The Congo Dandies

The Congo Dandies

2015, Society  -   22 Comments
Ratings: 7.59/10 from 80 users.

You don't expect the most extravagant fashions to be flaunted in the regions of the world which are hardest hit by severely compromised living conditions and widespread poverty. But a group in the Congo known as The Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant People, or La Sape for short, makes it their mission to defy these common expectations. The documentary short The Congo Dandies explores their commitment to maintaining an elegant quality of life that goes beyond the mere clothes they wear.

The group's origins date back to the end of World War II as Congolese soldiers returned home and brought the influence of Parisian designer fashions with them. The traditions they inherited in the aftermath of the war continue to this day. In the earliest moments of the film, we are introduced to Maxime, a husband and father living in extremely modest conditions, who nevertheless treads through town donning an impeccably vivid red designer ensemble. His dandified appearance is carefully and lavishly cultivated; it took him nearly two years of saving before he could afford to purchase his top-of-the-line Weston brand shoes.

From the moment he steps out and makes his through his impoverished community, it becomes apparent that Maxime's dependence on fashion represents a way of transcending the poverty which surrounds him. It infuses him with a sense of self-respect and dignity, and infects those he encounters with a feeling of pride and hope.

Maxime is just one of many residents who indulge in this expensive practice of dress up. The group hosts frequent social gatherings where they compare their ensembles with equal parts envy and admiration. For these men, the cost of their attire is tantamount to the fashion-forward reputation they seek to protect. They refuse to settle for the lower priced knock-off merchandise, because to do so would compromise the integrity of their commitment.

The Congo Dandies proves most fascinating it is portrayal of stark contrasts. These men appear as though they've just stepped out of a swank luxury nightclub in Paris, and yet they're cornered in every direction by dilapidation and despair. The extravagant prices they're willing to pay to clothe themselves is viewed as an obscenity in some circles, especially given the conditions by which their families are forced to live.

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2 years ago

This is nothing knew, I see this everyday at home and in my 15+ years in U.K . Dressing to impress is not a unique trait only applicable to these people. Sadly... this is a global trend and applies to all societies. I personally don't care about how person dresses or how famous they are, however I am aware that I am a minority.

4 years ago

Their ego causes a mental disconnect. Could not they get a better feeling of self if all those Dandies pooled their money to start a business? Possibly something they could export, even their own line of clothing. Employing much of the community, raising everyone up in reality, rather than their ego feel good outward appearance.

Lots of people the world over are about the outward appearances. A corollary in the automotive world, there was a saying years ago: If it doesn't go, chrome it. Why would a street racer need to waste money making his car look pretty if he was always winning the money bets? He could save the money to buy his own garage and parts house to save more and make more. Not to mention employing some others.

5 years ago

It is completely disgusting and these people are just the worst most ignorant pieces of garbage I can think of. I would compare them to drug addicts except that drug addicts have there families starving bc they are trapped in a cycle that they are stuck in, trying to avoid withdrawing and being violently ill. Not that that excuses it, but I can sympathize. These people allow there families to experience poverty so they can strut around with there bravadosio to have other people envy them. Disgusting, sickening. I am embarrassed that I am of the same species as such ignorant pieces of garbage.

The Killers
5 years ago

Are We Humans or Are We Dancers

6 years ago

I love it. They are doing something that boosts their self-esteem under incredible circumstances. They live in an impoverished country in conditions no one commenting on here knows anything about. All the more power to the dandies! I will take note. I wish them all the designer clothes in the world but really so much more! For them, their families, their country!

7 years ago

thier priorities are messed up - what the hell is the point in dressing up - do they want these poor people here to rob them - they live in poverty they can dress it up any way they like but look at their homes there is no purpose at all for this ludicrous bs

7 years ago

Interesting to read the history of la Sape on Wikipedia. Included in the text: "Congolese dandies living in Paris and other European cities were only deemed sapeur once they returned to Brazzaville in the summer to showcase their style before the mid-1990s"

7 years ago

Looking at these people just makes me think about a song ... Human -The Killers.
simple but powerful,research the lyrics and see what you think about the meaning.
I cut the cord long time ago and stop being a puppet of this f*#@-up society

7 years ago

Very interesting situation in this town. Is it truly unique? They want to look rich to be admired. They want to show the labels to make sure people know how much they spent. It sounds exactly like America. Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vitton, Chanel…they all make giant labels to be shown on outside of clothes. I think people who cant really afford it and buy it anyway are the ones who want the labels shown. Its a sad truth.

7 years ago

I thought this was a wonderfully well-done documentary. I don't understand the mediocre ratings. Regardless of the views vis-a-vis the lifestyle shown, the documentary painted a pretty good picture (in an entertaining-enough manner) of an interesting phenomenon that most of us will only experience on our screens, and not in real life. (How many people travel to Brazzaville?)

7 years ago

I don't see how this is any different than people living way outside their means on credit. These men saved to buy. We buy on credit and don't save.

7 years ago

Tom in Haiti, YOU are on point.

Tom in Haiti
7 years ago

As a missionary in rural Haiti for the past 19 years I can totally understand this. Living in extreme poverty yet having experienced the "first world", the only way they can cope is to "live outside" their environment. Not that it is done in Haiti that I know of, but it makes sense to me. I feel for their children and their spouses but can empathize with them.

7 years ago

Extreme lack of education. Same in America .

Muhannad Faza
7 years ago

Brag and exaggerate in affectation, are a disease in one's personality, especially in a poor environment, it is just a wacky tradition reflects the shallowness of one's culture and shortness assented

Diane Underwood
7 years ago

I wonder what his wife and children must really think about the money (and time) he spends on his fabulous wardrobe and, barring that, does he have any notion of how absurd his wardrobe looks in the foreground of such a severely deprived background

uncle chuck
7 years ago

The level of poverty is what stands out to me , makes me think of america without welfare

7 years ago

These people are so foolish in the way they squander their financial resources.

7 years ago

Yeah, well, all societies have their dandies. Can you imagine how hard it is for Papua men to get their bird of paradise feathers.
What struck me more is their wardrobes just sitting in their rooms in the Congo. If you listen to the media, it seems hardly possible that there could be that much peace there. When I travel the world, every place that I hear is bad turns out to be good, and every place that I hear is great turns out to be disappointing and superficial. Go for it Dandies!

7 years ago

The 'Colonized' mind(s) is in full effect in my people. The 'West\European\Far East' has total control of what Afrika is... And we Afrikan people on this planet allow it to continue...

7 years ago

This is a HUSBAND and FATHER and I'll bet while he is saving for two years to buy his expensive clothes so he can strut his stuff, his wife and kids are living hand to mouth. Men in those countries aren't allowed to cook for the family or do "housework" yet the women still toil in the fields and fetching water and charcoal to cook with. Why? So these men can strut around like peacocks ? Disgusting.

7 years ago

Well, why not? They look fine, they obviously enjoy it, and why shouldn't guys like to dress up (like women enjoy doing so?) More power to them!