Most of us have accepted COVID-19 face masks as an inconvenient, albeit necessary, safety measure. For the style conscious like James Maina Mwangi, however, they are an unmissable fashion opportunity.
Mwangi’s brightly colored suits and hats made him stand out even on the busy streets of Nairobi’s Umoja neighborhood, where nobody ever seems to sleep.
Since the pandemic hit and Kenya made face masks mandatory, his outfits have become even more eye-catching.
This week, the 59-year-old jack of all trades modelled his collection of face masks for Reuters.
“Men knew how to wear clothes in black, brown, grey or dark blue. Those were men’s colors,” he told Reuters while wearing a bright yellow suit with matching hat and face mask.
“God gave me wisdom and showed me all the different colors I can wear to be different from everybody else.”
Mwangi, who dropped out of school at 12 because he could not pay the fees, said he only had one shirt when he was a child, which he would wash it daily and put on still damp.
He now has about 160 suits, over 200 pairs of shoes, and 300 hats in colors ranging from saffron yellow to grass green, scarlet and plum.
Mwangi said his clothes drew curiosity, then admirers when he first started wearing them 25 years ago.
“Now you can see me wearing all kinds of colors,” he said.