African clothing has seen a sudden shift over the past 50 years from a reliance on traditional styles to the incorporation of western wear in many countries.
Clothing isn’t relegated to a one-way trading of cultures either; anyone can see African-influenced designs at their local department store stocked with Dashikis, kaftans, tie-dye and bright, colorful prints.
Traditional African clothing has really taken hold in the fashion world over the past decade, and shows no signs of slowing down in popularity as more people discover the beauty of Africa’s clothing industry and designs.
WHAT IS THE TRADITIONAL AFRICAN CLOTHING?
Defining any certain item as a traditional African clothing item is impossible due to the vastness of the continent and the thousands of different cultures and peoples that live on the world’s largest continent.
Women in Kenya still wear kangas and Jalabiyas are still seen in Egypt. One of the most popular clothing pieces, dashikis have a long history in Western culture. First introduced to the western world in the 1960s, dashikis are colorful, loose-fitting pullover shirts that can be worn by men or women.
Unfortunately, in the late 1960s, American retailers shunned African imports, instead opting for cheaper, low-quality clothing made in India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Dashikis hold a strong cultural meaning in America today, frequently worn during celebrations or during holidays like Kwanzaa to celebrate African heritage.
While dashikis were commonly worn with sokotos, a drawstring pant, today they are most often paired with jeans.