The South African man used to live a simple life. He was satisfied with a few typical items within his wardrobe – for any given occasion. The recent surge of increased interest in menswear has been fuelled by a number of factors.
The modern South African man is now more mindful of his personal appearance and how he is perceived by others. He is aware that this will play a large part in determining just how far he will go. He has come to the conclusion that a well-dressed man is a successful man. Of late, male consumers have been more willing to take advantage of rising disposable incomes by spending a little more and experimenting a little more with different styles and brands.
The advent of the technological era, has equipped him with the knowledge required to stay abreast of fashion trends and advice. He is able to turn to social media platforms, media applications and blogs for previously specialist insight into what will be considered to be trendy menswear fashion content. Through these digital platforms various, South African subcultures are given a voice, the added hype thereof can be accredited to South African celebrities such as Rikhado Makhado, better known as Riky Rick, or more recently ‘King Kotini’. Young men, who glean inspiration from some of the more stylish celebrities and influencers, are often ready to follow suit, pun intended.
We are in a more ostentatious male culture, where practices such as the ‘Izikhothane’ are becoming commonplace. This may suggest that there is now added emphasis on the need to show others just how much one is worth. Emphasis on dressing to the nines and experimenting with colour, texture and print. The more vibrant and eye-catching the look, the better. The ‘Skhothanes’, flag-bearers of Soweto’s Skhotane culture, were not the first to use clothing as a means to transcend and escape the township life. The ‘Swenkas’ of Johannesburg regarded dressing in tailored three-piece suits as a form of high moral code. Such suiting presented these individuals in a different light to their peers.
Global perceptions of African menswear are certainly changing, and South Africa is helping to lead the way. Emphasis lies on the quality of the garments and the male wearer’s confidence to experiment further and form a sense of unique South African identity. With an increased awareness of ‘self’, and a larger platform to work with, the South African man continues to adapt and will start to see himself as part of something grander than a shirt and a regular fit pair of trousers. He will continue to choose to explore the myriad of colour, print and fabrics made available to him by his counterparts. Rising to the occasion is at the forefront of the agenda.
Photography: Menswear Illustrations, The Colourman Chronicles – Rory Emmett.