Stunning Lookbook Introduces the World to Flawless Nigerian Menswear

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The members of the Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), also known as the sapeurs, have received a fair amount of press over the last few years for an exquisite sense of style that borrows liberally from well-dressed men of eras past. The small personal flourishes — colorful pocket squares, crocodile shoes, and extra-wide brimmed hats — make it hard to not notice their neat suits. There has recently been a renewed interest in the sapeurs, thanks in part to the fashion world’s rediscovery of styles from the early part of the 20th century and a newfound fascination with dandyism. The stories tend to concentrate more on the place the sapeurs come from, the Congo, treating the men who the Wall Street Journal called the “unlikeliest fashionistas” like an exotic aberration.

Image credit: Hector Mediavilla. Via NPR.

Photographs in mainstream media outlets normally place the sapeurs against a shabby backdrop, maybe featuring a dilapidated building or alongside fellow Congolese citizens, clad in less-stylish attire, to hammer home that people dressing well in a country ravaged by a gruesome war that claimed over 5.4 million lives is something of an unexpected sight.

It’s easy to understand why the sapeurs have been such a constant source of attention: their look and stories are fascinating, and for a country where nearly half the Congolese live at or below the national poverty line, citizens choosing to spend what little money they make on a distinctive wardrobe makes for an interesting story. But what many of these outlets miss is that most great post-Word Wars fashion movements have come out of places attempting to rebuild after a devastating war and prolonged political or economic strife. It is usually the younger generation that creates its own style out of the ashes, donning whatever telegraphs a sense of greatness and affluence, mixing decades if they must, to get an original look. Examples range from the mod and Teddy Boy subcultures that started in England to the Rude Boy style that came out of the poorer sections of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1960s. While these contexts might not compare to the horrific violence of the Second Congo War (which technically ended in 2003, although the violence still continues in parts of the country), there is a definite connection between lower-class English and Jamaican youths and the sapeurs: individuals forging (or foraging) an identifiable style in a place and time when others are just trying to survive.

Image credit: Taryor Gabriel

Nigeria, located to the northwest of the Congo, is another part of the African continent that has known its share of civil wars, and caught the eye of fashionistas in the West this week thanks to a Messy Nessy Chic post featuring images from the lookbook of Lagos-based bespoke tailor Taryor Gabriels, designed by Adeyeye Adetayo. The suits feature sleek, Italian-style cuts, but with flourishes that emphasize different eras and geographic origins, from classic pinstripes to military-style frock coats, each one as stylish as the next. The spread of sapeur style and worldwide interest in African menswear is further proof that your continent doesn’t need a New York, Paris, or Milan to have a style all its own.

Click through to see more images from Taryor Gabriels’ lookbook.

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels

Image credit: Taryor Gabriels