Although the Gele is today seen as an accessory to make an outfit more chic and is mainly worn on a festive occasion, the finely detailed headscarves were an expression of culture, status and position for African women hundreds of years ago. If you want to make a good impression with a Gele these days, it is important to understand something about the history of the Gele, and its significance.
In areas of Africa where fine fabrics were produced, especially in West Africa, women traditionally wore headscarves, shawls or knotted shawls over their short hair. These were large square or long elongated pieces of fabric with beautiful patterns. These pieces of cloth were folded and tied in various ways, depending on local customs, their marital status, or in honor of a particular occasion. In their normal lives, women just wore simple headscarves. Young and unmarried women often went through life bareheaded. Married women wore scarves or headscarves as a symbol of their status.
High, wide or complicated folds and designs were a sign of wealth and social status, and were worn by women who did little or no manual work. The style, the way of folding and the fabric used for the Gele served to identify the woman who wore it, so that one would know what region the woman came from, what social class she belonged to or in honor of which festival the Yellow was worn. Today, the Gele shows the unique and varied fashion style of every woman who wears it.
The kind of Gele worn today by women with its folds and wide shape, originates from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. The Yoruba were among the first to wear headscarves for decoration, made from the unique fabrics in their area. The Yoruba invented a woven fabric called Aso-Oke that is still used today to make a Gele.
If, as a modern woman, you want to pay tribute to your African heritage and look stunning at the same time, wearing a Gele is a perfect option. Women of all ages can now experience the pleasure of wearing a headscarf, and on every occasion they too can feel like a Nigerian queen.