A recent article — yes, I’m citing it as a serious source — introduced me to the concept of Congo’s SAPE, from Société des ambianceurs et des personnes élégantes, which translates to the “Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance.” Adherents, known as sapeurs, dress in dapper, sometimes garish attire, despite living of modest means in an impoverished nation.

The origins of the practice trace back to French colonization of the area, but have an intensely regional twist. President Mobutu attempted to ban three-piece suits as part of his effort to eradicate colonial influence, but not everyone could be convinced. Musician Papa Wemba is also credited with popularizing the look in the seventies, performing in fine European suits.

A decent introduction can be found on Oddity Central, and an article presenting some critical views can be found on AfricaFeed. And there are plenty of galleries such as here, here, and here.

Oh, and there’s a book: Gentlemen of Bacongo.

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