For a long period after the 1960s, African fashion was relegated to the exotic tribal category. Most times, the style of the entire continent would be over simplified to have little more than animal skins and mud clothes. Due to educational and cultural impacts of European empires, fashion in many frontier markets was also heavily influenced by their former colonialists. In truth, African fashion was a well developed, beautiful and dynamic industry long before the advent of colonialism. In this article we explore some of the most fascinating and intriguing fusion shapes and forms popularly worn on the continent from the post-colonian integrated modern look.
More surprisingly, clothing is a very peculiar element of African culture and traditions. Africa is a large continent. As a result, the variation of the African fashion story that exists is influenced by a myriad of societies, and the status of individuals or groups within that community. In this article, we narrow our scope to top Nigerian ethnic Fashion that were inspired by the clothing of our colonial masters.
Tracing history, it is no secret that the colonial masters had their footprints in Africa to gain control of valuable natural resources, particularly, crude oil. Currently, Nigeria serves as one of the largest sources of crude oil with a large percentage found in the Niger Delta regions. The early white explorers spent most of their time engaging with the tribes within the Delta and exchanging more than just words but clothes. The supposedly black cowboy hats and wooden walking canes used by the chiefs and elders within the community originate from exchange with the colonial masters.
Footwear in leather material was not considered an integral part of traditional clothing. In fact, the footwear touted by the Calabar indigenes and our Igbo brothers was inspired by the late Prince Albert who was known to enjoy comfortably light footwears. Historical records suggest that scandals made from tree barks and raffias were more common and were reserved for the aristocrats within the society.
Before the 1960, precisely around the 15th century, shipping routes opened up between Europe, Africa, and the East. As a result, trade increased. Uncommon items arrived from far and wide. Africans coveted them and decorated local clothes with them. In Nigeria, beads, shells, and buttons were adopted on garments, either as an embellishment or used as the entire garment. For example in beaded aprons and headbands. In Benin culture, the red beads and handkerchiefs were influenced by its close communication with white invaders.
The traditional buba, igbo blouses did not exist. The weather in Africa is hot and this influenced the general dressing of its inhabitants, implying lesser clothing for both women and men. Women were either bare-chested or wore a strap around their chest after they were married – although that was optional. The North is the region where blouses were common thanks to the Islamic invaders before the colonial masters. However, before then, the Fulanis were the only ethnic sect that wore blouses. Christianity was the major basis for the popularity of blouses in traditional attires today – or else, all titties will be put on display. Take that, Cardi B!
In the contemporary world, African is fast assuming the global spotlight. Gracing the runways to the popular music videos and critically acclaimed movies. It’s ubiquitous with influential celebrities garbed in African cultural attires both in its modernised form and dated items. In the era of environmentalism, adopting traditional african fashion materials seems to be more sustainable, hence, the future of fashion is African.