African attire: Men’s ‘dress tops’ in vogue

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By Sharon Kavhu

Harare – We have seen women wearing African attire-dress tops that overlap to just beneath their hip girdle.  The dress tops come in different designs and colours but have a common code that completes them with skinny jeans, jeggings or skin tights.

In this era, where fashion is dynamic, the concept of African attire-dress tops is now becoming trendy on male outfits known as long-African attire shirts; some would prefer to call them ‘long Ankara shirts’.

Fashion trends are usually determined by designers and influenced or promoted by a prominent figure. Various artists, including Tanzania’s Diamond Platinumz, Nigerian Techno, Christ Brown and Neyo from the USA, and Davido from Nigeria, have all promoted the Ankara shirts in their music videos.

The male Ankara shirts come in more diversified versions compared to the female ones. Included in the most designs are two slits on the sides, arc edges, embroidered front designs and plain edges.

In an interview, Edgar Kanoi, a designer from Lilongwe, Malawi, said Ankara shirts can be worn at any event, depending on the design and material.

“They can be worn on both formal and casual events.

“The majority of my clients are pastors, prophets and apostles, thus most of my designs are ‘pulpit designs’, which means they are made in a way suitable for the pulpit.  A pulpit design is a creative art in tailoring that is not too funky or too decent but, appropriate for a stage in church. Such designs include:  embroidered surface or neck of the shirt, dashiki designs on the chest area, patches of a contrasting colour,” said Kanoi.

He said embroidered surfaces are more appealing when the shirt is in a plain colour.  This draws the attention to the design and brings out the details of the shirt.

“It comes out very nicely when the shirt has a plain colour and the embroidery is made with a lighter colour or the other way [round]. The idea is to make the embroidery and whole shirt have contrasting colours.

“Sometimes when the Ankara is having a Chinese collar, the design can be a combination of embroidery and dashiki where the collar is embroidered but, the dashiki material is placed on the chest area or across the surface.”

According to Kanoi, the Ankara shirts can be made together with the trousers. The pair of trousers can be matched with the shirt or with the embroidery. For instance, if the shirt is white with orange embroidery, it can be worn with a pair of orange or white trousers.

While the Ankara shirts can be worn on formal or special executive events, they can also be worn with casual outfits depending on the design.

“Ankara shirts can be worn with a pair of jeans for a smart casual look. For such a look, one has to wear a slim fit Ankara with skinny jeans. Some people would prefer the slim fit with chinos and can still get away with the smart casual look,” said Dennis Chiangwa, a fashion designer for Fashion House in Harare, Zimbabwe.

“Of the many designs I make on Ankara shirts, I love the designs on Chinese collar. The Chinese collar can be made with silk or suiting material.

“The shirts can be as long as one’s knee, middle thigh or just beneath the hip girdle depending on the preference of the client.  However, short men are advised to wear middle thigh long Ankara for an elongated appearance. Their designs should have more details on the top of the shirt to emphasise their face and shoulder,” he said.

He said the knee-length Ankara looks more appropriate for very tall men, whether heavily built or slim.

Picking colours for Ankara shirts is an individual decision.  However, Chiangwa said men who are dark in complexion are advised to pick light colours while the light-skinned have wider room for selection.

 

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