I’m like 6 months late but better late than never right.
Yesterday for #ForTheLoveOf on 5fm, I spoke about the subcultures emerging from Soweto, Alexandra and Soshanguve and boy are they a sight for sore eyes and general thirst. I also went to speak to someone who has spent time with the various style crews emerging from Soweto and Alex especially, Flux Trends’ Nicola Cooper, who does research on sub-cultures. She was getting goosebumps when we were speaking about what the emergence of these pulchritudinous young men means for men, fashion, style and masculinity in post trauma South Africa. I had just met Bobo Ndima or Bob The Stylist and was admittedly feeling a little light headed from the rare encounter of meeting a true gentleman in 2014 in Joburg during the day. He wore a perfectly cut suit that I won’t even begin to try to describe lest I use the wrong terminology and a maroon woolen jersey underneath. I was also wearing a maroon dress by Superella. We looked nice sitting next to each other at Braamfontein’s Double Shot cafe.
I met him a few weeks ago at Constitution Hill. Somebody introduced us and the meeting was brief. I bumped into him again the following day and again we exchanged polite greetings and moved on with our lives. When we bumped into each other again for the third consecutive day, his first words before the greeting were ”The universe is telling us something”. Ah, a man after my own beliefs in the power of the universe. We pulled out our phones and exchanged details. I went away and checked out his site, immediately dug the headspace, the photographs, the locations and of course the styling that he and his crew adopt.
Yesterday’s meeting was a meeting for the sake of meeting. There were no agendas. A conversation in which the pictures translated to reality. His crew, Boys of Soweto started their movement in 2011, the same time as their famous friends I See A Different You and The Sartists, a tacitly stylish duo named Wanda Lephoto and Kabelo Khungwane. I can’t really write about these two because I have not met them yet but by the looks (literally) of their blog, they inspire a deep interest in me. I also haven’t met the other group that is keeping me up at night. Khumbula, a word that means remember in Zulu and Xhosa, is a crew of law students and a photographer who live in Johannesburg and they have a new and amazing site where they document their interpretation of vintage South African township style and most importantly, modern manners. I started following the photographer of the Khumbula crew, Harness Hamese on Facebook and he followed back almost immediately. The difference with this crew of stylish men, is that they have an arresting woman in the mix, a young woman they call The Queen of Spades. I also can’t really say much about these guys because the meeting has not yet happened, but it will. I won’t comment on what I think all of this means just yet, not until I have met them. But it’s something along the lines of a reclaiming of masculinity by the black male, the birth of a new kind of masculinity, a return of honor to the black brother, a quiet and beautiful display of the verities of his essence. We have come full circle. We have worn these suits before. Women have worn these suits before. For over 5 decades urban humans have been taking off their clothes, stripping down to the literal sense in an effort to be sexy. I think it all came to a head when Rihanna showed us her entire body the other day. Now the values are shifting again. These guys will take the progression of humanity and human values into consideration as the embodiment of a race and gender who have had their dignity taken away for so long. My take is that this is them figuring out how to dress it up again. The worker, the miner, the lawyer, the banker, the student and the guy who hasn’t figured it out yet will probably find solace here. Of course this modern concern of township young men expressing identity through fashion began with the Smarteez in 2008 and they of course were inspired by ukuJuwisha and the style mavens that had come before them, The Swankers and Amapantsula.
I’m hoping to spend some time with the Boys of Soweto Crew this weekend. They have a book club where they talk books, style, ethics, religion and women amongst many other life things.
Here’s what I have collected from the various blogs that they own or are involved in.
Bob The Stylist of Boys of Soweto photographed by Mack Magagane
Members of Khumbula photographed by Harness Hamase