La sape originated in Africa when it was a French colony. The two cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa are the two cities of Congo which predominantly adopted this subculture. The French who ruled Congo at that time considered local African people as naked, ill-mannered and uncouth. The French introduced their style especially clothing in the native African culture as a sign of being refined and stylish Elite. The French used to bring second hand clothing from France to Africa. Then they used to give this clothing to the chiefs of the local tribes in order to get their cooperation and loyalty. This policy was so successful that Brazzaville soon became a favorable and Cooperative place for French rulers. House boys who worked at the residences of the French rulers were the first to adopt this sub-culture. During the late 19th century, African house boys accepted clothing in place of money for their services. Not only the house boys but also all the workforce working under the French rulers adopted this subculture and were soon considered Congolese Elite.La sape is a French word where sape means attire. A person who follows la sape is a sapeur. This subculture focuses on adopting and imitating the style and elegance of French Colonial rulers who were known as Dandies.In 1920s Congolese started considering this culture as an escape and Liberation from the accusations and allegations of being inferior from the French and Belgian rulers. This motivation was induced in Congolese people when, West African workers known as the bapopo or coastmen game to Congo in 1920s. Additionally refinement was considered by the local population as a sign of style and refinement. Although the general public was very poor but they saved and spent whatever small earnings they had on adopting this extravagant clothing style.In 1930s camille diata became the driving force behind this subculture in Brazzaville. Another movement in France by the name of L’Amicale which opposed Colonial mindset was formed in 1926 by Andre Matsoua. camille diata was also a part of this movement in France. The main objective of L’Amicale was to enable the Africans who came to France to adjust in and learn the French environment in order to avoid being deported or imprisoned. When Matsoua died in 1942, Congolese had already adopted his views related to fashion and anti-colonial mindset. The aspects of this movement ere absorbed by the subculture of La Sape.In 1950s the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville adopted Cosmopolitan lifestyle. Music was introduced and beer halls and nightclubs formed in the environment of the Cities. Musician Papa wemba was most prominent during this transition. Majority of his music was focused on depicting the subculture of La sape. In 1960s unique aspects of the subculture integrated and La Sape was strengthened. The main reason behind this development was the fact that Congos were granted Independence. The independent Congos plunged into crisis resulting in mass unemployment and economic disaster. Thus, Congolese fled to European cities primarily Paris and London. As the immigrating Africans were considered boorish and raw by local whites, Congolese strongly adopted La Sape as a shield and in order to survive in local European environment. In 1970s and 1980s the power Circles of Congo deliberately tried to eliminate this subculture by barring them from public places. But when in 1990s as the conditions in Congo improved The Immigrant Africans returned to Africa from Europe. They also brought the subculture of La Sape with them back to Africa. At that time the subculture was welcomed and accepted by the local population as well as the current regime. Therefore, in mid-90s the city of Brazzaville saw many sapeurs displaying their Style. La Sape did not remain limited to clothing but also adopted other flamboyant luxuries such as belly, Art, Oprah.
Observers also considered La Sape as an escape from the economic and social difficulties prevalent in Congo. In order to combat the conditions of war, violence and poverty sapeurs considers himself to be raised to a higher level of cultural heritage, awareness and exposure.
The environment of Congo over the past many decades has been below than adequate for the General Public. Low literacy rate, poverty and threatening security situation marks the existence of a society which is trying to survive. In such conditions this subculture is a refuge for the Congolese which takes them when elevated cultural heritage and gives a feeling of being important and Superior. It also certifies their thirst for a modern lifestyle consisting of Elegance style and luxuries. The contradictory nature of this subculture with relation to the environment is not limited to the political or security conditions of the country. It is also contradictory to the financial abilities of a sapeur. He normally goes Way Beyond his financial resources to meet its specific lifestyle. Some save for many years in order to buy a specific suiting or Footwear. Others take huge loans either from Banks or relatives and friends in order to be a sapeur. When the expenditure on the purchases is converted to local currency, it is quite normally in millions. A branded Footwear normally cost 2 to 3 million in local currency whereas a branded suiting normally cost 6 to 7 million in local currency.What induces these heavy expenditures, is it a cognition and importance a sapeur receives from the society. In cities there are predetermined areas where the followers of this subculture converge. Their display their style and fashion as well as discuss the aspects of each other’s Style. Price is considered a very important aspect of the whole package. A fake or cheap wear is immediately identified by other sapeurs Therefore adherence to wearing expensive branded products is inevitable. On the whole this subculture is a unique phenomenon not present anywhere else in the world except in Congo. It is contradictory in terms of the surrounding environment, Society and also the financial resources of the those following this subculture. On other hand this sub culture is attractive and presents a wonderland experience for those truly experience it.