The first shipment of The Gentleman of Bocongo is due to arrive at Trolley Books HQ in London today, and a sneak peak of what’s inside went up on the site earlier this month. The book pays homage to that sartorially superior breed of man known as the sapeur, and photographer Daniele Tamagni captures all his subjects in full dandy regalia.
The history of the sapeurs dates back to 1950s Congo, to a rumba singer by the name of Papa Wemba. Wemba founded Le SAPE (Society of Ambianceurs and Persons of Elegance) as a reaction to President Mobutu’s prohibition of the western suit, and he still unofficially holds court to this day. Photographer Liz Johnson-Artur shot Wemba for FADER #42 as part of a fashion story on the sapeur club scene in Paris, and these days you’re more likely to see him draped in head-to-toe Yohji or Comme, than any of the outlandish zoot suits he wore back in the early days. Right now though, it’s the new SAPE generation in Central Africa that is getting all the fashion bragging rights, since apparently Sir Paul Smith based his entire Spring 2010 women’s wear collection on Tamagni’s new pictures, dressing all his ladies as if they were on the arm of a sapeur.