Sapeur

Sapeur

Ilja smets-Le Sapeur Congolais

The Sapeur is The New Gentleman. When we decided to start our website the sapeurs were our primary inspiration. Their boldness(style and courage) in the face of adversity should inspire anyone who wants to achieve big things. The Sapeurs, which stands for the 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 Sapeur’s does not allow his environment to dictate how he dresses or behaves instead he transcends the limitation put on him by society. Stemming from colonialism, La Sape as it is known has its roots in Brazzaville, Congo.

Even though La Sape has existed since the 19th century  we are seeing the resurgence of this art. The mentality behind La Sape is not exclusive we see other groups of people stepping out of the culture they have been exposed to. For example, American and British teenagers have increasingly become fans of Japanese and Korean culture. Anime and K-pop are as big as ever.  The roots of La Sape takes back the practice to slavery. The French, felt they were different from other colonising nations because they taught the natives the french way of doing things. So when they arrived they found the naked Africans and their first order of business was to dress the savages. It wasn’t long before having these fine clothes from France was a trend and

 

“Captivated by the snobbery and refined elegance of the Coast Men’s attire, Congolese houseboys spurned their masters’ secondhand clothes and became unremitting consumers and fervent connoisseurs, spending their meager wages extravagantly to acquire the latest fashions from Paris.”

 

La Sape was ignited when Congo was granted independence in 1960, the economic impact that independence had was monumental. As a result there were droves of Congolese people who moved to cities such as Paris to look for work. And since they did not feel welcome and were in  strange new land the Sapeur lifestyle was one of the few links they had to their old lives. As a result many Sapeur communities would form. However, one could not call himself a true Sapeur unless they showcased their style in Brazzaville, Congo in the summer before the 1990’s. 

 

However, what is most interesting is that most Sapeurs are not wealthy individuals, they are people trying to make ends meets. Rather than allowing what is in their pockets to dictate their fashion taste, they work hard provide for their families and when they can they buy new pieces to wear. “The Sapeurs have said to me lots of times that when they get dressed up, when they go out and put on a show, they forget their problems. They feel happy.” These are the words of filmmaker Hector Mediavilla, and indeed this sentiment makes sense. Congo is not wealthy  country and unlike in the western world where we get a sense of pride from the cars we buy, the size of our houses or  just how much money we have in out bank accounts.  For the Sapeur his pride comes from his appearance something such as tying a full Windsor knot that we take for granted is something the Sapeur can take pride in.  

I believe that the new gentleman can learn much from La Sape. We should not allow our environment to dictate what we can or cannot do, I hate to say this but regardless of your views on Donald Trump he did not allow his environment to dictate whether or not he could be president.  As a rich property and media mogul, many said he lacked the experience in politics to be a good president. Months later many were watching his inauguration. So regardless of your circumstances anyone can use the La Sape model to improve their life. These are the ideals of The New Gentleman.

So I implore you to try and implement the Sapeur’s outlook  into your everyday life. You will be surprised at how your style and take on life will change. Trying outfits that you might not generally wear, may produce a different reaction than you’d expect. Also, I also believe we should put La Sape on the same foothold of which we put other fashion trends that have picked up in recent years. 

 



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