The word “dashiki” originated from “danshiki,” which is a word in the Yoruba language. The term refers to a work shirt with short sleeves that were worn dominantly by West African men. The Yoruba people live in Togo, Nigeria, and Benin in West Africa. Their culture interprets the color of dashikis to represent different emotions.
A groom traditionally wears a white dashiki at his wedding, and sometimes both the groom and bride choose to wear matching purple dashikis on their wedding day. The color purple is a sign of royalty in African culture. Other couples may choose to wear blue dashikis for their wedding because it is believed to promote tranquility, love, and harmony. Dashiki can also be worn at formal events or funerals, with red and black being considered the traditional colors for mourning the deceased. Although the dashiki fashion that we know today was created in the 1960s, there were traces of colorful garments similar to dashiki styles found in Malian cemeteries from the 12th century.
In 1962, the dashiki print came to be by the hands of the designer Toon van de Manakker. The designer was inspired by silk tunics that were beautifully embroidered with intricate patterns. This style was introduced in Ethiopia in the 1800s by upper-class women. This fabric was largely popular for a couple of decades after its invention. Black people wore dashikis as a sign of pride and unity among the Black community.
During the Black Power movement in the United States, dashiki garments were popularized in television series and movies. This was how African American t-shirts for men became quite an everyday sight in the 60s. Apart from the African community, hippies who supported the Black Power and Civil Rights movements wore dashiki garments to declare their values that were against the mainstream at the time.
Different countries have unique names for dashiki. In the Congo, people call it Miriam Makeba, referring to the popular South African singer. In Ghana, people refer to the colorful garment as Angelina, while in East African countries, people call it Kitenge. In 1967, Jason Benning was the one to establish the term dashiki as the garment’s permanent name. Along with William Smith, Milton Clarke, and Howard Davis, Benning started production lines of dashiki garments in their clothing company in New York City.
The dashiki trend and lifestyle evolved a lot since the 1960s. Now, both men and women are wearing these colorful garments with their unique, elaborate patterns. This is a major change from the origins of the garment, which was predominantly worn by men. Nowadays, many women are seen in these beautiful garments, including many African American celebrities like Beyonce and Rihanna who turned it into a modern fashion trend.
The term “daishiki” does not just mean long short-sleeved shirts anymore. It is also used to refer to the pattern commonly used in dashiki clothes. This indicates that the fabric can be used in many ways to portray the cultural pride associated with wearing a dashiki. It used to be only made as a loose-fit shirt, ranging from regular-sized shirts and long tunics. However, the design has expanded to include various styles to accommodate modern fashion style while preserving daishiki’s original identity. Dashiki patterns can be found on sweatshirts, skirts, tops, and practically any type of clothing.
While many people think that dashiki fashion is just a passing trend, others think of it as more of a fashion statement. The design has been around for decades and its attractive colors and embroideries make it a versatile style that can be incorporated into many styles. Many people with African heritage, believe that dashiki is a way to connect to their culture and origins as they wear these garments as a sign of pride.
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