The 5 rules of embracing Le Sape
The hot and sticky streets of Brazzaville, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is known for a multitude of reasons.
The 2014 Mercer Survey ranked the largest city in the DRC as the worst place to live within Africa and the Middle East.
The United Nations have positioned it last or second last when considering its living standards, including life expectancy and education.
There are also countless incidences of political and press freedom restrictions, torture, disappearances and the ill-treatment of civilians by security forces.
And while these, along with the increasingly high cost of living in post-war Brazzaville, remain a mark on the city’s reputation, so too does the vibrant burst of color draped over the shoulder’s of Brazzaville’s resident fashionistas, Le Sapeurs.
Le Sape, or French slang for attire, is an abbreviation of the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes or the Society of Ambience-Makers and Elegant People.
These dapper and theatrical men and women strut the streets of Brazzaville in designer suits, bold and beautiful neck dressage, pipes, canes and a procession of head wear.
Their flamboyance may be seen as a nod to their colonial past but it is in fact a form of revolt against it for once having considered an African not “civilized enough” for the attire of a dandy.
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Nowadays, as the last licks of colonialism remove itself from the shores of the republic, the main mission of Le Sape is to spread joy and pride with the use of gentlemanly attire. The streets of DRC’s capital is their runway and their theatricality is akin to watching a string of long and languid women in bejewelled bras and ostentatious wings.
Though, don’t be fooled by their masquerade, there are many a rule to making ambience and embracing elegance:
1. A good Le Sape has at least 10 suits:
That are referred to as costumes. You may mix and match but the core of your wardrobe should contain 10 complete outfits that include accessories such as gloves, scarves, cravats and pocket handkerchieves.
2. You are limited to three colors at any given time:
Sure, a Le Sape has no problem mixing red and blue but you won’t see them meshing the colors of the rainbow in a fashion statement that could only be described as a fiasco.
Try choosing one bold color, with a tone such as white, black or grey and mixing it with a bold print on your garment’s details
3. Know what you’re playing with:
Before you even choose your colors, you need to consider that the true art of a dandy is to dress for your mood (settle down, George Costanza). That is, you need to know the meaning of color before you even consider wearing it.
Blue can symbolise peace, while yellow takes on the characteristics of joy and cheerfulness. White can mean purity and freshness while black gives you the air of power, sophistication, mystery and formality.
4. Men and Women are welcome:
While the suit plays a dominant feature in a Le Sape’s repertoire, the movement is not exclusive to men and many a woman will be seen embracing a look that embodies wide lapels, suits and ties. The men aren’t shy of popping on a kilt, too.
5. It ain’t just in the threads…
It’s in the attitude.
You wouldn’t see Oscar Wilde twirling his cain and dropping his vowels. E-nun-ciate!
Also, for all that think there’s a short-cut to donning the dapper threads of Le Sape by hot-wiring a few cars, think again. Men or women that chose to obtain their attire through ill-gotten profits are usually banished from le société.
Lastly, don’t play the fool. Remember, your mission is to spread joy, not idiocy, throughout the world.