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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 17:02 GMT
What is an African dress code?
Nelson Mandela in the żmadiba' shirt
Mandela's 'madiba' shirts are famous around the world

Shortly after taking the oath of office as South Africa's first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela stormed the uptight fashion world of statesmen and dignitaries with the most unprecedented suit of all.

Mandela introduced the "Madiba shirt". Flowery and loose-fitting, it gave the new South African president a relaxed - and some would say less formal - appearance.

Meanwhile in Kenya, the speaker of the national assembly presides over a parliament with one of the most rigid dressing codes in Africa.

A suit and tie is compulsory for male Members of Parliament in Kenya, and anything less would cause an MP to be thrown out of the house.

But some Kenyan parliamentarians have tried to defy the strict dressing code, which they term "colonial and un-African."

Some have dared to disobey the speaker, turning up in Parliament with flowing Nigerian "agbada" robes - and of course getting thrown out for it.

So what exactly is African when it comes to formal dressing?

Is it the ease of the Madiba shirt, the majesty of the "agbada," the elegance of the Ghanaian Kente or the slickness of designer suits?

Is Africa's search for a formal dress futile?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate Wednesday 3 March at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Your comments:

This has given me the wake up call! I run to department stores looking for sales on suits to wear because I want to fit in. Yet whenever I wear my African outfits I stand out and I am well admired and it's very comfortable. My attitude is going to change from this day on. Out with Western way of dressing, in with authentic Africa clothes.
Alberta Darko, Ghana/USA

Africa is such a big place that you cannot dress comfortably in the arid north as you might do for the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
Mathias Daffa, Tanzania

I think the fashion market is letting us down. A three-peice suit can be got anywhere and at a reasonable prize. Let the fashion houses be flooded with these African dress codes and we'll have another tomorrow.
David Matinyarare, Zimbabwe

I am offended when someone tries to make me a Nigerian, or a Ghanaian, or a South African. Africa does not have a single and should not have a single dress code. I have no problem with what Mr. Mandela wears but it is not indeginous to any of the tribal dress in my country. I love my own beautiful Kpelle attire. Stop trying to define us in a straight jacket. Africa is a continent not a country.
HC Kparnkpai Reeves, Liberia/USA

I think Madiba has started to break the tradition of the European dress-code here in South Africa. In Johannesburg now, hardly anyone wears a suit and tie to work anymore - thank heavens!
Simon G, South Africa

Dressing is an identity that speaks out without words and it is painful that some leaders in Africa including the Delta State government of Nigeria see the Western dress code more appealing and easy. What is not yours can never be yours no matter how you try to make it yours.
Erusiafe Prayer, Nigeria

I remember reading that in the 19th century men in Italy creased their trousers horizontally across the knee, mimicking what they saw visiting Englishmen do. Of course, the Englishmen had those creases becuse their pants had been folded in a suitcase during the long trip from the UK. It seems to me that Africans, or Indians or Japanese for that matter, wearing traditional European suits doesn't make a lot of sense. All these countries have their own native cultural cues to use when deciding what to wear.
Richard Reynolds de La Rochelle, Residing in Abidjan

My many intercultural experiences have taught me that most people tend to appreciate more that which is foreign to them. Even here in the west, so many people are easily fascinated by the slightest sight of anything 'non-western' and they would pay a lot to acquire it. So my beloved friends, dress in whatever code you wish, but modesty is modesty anywhere, any place, anytime.
Chidi Nwamadi, Nigerian living in France

Would you ask this question of any off the other continents? Remember Africa is a big place that is all too often referred to as a single entity. It would be hard to confuse lets say Senegalese boubous and the Khuai tablier.
Iain, South Africa

I think it is due to the ignorance and inferiority complex of Africans that cause us to put on hot suits and ties to offices without air-conditioners let alone fans. Secondly we tend to forget our climatic conditions in Africa and copy the styles and fashions of our colonial masters.
William F.E. Smith, Sierra Leone

It is high time such remnants of the colonial yoke are shed. We should be focusing on productivity and not appearance. Who can say Mandela was not effective and productive? He sure looks comfortable!
Ndegwa Mahinda, USA

I can hardly wait for the day when sartorial concerns (matters of tailoring) are Africa's biggest issue.
Edilson Nguma, Cabinda/Angola

It is outrageous that a member of paliament can be thrown out of the house for an "inappropriate" outfit. It is about time to appreciate what we have as Africans.
Suamana Sannoh, USA

Suits are copied and do not represent an African way of dressing! African's please keep your traditions...
Roman, UK-Ethiopia

My first choice is the designers suits
Harrison O, Nigeria/Uk

Surely the BBC could come up with better topics for their African page than this rather insulting trivial subject, give Africans a bit more respect.
Dru, UK

Why am I not surprised? Kenya has tried in vain to search for a Kenyan outfit. A Maasai man is proud to show his identity in Massachussets much to the interest of the public, while at home you get kicked out for displaying your African identity. What happened to freedom of expression?
Pauline, United States

The Madiba shirt is casual wear that reflects the way African leaders have dressed for centuries. I am very suprised that present day African leaders are still embracing the dress code of offspring of our forefathers' slave masters.
Ken King, usa

Doesn't Africa have more issues to discuss than dress code? How about fighting hunger, aide, illiteracy... This is like asking a chicken when you die who do you want to eat your meat.
Amadou, USA/Guinea

We all have 'cultural' days when it should be fully 'cultural attire' and other days when we should be free to'mix.'
Nana Nokoe, Ghana/London

To start with there is not one simple code, so I am wondering why anyone would ask the question?
Ayele Tarekegn, Ethiopia / UK

My view is dress whatever, but respectably. A mini skirt and hipster is reserved for the less respected all over the world. Mandela's is certainly a smart dress. Let's look unique but remember to be smart!
Chenda Bwamba, Yugoslavia

Our Ghana kente has never changed its beauty and I believe, if our good local designers like Joyce Ababio continue with the good work they are doing, people might change their perception. Our African dress is unique, let's develop it.
Mckenzie, Ghana

We do not need to address such issues as dress code for Africans.
Tonderai Mupandawana, Zimbabwe

Africans should learn how to uphold their cultures and traditions and dressing should be one of the ways to do this.
Adeniyi Ajibade, England

It's a shame that Africans in Africa (Kenya in this case) are thrown out of an African Parliament for wearing African suits or dresses. If we don't appreciate our own culture, no one will.
Karwolo, Liberian in The Gambia

The outfit is a reflection of the inside. Mandela is a handsome man from inside.
Erjabo A. Gembero, USA,

An African will die an African, why not have an african attire? Why have some people burnt their faces and heads by applying chemicals, wanting to change hair & skin. Have you ever seen a white man applying black chemical? No, then why should we always follow their path?
Emanuel "Tafi", Zimbabwe

Here in the States, except for a slight backlash due to the recent recession, formal suit and tie known as "corporate" has been replaced with "business casual". It boggles my mind why anyone would embrace Corporate in a tropical locale?
Stacie Skelley, USA

Why should we buy western outfit? Lets invest in our own people and wear what is rightfully ours. I am 20 years old and proud to be Africa. Viva Africa viva Madiba shirt.
Luke Salomo, Windhoek/Namibia

People who think that agbadas or Madiba shirts are authentic African outfits because the fabrics tend to be foreign, should also note that the so called western clothes are often made in Asiatic and Latin american factories. My point: Africa doesn't need a uniform dress code.
I.K. Iyase, Nigerian in Canada

We all have choices on what to wear in our own territories, but when its comes to offices we have limits. You cannot go to the office in shorts just because the weather is hot. Parliament is the office of MPs, likewise they have to dress in an appropriate way. The Agbada's of Nigeria are not common in Kenya and that is why is not considered appropriate for Pariament but they look great on other social occasions. It is just like a member of the Nigerian parliament turning out in "shuka" of the Masaai people.
Esther, kenya

What a prosperous and happy continent Africa must be, that their leaders have nothing more important to debate than what type of clothing should be worn!
Marshall A. Woods, United States

I read one of the comments mentioning that "in Africa the traditional wear is rather barbaric and needs to be modernized". What does the writer mean by that? It is absurd to hear an African describing their own culture that way. The African colonial masters built an image of Africa as being backward and inhabited by savages. Don't subscribe to this characterisation of barbarism.
Mugume Kalyegira, Harvard University, USA

I thought the famous 'Kaunda Suit' was better. It is less colonial and not too African!
Cankech, Canada/Uganda

The problem here is BBC. How can you afford to devote so much space to such a triviality? Africa has more serious and urgent issues that need attention and I am baffled that you find good reason to allocate space, time and effort on side shows.
Newton Kanhema, Zimbabwe

I think that if the our African leaders can put on their traditional dress code whenever on diplomatic mission or at a gathering like the AU summit our true identity will be known and even provide economic gains to the designers.
K B, Ghana

The Kaunda, Nyerere and Mobutu suits were not African, they were originally Chinese safari suits before China was 'bought'!
Mutuna Chanda, Zambia

Occasionally, I wear colorful cotton fabrics designed specifically to my taste. It is neither the agbada nor the madiba dress. It is a simple crossbreed between a casual Camerounian shirt and the western shortsleeves. I often wear it to the office because it speaks to my cultural heritage: A Nigerian from Africa that happens to live and work in America. I don't blame colonialism for my choice of attires. I wear whatever speaks to me as an Idoma, born and educated in Nigeria that lives in a country where I have to struggle to maintain a sense of cultural relevance.
Adakole Emaikwu, USA

I think creating or promoting the so called African dress code is not viable issue.
Paul Lonya Kulang, Sudan/ Australia

One thing am sure of is that a suit and a tie is not an african dress code.
Ekene, Nigeria

African dress is light and full of color as many of the countries are too hot for suits and ties. They are beautiful and make us look happy no matter what the mood is. That is why our friends in other parts of the world say that African dress looks great! When you walk into a room everyone admires you! Lets keep wearing the huge flowery prints that make us look happy and best of all unique!
Wanjiku, UK

In my opinion, one should dress the way depending on whom they are and where they are. I don't expect a legislator to enter parliament dressed in a t-shirt or a president addressing the nation in tracksuit. Neck ties and suits should be mantained for gents.
Tumwesigye Happy, Uganda

The late former PM Michael Manley introduced the 'kariba' suit in the 70s for appropriate parliamentary & formal dress. The western 3-piece suit proved uncomfortable during the massive power outages and for us, the majority of public offices were not air-conditioned. Nyere' was one of the most respected leaders of Africa who had visited us with cultural troupes and multi-lateral agreements and a penchant for story-telling. Jamaica was in love. Before long the look became the 'Nyere collar' and for women it was always hip to wear African dresses, with wraps in beautifully embroidered cutwork or cotton prints for daytime wear. I adore Mr Mandela's kadiba wear. Like his laugh, it lights up the world.
Dorothy Campbell, Jamaica

Some of my fellow Sudanese were cracking their minds in the 80s. When they saw the then professor of Juba University Taban Lo-Liyong wearing a dumuriya (cotton) shirt and Mut-ta-Kali(car tire sandles) all made in Southern Sudan. Some people thought he was crazy. But to me he was not. Taban was trying to tell people that we should be proud of what we have. Not only that, He created job for the makers and promoted the sales of those goods. And many benefited.
Leju Moga, Sudan/ USA

The first impression is 25% of what you want to do and say. So hooray for the Kenyan Legislative House. Keep on Looking Sharp.
Philip Odhiambo, Haiti

I think the fomus 'Kaunda Suit' is better. It's less colonial and not too African!
cankech, Canada, Uganda

People who think that agbadas or Madiba shirts are authentic African outfits because the fabrics tend to be foreign, should also note that the so called western clothes are often made in Asiatic and Latin American factories. My point: Africa doesn't need a uniform dress code.
I.K. Iyase, Nigerian in Canada

An African will die an African - why not have an african attire? That's why some people have burnt their faces and heads by applying chemicals, wanting to change hair & skin.Have you ever seen a white man applying black chemical? No then why should we always follow their path.We should have our own dress code.
Emanuel "Tafi", Zimbabwe

African dress code? To start with Africa is not one country just as Asia and Europe are not one country therefore the thought of one dress code for such a huge and culturally diverse continent is absurd!!
Martha Banda, Zambia

I agree we must wear suits and ties and not go around like Mandela who does not have any dress sense. He is a populist.
S. Kassam, Kenya

Wearing a black heat-absorbing, body-hugging suit and tie in the tropical heat is not only torture but "colo mentality" as Fela Kuti the late Nigerian musician would sing. I would give credit to Olusegun Obasanjo the Nigerian president for the way he upholds the African pride by always wearing his traditional attire.
Comfort Adesuwa Ero, Canada

For me to define any dress code African, the material must be manufactured and designed by Africans. The Nigerians boast of their Abgadas but they prefer Dutch brillon materials for their Abgadas to any home grown material.
Cillaty Daboh, Sierra Leone/USA

I love the Madiba shirt. It's a symbol and pride of Africans. I also like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's outfits. Actually I have some.
John Gabriel, Candada/Sudan

It's really silly to be wearing ties and jackets in humid climates found in most African countries. Here in Zambia we have 'chitenje' material. Men and women would look smart in it. At the moment only women wear chitenje attire to offices. The men on the other hand are still slaves to western dressing. Shame on the men!
Gabriel Konayuma, Zambia

Long after independence our leaders are still dressing to please the white man. The current Ghanaian leaders are classic example of Westernised dressing. Ghanaians had expected them to lead the way by dressing in the beautiful Ghanaian smock, GTP or kente, but what do we see?
Amos Safo, Ghana

African dress code should be that which suits one the most. If one feels comfortable in a Madiba shirt so be it and if one feels more comfortable in a formal suit so be it too.One should not be forced to wear what he or she is not comfortable in.
Eddie, Zimbabwe

What's the matter with wearing an African 'agbada' or a western suit? Dress as to make you happy and look good, but not obscene.
Celestine Fosung Nke, Stuttgart, Germany

They make noise on the patronage & exhibition of African tresures, yet they advertise Western culture in our higher places. Our energy minister, Kwesi Nduom, was sacked from parliament because he was in African wear.
Joseph Cobbinah, Ghana

Let the Kenyan parliament continue to waste time on dress code, the world is moving forward. You need to let the Kenyan people know just how many days out of the year their leaders spend discussing issues related to attire compared to development.
Pavi, USA

I was disappointed with Nelson Mandela's casual wear. Traditionally, African kings, officials and chiefs used to put on heavy full wear.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Uganda

I was very annoyed to hear that some women/men support the nonsense over mini skirts and tight hipsters. Some people have over- exaggerated their dressing in the name of climate. As an African lady I feel what is happening is long overdue. Let's do something about this dressing before it gets out of hand.
Lifuna, Zambia

Modesty in dressing is my key word for dress code. It does not matter the colour of the skin or where one is coming from. A dressing with animal skin that looks modest and natural is acceptable by me.
Christian Merenini, Nigeria

Could anyone explain why our police men and women still wear thick black uniforms under the scorching sun?
Frank Amankwah, Ghana

Culture is not static nor is it rigid, it borrows in and gives out. Let Africa borrow from across the globe what is good, and disregard what is not modern. Imagine a president addressing the locals with his naked painted chest and only a handkerchief-size sisal outfit below his belt, with no more nor less!
Harrahs Malinda, Kenyan in Germany

While it is impossible and probably unnecessary to shake off all traces of European influence in Africa, we certainly should not be clinging mindlessly to colonial relics. For example: did any Kenyan judge or advocate ask themselves why they are required to go to work wearing a white wig? Once fashionable in old Europe, I think it looks ludicrous beyond belief sitting on top of a black face! Off with them or use black ones if you must!
Ndirangu Githaiga, Kenya/USA

Unlike Western styles of dressing, African dressing tends towards convservatism as it covers about 80% of the body, thereby not exposing the body. While some might wear a flowing "agbada" it does not necessarily mean a display of opulence. People should wear what makes them feel good both on the inside and outside.
Niyi Adeyemi, Canada

Whatever makes us comfortable in our respective countries' work environment in Africa is our 'dress code'. However, I am in the US and I try to 'fit in' with 'their' dress code by now wearing designer suits. However, when I am in Africa, wearing a designer suit among my villagers makes it feel like a foreign body grafted on me!
Biifa from Oromia, now in America

Just as the Europeans developed a dress code based on their historical dress, Africans should develop a mode of acceptable dress based on their historical clothing. By continuing to wear European styled clothing, it gives the impression that Africa continues to have a colonist mentality
Akilah, U. S.

Mandela, we all know, is a man way ahead of his time. He went to prison in defense of his integrity and his outfit simply reflects that same value. He has long chosen to be African and to be proud of who he is, while most African leaders continue to force incongruent western ideas on themselves and on their people; of which a suit in the tropical climate is merely a visible expression.
Michel, USA

The deciding factors are comfort, decency, suitability and elegance. Whatever meet these conditions are good for wearing, whether African or Western. I am entirely against enforced dressing code, whether African or Western.
Tony Izuogu, South Africa

I am positive that no matter how much the Zimbabwean President hates the whitemen, he is not going to our traditional dress code which is two animal skins that are put on back and front.
Darryl Martin, Harare Zimbabwe

The dress code of any African country is always symbolised by the the President of that country. For instance in my country Nigeria, our President is always dressed in the Nigerian way - the flowing abgada.
Edem Eniang, Nigeria

While visiting Kenya in 2002, I was a little disappointed to see more people dressed in western wear than in their own rich and diversified cultural attire. Being an African American who is married to a beautiful Kenyan national, I was looking forward to seeing more "Africa inspired" dressed Africans. I love Africa and I want the people there to show that they are the true "fathers and mothers" of humanity and to distinguish themselves as such in their traditions and manner of dress.
Keith Little, USA

The rigidity in such small issues underlines the problems that Africa is facing, preventing it from marching forward and solving its problems independently. If you cannot accept your reflection on the mirror how on earth are you going to solve more serious problems of corruption, epidemics and civil war? No suprise Africa is perishing as she awaits anti-corruption, anti-AIDS codes from Europe.
Mberia Stanley, Canada, Kenyan.

Let Africans wear what suits them best. Let Africa redress the past by adapting what is globally available. Mandela's 'madiba' shirts are a variant of the famed Indonesian batiks. Congratulations on the innovation.
Sarwono Kusuma, Djakarta, Indonesia

The question is how does one feel dressed up traditionally in the company of others; embarassed, unique, different, silly or stupid. If one feels confident and courageous enough to put one animal skin in front and onother in the back and walk the streets of Nairobi, Harare, New York or London, then bring it on. It is dressing, and your choice isn't it?
Paul Kudinha, Zimbabwe

I worked for a bank in Sierra Leone and ties and suits are the most unbearable clothes you want to be in with no air conditioners or electricity.
Alimamy Kheiyo-Sesay, Minnesota USA/Sierra Leone

In Ghana, Kente is the formal attire. It is unique to the country and hence worn as a formal dress. You see legislators wearing the nice woven 'agbada', kente wrapper and nicely sown kente or wax print 'kaba' and 'slit'. Africa doesn't need to search for a formal attire because we already have various unique ones. Let us all be proud of our heritage and stop perpetuating colonialist ones. Long live Mama Africa!!!
Vivian, Ghanaian in Miami

As diverse as the communities are, each culture has its own inherited favorite. Members of the Kenyan parliament are only one element of that rich and vast culture. It is fair to leave them alone to decide what they are comfortable with and respect what other Africans may come up with, as well. Let's not mix up Africans' common exposure to "one" external culture with the diverse indiginous dressing codes inter-Africa.
Wondwossen, Ethiopian, Seattle. WA - USA

The safari suit is the most suitable for Africa. The standard suit and tie is very hot; the "Agbada" is clumsy and very "showy", and the "Madima" is very informal.
Stephen Manah, USA/S-Leone

I think Nigeria is getting it right and Obasanjo is an epitome of an African statesman (at least in dressing). People are encouraged to wear traditional dress whenever they like - some states even set out a fixed day of the week for everyone to dress traditionally. Even banks are adopting the same. Any national event produces such a variety representing the over 250 tribes in Nigeria. However, the suit and tie is still relevant and you can see a mixture of it and the traditional dress in the Nigerian senate. University students perhaps are at the vanguard of this trend. Just attend a religious service in a campus chaplaincy and over 60% of students will be dressed exotically. I carried that trend to UK and still wear my colorful robes whenever I can.
Emeka, UK / Nigeria

Kenya should borrow a leaf from people like Mandela, Jerry Rawlings and Obasanjo. Even the Europeans appreciate Africa's dress sense. Let's show the world that we are capable of creating style. Kenya!!! Wake Up
Abiodun Adigun, Nigeria

Just as Africa gave the world cotton, so too does African fashion influence the run-ways of Milan, New York, London and Paris. Any African worth his or her salt would first be proud of what he or she has before virtually usurping the other persons modus operandi as his or hers. Have you ever seen the Scotts apologize for their skirt-looking kilt? Why then should an African have to defend his Shama, Agbada, or Madiba shirt? I proudly wear an Agbada to work as I do an Italian suit. This is what we all need to do, cherish what we are in order to appreciate what others have as well, without relegating or denegrating what's ours.
Vahplahn Zeegar-Holman, USA/Liberia

The idea of a formal national/international dress code is primarily to mirror the respect and professionalism that consistent with the seriousness of issues public figures grapple with. The Western style business attire became the standard to mirror these standards but is by no means their definition. Let Mandela wear his shirt, Obasanjo his Agbada, and Tony Blair his business suit as all these all equally and validly attest to who they are.
Tavengwa Runyowa, Zimbabwe/Canada

I have always felt the need for the African of today to be clear on what is the desired type of official wear. It has not been easy, it can never be. In a country like Nigeria with so many languages and tribes, each with their own type of wear, I would think we should adopt something that would not over-shadow or ignore completely another tribe. Hence I say, lets stick with the western suit, tie and shirt.
Inem, USA

I don't see anything wrong with Kenya requesting that PM dress in suit and ties during their sessions. Prior to such rule, some of these PMs may have appeared at these sessions with total disregard to the representation of the Kenyan people and what a single photography of a poorly dressed PMs will do hurt Africa image around the world. We all cannot lead, some of us must be controlled and told what to do.
George Korvah, A Liberian who lives in America

I am a Nigerian, I wear native attire when the weather allows it. I know most Nigerians would like to wear agbada as parliamentarians or national assembly members except those who speak english with their teeth on the floor of the house. Kenyan should wake up and be more africanised in their dressing.
Olajide Kaycey, New york

I hope this discussion is also considering that we have women parliamentarians across the continent and that in Kenya, they don't even have the freedom to wear trousers - I stand corrected if this has changed recently. Many Kenyans will remember how we have tried for ages to come up with a dress code in vain. The passing away recently of Moseti Anyona the only Kenyan MP who managed to stick to his "Mao or Chinese" suit, brought to light that the Kenyan MPs can choose what to wear - be it a suit, an African wear or something agreed upon by Parliament to be decent enough to go to work with without raising questions of indecency. It's time Africa woke up to creativity, originality and all matters African. Long live creativity and originality in Africa.
Wanja Njuguna, KSG, Harvard University, Kenyan in the US

In Liberia for example, coat and tie for educated and civilized people and it speaks to a person's prestige.This was the case for a very long time. But today Liberians have embraced both coat and tie and the African dress. Here in the US, for most part, in spite of stereotypical notions, African dress is our pride and identity.
Roland , Liberian in the US

I think it is interesting that President Obasanjo wasn't mentioned in this piece. Since the retirement of Mandela, he has been the only one in Agbada even in G-8 and Commonwealth meetings. And the funniest is Mr. Mugabe who cries about colonization and neo-slavery only to wear a suit and tie to his 80th birthday. So much for British intervention in his life.
James Stewart, USA

If you could help me find a shirt like the one Kaddafi of Libya had on the other day in a portrait with other African leaders, I would be eternally grateful.
Andrea, USA

A colonized mind will tell someone that its only the western style of dressing that is acceptable. Isn't this the same kind of thinking that was used by the African colonizers to discourage and deem anything Africa as inferior? It is time we start being proud of our own culture and that includes the way we dress. Besides it is not the clothes worn by someone that determine their thinking, even if one chose to wear a tree-back cloth, they can still be effective in making decisions in parliament.
Mugume Kalyegira, USA

Africans do have their dress code. We had the Kaunda suits, Nyerere suits and Mobutu suits. Not forgetting what the one Nelson Mandela wears.
Angelo Gola Punyamoi, Sudan/USA

I believe Mandela does not want us to mimic his Madiba style but encouraging us to go traditional. He is telling us that self respect is the beginning of wisdom. So pick up the traditional dresses of your area, adapt it to your occupation and be proud to display it. We have never worried about patents so never mind if it does not hold a designer's label.
Debebe Dessalegne, UK

A formal suit and tie is most certainly un-African. The origins of the suit and tie is European where the weather lends itself to it. Africa is a much warmer continent which makes a suit unpractical. The Madiba shirt is much more practical and much more African-like! I'll wear it any day!!
Rowan Albertyn, England/South Africa

I would beg to disagree with some of the contributors. Mandela introduced his line of dress to appear closer to his own people's lifestyle in a European dominated South Africa. I agree as well with one of the contributors, though some of this might be implied, that the Kenyan speaker of parliament should change his priorities. First of all, these people need to deliver to their own people. I do feel as if talking about African dress should not be highlighted by a completely misplaced sense of priorities. After all, the "uptightly dressed statesmen of Botswana" have done better than the often exoticly dressed Nigerian leaders. In my view, It's not our biggest problem. I am sure the time will come when it will be.
Jenoubi Nuer-aui, USA/South Sudan

I have seen Eritrea's President wear plastic sandals. These were the main sandals worn by the liberation army in the days of the Ethiopian - Eritrean war. After the liberation, the President wore them to get empathy and popularity. It did serve his purpose, of course, and the people worshiped him. To the people, it served them the wrong way!
Munir Adem, USA

Africa has loads of ideas and colours. Let's use them and be proud of them.
Rodney Lobo, Norway

Some countries like Sierra Leone have refused to change from the colonial dress code of coat and tie in banks even when many banks lack air conditioning. Is it a sign of prestige or ignorance?
Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone

I love the madiba shirts Nelson Mandela wears; go with that.
Maria V., U.S.A.

I believe in being comfortable, its shouldn't be compulsory to wear a suit or not. It should be up to the individual to decide what's ok. As long as you are not disrespecting anyone.
Tosin Ola, Nigeria & USA

The suits are not fit for the weather in Africa. They also represent the colonial legacy of the past and should be discarded.
Kariuki, UK

I believe that anything presentable ought to be accepted as part of Africa's formal dress. Africa retains many diverse regions, all of which have had some external influence on their customs. It is only appropriate that we accept and celebrate the many fashion concepts that are a part of Africa. It would be sad if we chose to advance one particular concept of formal dress over another, when the many options we retain are all uniquely appealing. Madiba did us a favour in introducing an original formal dress concept. He demonstrated to us that we must not confine ourselves to rigid standards adopted from others, neither must we feel completely obligated to our ancestors in our manner of presentation. In all endeavours we must be responsible, but free-spirited. We are heading into era were self expression and innovation are valued and beneficial, so we must encourage this in all areas of our livelihood.
G. Mutaya Msisha, Malawi

Is it not an irony that parliamentarians in Kenya who dare to dress in african attire/dress are getting thrown out of the parliament. When is Africa going to wake up from the self imposed neo-colonisation. African dress is a form of identity, and it represents the culture too. WAKE UP AFRICA!!
Anthony Kola-Olusanya, Canada

The correct African dress for my country is two little chastity aprons made of animal skin for both males and females, nothing for children below puberty, and a symbolic head dress for the chief. Anything more or less is unAfrican and a product of colonialism and indoctrination. Anyone who wears a suit is not qualified to stand up in parliament and condemn any form of colonialism.
A C Mupasi, Zimbabwe

I think it is not necessary for any African Country to specify its dress code. The Kenyan experience its very unfortunate, a suit should be acceptable because it is a formal dress, but I think they should also encourage African designed clothes like my native Ghana`s elegant Kente or the Nigerian Agbada, or the famous Madiba shirts in so far as the person looks very nice and formal in it. A National assembly business should be taken seriously, and I think it starts from the way a member dresses for the business.
Kweku Boafo, Ottawa, Canada

There's nothing "African". Every region has its flavour, and every person has their individual taste. Mandela was a classic - whatever he wore went with his personality and he pulled it off quite well. Africans should just let whatever background they came from influence their dress code. There isn't anything universally "African", and hopefully there will never be.
Kiya Ayenew, Ethiopia/USA

Who is to say what constitutes an uthentic African dressing. If ancient tradition is to go by, then the loin cloth that covers essential body parts, will still be the norm. However, since then, African culture good or bad has become an amalgam of different cultures through colonization, i.e; French, English, Portugese, to mention just a few. I there say that an African style of dressing is more individualistic in nature rather than traditional. For instance, in my native Nigeria, University educated, and city dwellers are expected to dress more like Europeans, and those without a formal education dress in a more traditional sense.
Stanley Duru, USA

An African is more British when it comes to the issue of dressing than their colonial powers themselves. They just need to formalize it into law.
Dev, Malawi

In Kenya's case, most of us wore attire fashioned out of animal skins. Then the Europeans came and introduced clothing. The Speaker of the house taking issue with non-European style clothing says something about colonisation of the mind. However, we do have to think what is appropriate- a shuka would probably not qualify. African dress codes should be dictated by our culture (authentic and borrowed) as well as what's reasonable for the climate. I love Mandela's shirts, Kaunda suits and kitenges, kanzus and all the other attire that speaks to me of Africa. Viva Africa!
Wairimu Kuria, Kenyan in US

It is not futile at all. It has been a great source of employment for the African youth and more and more desgins come out daily. Why do you think Dutch textile companies still produce African style textiles? We love them and I in particular wear them throughtout the year over here in Canada even during the frigid cold temperatures. And seriously, my colleagues always admire them...they are colourful and original and uncommon!
Papa Amuah, Canada

It is actuallly insulting to Africans, to see some leaders swathed in designer's siuts that cost thousands of dollars or Abgada that sell for tens of thousands of Naira, all for doing nothing. Our traditional dress is splendid anywhere, but should be worn with modesty, especially by leaders who have not delivered anything for their folks.
Luka Binniyat, Nanyuk

Africa's dress code is very much determined by the climate and culture of each nation and even by region. Bright colours, loose fitting and flowing robes make sense in hotter places. Yet, somehow, and for an unknown reason, many men will insist on wearing a suit and tie complete with vest when the temperatures soar into the middle 30's centigrade for reasons that I as an African myself have not found out!
Nickie, Namibian in USA

Time was when one's African identity can easily be established through fashion or dress code. That's still the case, and perhaps, still desirable. But, in this current, contemporary climate of terror, cultural and ideological antagonism, ethnic clothing can be a source of indictment and stereotyping. So, Africans and other foreigners abroad are, sometimes, ill at ease and even sometimes, terrorized or victimized by agents of xenophobia and zealots of anti-terrorism legislations. So, while we promote our ethnic or racial identity through fashion statements, we need to display them in circumstances where and when they are compatible, safe and understandable.
Igonikon Jack, USA

The cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity of the African continent defies categorization into a single entity. Each individual country and sub-groups within it must determine for themselves what the range of appropriate formal wear is. Nonetheless, I think African leaders who habitually wear western-styled suits, do the continent a disservice by not seizing the opportunity to promote the multiplicity of vibrant traditional and modern fashions that are indigenous to Africa.
Carina Ray, Ghana/USA

The suit and tie is not ideal for a hot continent like ours.
Juliana, Nigerian/USA

Considering we of our tribe went nude until maturity, the idea of an "African dress code" seems rather ridiculous.
S. M'Benga, USA/Botswana

Mandela will not be remembered for his dress code but for what he did. People should wear whatever makes them comfortable as long as it's presentable.
Theresa Kavenga

There should not be only one choice of dressing code. The current rule in Kenya is undemocratic and MUST be reviewed to reflect that Africa has its own culture. Colonialism in Africa should start to park its luggages and go to where it belongs.
Muraina Adelabu, USA/Nigeria

I once was a chief for five minutes in Sydney for wearing an agbada.
Taban Alex Donato, Sudan/Australia

There is no such thing as an 'African dress code'. I was wearing an agbada last in Toronto and my Canadian friends thought I was more African that way! "More Nigerian, not more African", I asserted.
Akuemdit, Sudan

We the pure Africans should have have something different from the rest of the world. I'm really proud to wear the African shirt.
Lero Odola, U.S.A

The Nigerian "Agbada" is varied even inside Nigeria, but all can be worn in 2-piece as trousers and inner tops for work or in 3-piece with the flowing Agbada gown and a hat for formal appearances. Africans are adaptable.
Diran Onifade, Nigeria

Africans should strive for creativity in all areas of their daily lives. Depending on foreign dress codes is another hidden form of neo-colonialism.
Ciza Selerintah, USA

Mandela's "madiba" shirt stands only for Mandela and those who have the same taste. Otherwise there are many traditional dresses in africa that could be used for almost every tribe and every occasion.
Binyam Mehari, Sweden

This debate does not apply to Nigeria. This is the one area where majority of my people have freed themselves. Of course we still have a minority that remains tied to the neckties and three piece suits in the steamy weather! Good luck to them.
Duro Oguntebi, Nigeria

Why on earth do I want to dress up in 3 piece suit in the hot humid weather. Be comfortable without being offensive period!
Ayo Erinz, USA

Africa culture was eroded by the imperialists decades ago. However, having said that Africans lack confidence and cultural discipline. White men's dress is a disgusting colonial legacy.
Sipho Phani Sibanda, Zimbabwe

The appreciation for everything foreign, including the copying of Westerners in dressing, is symptomatic of a much larger problem in Africa.
Vesper Owei, USA

Africans should be able to wear what they are comfortable with so long as it is decent and not offensive.
Chris K. Mburu, Kenya

Wearing a tie in torrid weather like Japanese company workers? I love to see Mandela in his madiba shirt.
Mitsuru, Japan

Why should a whole Continent have a dress code?
Oluseyi, Nigeria

There is no need to try and establish what an African dress code is. Suit and tie is a western comcept and can be embraced by those that wish to.
Jean Kwaasi, UK

I prefer the African code of clothing, there is nothing so good in world than seing a woman in African cloth. It's natural, it symbolises the greenness and the flowers or other riches in Africa.
Aimeco Kitanga, USA/ Congo

For us in Uganda its the "kanzu" for men and "Busuuti" for women. Let our leaders organise workshops on synchronising our dress code.
Kibulya Frank Brown, Uganda

The flowing Nigerian agbada robe, as you describe it, is gaining world-wide acceptance. The full, three-piece gear is worn on formal occasions and is considerably reduced to something akin to the informal when the top (flowing) robe is shed to leave the the narrower 'danciki' (pronounced dan chiki in Hausa) and the roomy trousers. This is the form worn by Eddy Murphy in 'Holy Man'. So I think the Nigerian agbada should be regarded and adopted as Africa's dressing code.
Ibrahim Auduson, Nigeria

A good picture of how a Parliament or any other place in Africa should look like is South Africa because its a beautiful picture of diverse ethnic attire and the older generation from other parts of Africa should appreciate the fact that we are embracing our history with all its diversity including attire.
Nduduzo, Canada/Zimbabwe

Don't forget that cotton cloth was not introduced to Kenya by the Europeans, but by the early Arab and Portuguese traders long before the colonialists ever set foot on African soil. Whats the big deal? Our cultures were never static to begin with, so why pretend there is a specific period in time more representative of our African cultures than the present?
Otieno, Kenyan in the US

I believe that western style suits should be worn by politicians when conducting business, instead of their traditional wear. They are no longer just western attire, but an international business attire.
Ifeanyi Nwakwesi, Nigeria\UK

I think that the idea of how to dress formally should be left for the individual, and if given the oportunity to choose one I would go with the "Madiba shirt". I don't like the "Qamiis" thing which many Arabs wear - it makes the individual look like like lazy. Therefore, I would indorse the "Madiba shirt" of Mandela.
Abdinasir Abdinur Hirey , Somalia

As an African I'm highly disappointed in Kenyan's speaker for imposing a compulsory suit on his fellows. I'm not opposing wearing a suit but we Africans should also value our culture.
O. Kolawole-Jimoh, Nigeria

In some places in Africa, the traditional wear is rather barbaric and needs to be modernized.
Ola Bolaji, USA




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