Stuff African People Like: Being Fashionable

Fashionable sista

Fashionistas are not the brightest people on Earth. Don’t they realize how much of their business comes from Nairobi, Jo’burg and Lagos alone. If they did, they would probably fly over the sub-Saharan continent on the way to Milan to show love to people who clearly love them.

It’s not simply clothing for us. It accomplishes the same things that money, degrees and money do: they make one African feel better than the other. And ultimately this is powerful to the African person.

If someone’s neighbour decides that Louis Vitton is the way to go. Watch out because soon she will not only have Louis Vitton hairbands but also Jimmy Choo shoes and Prada braces.

If it gets to the point where every inch of someone’s body is clearly adorned with show off pieces of Western branding then one can always revert to the default of “Africa themed attire” and accuse their competitor of pandering to Westernization while you are “keeping it real”. As long as my clothes are better than yours

It is remarkable how in spite of so many variations of “fashionable” there are within the fashion continent, some things remain so remarkably consistent. Therefore should you want to know whether an African is a fashionable one or not, look out for the following:

a) The shoes must match the belt (this one is set in stone and is Commandment number 11)

b) The hair must be as unnatural as possible. Simply combing it and not leaving it to grow wild is a great start. The more synthetic the process the better (The first person to read about the disciples having tongues of fire burning their head must have thought they were reading the story of an African at the saloon).

c) Every man and woman must have a work suit, after all how else can they get advanced degrees, climb up the corporate ladder and make bucket-loads of money to put bird’s nests on their head if they don’t have it.

d) Wearing natural hair ALL the time is the choice of only the misguided.

Remember, if the clothes or the hair cost some money, you insult or mock them at your own peril. Keep the above tips in mind and you should be fine.

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No Comments

  • By rags, June 2, 2008 @ 4:26 am

    Awesome entry and photo!

  • By Mwangi, June 2, 2008 @ 4:50 am

    @rags: Thanks! I wasn’t sure about this one. I wrote it sometime last week and left it in the drafts thinking it wasn’t a good article but eventually decided to test it out. Glad my test brought you joy. Flickr, I tell you, the images are always better when you get them from Flickr

  • By Caustic Blonde, June 2, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    I really like the picture on this one.

  • By Mwangi, June 2, 2008 @ 9:40 am

    @Caustic: God bless Flickr and Creative Commons licencing, they pretty up my site well.

  • By Mzeiya, June 2, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

    lol. i dont know if its a good thing or not the way Africans really dress up. You hardly get people walking in patipatis(sandals) nowadays. Even when they do its usually “am still smart even with them sandals on”. There is a sense of freedom for people who dont concentrate too much on their attire and still look good. This could well bring in ethical and morality questions. In my home country, if the Kenya Revenue Authority never knew before now they should know that the cosmetics industry is one huge sector. Walk around Nairobi and you will be amazed by the number of outlets promising beauty for a tidy sum of money.(read salons, beauty shops, spas etc).

  • By Mwangi, June 2, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

    @Mzeiya: The relationship a woman has with her beauticians, hair stylist and beauty products can only be described as a perfect union, they love being neat each other and being with each other all day.
    To be honest I don’t know either. On the one hand as you’d probably know, Australians aren’t always the most hygienic people so it’s nice to know that you can always be sure of the hygiene levels when in Kenyan company.
    On the other hand, from what I have seen, a lot of Africans have the very bad habit of overemphasizing one aspect of fashion ( e.g. their hair weaves or getting cheap, presentable clothes) at the expense of everything else.
    There is much more to be said about our relationship to attire…a lot more.

  • By Mo Ma, June 3, 2008 @ 3:02 am

    The coolest look, in my humble opinion, is one of simple elegance. Most African chics wouldn’t recognise that if it walked up to them and bitchslapped them with a slipper till they went deaf in both ears.

    All I see is either ‘cheap fashion victim’ or ‘designer clothes fashion victim’.

    Poor girls.

    And then the thugged out guys that spend a fortune on looking so incredibly cheap. That’s another story.

  • By Mo Ma, June 3, 2008 @ 3:03 am

    But then again, my words may not really hold much (or any) weight as I’ve been tagged on Facebbook as ‘most likely to appear on What Not To Wear’.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 3:52 am

    @Mo Ma: I see aint no love between you and the sistaz attire. To a large extent the thug lifestyle does cheapen and demean folk no matter how dressed up they are.
    You should have seen the clothes I started going 4 the rave with a few years back:

    “A nurses work uniform becomes a fetching ensemble for work….and play!” :D

  • By Kelly, June 3, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

    I’m no authority on fashion (seeing as my hair is all natural, and I wear natural make up), but I must say I admire the patience that most of us ladies have in putting together a look. I can’t imagine having to look at a mirror every 30 minutes to check whether the eyelash is still there, or the hair is still suspended in the position I left it etc.

    I agree with Mo Ma that simple elegance often works best. Make up should enhance what one already has, hair should complement, not distract.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

    @Kelly: Should I ever end up becoming a big time film director, I will force a clause into my contracts that I can only work with actresses that rock natural hair because I think we are long overdue to exploiting the beauty of our hair (it doesn’t get in our eyes and face anyone?). Therefore rock the short hair…msichana!
    A girl friend of mine was telling me about a woman who actually holds courses on makeup and teaches younger girls how to have their 30 minutes or 1 hour to look their best.
    As much as I might cause, when a woman has put herself together and she looks good, it’s truly a wonder to behold.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

    @Kelly: Should I ever end up becoming a big time film director, I will force a clause into my contracts that I can only work with actresses that rock natural hair because I think we are long overdue to exploiting the beauty of our hair (it doesn’t get in our eyes and face anyone?). Therefore rock the short hair…!
    A girl friend of mine was telling me about a woman who actually holds courses on makeup and teaches younger girls how to have their 30 minutes or 1 hour to look their best.
    As much as I might complain, when a woman has put herself together and she looks good, it’s truly a wonder to behold.

  • By Kelly, June 3, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

    Mwangi, short hair is good, but long hair is even better if managed well. I had long hair for over 15 years, never spent more than 10 minutes daily styling it, and by anyone’s standards it looked good.

    Women seem to miss the point, in that simplicity is often the best way to go. I don’t think one needs 1 hour to look good, or one needs to layer their faces with gunk to do it. I believe we all have our natural beauty, and through healthy eating, exercise, make up used sparingly, and good dressing, we become beauty queens in our own right. I swear by Tyra Banks 5 minute make up regime.
    We try too hard to fit into the Western thing of faking what we don’t have to ‘please’ men, when at the end of the day, the man who really matters will get to see you without all the additions.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

    @Kelly: Aah, a woman who admits she dresses to “Please men”. I think you are the first woman online who has ever admitted that. My guess is that most women wear short skirts in winter time “to feel good about themselves”
    Growing up I either didn’t notice when women were wearing makeup or women were literally not wearing any make up.
    So what that resulted in, as harsh as this will sound, is that anytime I see a woman who has pencil in her eye I immediately think, “Whore!” irrespective of who she is or where she is coming from.

  • By Kelly, June 3, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    If I get fired for doing nothing the entire morning (other than reading your blog which is clearly not on my work contract), you had better have enough money for me to manage for you!!:)
    Anyway, as much as I dress to feel good etc, male appreciation goes along way in motivating me to wear those heels every day. We will never admit it of course, but how else do you explain the fact that I didn’t wear my hang out tracks to work today? Or the fact that after a break up, I look fabulous daily?
    lol.. at the whore comment.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

    @Kelly: Just say you are stimulating frontal lobe activity via the use of your judgmental, analytical, emotional and social cognitive faculties he he he if you can make that sentence more confusing, please feel free ;) We shall see how many nickels and dimes this blog can squeeze out and then we shall negotiate a contract for you to become a professional reader… Hmm, I have used the wh…word twice today, not good, not good.

  • By Kelly, June 3, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

    Yeah, I can see my boss accepting that.

    All the best with the blog by the way!

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

    @Kelly: Why do you say that, are you leaving?

  • By Kelly, June 3, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

    Leaving?? No, just wishing you success in making your blog an income stream.

  • By Mwangi, June 3, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

    @Kelly: Ooh, my bad, I’m a bit slow. Thank you, I am looking forward to seeing what this blog can churn out too :D

  • By Sarah., June 3, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

    Your blog is useless but for humouring lazy, idle -or white- people. I just stopped by to say that.
    Why do I care? Cos I’m an African who figures that a blog on kbw would be useful to the development of Africa,think k.pundit, thinkers room, kumekucha,even lost white chick- not useless mummers from australia (okay, we get it, you are in australia, lonely and in need of african chat).
    Useless, immature, adios.

  • By Mwangi, June 4, 2008 @ 6:08 am

    @Sarah: I acknowledge your opinion but won’t change what I do or the way I write.

  • By Mo Ma, June 4, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

    Sarah, I hear Midol works wonders…you should give it a whirl.

  • By Kelly, June 4, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    Sarah, if you don’t like the blog please stay away. Oh Mwangi, I know you don’t need me fighting your battles, but still, no haters!

  • By Mwangi, June 4, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

    @Kelly and Mo Ma: Thx 4 the defence folks, appreciate that.

  • By hm.., June 6, 2008 @ 11:17 am

    Mwangi,
    speak for yourself. I am an African woman who does not care about mainstream fashion, never have, and have a loving African (male- uh,you have to clarify nowadays) partner that is not all you have written.What’s more, we’re both vegertarian. I ahve seen many white people who’re all the above you write
    You should title these “stuff SOME African people like”, uh?

  • By Mwangi, June 6, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

    @hm: You’re a vegetarian too :D There are two of us! This series cannot exist without gross generalizations and simplifications when it’s all said and done. It is meant to be a humorous way of pointing out some of the flaws that exist within African culture…….

  • By liberiangirl, July 17, 2008 @ 2:08 am

    @sarah…what was your point of stating all this…do you think this will make him shut his blog down? You obviously like something about it..to read it and then respond…You may need something in your life…it rhymes with stick..lol

  • By consecrated, September 12, 2008 @ 11:24 am

    i refuse to admit that i dress for the guyz. I personally feel exceptionally good and confident when i dress up and there are those days when i don’t at all.

  • By Mwangi, September 13, 2008 @ 5:07 am

    @consecrated: First of all, welcome to tDA, hope you enjoy your stay. I think what people think of us factors into all fashion decisions we make outside of our homes, sometimes even within them, how much may vary from person to person, but at the end of the day, I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t care at all about what people think of them and/or their clothes.

    Even when you say to the world, I don’t care, you still care enough to let them know that you don’t care……..anyway, welcome again.

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