The Yoruba have legendary types of clothes that make them distinct from other cultures around them. They take immense pride in their attire, for which they are well known for. Clothing materials traditionally come from processed cotton by traditional weavers. They believe that the type of clothes worn by a man depicts his personality and social status, and that different occasions require different clothing outfits.
Yoruba people take pride in their attire. As discussed earlier, clothing materials come from processed cotton by traditional weavers.
Typically, The Yoruba have a very wide range of materials used to make clothing, the most basic being the Aṣo-Oke, which is a hand loomed cloth of different patterns and colors sewn into various styles and which comes in very many different colors and patterns.
- Alaari – a rich red Aṣọ-Oke,
- Sanyan- a brown and usual light brown Aṣọ-Oke, and
- Ẹtu- a dark blue Aṣọ-Oke.
Other clothing materials include:
Ofi– pure white yarned cloths, used as cover cloth, it can be sewn and worn.
Aran– a velvet clothing material sewn into Danṣiki and Kẹmbẹ, worn by the rich.
Adirẹ– cloth with various patterns and designs, dye in indigo ink (Ẹlu or Aro).
Yoruba wares are gender sensitive. Men wear Kẹmbẹ, Dandogo, Danṣiki, Agbada, Buba, Ṣokoto and matching caps such as (Eleti-Aja), dog-shaped cap, fila-ẹtu.
Women wear Iro (wrapper) and Buba (the top) with a matching head-gear (gele). For important outing, Yoruba woman will add a Shawl (Ipele/Iborun) always on the shoulder.
Agbada clothing historically worn by the Yoruba
Man in basic Yoruba traditional regalia
Clothing in Yoruba culture is gender sensitive. For men’s’ wear, they have Bùbá, Esiki and Sapara, which are regarded as Èwù Àwòtélè or under wear, while they also have Dandogo, Agbádá, Gbariye, Sulia and Oyala, which are also known as Èwù Àwòlékè / Àwòsókè or over wears. Some fashionable men may add an accessory to the Agbádá outfit in the form of a wraparound (Ìbora).
Ìrùkèrè made from horse or cow tail
They also have various types of Sòkòtò or native trousers. 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.
There are many types of beads (Ìlèkè), hand laces, necklaces (Egba orùn), anklets (Egba esè) and bangles (Egba owó) that are abound in Yoruba land, that both males and females put on for bodily adornment. Chiefs, Priests, kings or people of royal descent, especially use some of these beads, often. Some of these beads include Iyun, Lagidigba, Àkún etc. An accessory especially popular among royalty and titled Babalawos / Babalorishas is the Ìrùkèrè, which is an artistically processed animal tail, a type of Fly-whisk. The horsetail whiskers are symbols of authority and stateliness.
The Yoruba believe that development of a nation is akin to the development of a man or woman. Therefore, the personality of an individual has to be developed in order to fulfill his or her responsibilities. Clothing among the Yoruba people is a crucial factor upon which the personality of an individual is anchored. This belief is anchored in Yoruba proverbs. Different occasions also require different outfits among the Yoruba.