Style in Independence era Vs modern day Nigerian fashion

Style in Independence era Vs modern day Nigerian fashion
  • One of the popular clothing associated with the 60s fashion period was the boot-cut trousers with openings large enough for a child to go through. Even though this style was popular at the time, it still survived into the following decades.

On Friday, September 30, 1960, a lot of preparations would have been ongoing across every household in Nigeria. For young men and women of that era, it would have been an opportunity to deck up in their best fashion pieces. After all, in a few hours they were going to become citizens of the world’s newest baby in the comity of nations, a country called Nigeria.

The mood on the streets would have been of excitement, beer parlours would have stocked up drinks and disco houses would have polished their floors.

But what about fashion? One can imagine how the fashion sense of young men and women of that auspicious day would have gone hyper.

Fifty-six years later today, we try to recreate how the fashion choices of those days contrast with what fashion has evolved to become in present day.

Many old fashionistas would say the 60s and 70s were the golden age of fashion in Nigeria. But was it? Modern day fashionable men and “baes” will probably find it hard to agree to this. The argument for the 60s/70s fashion trends may find a valid point in the fact that many modern fashion enthusiasts try to reinvent themselves with a regular throwback to the old times in a trend now called “Old Skool”.

In any case, it is necessary to compare areas of fashion in which the modern day Nigerian fashionista is different from the Independence era fashionista both male and female.

When bags were still handy

One of the meeting points of the fashion-conscious women of the 60s and the modern day fashionistas

is the way women love bags. No ensemble was complete in the 60s without a bag. The difference in the modern day type of bags women carry is that the old era bags were much smaller. In present day Nigeria, the line between a “handbag” and a “travel bag” is becoming increasingly blurred as more women now fancy large everyday carry-ons. Bags have become heavier too apparently. Ever noticed how young women now need extra lift of the arm to be able to carry their handbags?

Threading like cobwebs, weaves like mermaids

To say Nigerians have always been a fashionable people is to put the enormity of our lifestyle and elegance mildly.

But like a child that outgrows its diapers, the fashion sense of Nigerians has evolved over the years to become something that may make the fashion prudes of the 60s cringe.

In terms of hairstyles, young men and women of Nigeria’s Independence era obviously fancied a myriad of beautifully intricate threading and weaving that sometimes look like cobwebs  or waves. Puffs and cornrows were popular too and of course, who would ever forget the omnipresent afro.

On Nigeria’s Independence eve, hairdressers in various cities of the country would probably have gone through a lot of hassle contending with the abundance of customers, who wanted to look their best on the most important day in the land.

Had Nigeria got Independence in 2015, young women who could afford it would have donned their best Brazilian or Peruvian hair extensions or weaves just to look their best.

For men, it must be noted that the skin-head that has now become a fad among young and middle-aged men in present day Nigeria was not a fashion option in the Independence era. In fact, if you had a head that had been scraped clean of hair, you were probably a servant to a king or a chamberlain to a noble man.

A well coiffured hair, afro or hair given a befitting parting, was as important as every other part of the ensemble which Independence era fashionistas would have decked up for the October 1 celebration.

Any crowd of young men at the time would have showed numerous heads looking like a sea of black round balls.

Knee-length iro, flared trousers that could swallow babies

Looking at pictures of Independence era fashionistas, there was no doubt that women’s iro (wrappers) going beyond the knee must have been a rarity at the time. The top part, called buba in Yoruba, equally had shorter sleeves as well. In fact, this attire has become the symbol of a beautiful era in Nigerian fashion.

This is perhaps why modern day Nigerian fashion enthusiasts continue to go back to the style in what has become known as “Oleku”.

As far as the young women of the 60s were concerned, attire such as iro and buba, gowns and even school uniforms were mostly knee-length. Certainly no Nigerian woman was likely to have conceived the idea of trousers as an English dress at the time.

Middle-aged and older women of the 60s used more elaborate iro, some actually tied theirs around the chest rather than around the waist. In fact, many used up to two wrappers at a time, which were feet-length.

On October 1, 1960, while many young women would have opted to leave their headgears at home since the beauty was in the natural intricate hairstyles they wore, older women would have garbed in elaborate headgears.

One notable structure of headgears of that era was the fact that rather than the antenna-structure favoured by modern fashionistas, the headgears of the 60s were more mound-like.

Display of cleavages in that era was a no-no. But for modern day Nigerian women, such public celebrations would have seen a lot of bum shorts, jean trousers, which did not exist in the 60s, and a lot of skimpiness that would make grandmas scream.

It is not likely that many young men would have been seen in ties and tight-fitting designer suits as the case is likely to be if the Independence Day had taken place today.

Of course, designer suits were a rarity in the Independence era. Most of the clothing of the time were bespoke, which was why the tailors of old were respectable and relatively well-to-do men and women. Many “Sammy the Tailor” in Isale Eko, and various parts of the country would have been swarmed by hordes of customers, who were jostling to get to collect either their traditional attire or  jackets and shirts with large collars like dog ears.

One of the popular clothing associated with the 60s fashion period was the boot-cut trousers with openings large enough for a child to go through. Even though this style was popular at the time, it still survived into the following decades. By the 90s, modern day designers had begun to adapt them to the modern tastes and women’s trousers also.

Shoes like mountains

Independence era shoes were humongous. For social events that required western dresses, some women and many men wore shoes whose wooden soles were like mountains, compared with the modern day shoes.

In fact, with the men’s boot-cut trousers of the era, high-sole shoes were like twins.

This style was so beautiful that it  survived into the 80s.

Punch Newspaper

Philip Soneye

Philip Soneye, the initiator of Motherland and many other online platforms. An American-Nigerian IT Innovation & Brand Strategy consultant, a website developer, programmer, retired IT lecturer and businesses investor.

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