Lady in Gele
Nigerian Gele. Photo:

Gele; popular headdress fashion in Nigeria. Gele was for the fashion divas of the 1950s the ultimate head piece. At no other time did the beauty of the gele become more apparent than in 1960 when Nigeria won her independence. Lagos was agog in 1960 after the independence. Nigerian women, especially Lagosians embraced flamboyant head piece fashion to suit the euphoria of the moment. The period ushered in the sky-scrapping headgears most popular of which was the Onilegogoro. It marked a new level of sophistication and a status symbol for society women. After the buzz of the independence celebration, onilegogoro was quickly followed by Flora Azikiwe, the 60’s headgear styled in honour of late first lady and wife of the then president of the new republic. Similarly, there came the era of Aguiyi Ironsi, and Yakubu Gowon. Following this, it became the vogue to name headgears after public edifices; Eko bridge and NEPA. NEPA was styled after the Shango statue the god of thunder and lightning which was the logo of the power agency. There was also the National Theatre style named because of its resemblance to the national edifice 1.

Gele waned as a fashion statement in the ‘80s with the ban on importation, which made materials expensive. Also, with the Structural Adjustment Program of the government, more people toned down the pedantry of their dressing. Gele remains a feature of social events like the Ojude Oba festival, where the flamboyant head-gears, known as gele, of the women were remarkably attractive as they competed for attention with the superbly-tailored and richly-coloured clothing of their male counterparts 2.
1. Vanguard September 30, 1995 Ifueko Bello
2. TELL April 17, 2000

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer