If you look on the runways of major American fashion shows, or in the pages of top fashion magazines, you’ll see a lot of fashions that were originally inspired by traditional African styles. Here are some of the most popular African-inspired trends in the U.S.
Style Bistro recently did a write-up on celebrities wearing tribal prints, from Rihanna wearing block shapes on a shift top to Heidi Klum wearing repeating patterns on a mod-style dress.
The deep oranges and reds on fall fashions are reminiscent of the dramatic sunsets in the Saharan deserts in North Africa. You also find a lot of those colors in gourds native to Africa and in the dirt roads of rural Africa.
The perfect fix for a bad-hair day, head wraps look effortlessly elegant but were first worn by women in sub-Saharan Africa. They made their way to the States when slave owners made female slaves don them as a “badge” of their enslavement. Not the prettiest of beginnings but a very beautiful item.
Jewelry has been getting bulkier by the quarter-year it seems, and one item you’ll see on a lot of large-bead necklaces and earrings is big, plastic fruit. We rarely wear real fruit in the U.S., but women in Africa have long made jewelry of real, dried produce.
Dreadlocks first became popular in the States when Rastafarian music and then culture took the music industry by storm. But eventually those with no knowledge of the Rastafarian culture started wearing the dreads, and today even white women do.
You see these everywhere once it heats up in the summer. They’re airy, comfortable, hide what you want hidden on a “bloaty” day and can be covered in beautiful colors and patterns. In the States, some women wear long ones and belt them like a dress; others wear short ones as tops with jeans, but the tunic is, to this day, one of the most popular fashions in all of Africa, and any African shop you walk into in America will have racks stuffed with them.
Sarongs are so fun and versatile—you can turn them into a top, a headdress, a skirt, a dress, a scarf and just about anything you like. They usually come in a very soft, chiffon-like fabric that’s light and airy for really hot days. They were first worn by women in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa and a lot of sarongs depict African animals and tropical plants.
Some of the oldest jewelry in the world, made from shells and sea snails, was found in Africa. Very popular among surfers and residents of beach communities today, shell jewelry ranges from strings of tiny puka shells to long ropes featuring just one giant shell. They also have a huge price range since some feature rare shells.
These are so gorgeous in the fall—florals that are stitched or painted to look completely authentic—and often depict plants native to African forests.
These are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., from half-foot-long iron cuffs, to armfuls of bangles, and large, cloth bracelets in tribal prints or wooden bracelets with colorful stones.