While at J. Crew, browsing the final remaining treats of last season, Ashley happened upon me. I expected I was enlightening her as we discussed Dandies, Teddy Boys, and Fops.
Ashley and I had met a few times before when I visited the store. And, maybe I pre-judged that she might be pre-judging me. I admit that before I head out of the house each morning I do one final check in the mirror. Out of self-preservation, I think, “What is the worst thing that someone can say about what I culled together today?” Then I become armed with the power to disempower by being the first to laugh at my own joke, and to welcome conversation.
Thankfully, I welcomed a conversation with Ashley. We discussed visual activism and style. She then made me aware of the Sapeurs of Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. The Sapeurs — the Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People) — are authentic visual activists who many became made aware of by Solange Knowles in her video, Losing You.
Through the art of dressing audaciously dapper, these men spread a message of gentility and joy despite circumstances. “It’s a way of life and it’s a way of having pride in yourself. It brings a sense of meaning to their lives.” These men inspire me, and I am thankful that Ashley was open enough to share this inspiration with me.