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The Igbo Traditional Attire and English Meaning

Updated on May 11, 2018
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Igbo family in traditional attire

Igbo family in traditional attire
Igbo family in traditional attire | Source

Introduction

The Igbo people could be found around the eastern part of Nigeria. They hold a significant part in the development of commerce and industry in the country. Like most ethnic groups they have their own unique identity that transcend music, belief and choice of clothing.

Cloths in the land have a significant meaning or purpose. There are different outfits for royalty, chiefs, titled men and private individuals. The native attires worn in theses parts have modern trends and is ideal for specific occasions.

Some women from Nnewi

Some women from Nnewi wearing modern native attires
Some women from Nnewi wearing modern native attires | Source

The Attire for Men, Women and Youths

The entire ensemble starts with the type of cap worn by the individual. The color of the cap signifies ranking and position. The next piece is the beads around the neck, hands and on the feet.

The cloths are usually long shirts that reach to the knees. The pullover shirts are decorated with animal motifs or concentric patterns. The shirt sleeves vary from long to short depending on the individual’s choice. The wearer could decide to complement the shirt with a trouser or wrapper.

What Igbo Men Wear

  • A cap or hat
  • Feather in cap for titled men
  • beads around the neck
  • beads on wrists
  • long knee length shirt
  • a trousers or wrapper
  • shoes or sandals

Woman Nigeria

Woman Nigeria
Woman Nigeria

The Women

The women wear headgear, blouses and skirts. Sometimes they prefer traditional wrappers instead of skirts. They wear beads around the neck and wrists. To complete the look most women prefer modern sandals or flat shoes.

What Igbo Women Wear

  • A headgear
  • beads around the neck
  • earrings
  • beads on wrists
  • beads on feet
  • shorts blouses
  • skirt or wrapper
  • sandals or shoes

African Igbo Okpu Agu Cap Hat

African Igbo Okpu Agu Cap Hat-
African Igbo Okpu Agu Cap Hat- | Source

Young Igbo Boys Attire

Young boys are not allowed to wear red caps. Instead, they wear wool hats with horizontal stripped patterns.

The cap/hat is similar to head warmers used in the western world and the outfit for the youths is identical to those worn by elders. Both young men and elders also wear the red, white, black leopards cap called Okpu Agu.

Who Wears the red cap

Who is not allowed to wear the red cap

See results

Nze and Ozo ndi Nimo cultural attire

Nze and Ozo ndi Nimo cultural attire
Nze and Ozo ndi Nimo cultural attire | Source

Chinua Achebe wearing an Igbo red hat -

Chinua Achebe wearing an Igbo red hat -
Chinua Achebe wearing an Igbo red hat -

The Red Cap

The red cap in recent times has been debased by unscrupulous individuals. This is unfortunate because the red cap holds a very important place in Igbo society. The ozo sect's primary mandate is to select Eze Nri. The red cap is believed to have originated from Nri which is (the land of the ideal manifestation).

In ancient times the prized 'cap' was given to the peace warriors of the land. The cap is significant to the Nze (apprentice to the Ozo) and Ozo (war survivors). The red color symbolizes fire or fire agbala.

In ancient times the ozo was selected to go on spiritual missions for the progress of the community. However, significant elders and chiefs in the society are permitted to wear the red cap today. Modern representation of the cap is found on Igbo kings and clan chiefs.

The cap is reserved for men of authority, power and title. The cap is also given to people who have contributed significantly to the improvement of the society.

Title men that wear the red cap are Ogbuefi’s or eze. Others include Ozo, Ichie, Nze.

Eagle feather on red cap

Eagle feather on red cap signifies authority.
Eagle feather on red cap signifies authority.

The Feather

High ranking people are the only ones that can add the feathers. The Ugo feather is actually the feather of an eagle. It shows his place as a significant member of society.

The Attire worn By the Ibo People

Men
Women
Youths
Long Knee lenght shirts
Blouses
Short sleeve shirt
Trouser or wrapper
Wrapper
trouser
traditional cap
Beads on neck, wrist
floppy cap

The Long Traditional Shirts or Gowns

The traditional outfit for men is a long gown called 'Otogbo' and synonymous with many African cultures. The shirt could be sewn as a long or short sleeved attire.

The Color of the Attire

The color of the attire is also highly significant. The colors that are commonly used are black, red and white. The white signifies purity in thought and judgment that is why the high priest wear white with red beads on special occasions.

The ‘aAkwa Ocha’ or white outfit worn by the ‘Eze’ means purity. The Eze's red cap and the Eze Nri have a white and black rope that represents the ‘eke’ or serpent.

The Walking Stick

The walking stick is reserved for high chiefs and royalty. The stick is referred to as Npara. It is common to find them at special coronations of top leaders like the Eze, Obi or Igwe. Also titled men in the society carries the sticks. The sticks signify title, longevity and wisdom.

Neck Beads, Wrist Beads and Blouse

The neck and wrist beads worn by the men also have significant meaning. The beads signify nobility, rank and wealth of knowledge.

The Woman’s Blouse

The top choice for traditional Igbo women is the blouse. The embodied sleeve blouse is accompanied by a wrapper or head scarf. On special occasions the blouse and wrappers are selected to match each other. This is common in society groups, age-grade groups or celebrations.

Before you qualify to wear the igbo red cap

© 2018 femi

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