Guinness’ latest advert is brought to you by the Sapeurs of the Congo. This delightfully inspirational advert brings to light a remarkable group of men from the Congo whose lifestyle choice is that of a simple philosophy: to defy circumstance and live with a joie de vivre. Their title, Sapeurs, stands for Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People). Their look and their style defines them, not what they do for work or where the live.
Being a Sapeur is about creativity, bright colours, being bold, standing out, and taking inspiration from everywhere you can. It is not just about how you look though, there is a moral fortitude required… Acting with extraordinary integrity and character, they exemplify Guinness’ motto: Made of More.
Accompanying the ad is a short documentary (both featured below) directed by Hector Mediavilla that, whilst giving some insight into the colourful men of the advert, falls somewhat short of telling us the whole story. In the 1970s, newly elected president Mobutu renamed the country ‘the Republic of Zaire’, and employed a movement of unified national culture, which sought to find national pride in the past at the cost of western cultural invasion and the more traditional tribalism. During this time the Sapuer movement began to flourish, a decidedly stylish form of civil disobedience that has blossomed ever since.
Now, Sapuers can be found all over the country. Their look is hardly something you could miss. Predominantly focused around western dress, some even taking inspiration from our own Prince Charles, they stand a stark and colourful contrast to the dilapidated buildings and washed red palette of the landscape. Whilst suits, shirts, ties and brogues might seem the norm in the streets of London, they couldn’t seem any more out of place in the Congo. Vibrant red suits; playfully placed bowler hats; bright bowties; perfectly polished boots; buffed and shined accessories dangling from tweet waistcoats; they all sound out of place and yet, make the look so perfect.
Against the backdrop of rampant poverty in Congo, they seem all the more special. Taking inspiration from the Parisian influence, Sapeurs travelled from Paris buying garments in bulk to sell on at home and bring some colour to the country. Its not all about money though, as the Sapeurs often borrow and lend their clothes, coming up with different combinations to uniquely identify themselves. This gentlemanly, friendly concept is key to the Sapeur identity too, as men of peace they actively avoid conflict, many escaping the last war.
Gathering together, Sapeurs have their look on display to be judged by their peers and bring joy and smiles to the lives of those around them. Their style has gone on to influence so many with African origins. I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of these chaps in the months to come, and not just in the Guinness Advert.
Sapeurs – New Guinness Advert
Sapuers – A short documentary by Guinness
It is reported that La Sape is said to have begun when the Congo was a French colony and many Congolese people became fascinated with French style and dress. It emerged as a sub-culture in the 1970s when Brazzaville became a hot spot for Africans flying to Paris and returning with European style clothing. Still to this day Paris has an influence on the ‘Sapeurs’ fashion sense and style. Inspiration also comes from magazines, TV etc.
Papa Wemba, a famous singer credited with popularising the ‘Sapeurs’ look with his group Viva La Musica, visually challenged the strict non-Western dress code implemented shortly after independence and devised the acronym SAPE, roughly translated from French to mean ‘The Society of Atmosphere-setters and Elegant People’. The ‘Sapeurs’ swagger and the freedom of expression it represents have attracted legions of followers in Africa and beyond.
The ‘Sapeurs’ is an acronym for the La Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (the Society of Elegant Persons), who emanate from the Republic of Congo in Africa. It is a movement of peaceful and aspirational gentlemen, who save up the modest money they make in their day-to-day trade, to purchase colourful attires, as a means to express themselves. The humble and refined gentlemen of the ‘Sapeur’ culture walk with pride and are prime examples of the ethos of this culture.”