By Damali and Nii B. Andrews

The fall/shoulder season is the best time to revisit Africa’s great indigo cloth tradition especially if you live in or are traveling to a temperate or subtropical region.

It is a wonderful time to bring out antique hand woven African indigo scarves and pair them with vintage French chore jackets or denim trucker jackets and well made knitwear- all perfect for layering.

These pairings should give our casual outfits a much needed edge; the scarves do not work with formal wear.

Numerous pieces of empirical evidence point to less than stellar outfit combos by sub Saharan Africans during the fall and winter season……., “we don’t do fall/winter clothing well”, has been the observation –  and we are paraphrasing.

We should recall with pride that our indigenous African indigo dyed cotton cloths were being produced in Kano over 700 years ago as recorded by the historian, Ibn Battuta; the cloths were also produced in East Africa.

Several ancient methods are employed to prepare the indigo dye; either balls of dried leaves are used or fresh leaves are placed in wood ash lye vats or ground pits.

Dye resist techniques, starch resist or batik techniques are utilized in creating the intricate patterns.

The fabrics are thick and have tremendous texture with bright colors.

Even though they are commonly used as throws and pillows in chic upscale houses and apartments, their soft consistency makes them useful as fall or winter scarves provided they are of the right length and width.

To work well as such, they should be at least 5 feet long and more than a foot and a half in width; skimpy scarves are certainly not cool; they do not look good.

Their classic indigo color works well with browns, burgundy, olive, navy and black – the basic colors of the fall wardrobe.

We are now thinking outerwear; barbours, pea coats, vintage leather jackets, denim and chore jackets, tweed and knitwear……downstairs- chinos, calvary twill or cords and the appropriate shoes – plain leather ankle boots; tobacco/ sand suede or plain merlot/cognac wingtips.

Quick tips; casual coats and jackets often look better with collars raised. At all cost, avoid denim above and below.

Enjoy the fall/shoulder season; think indigo African scarves.

Rock them.

Update the tradition.


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