Inside Africa, Travel

10 Most Beautiful Traditional African Fashions

 5. Dashiki

This male fashion is popular throughout Africa, but is particularly widespread in West Africa. It is a simple tunic with a V-shaped collar, generally worn with a Kufi hat and a set of trousers. The Dashiki may be formal or informal, and is generally embroidered with elaborate designs and dyed in bold colors.

During the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the Dashiki became somewhat symbolic of the struggle for equal rights. As a result, it turned into a global fashion trend, and today still carries its counterculture connotations.


Dashiki – image credit to: Jérôme – CC BY-SA 2.0

 4. Head Tie

The head tie is a fashion which was mentioned previously as part of the Aso Oke. There are a number of different types of head ties worn throughout Western and Southern Africa, some examples being doek in South Africa and Namibia, duku in Ghana, tukwi in Botswana, and gele in Nigeria.

Head Tie traditional headwear Africa

Head Tie – image credit to: Steve Evans – CC BY 2.0

The gele head ties are perhaps the most famous and flamboyant. They tend to be quite dramatic and large, particularly those which are designed for ceremonial occasions such as weddings (gele for everyday wear may be more understated). The gele covers the entirety of the hair and often conceals the upper part of the ears as well, framing and drawing emphasis to the face. It may be (and often is) made out of the same fabric as the rest of the outfit, but does not need to match perfectly.

 3. Kaftan

This robe features long sleeves and falls down to the ankles. Sometimes the name is spelled “caftan.” Made from wool, silk, cotton or cashmere, the kaftan is found in a number of different cultures and regions. It is popular in North and West Africa, but also is worn in Persia and even Russia.

Its meaning and function varies broadly from one society to the next. In some cultures, it is a casual overcoat, while in others, it is only worn by royalty.


Kaftan – image credit to: Yafit Vaknin – CC BY-SA 4.0

2. Ghanaian Smock

The Ghanaian smock is traditionally worn by Ghanaian men, but there are Ghanaian smocks available for women as well. You can recognize the smock instantly from its distinctive material; the striped bands of cloth are woven by hand and are referred to as “Strip Cloths.”

The neckline often features embroidery. Typically the garment is worn along with a kufi hat, but may sometimes be worn with a fez.

Ghanaian Smock

Ghanaian Smock – image credit to: Anaba Jacob – CC BY-SA 4.0

 1. Kanga

The kanga is a single piece of cloth, measuring around one metre by one and a half metres. Usually it has a border on every side and a design of some sort in the middle. As a wrap garment, it is a traditional form of dress among women in the African Great Lakes region (men may sometimes wear the kanga as well).

Kanga traditional clothing Africa

Kanga – image credit to: Petr Berka – Public Domain

One interesting aspect of the kanga is the fact that it often includes a message of some sort written in Swahili, Comorian or Arabic along one edge. The message is generally a proverb, but may sometimes be a riddle or something else altogether. An example would be a phrase like “Sisi sote abiria dereva ni Mungu,” which translates to, “We are all passengers; God is the driver.”

Now you are familiar with some of the most beautiful fashions for men and women which are worn throughout Africa! If you plan a trip to the continent, be sure to shop for some of these vibrant traditional garments, and enjoy adding some African flair to your own wardrobe.

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