‘Dressing up is part of who we are’ – Dandies of Durban and Joburg talk suits and sprezzatura

Black dandyism is a sartorial movement, which merges African and diasporic aesthetics with classical European fashion. Originating centuries ago, during slavery, it has continued for generations across Africa and the diaspora, as a way to not only show off impeccable style but to expand the conversation on Black identity, pride and politics.

Vintage Tie Don, Tonys Houz and Menzi Mcunu.

“The current fashion of Black dandies is more a nod to the style of their grandfathers than the likes of Oscar Wilde or Beau Brummel. They mix vintage with modern pieces designed on London’s Savile Row, African prints with polka dots and plaid, flamboyant colors with classic lines,” writes Shantrelle P. Lewis (author of recently published Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style), in the article Black Dandyism Is Back, and It’s Both Oppositional Fashion and Therapy at Once.

Now, set against the backdrops of Durban and Johannesburg, an iteration of dandies is reinventing ideas of masculinity, what it means to be Black and South African fashion. Here, we shine the spotlight on dapper dandies continuing and reclaiming dandy culture, and not excluding women — such as the ever-suited Wendy Ntinezo and Andile Biyana of retro style collective Khumbula — sometimes excluded from the Black Dandy conversation (Read: Bows and brogues: Why female black dandies are the ultimate rebels).

Wendy Ntinezo

We chat to a few stylish individuals about what it means to be a modern-day dandy.

Menzi Mcunu

Menzi Mcunu is the creative director and founder of the afroluxury lifestyle brand Afrocentric Gentlemvn. “The brand is aimed at creating a gentleman who is both Afrocentric and a global citizen,” Menzi explains. At the moment the brand specialises in made to measure suiting, creative consulting and content creation. Menzi is based both in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Photograph by Nodef Lok.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy?
Ones’ innate need to always pursue elegance, whether in the way they dress or the way they portray themselves. Basically striving to be elegant in every way.

What do you think your sense of style says about you? 
I have a studied nonchalance. The Italians call it sprezzatura style — the Italian art of studied carelessness and effortless style. My style strives to communicate that dressing up is easy even though this is rarely the case.

What are you wearing or what are your favourite wardrobe items?
I’m into vintage printed shirts like the ones seen in the 1983 film Scarface. I’m also into knitted ties, which bring a touch of texture to any outfit. And my boater hat, which makes me feel like Jay Gatsby [title character of F Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby]. Lastly, I love the double monk strap dress shoe because it’s just so Italian. When you wear them, leave the straps undone to fully embrace the art of imperfection.

Photography by Zachariah Schrueder.

Tony Maake

Tony Maake also known as Tony Mac is a photographer and the chairperson of the Tony Houz Children’s Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that aims to help communities and schools in townships by empowering them with academic and living tools. Born and raised in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, Tony currently studies Molecular Biology at University of Stellenbosch.

Photograph by Thabiso Tstotetsi

What inspires how you dress?
Our elders who wore vintage and sartorialist fashion during the apartheid era, my mentor Lourens Gebhardt — a dandy from Namibia also known as Loux The Vintage Guru — and African fashion.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy?
Our parents were dandies during apartheid, so I feel honoured to continue the legacy of who we are and strive to be. To be a dandy is a fortunate platform to express ourselves and change how we want to be seen because dressing up is a part of who we are as Black people. It is in our blood.

Photography by Stefan Els

What do you enjoy most about dandyism?
Dandyism is not a new fashion style in our country. It existed long ago during apartheid. What I enjoy about Dandyism is that you are unique and proud as an African. Dandyism is a culture that has been invented and lived by our elders and ancestors. It’s a special queer persona. It’s a platform of self-expression for everyone and all genders because Dandyism was never sexist.

What are your favorite wardrobe items?
My bracelets, lapel pins, rings, double breasted suits and dandy hat.

Andile Biyana

Andile Biyana is a stylist, digital content creator and creative influencer based in Johannesburg. She is also a member of street style crew Khumbula. “To me dressing well is a lifestyle. It’s a reminder of my goals and dreams, which continuously inspire me to do better,” she shares.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy?
My key elements to being a dandy are: A suitable hat. A perfectly tailored suit. Ugly shoes. Sophistication. Elegance.

What do you think your sense of style says about you?
That I am an African and unapologetic about it.

Photograph by Themba Mbuyisa

What do you enjoy most about dandyism? 
The power of story telling and the opportunity to literally wear someone else’s history.

What are your favorite wardrobe items?
My olive Green cashmere three-piece suit. My transparent polka-dot umbrella. My Pleated, 5-buttoned waistcoat. All thrifted, excluding the umbrella, which was a gift from my boyfriend.

Andile Ndunge

Andile Ndunge is a model, barber, fashion consultant and vintage clothing collector currently based in Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal.

What inspires how you dress?
My style is inspired by the ’80s. A style from the apartheid era when our fathers would dress up neatly with polished shoes and ironed clothes that could cut through the air. Unfortunately our fathers worked in the mines or gardens, but when they left home they always looked great regardless of what their job entailed, mixing styles resonating with Africa and other parts of the world.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy?
It’s driven by ones uniqueness and how far one can go to improve their dress code, pushing boundaries and having a eye that sees beyond boarder lines.

What are your favorite wardrobe items?
My vintage suits, which I design myself. l hardly buy clothing at retail stores but I do thrift a lot because most of the time l find what I want, especially considering my type of style.

Sthembiso Mngadi

Sthembiso Mngadi was born in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal and is now based in Joburg. He is the co-owner of Fruitcake Vintage store located at The Fashion Kapitol in the inner city and works as a wardrobe stylist.

What inspires how you dress?
My mother and late father who passed on their style genes to me. I am also inspired by memories of my late grandfather, who wore suits everyday of his life and looked impeccable.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy? 
Your mannerisms, a sense of self worth and being comfortable in your own skin. Plus just wanting to look good, clean and fresh everyday.

How does your unique personal background influence your creative self expression?
I grew up in a township then moved to a farm and then to the suburbs, and later to Johannesburg. I have also travelled a bit of Europe and Africa. My background has influenced my eclectic sense of style. If you take a close look at the way that I dress, you will notice influences of European style infused with African style.

Prince Thabz

Thabiso Mkhize also known as Prince Thabz, and was born in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal and now lives between Joburg and Durban. He describes himself as “a dusty township boy with big city dreams”. A multi-talented creative, Thabiso is the founder and creative director of Jehoida and Durban Dandies, a celebrity stylist, style influencer, music composer and a performer.

What inspires how you dress?
My dad, who dresses like me and introduced me to dandy style. I am also inspired by suave Italian men and my African culture and dress — bold, fearless and trendsetting.

What do you feel are the key elements to being a dandy?
Giving a damn about your image, getting your fit in check and collecting timeless pieces.

What do you enjoy most about dandyism? 
The art of self-expression and the respect that it commands.

How does your unique background influence your creative self-expression? 
I come from an environment where people are very brand conscious. The brand comes before everything else and is confused with style. As I’ve matured, I’ve learnt to balance style, trends and quality with labels.

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