A new book by photographer Daniele Tamagni called Gentlemen of Bakongo explores the phenomenon of the African Sapeurs (short for Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance), a clique of extraordinarily dressed dandies from the Congo. In the midst of war and abject poverty, these men dress in tailored suits, silk ties, and immaculate footwear. Designer brands of suits and accessories are of the utmost importance to Sapeurs – Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Gaultier, Gucci, Issey Miyake, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Yohji Yamamoto are all their patron saints. As pointed out in Stylesight’s Daily Chronicles, the book even inspired Paul Smith’s Women’s S/S 10 collection, right down to the finale look that is an exact replica of the book’s cover image. Tamagni says, “As with all dress, the Sapeur style is a form of self-aggrandisement, the cult of appearance. To them, to be well-dressed is to be successful, which is not just the essence of bling, it is a cri de coeur.”
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