A look back in time at Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration on October 1, 1960 may just give you an insight into what fashion during that era looked like. The presence of notable personalities and a jubilant crowd at the Race Course (now Tafawa Balewa Square) in Lagos on that day, 61 years ago, must have been the height of fashion display in all its grandeur. Expectedly, a national event of that magnitude played host to top political leaders, international dignitaries, and the society’s high and mighty – culminating in what we can possibly refer to as the independence day celebration red carpet moments. For sure, you can imagine that anyone attending the event must have been ‘dressed to kill’; I mean who would want to attend a one-of-a-kind national event with anything less than the best outfit their designer can curate.
Nigerians – men and women, are known to be fashionable, donning unique attires, hairstyles, and footwear. So, one can only but imagine the sheer variety of stylish outfits on display at the time of the nation’s independence on October 1, 1960. True, the 60’s and 70’s did not get the appellation of the golden eras of fashion for nothing.
The “Agbada” was the outfit of the moment for any man with some level of affluence, especially for the man from the North or Southwest. The man from the Southeast or Southsouth would rather don a native shirt commonly known as the “Isi Agu” worn with a wrapper which has currently evolved into various styles like “Senator” “Etibo” and “Woko”. The trend for women was either the baggy-sleeved Buba worn with an Iro that stopped anywhere from a little above the knees to mid-thigh or a double wrapper tied over a petite blouse, both complimented with bold headgears and these trends have continued to evolve decade after decades. The Iro and Buba made a comeback as “Oleku” in the 2000s and became a favorite party outfit while the double wrapper trend is still a bridal party favorite to date.
Colonization also brought with it some fair share of western fashion, as a result, in the ‘good old’ 60s and 90s not a few Nigeria women wore long dresses and maxi skirts while the younger and more trendy ladies went for mini dresses and skirts complemented with permed and well-sprayed afro hair do. The men rocked boot-legged pants, tightly fitted shirts made from loud prints. The trendier men would often leave the first two buttons open to add some style to the ensemble. Today, these trends are still very much in play and exploding in popularity; although the pants have gotten a lot skinnier.
In the 80’s and 90’s, Ankara fabrics gained acceptance into the Nigerian fashion scene as everyone both male and female started making them into various styles and would attend parties adorned in them. And not too long after, the concept of “asoebi” was born. A concept that has held its own in the Nigerian fashion industry till date.
Nigeria in all of its cultural richness, has held on fast to a number of its pre-independence and post-independence fashion trends which are centered mostly around the cultural attires of the various tribes within the ethnic and regional mix in the country. And many decades later, isn’t it exciting to see how Millennials and Gen-Z’s have embraced most of these old fashion trends and are reinventing and redefining them to fit into the modern contemporary culture? The agbada is still very much in vogue. Also in vogue are the ‘Isi Agu’, ‘Etibo’, ‘Senator’ and ‘Woko’. These outfits are currently the party wardrobe essentials and favorites for trendy Nigerian men, though they come with a modern tweak these days.
No doubt, the fashion industry in Nigeria has grown in size and sophistication. Little wonder it continues to evolve every day with Nigerian fashion designers delivering fresh shapes in vibrant colours on various international runways, attracting global attention, thereby making it home to Africa’s fastest growing fashion industry. The sheer level of creativity that oozes out of the Nigerian fashion industry is one to look out for in the global fashion scenes. Social media has also played a huge role in familiarizing the world with the fashion trends out of Nigeria and Africa at large. Certainly, seeing in real time how the people dress and the variety of styles available make the world want to connect with the culture and style. Indeed, Nigerian fashion is a global force that is here to stay.