The ability to broadcast our posed, filtered, carefully crafted images of our daily lives has afforded us ‘everyday’ citizens the opportunity to become style stars, this to a degree (in our own minds), even diverts some lustre from the celebrity we have come to worship. Growing in popularity, the trend of cyber fashion icons has expanded on fashion’s importance and in some instances, are responsible for international trends being discoverable from Limpopo to Bloemfontein simply by swiping down on your phone.
Home is where the heart is, but it may not be where the style influence is – at least not as much as it used to be. Traditional farm boys and Taxi heirs from KZN are sharing pictures in which they’re pairing up high street bomber jackets and camo parkas with ellesse Kangaroo Pocket Hoodies, the grace of seasoned fashion editors somehow eminently evident. Or how about the Braam scene that are responsible for filling our newsfeeds and timelines with a plethora of looks that quite ironically juxtapose those of the people that walked, shopped and ate along Jorissen Street only 10 years ago. There aren’t many factors to accredit this style diaspora to besides the rise of Social Media and the shift in our people’s interests, occupations and Heritage. Whatever happened to Cape Town being overtly surfer, board shorts and slops orientated? Does Soweto’s youth still find installing gold plates in their dentistry cool? Old habits die hard, but this generation is creating greater diversity in this generation of aspiring fashionistas.
Style submissions that are posted on our social media or who tag us from KZN make it evident that they have the best weather, Durban is referred to as SA’s Miami and KZN’s ellesse style submissions are less layered that other regions. The Durban nightlife presents the opportunity for its millennials and club kids to wear items like the Del Corso jacket, Slim or logo track pants – but rarely do they style themselves with the complete combo. If it’s anything to go by, the nightlife ellesse tags we’ve seen suggest that Durban isn’t trend crazy, and that the region tends to style outfits with a resounding clear headedness. Short sleeved ellesse essentials teamed with short-shorts and a bucket hat are common style choices of the more passively dressed Durbanites. By the time Durban/July rolls around though; our tags slow down and a lot of those same passively dressed ellesse fans are preparing for the races, leaving ellesse in the wardrobe for the streets and their feeds. So evidence suggests that style is dictated by occasion and purpose.
Some say South Africa’s cultural vibrancy is in the hands of Braamfontein. This, given due its progressive (and almost competitive) style milieu and evident developing business scene – involvement of J&B in supporting young entrepreneurs at 100 Juta Street indicates this. The Braam enthusiasts who cop ellesse are almost always looking to express an idea and style us with beautiful controversy. With them, it’s never really about the logo, although it contributes to their style message. Braam is brim-full with upcoming and current fashion stars, and the area has expanded on fashion’s admiration and longing for the 90s. So much so that a lot of Braamers’ pieces were actually manufactured in the 90s, and thrifted from local CBD based resellers or their older siblings’ wardrobes. Beyond that, they style ellesse track pants with anything from oversized sweaters, fanny packs, ugly shoes, denim jackets, dad hats and dead rock star/classic tour T-shirts. Whether these fashion boys & girls know a single Nirvana or Metallica song is beside the point. The skate culture in Braam is an under-commissioned sector of SA’s style economy that continues to grow. These riders tend to mess with ellesse t-shirts especially, combining them with chinos or denims and shoelaces for belts. We see the non-skaters countrywide have helped themselves to this edgy, classic look. In stark contrast to skate culture, a heritage of satorialism which is almost anti-street culture co-exists in Braam. Braamfontein is full of overt logo fetishists, which is probably why ellesse is a consistent muse of the area. Without a doubt Braam is all about being an individual, there are no rules and you can construct or deconstruct your style signature as your passion takes you.
To the South West, ellesse could be seen to be much like streetwear uniform. In the words of Mzo Gcwabe, “For most 90’s kids growing up in the township there was nothing more stylish than having a full ellesse combo, especially around Christmas time.” Ko Kasi the brand loyalty is reminiscent of the international hype beasts that live and die by their favourite logos. Since the late 80s, ellesse has had a place on Soweto wash lines. This is because Soweto’s passion for quality, simplicity, football, neatness and comfort in style dominates the desire to replicate most fashion trends. It is almost out of place to look chic or ‘dressed up’ ko Kasi, but still completely encouraged. Soweto has always had a passion for elegance, most popularly promoted by Soweto’s sartorial fashion stars: Boys of Soweto.
Complete tracksuits, bucket hats (total staple), sneakers, T-shirts and golfers have always been the wave, but there is a natural creative energy and resourcefulness that Sowetans style themselves with that can’t quite be summarised. At times our submissions dictate that the kasi has a deep natural passion for the athlux movement, this given the entire area’s love for football. Self-painted Benzema, Zanetti or Zidane T-shirts are almost a childhood formality. This same sport-nucleated heritage has been popularly heralded by the UK’s Grime scene and the Scandinavian Sad Boy collective; where tracksuits, lifelong logos and bad attitudes are compulsory. Style tags for our team online also reference the classic Pantsula ‘tucked-in T trend’ that has become re-sensationalized worldwide. I, for one, would put Soweto high up in the Top 10 international style destinations list, hypothetically speaking of course.
Cape Town is SA’s official landing strip for the world’s tourists seeking an African experience. The unofficial art capital of the entire continent (according to some, the region is notoriously stuck up, artsy fartsy and lazy). Cape Town is inherently European in its values, and this is evident in the way most of the Cape is so in tangent with the mainstream fashion industry. For example, Cape Town’s fashion week and modelling agencies are growing season on season (perhaps at a rate quicker than Johannesburg’s). However, ellesse style stars from CT look to the gram for style inspiration about as much as people from the KZN do. Hoodies with layering extended T-shirts, tight anklet sweatpants, crew-necks and Shelflife endorsed sneakers all made our Cape Town style submissions. The Cape’s schizophrenic weather forces its residents to style their outfits with flexibility. Our nylon Del Corso Jackets, track pants and colour-block jacket are accommodating of Cape Town’s sudden wind, rain and sun. The budding sneaker culture in Cape Town is owed partially to a handful of young fashion aficionados who have built up such trustworthy reputations for their knowledge in the sneaker industry that they’ve been able to open sustainable sneaker retail businesses that exist year on year. These Capetonians are in no way different to the rest of the Cape in that they rely on the staples and style themselves very simply, as opposed to the Braam sneaker-head. Their perspective on ellesse has been supportive of our classic bucket hats, minimal/logo decaf tracksuits, T-shirts and crew-neck sweaters.
Individualism has always resulted in style rebellion and constructive rule breaking. It may be though, that the ellesse fan is bound to be versatile in the way they style their fits. Ideas of locality don’t apply, and that has become the new heritage. Beyond that, social media has given everyone the opportunity to pick up on international trends, and in turn, the possibility to start international trends themselves. You’re equally as likely to be influenced by a stylish mommy blogger, artificial sad boy or sneaker-head dentist as you are by a neighbour or established celebrity. Our world is so much smaller and this is most obvious when people are looking at their feeds, not their area codes, for style inspiration, bringing the world that much closer, to a point that it is truly at your feet.
Our first contributor to this journey of discovery is most frequently referred to as Ted. Since 2010, when Ted was the tender age of 16, Ted was already exploring the word of fashion and entertainment and was a known sneaker re-seller amongst the local Northern Cape Schools and for being in a fashion crew that hosted parties. Since then, Ted has worked behind the scenes as a writer and style muse for brands such as Konica Minolta, Favelo, Camp Jeep, Tommy Hilfiger, adidas and Old Khaki.