The dashiki is a colorful garment for women and men worn mostly in West Africa. It covers the top half of the body. It has formal and informal versions and varies from simple draped clothing to fully tailored suits. A common form is a loose-fitting pullover garment, with an ornate V-shaped collar, and tailored and embroidered neck and sleeve lines. It is frequently worn with a brimless Kufi cap, which is worn in Islamic communities in Africa and the African diaspora, and a pair of pants.
The name dashiki is Yoruba adapted word from Hausa for “danshiki” or "dan ciki" means “inner garment” in Hausa, as compared to "Babban riga" that is worn over "dan ciki" as the outer garment.
The informal version of the danshiki is a traditional print or embroidered danshiki. Three formal versions exist. The first type consists of a danshiki, sokoto (drawstring trousers), and a matching kufi. This style is called a danshiki suit or danshiki trouser set and it is the attire worn by most grooms during wedding ceremonies. The second version consists of an ankle-length shirt, matching kufi, and sokoto and is called a Senegalese kaftan. The third type consists of a danshiki and matching trousers. A flowing gown is worn over these. This type is called a grand boubou or an agbada.
There are several different styles of danshiki suits available from clothing stores. The type of shirt included in the set determines the name. The traditional danshiki suit includes a thigh-length shirt. The short sleeve, traditional style is preferred by purists. A long danshiki suit includes a shirt that is knee-length or longer. However, if the shirt reaches the ankles, it is a Senegalese kaftan. Finally, the lace dashiki suit includes a shirt made of lace. A hybrid of the danshiki and caftan worn by females is a traditional male danshiki with a western skirt.
It also goes by the name 'Angelina' in Ghana and Congo. It was given its name after a Ghanaian highlife group released a popular song titled "Angelina" which coincided with the cloth. It was originally worn by the Hausa of northern Ghana for traditional functions, and with time, it became a part of the Ghanaian culture as a whole.
Grey is the traditional color for some West African weddings. Some grooms wear white danshiki suits during wedding ceremonies. Some couples wear non-traditional colours. The most common non-traditional colors are purple and blue.
- Purple and lavender: the color of African royalty.
- Blue: blue is the color of love, peace, and harmony.
In the United States
The danshiki found a market in America during the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movement. The term danshiki began appearing in print at least as early as 1967. Reporting on the 1967 Newark riots in the Amsterdam News on July 22, 1967, George Barner refers to a new African garment called a "danshiki". An article by Faith Berry in The New York Times Magazine includes it on July 7, 1968. "Danshiki" formally appeared in the Webster's New World Dictionary, 1st College Edition of 1970/72. It cites J. Benning with the first written usage of the word in 1967. J. Benning, M. Clarke, H. Davis and W. Smith were founders of New Breed of Harlem in Manhattan, New York City, the first manufacturer of the garment in the United States.
The danshiki was featured in the movies Uptight (1968), Putney Swope (1969), and the weekly television series Soul Train (1971). In the Sanford and Son episode "Lamont Goes African" features Sanford's son Lamont wearing a Dashiki as part of his attempt to return to his African roots. Jim Brown, Wilt Chamberlain, Sammy Davis Jr., and Bill Russell were among the well-known African-American athletes and entertainers who wore the dashiki on talk shows. Hippies also adopted danshikis into their wardrobe as a means to express counterculture values. Former District of Columbia mayor and council member Marion Barry was known for wearing a danshiki leading up to elections. Danshikis have been seen on many musicians and singers, mostly African Americans, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, ScHoolboy Q, Q-Tip, and many others.
Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party made note of black business owners wearing danshikis in his 1969 speech Power Anywhere Where There's People: "[A]nybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don't care how many programs they have, how long a danshiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun."
- Anyiam, Thony C. (2007), Jumping the Broom in Style, Authorhouse, ISBN 1-4259-8638-2.
- Cole, Harriette (2004), Jumping the Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner, 2nd Ed., Owl Books, pg. 117, ISBN 0-8050-7329-9.
- Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane (1994), Celebrating Kwanzaa, Holiday House, ISBN 0-8234-1130-3.
- Media related to Dashikis at Wikimedia Commons