Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Wardrobe and the World: Les Sapeurs

While doing some research for a job application recently, I came across Guinness' new advert. And I love it. Whatever your opinion on advertising or Guinness or the appropriation of cultures, I defy anyone not to be inspired and uplifted by this extraordinary group of Congolese men.

Guinness advert 2014

The word "sapeurs" comes from "la SAPE" the acronym of "La Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes" or "Society of Atmosphere-setters and Elegant Persons". The roots of "La Sape" are complicated, and I am not sure that I am qualified to delve too deep into them but, from what I can gather, "La Sape" began as a statement of civil disobediance. I have read that it was a reaction against a "fiercely Africanist" regime, where the wearing of a suit was a sign of colonial collaboration and could get you beaten. I have read that under colonialism, "the help" were paid by their masters in used clothes, and this was a way of appropriating a culture and creating one's own style.

Solange Knowles made her music video for "Losing You" with the help of the sapeurs.
Also, I love this song.

Whatever the truth behind this club of dandies, I was inspired by the peaceful nature, self-respect and colourfulness displayed by these men. Also, the importance they attach to clothes as a medium through which to express yourself and that is why I thought I would share them with y'all.
Below is a documentary Guinness made, which explains a bit more about les sapeurs. Enjoy!

Guinness Documentary about Les Sapeurs

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