Fashion Gangs Roam Congo.

Fashion-gangs, who call themselves "sape" for the French slang for clothes, roam the ghettos of Congo. They even have their own version of turf wars:

They don't carry guns and rarely brawl, but occasionally they invade one another's turf, dressed to the nines, of course, in what they call a "Defi de Sape," or fashion challenge.

Think "West Side Story" meets "Zoolander." They flash labels, not knives.

"If we see them walking down our street, we run home, change into our best and come back out to prove that we're not nobodies," said Willy Biselele, 28, a leader of the 100 Years War.

The winner is the team with the most expensive or rarest collection. One recent standoff was televised by a local station.


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What a wonderfully bizarre story.


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In 1979, African singer Papa Wemba began promoting the Sapeur ('Société Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants' thus 'SAPE' for short) as a youth cult specifically centred around his band, Viva La Musica.
In Wemba's own words: "The Sapeur cult promoted high standards of personal cleanliness, hygiene and smart dress, to a whole generation of youth across Zaire. When I say well groomed, well shaven, well perfumed, it's a propriety that I am insisting on among the young. I don't care about their education, since education always comes first of all from the family. It's like, if you have children, it's up to you to raise and educate them. Outside of that, the children will get another education from those they associate with.
The Sapeur cult practically hoisted European haut couture designer fashions to the status of mock religion. The cult existed in absolute seriousness, held its own dances, and proclaimed its own manifestos and codes (such as defining ten ways of walking in order to show off one's couture clothes to their best degree).
Some of these guys had no money for rent, but they had the best designer suits on the planet.
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