Lifestyle The significance of caps in Nigerian men's traditional attire

The significance of caps in Nigerian men’s traditional attire

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Nigeria is a country with diverse cultures, languages, traditions and people, and out of the many, the major tribes remain the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani.

For centuries, many of the tribes wore their unique traditional attire and acquired certain signature styles in which they dress. However, with the advent of western culture, Nigerian traditional attires have been relegated to being worn during important ceremonies and events.

Whatever the case, some of these traditional outfits are flanked by caps, which carry certain significance depending on the culture.

1. Igbo culture – Red Cap

Though the oval red cap and woolen cap are worn today by most men to complete their Igbo outfit, it is a symbol that is intended for high-ranking Igbo men from Eastern Nigeria.

The Igbo red cap is a symbol of authority, tradition, and culture, and indicates the conferment of a chieftaincy title. Men that wear this cap are usually addressed by “Nze”, “Ichie”, “Ozo”, “Ogbuefi” and others.

The red color of the caps is a symbol of fire, Agbala (the “holy spirit”) and is represented in the three versions: the oval cap, the woolen red-white-and-black beenie, and the long red cap usually accessorised with an eagle’s feather. The last is still reserved for highly-respected elders in Igboland, such as the king.

2. Yoruba tribe – Fila

‘Fila’ is the Yoruba word for cap. Unlike the Igbo caps which are made from wool, Yoruba caps can be made from different types of material such as hand woven Aso Oke fabric, velvet, cotton or damask. The fila does not have any traditional significance but is instead used to complement Yoruba native attires such as Agbada, or Ankara, etc. Many young people these days wear fila, Yoruba or not, when they attend weddings, etc.

There are different styles of the Fila.

  • Gobi style is the most common style of fila. It has a front-facing upturned design but can be faced to any direction.
  • The Abeti Aja style means “like dog’s ears” and it looks just like that. It is common among both young men and elders. The pointed edges of the cap and be styled to face any direction.
  • Kufi style is a simple fila, very common with royalty and Muslim Yorubas.
  • The Awolowo cap was named after the great Awolowo because it became his signature cap which he used to wear on a regular basis. It looks like the Igbo red cap but not quite. This one can be worn in any material/colour.

3. Hausa – Fula

The hausa caps are worn with Hausa Baban riga or a simple native top and trouser for everyday outings or major events. They are worn more often than the other caps since they are worn on regular days.

Made from various fabrics such as cotton, Mud Cloth, Kente, Aso Oke, African Print, Linen, Hayes, Damask, Velvet, Leather, etc, the caps are most famous for their exotic embroidery.

4 . Akwa Ibom/Cross River – Embroidered caps

The Akwa Ibom/Cross River traditional attire for men is very rich and complex. It is also one that stands out when properly worn. The cap is usually made out velvety material that matches or ties together the whole outfit. It is given very elegant and beautiful embroidery, which could be light or heavy, depending on the outfit.

5 . Niger Delta people – South-South Cap/Top hat

Men from places like Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta wear the simple South-South outfits for important events or outings and top them off with top hats or a thick fedoras. This has become a signature clothing fixture for the Niger Delta man.

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