What are Dashiki Shirts and All You Need to Know About Them

If you’re searching for cool, bold-printed t-shirts that make a statement and stand out in the sea of plain t-shirts, then you’re in the right place. Dashiki shirts are exactly what you’ve been looking for!

You’ve probably seen them around since they have gained popularity on the fashion scene and certainly among celebrities in the last couple of years. However, you’ve never quite grasped the meaning and history behind them. That’s where we come in.

Wearing an African dashiki is a tradition for some and for that reason, dashiki sales are so high during February – Black History Month. Dashikis are instantly recognizable as an African look because they’re directly associated with Africa. In West African countries, dashikis are worn for comfort in the hot climate. In the US, the African dashiki sends its own message.

History of Dashiki Shirts

Dashiki shirts or clothes in general, are colorful garments for both men and women worn mostly in West Africa, that can be traced all the way to the 12th-13th century. The word dashiki comes from the Yoruba word ‘danshiki’ or ‘dan ciki’ which means short-sleeved work shirt typically worn by men in West Africa.

The interesting thing about these garments are the fact that the different versions and colors of these shirts represent different emotions and events. For example, the informal version of dashiki features the traditional print or simple embroidery. They come in sets of thigh-length shirt and trousers, or a different option containing a short sleeve styled shirt. Another informal type of dashiki, is a long dashiki suit that comes with a shirt that is knee length or longer.

Formal dashiki has three versions: Dashiki Sokoto, Grand Boubou and Senegalese Kaftan.

Dashiki Sokoto, this version of formal dashiki includes a long or short dashiki shirt, drawstring trousers, and a matching hat called a “kufi”. This style is usually worn by grooms during wedding ceremonies. This style can be altered by wearing a longer ankle length shirt instead of a short dashiki. White dashikis are usually worn by grooms on their wedding day. Sometimes couples, opt to wear more non-traditional colors, like purple, for their wedding day since purple is the color of African royalty. Blue is known as the color of love, peace, and harmony, so sometimes blue dashikis are also worn for weddings.

Grand Boubou also known as Agbada, this second type of dashiki comes with trousers and a matching flowing gown paired over the top. This style is usually reserved for Muslims, Tribal chiefs, and Nigerians. The black and gold style is very popular among men. Black and red are the traditional colors of mourning, since black represents death and communication to ancestors.

The third type of formal dashiki wear is known as Senegalese Kaftan. It consists of a longer ankle length shirt, matching kufi, and Sokoto. The Senegalese kaftan is the longest shirt option of the three formal dashiki shirts. This option is suitable to wear during mourning, white tie events, as well as black tie events.

Originally, traditional dashiki consisted of hand sewn together, woven strips of cloth. Now, they are made of more versatile textiles for larger distribution and to keep cool in the African heat. Finer materials are used for more formal dashiki. Materials such as soft silks and lace that have additional intricate detail with embroidery. And for the tailored suits, heavier cotton and silks are used in the production of the dashiki to give them a more tailored and refined look.

Additionally, the lace dashiki suit includes a shirt made of lace. A sort of mix of the dashiki and caftan worn by females is a traditional male dashiki with a western skirt. This style is widely known as ‘Angelina’ print.

This iconic Angelina print was created by a Vlisco textile designer. The design of the print on the 19th-century Ethiopian noblewoman’s tunic was based by Toon van de Manakker. This print is widely worn in West Africa, in countries like Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana and came to be. The print’s popularity peeked in the 1970s, with the highlife song “Angelina” by Ghanaian artists Sweet Talks & A.B. Crentsil.

What symbols and markings does dashiki contain?

Most dashiki are made to be simple in design, however, embroidery and Adinkra symbols can be added in more formal versions of these garments. Adinkra symbols have a deep meaning and refer to the proverbs from the Bible. These symbols are either embroidered or carved into dashiki shirts.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, different colors of dashiki cloth have a different meaning. For example, red symbolizes bloodshed or death, gold symbolizes royalty, wealth, or high status, white symbolizes spiritual purity, green symbolizes harvest and spiritual growth, and black symbolizes intensified spiritual energy.

The Emergence of Dashiki shirts in the US market

The term ‘dashiki’, as well as the garments themselves, first appeared in the US market during the late 1960s. Dashiki was especially popular during the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movement – as a symbol of cultural connection with the African continent and as a pride for the roots.

Today, even though the dashiki seems to be the new trend, this print has been popular amongst black communities around the world for decades.

The popularity of dashiki has reached it’s peak and everyone is familiar with some type of dashiki clothing. Back in the day, dashiki was mostly worn by men, today both men and women all around the world can be seen wearing some form of dashiki print. What’s more, what was once known as a men’s clothing style, is now mostly worn and represented by women.

Nowadays, there are many different types and styles of dashiki, so that it can fit everyone’s fashion sense.

8 Stylish Ways for Women to Wear a Dashiki shirt

Despite the fact that there are now many different types of dashiki clothing, shirts still remain one of the main clothing pieces. They come in many colors but the design is never changing and is worn by almost all generations – from kids to elderly. If you are a fan of dashiki shirts but you are not sure how to style them – here are several ways how you can transform your dashiki shirt from everyday, casual clothing piece to a formal, evening look.

  1. Casual dashiki

The first and the super casual way you can wear your dashiki shirt is by styling it with a pair of skinny jeans, trendy flat sandals and a cute little bag. Casual never looked so classy!

  1. Dressy casual dashiki

If you want to go a step further, and apart from running your weekend errands, you are going out for lunch, dress up a bit your casual dashiki outfit by swapping your trendy sandals with high-heels ones and that’s all you need to do to make your look completely different.

  1. Modern vibes dashiki

Younger generations love crop tops, that’s why making your older dashiki shirt into a crop top could be an awesome way to update your style and make it a little edgier. Pair dashkiki crop top with a pair of boyfriend jeans or just any jeans, even denim shorts, and there you have yourself a brand-new style!

  1. Dashiki shirt with a skirt

If you prefer skirts to jeans, or you just feel like wearing a skirt today, but you’re not quite sure how to pull that of with a dashiki shirt – we can help you! All you need to do is tuck your dashiki shirt into a stylish high-waisted pencil skirt, put on a pair of heels and you’re good to go – simple yet extremely classy.

  1. Dashiki shirt as a dress

You’re going on a date and you really want to wear your dashiki shirt, but you also want a dress?! Not a problem at all, just wear your dashiki shirt with a belt and a pair of high-heel sandals and there you go – both a dress and a shirt and stylish and classy at the same time! And if you’re going for more of a relaxed, casual look – instead of heels wear a pair of sneaker or booties. It’s all in the little things!

  1. Glamed up dashiki shirt

Glamming up your dashiki shirt is in fact possible. How you might wonder? Well simply put on a pair of thigh-high boots or lace-up boots and your ready for a night out. And all you had to do is pair your dashiki shirt with a pair of statement shoes!

  1. Layering your dashiki shirt

You can still wear your dashiki shirt even on a cold day. Layer a long sleeve shirt or button-up shirt under your dashiki shirt and throw on a pair of flared bottom jeans, and there you go – new style, new you! And to dress it up, even more, you can always add on a belt with a pair of tight black pants!

  1. Business style dashiki shirt

You might be wondering whether or not a dashiki shirt is an appropriate piece of clothing for a business meeting? Trust us when we say that it is! With just a bit of styling, you can look like a businesswoman even in a dashiki shirt. And all you need to do is throw over a blazer and you are ready for work!

As you can see, it only takes a little to make your dashiki shirt appropriate for almost any occasion. You don’t need to be a fashion guru to be stylish with a dashiki shirt of any color.

More than a fashion object, dashiki is a symbol of Black Pride, it is a staple piece of African American heritage and culture. It is also a means of expression by people of color everywhere – it is especially worn during Black holidays such as Kwanzaa.

Dashiki fashion continues to evolve and expand – the print itself is used for almost every clothing style out there. And even the word ‘dashiki’ has expanded over the years and it will continue to expand.


Tell us what you think of dashiki shirts. Have you ever worn one? If so, did you like it? We would love to hear from you!

Umar Bajwa
Umar Bajwahttp://www.theroom.com.au
Umar Bajwa is a young business enthusiast and content coordinator loves to write about Business, Technology, Life Style & Digital Marketing


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