James Maina Mwangi thought men weren’t supposed to wear colourful clothes.
“Men knew how to wear clothes in black, brown, grey or dark blue. Those were men’s colours. “But God gave me wisdom and showed me all the different colours I can wear to be different from everybody else and that’s how I started.”
Mwangi, 59, dressed in yellow suit pants and jacket with a striped red, blue and yellow shirt joined by a red and yellow tie and yellow hat, said that he drew curious reactions 25 years ago when he would go out in his colourful suits.
But soon enough, some began emulating him.
“Now you can see men wearing all kinds of colours,” he said.
Mwangi recalls the days when as a kid he only had one shirt, washing it daily and putting it on even before it dried. People would laugh at him because of how poor he was and called him crazy. But he would always say, “one day I will be a star.”
He dropped out of school at 12 as his family could not afford to pay for him to continue with his studies. But then he started acting as a youth leader in his community that gained him popularity which then helped him get a job as a bar manager in a local pub.
And now things have changed. He now has about 160 suits, over 200 shoes, 300 hats and much more. And in the era of coronavirus, he has added another item to his collection – the colourful mask.
Mwangi, who now earns a living as a Matatu organizer, helping the infamous Nairobi buses determine their routes, said he liked to lend some of his suits to others at church and some of the street children in his neighbourhood in Nairobi. He urged donors to help.
“Things have become harder now because of COVID-19. This country has no money,” he said.
But when it comes to his style, there is no one who dressed like him, Mwangi said.
“I am the best,” he said.