Get hip to the hepcats: What’s hot on the African street


Get hip to the hepcats: What’s hot on the African street

Five swinging looks that could only come out of Africa

Keneilwe Eleanor Pule

It is Africa Day today, so don’t just celebrate it – live it. African subcultures continue to inspire international fashion collections with their diverse culture and eclectic vibrancy. 
May 25 marks the 55th annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union). Here are five fashion subcultures that have translated a variety of influences into a lifestyle.
Where to find them: South AfricaNotoriously known for spending money carelessly on things that some people may deem unnecessary, this subculture’s group name, Izikhotane, meaning “to brag”, says it all. The clothes are flashy, rooted in the pantsula dance culture which reappropriated gardening uniforms that black South Africans were forced to wear during the apartheid era.
Today this group wears Italian luxury brands like Arbiter, Rossi Moda and their most loved skinny trouser brand, Sfarzo. In recent years the Izikhotane culture experienced a knock in popularity because of its flamboyant display of wealth – adherents burned money and purposely destroyed clothing and iPhones. The police were forced to step in as the ritual burnings were deemed a crime.La Sape (Sapeurs)
Where to find them: CongoLa Sape stands for La Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the society of ambience-makers and elegant people). It is a befitting name for a subculture with such flair that sapeurs create a stir wherever they go.Their style is a different take on Western suits and dandy style. Mostly seen photographed against a backdrop of the Congo slums, their chic clothing is used to distinguish them from their environment and is an important statement of their social status.Swenkas
Where to find them: South AfricaSwenka’s roots lie in working-class Zulu men who would participate in amateur competitions that were part fashion show and part choreography – the purpose of which was to display one’s style and sense of attitude.The Swenka style shares a similar aesthetic to the Sapeurs: keeping it dandy, with a Eurocentric flair and an African touch. The suit colours are bright, often paired with the classic monochrome shoe and a fly-looking hat.Herero Victorians
Where to find them: NamibiaHerero people in Namibia faced extermination at the hands of the German colonialists during the 1904 Herero-German war. Although colonial rule is now history, the fusion of styles remains. The Victorian-inspired aesthetic was born of a ceremonial habit that took place when a Namibian warrior killed a German soldier and would wear the soldier’s uniform as a badge of honour.The Renegades/AfrometalsWhere to find them: BotswanaIn Botswana, dressing like you have just stepped out of a Metallica concert is still very much a thing. The Renegades subculture “rock” leather ensembles marked with studs and paired with cowboy hats, rock band T-shirts and bullet belts that reflect the new wave of British heavy metal.South African photographer Paul Shiakalli’s series Leather Skins, Unchained Hearts showed the subculture is not only reserved for men. Fondly known as the “Marok”, which translates to “rocker” in Setswana, these women are determined to change the narrow viewpoint that females should appear submissive in certain African cultures.

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