These incredibly colourful dandies may not look out of place strutting up and down the boulevards of Paris or Milan, yet instead they are the most recent followers in a long line of Congolese aesthetes. Inhabiting the small shanty town suburb of Brazzaville in West Congo, garbed up in lurid bowler hats, suits, spats and ties, wielding cigars and a nonchalant attitude, the 'sapeurs' strut their stuff. Their outfits sometimes cost as much as a years wages, but make them famous in the local vicinity, often invited to weddings or public events and paid for the privilege. The style originates back to the time of the French and Belgium occupation, when the upper classes of the locals mixed and inter-married with the occupiers, going off to study in Paris and subsequently bringing back the French flare for dapper suits and perfectly matching accessories - albeit in slightly un-Parisian colours.
I saw photos of them at the World Press Photo Award at the Southbank Centre (which unfortunately finished on the 5th December 2010). But these images are available in Gentleman of Bacongo by Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni, all of which I completely adore, partly because the contrasts are so striking. I feel like I should get out of my trackies and step up my game - no one's got swagger like the Bacongo Gentleman's fame.
And if you just can't get enough of the Congolese Gents, then check out this video over at NOWNESS.