le sapeur

An Article about Sapeurs (LONG POST)

Lately I’ve been fascinated by a unique group of African men called the Sapeurs. These black dandies are working-class men from the Congo who, for a variety of reasons, love to dress up regularly in their best outfits. 

The biggest rule of Sapeur style is that no outfit can have more than three colors or tones. This hails back to the days of early French colonialism that had similar rules regarding how dandies were to dress. I love the effect this has in their overall look. Every outfit pops and works in an amazingly coordinated way. 

Sapeur style also seems to lean towards solids and basic patterns, usually large ones like windowpane and stripes. I like the way that emphasizes the colors in the overall look.

What the Sapeurs’ style is really all about is more than just nice clothes. The culture comes from dandyism, a style that has existed for many, many years as a reflection of elegance and poise. Middle-class men in particular have been dandies, as they turn to the fashion to both hide their less-than noble family history and to reflect an inner tranquility. The Sapeurs’ way of life is that of non-violence, politeness, and elegance in all actions. Their group is also political; Sapeurs wish to end the sterotype of a poor, ragged, and ugly Africa. They call this SAPE, which means the Society for the Advancement of Elegant People, and these men are definitely that.

While the Sapeur culture is mostly male-dominated there are some women who are on the scene. While I am not equipped to comment on women’s fashion, I really like the look the woman in the middle of this picture pulls off, even if it reminds me of disco.

Unusual accessories in Sapeur fashion are pipes and cigars. These pieces are never lit, but rather are used to complete the neo-Victorian look Sapeurs love. 

In a nation that is constantly plagued by war, famine, and strife, the Sapeurs bring a ray of hope and joy to the people of their communities. Sapeurs are often asked to attend weddings and other special events so that a further touch of class and royalty is added to what are otherwise fairly plain celebrations. 

The SAPE began as early as 1920, during the final days of French colonization. Sapeurs usually pass down their love of style and grace to their children, who do the same. The man in this photo is a second-generation Sapeur, whose son is also apart of the SAPE. He says that one day his grandsons will also be in the SAPE.

What is beautiful to me about the Sapeurs is that they represent hope in the Congo. They show me how even in poverty and difficult times people are able to find a way to express themselves and their individuality. To me, that’s what wearing good clothes is all about.


“Les Sapeurs” Nikki Billie Jean Ready-To-Wear 2016 Collection Campaign

See the campaign photos & film at nikkibilliejean.com

Fashion Designer/Wardrobe Stylist: Nikki Billie Jean

Producer: All Things Ankara

Creative Director/Co-Producer: Troy Massa

Photographer: By Sir Arthur

Filmmaker: Brendan Lyn

Make-Up Artist: Ronke Raji

Hair Stylist: Soul Chic Boutique

Models: Armanda Tounghi, Wilson Ebo, Khalif Nelson, Yaw Osei & Arnold Philip

Fabric: All Things Ankara Store

Bike: College Park Bicycles

Special Thanks: Nicholas Orji & Ibironke Akintaju (Nikki’s Brother & Mom)


République démocratique du Congo

La sapologie: La société des ambianceurs et des personnes élégantes, ou SAPE, est une mode vestimentaire populaire née après les indépendances du Congo-Brazzaville et du Congo-Kinshasa chez les jeunes et qui se situe dans la filiation du dandysme. Ses adeptes, appelés les sapeurs s'habillent ainsi chez les grands couturiers, et pratiquent la sapologie. Bien que ce soit un terme emprunté du français, il n'a étymologiquement plus rien à voir avec le sens qu'on lui connaît. Ce mouvement est proche du mouvement Boucantier et Farot en Côte x

Pictures from  MoAD After Dark: The Diaspora Underground “The Art of the Suit" (San Francisco,CA - 11/3/2011)

A Global Glimpse of the Sapeur and Black Dandyism

dan·dy n. pl. dan·dies A man who affects extreme elegance in clothes and manners

Le Sapeurs of Congo! “The Sape is an art and real gentleman have to know the concept of gentleness and good manners related to the inherent moral code of the individual,” affirms Tamagni. “ If you get a chance, please check out this book!

Photo Credit: Cut From A Different Cloth

Julia Sarr-Jamois Channels The Men of Style "Le Sapeurs"

External image

Wonderland Magazine’s fashion editor, Julia Sarr-Jamois perfectly captures the swagger of Paul Smith’s “Le Sapeur” inspired collection for D Magazine, as well as landed the cover.

So, what exactly is “Le Sapeur” ? Good question.

“Le Sap is our essence,” explains sapeur Willy Cavory a leading practitioner of , Le Sape which is: The Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (The society for people of elegance and ambiance) otherwise referred as the: RELIGION OF CLOTHING

Oh, how exquisite!

Cavory is part of a group of  ‘sapeurs’ who emanate from, Brazzaville, the capital of The Republic of The Congo and are the subject of The Gentlemen of Bakongo – The Importance of Being Elegant, by Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni.


images and Le Sapeur info via: sabotagetimes.com