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A Dashiki

A Dashiki is a loose fitting, brightly coloured garment associated with African culture. It is also associated with the counterculture of the 1960s in the United States.[1] The most popular styles cover the top half of the body. It originated in West Africa. A common form is a loose-fitting pullover garment, with an ornate V-shaped collar. It often has an embroidered neck and sleeve lines. There are both casual and formal versions.


The dashiki originated in West Africa and East Africa.[2] Twelfth and thirteenth centuries burial mounds in Mali (West Africa) have revealed versions of dashikis.[2] Dashikis were worn by both men and women. They may have been influenced by the thawb worn by Arabs who came to the region.[2] Both garments keep the wearer cool in the hot African climate. The dashiki was worn as a work shirt in the shorter version. Another much longer version was called the grand boubou.[2] It is also similar to the kaftan.[3] All three are common to West Africa.

1960s US counterculture

The dashiki became popular in the hippie culture of the 1960s. Peace Corps members returning from Africa brought back dashikis.[2] African diplomats to the United Nations in New York were often seen and photographed wearing colorful dashikis.[2] Dashikis were seen as a symbol of support for black racial struggles. Groups like the Black Panthers wore the Dashiki as a symbol of their black heritage.[4] The Afro hairstyle, faded blue jeans and the Dashiki were all popular expressions of the Black is beautiful cultural movement.[5]

Musical groups

Ladysmith Black Mambazo wearing dashikis

Many of the rock groups of the 60s and 70s wore Dashikis. But black performers of the 60s 70s preferred the more conventional suit and tie look.[6] But in the 80s several black groups wore the dashiki to show their heritage. One South African vocal group, 'Ladysmith Black Mambazo', wore dashikis extensively. This identified them more as Africans than Zulus.[6]


  1. Dolores Monet (16 January 2012). "Dashiki - An African Fashion of the 1960's". HubPages Inc.. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia, eds. Annette Lynch; Mitchell D. Strauss (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), p. 97
  3. Dolores Monet (3 August 2014). "Kaftan or Caftan - A Fashion History of Modesty and Glamor". HubPages Inc.. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  4. Gina Misiroglu, American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History (Oxford; New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 251
  5. Katherine Morris Lester, Rose Netzorg Kerr, Dyann Gray, Historic costume: a Résumé of Style and Fashion from Remote Times to the Nineteen-seventies (Peoria, IL: C.A. Bennett Co., 1977), p. 282
  6. 6.0 6.1 Veit Erlmann, Nightsong: Performance, Power, and Practice in South Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 200

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