A Brief About Gele Culture and the Art of Headtie-Tying By Nigerian Women?
Gele, in Nigeria, is a term for head-tie or scarf. While gele scarfs are everyday-wear for older women, the gele headtie is also a fashion accessory that completes any traditional attire look for women, such as wedding guests aso-ebi dresses. Gele head-scarfs are worn with any style of women’s native-wear, like wrapper and blouses (iro and buba or lace blouse and george wrappers, skirt and blouse outfits, ankara aso-ebi gowns and more.
If you’re a woman that is invited to a Nigerian wedding, probably you have bought the themed aso-ebi fabric the couple specified as dress-code. Your Nigerian wedding guests aso-ebi look will not be complete without a gele headtie, or you’ll look out of place. You can pay to have someone tie your gele headwrap for you, or you can learn to tie it yourself – which is what this post is about.
In many parts of Nigeria, women, especially the older and married ones, covered their hair by tying scarfs or head-ties, primarily as a form of modesty. Many still do, but most younger women prefer to wear headtie as a fashion accessory, to complete their look for Nigerian traditional or native attire. Unlike the scarfs worn by European or English women, fabrics for the Nigerian gele head-scarfs are not soft but rather have some thickness and stiffness to its texture. It is the texture of the fabric that gives the gele headtie the flexibility to be maneuvered into different artsy styles and also gives it the ability to stay up, standing like a hat.
Head-ties or headwraps are called by different names by the people of Nigeria (gele in Yoruba language and Ichafu in Igbo). Depending on the wearer’s preference or size of gele fabric, one can find women wearing small or huge gele head-scarfs.
Generally, small gele head-ties are worn for a casual, everyday look; while big and flamboyant gele head-scarf styles like infinity pleats ankara gele, are special styles for events and weddings (worn by brides and guests too). However, small gele styles still make it to big occasions and weddings, because they also look beautiful.
You can tie a gele with any fabric type and texture, but fabrics with some level of stiffness are better because the most beautiful gele scarfs are those that stand stiff like a hat. Some popular headtie fabrics Nigerian women love to wear during events and occasions include sego gele, aso-oke gele, ankara gele.
In its original form, a gele head-tie is just a rectangular or square piece of fabric, but while tying it on her head, a Nigerian woman makes it into a beautiful, handcrafted hat. Nigerian women put some art into the way they tie their head ties, wraping it into several pleats, layers, and shapes.
Thanks to talented Nigerian gele artists and fashion designers, today, there are uncountable ways of tying gele headties. Since not every Nigerian woman is skilled at tying gele or have the time to do so, we also now have ready-to-wear gele scarfs (also known as auto-geles) that are simply gele hats for busy women who just want to throw on their headtie and go. Those are available in Nigerian markets.
For non-Nigerians, the art of gele-tying would appear impossible to master, laborious and time-consuming. However, it’s ‘a normal’ that most Nigerian women can fix in a few minutes because it’s what they do nearly every day and have done for over 10,000 times in their lifetime. Hence, Nigerian women prefer to tie their gele head-wrap fresh every time they need it and deconstruct it after an outing.
IDEAS TO COMPLETE ANY DRESSING WITH GELE HEADTIE:
- Latest Nigerian Beaded Necklace Designs and Styles
- How to Tie Wrapper Step by Step Video: 3 Styles of Tying the Nigerian Wrapper
- Latest Iro and Buba Styles in Nigeria (100 Styles, including Oleku and Tulip Styles)
- Celebrity Lace Aso-ebi Styles at TV Girl Tomike’s Wedding
Perfecting How to Tie Gele Yourself
Styles of gele head-scarfs are the highpoint of women’s fashion at every Nigerian wedding. For any traditional, native-wear look, the slay is not complete without a gele head-toe. Brides wear them, and wedding guests wear them too. When preparing to attend a wedding, after choosing what to sew, next on every woman’s mind is the style of gele to rock.
There are so many styles for tying gele by Nigerian women, each one is uniquely different and all of them look stunning on the wearer. While there are many gele-tying artists around every street in Nigeria, sometimes, one just feels like tying your own gele by yourself (to also save some coins).
That’s all on how to tie gele (with sego, ankara or aso-oke). Did you practice along? Be sure to see our editor’s selection of the reigning, new gele and bead necklace styles in Nigeria.
I’d like to hear from you – what is your favourite material to tie gele headtie with, and what new gele-tying style are you loving at this moment? Another question – have you worn a ready-made auto-gele scarf before? If so, do you prefer them to tying a fresh gele headtie?