Congo

Men in color

It’s nice to see men wearing colors. To the Western eye, they’ll seem garish, but there’s a joy in the colors that they wear that makes me smile, and look around wherever I am. They compete with the women, like a human version of peacocks where both sexes wear bright feathers, outshing the other for attention, no one left behind.

The women’s outfits are well known, the beautiful cotton ‘pagnes’, large swathes of fabric with bright swirling and abstract designs, wrapping their entire bodies in one pattern, billowing sleeves, intricate ruffles and embroideries in the necklines, hugging their swaying forms, with matching fabric tied around their breasts to hold the sleeping babies, or wrapped around their heads to adorn their faces.

The men wear colors so bright you sometimes think you’re in a human flower garden. I boarded the plane in Casablanca and a Congolese man was wearing a bright blue suit, with a blue and white striped shirt, and a large tie, with thick diagonal stripes of red and white. At the airport in Brazzaville, the father of the three-piece suit-wearing four-year-old was wearing bright orange pants and a light blue shirt, beautiful Italian laced shoes of warm caramel leather. This morning at coffee, a businessman walked in with a yellow shirt and light yellow linen pants and shiny black leather shoes.  Then I saw a man, walk down the street in a pink suit with a purple shirt underneath. Later, a man in a light green suit, the color of pistachio gelato, looking at the time on his fine gold watch.

I love seeing those colors. I tried to convince my male friends back home that pink is a masculine color, on a well-cut European shirt to no avail. Pink is not feminine if the shirt is well cut. But then again, I’m a child of Africa, and men holding hands isn’t gay for me. Men hugging, holding hands while  they walk down the street, wearing crazy color combinations is normal.

Of course, most of these men are originals. The majority of men here still wear black, brown, navy, white shirts and black or brown leather shoes. But they all love to throw in a colorful shirt once in a while. Color is everywhere here, the life is so grey, so hard, so rough, color wherever you can find it is a bonus.

 

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