Dickies fanatics get their own store

On the flagship store's opening night, a fanatic had the word Dickies tattooed. Photo: Supplied

On the flagship store's opening night, a fanatic had the word Dickies tattooed. Photo: Supplied

There’s always that one uncle in black families. The malume who sports a gold chain, uses a pair of balled-up stockings to shine his two-tone Brentwood shoes and only speaks tsotsitaal.

He sits in a chair with his legs crossed and his arms resting on his knees to show off his gold watch and four to six rings he bought from Sterns or American Swiss. None of us know what his hair looks like because he only removes his trilby or spottie to pay his respects during a funeral.

He is the malume who, no matter his age, prefers to be called Bra.

In my family this uncle was Bra Maketane, who lived in P Block in Temba, near Hammanskraal.
Over the December holidays, when I would visit Temba, I would see the old man sitting on his veranda, rolling a cigarette, decked out in at least one Dickies workwear item. He had the long-sleeved overalls, several two-piece suits, T-shirts and a few pairs of canvas shoes.

My mother still tells me tales about the lengths he and his clique went to, to make sure they looked the part. They would hop between shops such John Craig, Webbers, Mr Snob and John Orr’s looking for the latest pieces to make up their outfits. If they didn’t find it in Pretoria’s city centre, a plan was made for them to travel to the Oriental Plaza in downtown Johannesburg.

In the United States, people who collect clothing, shoes and other items from a particular shop or in a particular style — in the way many Bra Malumes do with Dickies — have come to be known as Hypebeasts, after the online lifestyle magazine of the same name.

In Kinshasa and Brazzaville, there are Les Sapeurs, the elegant gentlemen of the Congo. In the 1980s,

Polo Sport was the brand of choice for teens in Brooklyn, who were known as the Lo-Lifes. And here at home we have dikhotane and matsatsantsa.

All groups are different, but what ties them together is their portrayal of the relationship that people have had with the sartorial over the years.

These ways of abo Bra Malume, whom we saw as we grew, have not died. The act of adorning themselves in certain styles continues today.

Dickies workwear has a strong link with sepantsula for example. Schoolchildren have merged it into their uniforms by swapping their slacks for the more durable work pants and it is now trickling into the streetwear cupboards of the fashionistas of Braamfontein, otherwise known as Braam Lords.

After landing in South Africa more than 30 years ago, Dickies has opened its first flagship store at Johannesburg’s Southgate Mall.

The store’s windows show off an industrial interior overflowing with merchandise in mustards, yellows, reds, blues, greys and blacks that beckon passers-by to splurge.

Inside the Dickies flagship store at Southgate Mall

On Friday night last week, Hypebeasts, New Age pantsulas and the Bra Malumes came out in their numbers in Dickies attire to christen the store.

Bonolo Moleme, Dickies brand manager in South Africa, said: “Some man even had a Dickies tattoo on his arm. When I saw that, it really talked to how deep the loyalty and the affiliation with the brand was for someone to tattoo the Dickies logo and name on their arm.”

Photo: Supplied

All dickied up: Bonolo Moleme is the manager of the only Dickies flagship store in Africa, which recently opened in Johannesburg. Photo: Oupa Nkosi

There was a tattoo artist at the opening offering tattoos for free and because communion between the Dickies supporters was high, it didn’t seem strange when one of them followed suit and got the name Dickies tattooed on his calf.

Dickies was founded in 1922 by two Texan businessmen. Moleme said the decision to open the store was in honour of the loyalty that South Africans have shown over the past 30 years and now the growing number of trend followers.

“We want to give our customers a well-rounded, 360 experience. We have been trading in the country for over 30 years and have done so through our retail partners that we distributed to. Right now, it’s time to tell the Dickies story in its entirety.”