy this desire, with many ending up behind bars. Does the dress,once representative of freedom, enslave its adherents?

Swenka

South Africa

Uptown Funk. Photo Courtesy

Derived form the English word swank(y), these men, much like the sapeurs, believe in stellar dress and impeccable manners. Holding fashion shows on Saturdays every couple of weeks, they laud style and attention to detail. A winner is often chosen at the end of the night, earning a cut form the entrance fees charged at the venue. The gifts, however, don’t count for much when compared the monetary value of the suits, averaging above 800$ a pop.The discipline is to be admired though, with others taking ten month installment plans to buy that which their heart desires and skin longs to be wrapped in.

…what working stiff doesn’t itch to become a peacock on Saturday night?

Skhothane

South Africa
Ah,the iPhone biting, liquor pouring, Rossi Moda burning boys of South Africa.This may have been a media gimmick to sell the story of this oddly vain subculture, but it does have some truth in it.
Skhothane,meaning to taunt or boast, involves local groups meeting up in displays of sheer elegance and price tags.Some go as far as wearing two or three trousers at a go,not forgetting to mention the price of each.Mismatching Arbiter loafers that go at 230$ shows mans can afford more than one pair.Thousand dollar clothes,youth and dance; the elixir of life.

 

 

 

skhothane
A cool 19k (KSH) on a shirt.Photo by Motheo Modaguru Moeng

Herero Victorian Dress

Namibia

Namibian Dress
  Herero lady in Victorian Dress.Photo by Jim Naughten

Layered petticoats, intricate embroidery and horn shaped hats in the middle of a desert may seem odd. Dressing up like those that nearly wiped your people off the face of the earth does require raise more questions than the former. In the 1904 German – Herero war, roughly 75% of the tribe were killed as the European nation sought to colonize the land. After they left, the Herero appropriated the dress as a reminder of their history, much like turning a near fatal bullet into statement jewelery. The dresses are mainly worn on occasions, with males having military styled suits, referencing form turn of the century German uniform.the story of strength and perseverance, all told through cloth.

The Renegades: Metalheads

Botswana

Badassery. Photo by Frank Marshall

Metal is a music about power, independence and freedom,” Giuseppe Sbrana, singer of Skinflint.
Of all countries, one would least expect a metal rock culture in an African one,given our taste for more conservative vibes.Botswana,however ,went in the opposite direction on this convention, being described by some as the genres “last frontier’. Cowboy hats, studded leather jackets, looks of grimace, its almost right out of Mad Max Fury,with a desert vibe to boot.

Student at JKUAT.Purveyor of thoughts and clothes.

1 Comment

  1. Engefu
    April 16, 2018

    “In the 1904 German – Herero war, roughly 75% of the tribe were killed as the European nation sought to colonize the land. After they left, the Herero appropriated the dress as a reminder of their history, much like turning a near fatal bullet into statement jewelry. The dresses are mainly worn on occasions, with males having military styled suits, referencing form turn of the century German uniform.the story of strength and perseverance, all told through cloth.”Love!love love!

    Reply

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