The roller coaster of changes in the wear of African clothing in today’s younger generation

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In the little 20 years of my life, I have seen a lot of changes in African‘s attitude towards their traditional attires. People used to wear their African wears anytime they weren’t at work, and mostly at big functions. It was a symbol of pride and culture. It was a way to identify with their culture. When a woman wearing Iro and Buba (Wrapper and Blouse) was spotted, people would know she is Yoruba, or a man with a feathered red hat meant he was an Igbo chief. Our cultural wears gave a sense of meaning then.

As African started interacting more with the western world, gradually the door started shutting on traditional attires. Africans wanted to dress up more like the western celebrities. The ladies started wearing jeans with tops, or dresses. Men, who just wore suits to work as a result of the requirements of the colonist period, started wearing these to big functions. People were losing touch with their culture. This was most common with the younger adults and teenagers. The older adults still had a little connection with their culture, and tried to enforce it in their children who refused it. The young adults had a saying that these traditional attires are a thing of the past now, and no one needs to wear them. I can remember my mother trying to get me to wear one and I blatantly refused it saying, “…Ugly old people wears, I don’t want to look old mummy.”

Recently, there has been a change in this point of view. On almost every street of Nigeria, you will see a young girl either wearing a pair of jeans with an African top, or an African dress or skirt with a western top. People all over Africa, especially western Africa are embracing their African wear and prints. African prints and wears are the biggest trends now among the young and old that has come to stay. Women, like myself wear them about not only in Africa, but allover the world. I wore my African print Blazer to an American church and everyone was staring and complimented me. At that moment, I was truly proud to be Nigerian, an African. I realized the joy in embracing my culture and suddenly I truly did understand what my father meant by being proud of your roots for it is true beauty. Writing this makes me feel bad that I was ever ashamed of it.

Wearing of African print and styles didn’t just happen; it took fashion designers like Deola Sageo, Tiffany Amber, Jewel by Lisa, and others who didn’t lose hope in the African Attire, but saw the raw diamond it was at that time to bring it back. With the help of these designers, and the Nigerian media and press the Nigerian youths were brought back and reconnected with their culture. One of the major things that influenced the Nigerian Youths was seeing African Prints being used by top Fashion designers like Burberry, Chanel, etc. This was a wakeup call to the youths.

As we see the change in the attitudes of the Nigerian youths towards their traditional wears, there is a newborn pride in the heart of the youths to showcase their culture. There is a newfound movement in Africa now to promote the beauty of African Prints, texture, and style all over the world. Let us all join in this movement and promote our roots.

Toluwalope Oshobajo, Student George Washington University School of Business

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