The Sensitive Thug: Redefining Black Masculinity
Ib Kamara envisions a future where men can wear whatever they like on any given day, even if that happens to be a wedding dress. The young stylist is quickly making a name for himself by creating a new aesthetic of Black masculinity that ignores every rule and stereotype. Born in Sierra Leone and raised in Mali before moving to London at age 17, Kamara recently graduated from Central St Martins with a passion for shaking things up.
Teaming up with South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman, who he met on Instagram, Kamara created a series of images titled 2026, for an exhibit called Utopian Voices Here & Now at London’s Somerset House. The images projected what menswear will look like ten years into the future, and the fashion world responded with wild enthusiasm.
While inspired by the London scene, Kamara sees his work as promoting the idea of a New Africa, where a fresh subculture can grow without heeding previous stereotypes. He is thrilled by youth culture, and by pushing the boundaries he felt in his own coming of age. In London, he discovered that the world in his head could be realised through fashion. The sense of freedom he experienced is evident in every single look he has styled.
Sometimes it will be a small detail that makes you take a second look – a jewelled earring on a man dressed in traditional trousers. Other times, it’s a wild mash-up of masculine and feminine symbols, like a big cowboy hat worn with a lace garter belt. Describing the models he used for the 2026 project, Kamara says:
They’re young African men with dreams. They love clothing; fashion is too big a context. They appreciate clothing, they’re very secure with who they are and open to new ideas. They’re not intimidated by the West. For 2026 to work, they had to have a strong identity, a sense of who they were first. Clothing doesn’t have to define who we are all the time. We explored Black-Jewish gangsters, geisha thugs, clashing ideas, creating this thing that doesn’t exist culturally. It’s imagination.
Imagination is the first word you think of when looking at Kamara's work, right after "WOW." The only analogue I can think of is early Prince, but multiplied by 100 and stoned on acid. His models are gorgeous, defiant, sexy, and supremely confident. Whether dressed in refuse he pulled from trash bins or pieces by Kenzo, Kamara's models do look like a tribe from some future continent where men strut like exotic peacocks...or Sensitive Thugs.
Asked if he thinks his images are sexy, the stylist tells Dazed magazine:
I think they’re sexy. I really love sexy things, I want a man to look sexy even though these are mostly heterosexual men and trying to make a hetero man sexy in a dress isn’t the easiest thing to do! I love the fact its majority straight boys, there’s no labeling to identity and sexuality, they just wanted to look sexy. Doesn’t matter what they’re wearing, it’s about the attitude, the intention, the style, the presence. They command your attention and that is sexy. It’s that feeling when someone walks into the room and I gasp and think “who is she, where does she come from?” That’s how I feel about 2026.
That's how I feel about Ib Kamara. If you do too, you can follow him on Instagram @ibkamara, and on Tumblr at thug-sensitive.tumblr.com.