The global rise of dandyism echoes a peacock mentality with a long-rooted tradition in the City of Gold. Sartorial savvy is measured by how you present yourself to the world, and Jozi is home to the snappy swanker, who can shoot a cuff, doff a hat or show a sock to its best advantage, turning the town into his personal fashion runway.
In this town, the men work hard and play hard. Putting on the ritz means an everyday wardrobe of suave three-piece suits, silk socks, spiffy fedoras, breast-pocket handkerchiefs and sporty nosegays, which translates into Jozi ‘ama-gents’ spending a lot of time shopping.
“In Joburg, effort is appreciated; it is not about looking as if you did not try too hard. We won’t go to the Spar across the road without putting on a bowtie,” quip dynamic duo-in-the-know, fashion bloggers Alan Foley and Krishen Samuel. So where does the well-dressed gentleman go to shop, eat, stay and play? “Most stylish men buy their wardrobe basics at Markham in Sandton City.
“The buyers are inspired by their clientele, who are not afraid of wearing a patterned jacket and trousers. All the little details like the jacket sleeve length and the trouser length need to be perfect. “After the basics they joosh up their outfits at smaller boutique shops, such as The Holmes Brothers, or they will find a designer or tailor that they connect with, someone like David Tlale. For accessories, it is big brand names that are instantly recognisable, such as Louis Vuitton or Gucci.
“The guys get a good haircut at 44 On Stanley or go to an old-fashioned barber. It is acceptable to be well groomed, and gents are not afraid to advertise the fact on Instagram.
“Joburg still has a mining town mentality, and modern-day Barney Barnatos have to show their money, that they have made it; although of course you do not always have to be rich to look good. Humility and being salt of the earth are important, but it does not hurt to get onto a best-dressed list. “The well-dressed man can drive himself insane before Fashion Week, getting his outfits right!”
Chris van der Merwe is a typical Joburg flâneur who always looks well put together. This connoisseur of the street shares a typical day in the life of a well-dressed inner-city gent. “I practically live in the Joburg CBD. What I love most is the culture. Even though there are numerous luxury establishments that are popping up throughout the CBD, it has more of an ‘old money’ feel as opposed to the ‘new money’ culture in areas like Sandton.
"We won’t go to the Spar across the road without putting on a bowtie"
“The gentlemen who live and play in the inner city are less bothered with impressing others and are more focused on indulging in luxuries and lifestyle themselves. “There are quite a few high-end tailors in and around Joburg, but I love Lightbody’s Men’s Outfitters. They are situated at 88 Fox Street, Marshalltown, and have been tailoring and supplying the gentleman of Joburg with suits and accessories since 1922.”
When it comes to eating and drinking, the well-dressed man likes good whisky and going the artisanal route. He likes pop-up bars such as Aficionado; in fact, he likes anything that is for a limited period only. He drinks craft beer and enjoys the newest, trendiest way of creating a cocktail.
This is a man who smokes cigars and drinks cognacs but does not want to appear pretentious or better than anyone else.
“It is all about not forgetting your roots. This is a city where you build yourself up but still need to earn your keep,” say Alan and Krishen. “You can find him shopping at Neighbourgoods Market, The Sheds@1Fox on Saturdays or Arts on Main at weekends. But he’ll go home to change into his evening attire to have a drink at Anti Establishment in Braamfontein.”
Chris also enjoys eating in the inner city. “Eating out depends on the day of the week. On Sundays I breakfast at TWIST (located at 54 Marshall Street). If I have time, I will lunch at the Rand Club, at 33 Loveday Street. The club boasts a spectacular main dining room as well as a sports lounge. A great place to have a drink at the club is one of the two libraries.
“My favourite champagne bars in Joburg have to be 54 on Bath in Rosebank and Ami Champagne Bar which hosts Champagne Thursday. Who could resist? Also, they offer a chauffeur service with a 1960 Jaguar Mark 10, should you live within a five-kilometre radius.
“My favourite cigar bar, I would have to say, is Katzy’s in Rosebank. They have a great selection, combined with the New York-club look, live music and great food (The Grillhouse); it’s a perfect place to sit back and relax.”
When it comes to being seen, the well-dressed gent likes to show off his wheels. You could find yourself in traffic tailing a Porsche that looks as though it starred in a 1975 movie. Older vintage models such as ’80s BMWs and Mercs are considered cool, and their owners park them in Parkhurst or Maboneng, or have them washed in Vilakazi Street on Sundays.
“I’ve always been a lover of old and luxury cars, but I have got used to the idea that ‘a true city gent never drives in town’,” says Chris. “The only way for a city gent to get around is to walk, take a cab, or use the Rea Vaya bus. At first I was reluctant, but it is both practical and efficient. For one thing, parking in the city is a major hassle. Jumping on the Gautrain in Sandton, getting off at Park Station, and taking the bus to where I need to be is convenient, safe, clean, and saves on time.”
Holidaying for this aspirational man is like Uncle Monty’s cottage in Withnail & I—“free for those who can afford it, very expensive for those who can’t”. “For my holidays, which are infrequent, I love to travel to the East,” says Chris. “If, however, I have time for only a quick break, I usually go to our private game reserve in the Waterberg (Limpopo), also nicknamed Billionare's Bend. This area comprises a stretch of private game reserves with spectacular mountain ranges, waterfalls and nature. If I am not in the mood for the bush, the hot places to go to would be Camps Bay or Mozambique.”
Alan and Krishen agree. “This gentleman likes to be the first to go off the beaten path, so he will go to the Cape—but not in season—or to places such as the Cape West Coast. He is well connected, so instead of going to the touristy places, he will go to a private game lodge, someone’s private residence.”
Social media plays a huge part in knowing what is going on where and what people are doing what. The buzz is event-driven, and the well-dressed gent would not be caught dead not attending, say, the menswear show at SA Fashion Week. After all, this is a city of entrepreneurs, which welcomes the man who is not afraid to look good.