Africa is the world’s second largest continent. As a result of that, it is very difficult if not impossible to ascertain what people wear in a single statement. But one thing is certain: Africans have their dress codes, which are determined by their climate condition, cultural heritages and values.
In line with this, Africans in their creativity have outlined various dress codes to suit various occasions and ceremonies ranging from numerous festivals to traditional wedding ceremonies, engagement ceremonies, cultural displays, the list goes on and on.
On this note, African clothing can be said to refer to “traditional clothing” worn by different tribes of people in Africa to showcase their nationality/ethnicity as well as mark their special occasions.
Nevertheless, clothing and grooming in Africa began experiencing changes in the late 19th through 20th centuries as a result of trading with Western countries. It started with Europeans and Arabs influencing African clothing, especially in the northern regions where we see the influence of the Arabian culture in the designs, embroideries, and long robes worn by some Africans on daily bases.
Recently, modern Africans wear Western-styled clothing and shoes, while others resort to combining the old with the new; that is, wearing traditional clothing along with Western styles. Meanwhile, Africans living in remote regions wear only traditional clothing that reflects some European origin.
Designs Commonly Associated With Africa
Kaftans also called boubous are full-length embroidered robes made from silk or cotton. It is mainly worn today by East and West African men and women alike. It is an African-designed long-garment with front buttons. It’s also the traditional female clothing of many countries in West Africa such as Ghana, Senegal, Mali among other countries in Africa.
African Women and Clothing
In Africa, traditional women’s clothing comes in various designs, colors and prints depending on what the eyes “beholds to be beautiful.” Women’s clothing ranges from beaded skirts to blankets and veils with elaborate motifs.
African women are also outstanding for their colorful Copper, Beads and Grass-made jewelry. For instance, Ndebele women, living in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, are known for wearing colorful traditional clothing adorned with beadwork.
On the other hand, as a result of hot atmospheric condition associated with Sahara Desert, women in that neighborhood goes topless as a form of escapism to their unfavorable temperature.
African Royal-women Dresses
In Africa, Queens are known for their flamboyant and stylish designs which are specially made to reflect their royal status. They are traditional garments, well-shaped and beautiful; sometimes made of Tie and dye, which has proven to be timeless in terms of designs in African traditional history.
It is branded by symbols and designs with fertility denotations. The “Royal African Queen Wear trimmed with braids or beads” are worn by African royalties down to this day.
African Men’s Clothing
In some parts of Africa especially East Africa, kangas and kitenges are worn as T-shirts and are often worn around the waist in hot weather. In Kenya, the national dress for men is a “long-sleeved dashiki shirt,” which goes with matching trousers and a kofia (hat).
Still, few men among them dress in kaftans, (also worn by women alike). While Men from Tanzania dress in “a white robe called kanzu” that has a tassel and a small round cap (kofia), the Buganda men of Uganda (in east Africa) on the other hand wear “dashiki shirts and a cap” for informal events like the Kenyans.
African Clothing for Special Occasions
Africans, owing to their creativity and sense of innovation have mapped out different clothing for special occasions and rituals respectively. For instance, it is a common thing for an African lady who wants to hold an engagement party/ ceremony or a traditional marriage to organize a fitting dress for the occasion.
In some other part of Africa like “Kuanyama,” a girl entering womanhood wears showy clothing just to fit into her stage of development. In some other places too, women tends to wear more beads on their collars and brass earrings following a marriage ceremony (depending on their respective traditions), this is comparable to wedding rings. In West African, women getting married are seen wearing elaborate head ties.
The Zulus of South Africa
In South Africa, “the Zulu tribe is known for wearing leopard skins and brightly colored feathers with the Bishop’s feathers adorning their headdresses. Meanwhile, their traditional clothing for a herd boy includes a loin cloth, bearded necklaces and hoops.
Young Zulu maidens are noted for their beaded dancing costumes, which they wear during ceremonies and festivals. Special clothing is worn by Zulu diviners to charm snakes. And Zulu boys courting girls are spotted wearing Western modern clothing, along with a goatskin-front-apron tied to a beaded belt in a fashionable manner.
There are so many other beautiful codes of dressing associated to Africa.
Find them out! Who knows, you might find them interesting.