This article is intended to provide information on Nigerian traditional clothing and accessories. Nigeria as a country has numerous tribes and ethnic groups, many of which wear their own style of garb according to their custom and tradition.
Due to globalization, traditional attire is worn mostly for special occasions like festivals or weddings. The information on this article concentrates on the traditional clothes of the Hausa, Yoruba, Urhobo, Efik and Tiv people.
The Hausa people are from the northern part of Nigeria. The traditional dress of the Hausa consists of loose flowing gowns and trousers for the men. The men are easily recognizable because of their elaborate dress which is a large flowing gown known as Babban riga.
Men also wear colourful embroidered caps known as hula. Depending on their location and occupation, they may wear the turban around this to veil the face. The women can be identified by wrappers called zani, made with colourful cloth known as atampa or Ankara, (a descendant of early designs from the famous Tie-dye techniques the Hausa have for centuries been known for) accompanied by a matching blouse, head-tie (kallabi) and shawl (Gyale).
Yoruba people occupy the western region of Nigeria. Clothing in Yoruba culture is gender sensitive, despite a tradition of non-gender conforming families. For menswear, they have Bùbá, Esiki and Sapara, which are regarded as Èwù Àwòtélè or underwear, while they also have Dandogo, Agbádá, Gbariye, Sulia and Oyala, which are also known as Èwù Àwòlékè / Àwòsókè or overwear. Some fashionable men may add an accessory to the Agbádá outfit in the form of a wraparound (Ìbora).
They also have various types of Sòkòtò or native trousers that are sewn alongside the above-mentioned dresses. Some of these are Kèmbè (Three-Quarter baggy pants), Gbáanu, Sóóró (Long slim / streamlined pants), Káamu & Sòkòtò Elemu. A man’s dressing is considered incomplete without a cap (Fìlà). Some of these caps include, but are not limited to; Gobi (Cylindrical, which when worn may be compressed and shaped forward, sideways, or backward), Tinko, Abetí-ajá (Crest-like shape which derives its name from its hanging flaps that resembles a dog’s hanging ears. The flaps can be lowered to cover the ears in cold weather, otherwise, they are upwardly turned in normal weather), Alagbaa, Oribi, Bentigoo, Onide, and Labankada (a bigger version of the Abetí-ajá, and is worn in such a way as to reveal the contrasting color of the cloth used as underlay for the flaps).
Women also have different types of dresses. The most commonly worn are Ìró (wrapper) and Bùbá (blouse-like loose top). Women also have matching Gèlè (head gear) that must be put on whenever the Ìró and Bùbá is on. Just as the cap (Fìlà) is important to men, women’s dressing is considered incomplete without Gèlè. It may be of plain cloth or costly as the women can afford. Apart from this, they also have ìborùn (Shawl) and Ìpèlé (which are long pieces of fabric that usually hang on the left shoulder and stretch from the hind of the body to the fore). At times, it is tied round their waists over the original one piece wrapper. Unlike men, women have two types of under wears (Èwù Àwòtélè), called; Tòbi and Sinmí. Tòbi is like the modern day apron with strings and spaces in which women can keep their valuables. They tie the tòbi around the waists before putting on the Ìró (wrapper). Sinmí is like a sleeveless T-shirt that is worn under before wearing any other dress on the upper body.
The Igbo people are from the eastern part of Nigeria and they are known for their traditional attire. Modern Igbo traditional attire is generally made up, for men, of the Isiagu top which resembles the African Dashiki. Isiagu (or Ishi agu) is usually patterned with lions heads embroidered over the clothing. It can also be plain, (usually black).
It is worn with trousers and can be worn with either a traditional title holder’s hat (a fez named okpu agu or agwu), or with the traditional Igbo stripped men’s hat (which resembles the Bobble hat). For women, an embodied puffed sleeve blouse (influenced by European attire) along with two wrappers (usually modern Hollandis material) and a head scarf are worn.
Urhobo wado! The Urhobo people are located in the Southern part of Nigeria. The major group of the Urhobo live in the Delta State. One of the fascinating things about the Urhobos is their traditional attire. Urhobo traditional attires consist of many colors. Their main colors in clothes are yellow and blue. They are firmly connected with river cultures. Therefore, the blue color is predominated in their cloth as it symbolizes their connection with rivers.
It is also a color of the skies. Light green colors can also be seen in this tribe Nigerian traditional wears. The green color is associated with life itself. Yellow color stands for richness. Men and women alike prefer to wear clothes that cover the whole body. Men prefer to wear long shirts and trousers or even male skirts. Women prefer to wear long skirts or dresses with a traditional hat. Urhobo men prefer to wear cowboy-like hats with a walking stick. Women also like to wear beaded head crowns and red coral beads.
The Efik people are located in the south-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The Efik traditional attire is very elaborate and colorful. The women dress like queens and princesses wearing long flowing gowns, adorning their necks with colorful coral beads and wearing traditional made beaded shoes. They carry beaded handbag while some wear a headdress to match their outfit.
The men wear white shirts over a colorful wrapper tied around their waist. They also hang a long piece of cloth on their neck called Okpomkpom in addition to beaded shoes and a cap.
Tiv is an ethnic group largely in Benue and Plateau states of Nigeria. The Tiv traditional attire is the black-and-white-striped ‘Anger’. When the Tiv people arrived at their current location several centuries earlier, they discovered that the zebra they used to hunt for meat and skin, used for ceremonial attire, was not native to the area. When they acquired the skill of the loom, they decided to honour their heritage by weaving a cloth with black-and-white stripes, reminiscent of the zebra skin;
this would then be made attires as preferred. Initially, it was a simple cloth to be draped around the torso. Nowadays, it is made into elaborate robes, such as those worn by the traditional rulers and elders – from the Tor Tiv downwards.
The black-and-white colour of the necklaces worn by the traditional rulers has been chosen to match the robes.