I took a road trip to my home town in Enugu located south-east of Nigeria earlier this month for a customary prerequisite omenana (traditional) thing to do before marriage. It wasn’t for me but for my elder brother – it’s an Igbo thing.
There seems to be a lot to learn about the terms and conditions of getting married here in Nigeria – something I’m not sure I’ll fully grasp but hey, tradition is tradition and we don’t joke with it.
This trip led me to ponder on the dress sense of a traditional Igbo man – how he adorns his clothes, accessories he would use and things along that line. In Nigeria, there is no better way to identify people from different ethnic backgrounds and tribes than in the way they dress. Well, this can also be said of several other tribes and people from other parts of the world.
The national dress for Igbo men consists of cotton wrappers (piece of cloth wrapped round the body or hip), shirts and sandals. The wrappers have patterns and different decorations on them; wrappers for regular day-to-day usage are made from relatively low-cost fabrics while the ones for events, festive periods and public holidays are usually made from finer, higher quality fabrics – to be worn with long sleeve shirts.
Wearing fancier clothes for special events was and still is a way of signifying the importance of the occasion, however, this is practiced in other parts of Nigeria as well.
In the past, the Igbo traditional clothing consisted of little clothing, although ‘elders’, like statesmen, were usually fully clothed and wore beads round their necks and wrists to show their status and also as accessories. Men wore loin cloths that was wrapped round their waists, between their legs and tied at the back – this was not only concealing but practical as it eased movements while farming and allowed free air flow for a cooling effect in the hot sun.
In more recent times, Igbo attire for men is generally made up of the Isiagu top which is usually patterned with lions’ heads embroidered over the clothing and can be a plain colour. It is worn with plain coloured, tailored or casual trousers (usually black) with the addition of either a red ceremonial title holders hat or with the conventional striped men’s hat known as ‘okpu agu’ (usually red, white and black).
Traditional Igbo Men’s Accessories:
- Threads on ankles
- Goat skin bags for valuables (did the Igbo’s invent the leather bag?)
- Walking stick
The Igbo style of clothing is one of the simplest in the country compared to the accessories and add-ons other tribes utilise. To be honest, as far as I know, the Igbo’s don’t have as much options when it comes to expressing their ethnic background through what they wear mostly due the popularity and acceptance of other tribes attires.
It’ll be interesting to embark on re-inventing Igbo attires to create more options that will be widely accepted other than the few the Igbo’s already have available. Who’s up for this project? I’d love to hear about your tribes traditional attire in the comments or a social group you’re affiliated to? Stay fresh.