Anyone who thinks a dashiki is simply a T-shirt couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, it’s much more ornate than an ordinary T-shirt. A traditional, loose-fitting garment, with a V-neckline, often embroidered, the dashiki is usually worn by men, although it can be worn by women too – either casually, or as a dress shirt.
The everyday dashiki features little or no embroidery, while the high-end, formal dress shirts are normally manufactured from silk brocade and can be adorned with intricate embroidery on the cuffs and around the neckline.
The history of the dashiki
The dashiki has a rich history, and originates as a West African fashion. At one time, it was a shirt that covered the entire chest and it was equally popular in a longer version, the grand boubou. It wasn’t simply a fashion statement. It was loose-fitting and the fabric light enough to be suitable attire for wearing in the sun and intense heat, so suited the West African climate well. Brocade fabric is ideally suited for this!
The dashiki made the transition to American culture during the 1960s, when it became a symbol of affirmation to the struggles of African Americans in the USA at that time. It was first manufactured in Harlem during that era. Now, the dashiki is popular all over the USA.
Traditional print dashikis
Today, you will see dashikis featuring in popular culture all over the world. They are worn in films, mentioned in books and worn by celebrities across the globe. Many stars have worn print dashikis for press appearances, including Stevie Wonder and Sammy Davis Jr. If you’ve watched the Disney film, Enchanted, you’ll even see a dashiki being worn during a musical number!
The garment is worn today for modern Kwanzaa celebrations and is particularly popular during Black History Month every February, when it’s a time for West Africans to celebrate their heritage.
Why do people love dashikis?
Apart from the amazing comfort of the garment, it’s also fun to wear and it’s ideal for hot, humid weather due to its loose fit. The size and shape of the garment means anyone can wear it, no matter what their shape or size.
Whether you’re reconnecting with your heritage, going for a vintage look, staying cool on a hot day, or simply love wearing African clothing, the dashiki is a great choice for everyone.