The Yoruba take immense pride in their attire, for which they are well known. Clothing materials traditionally come from processed cotton by traditional weavers. They also believe that the type of clothes worn by a man depicts his personality and social status, and that different occasions require different clothing outfits.
Typically, the Yoruba have a very wide range of materials used to make clothing, the most basic being the Aṣo-Oke, which is a hand loomed cloth of different patterns and colors sewn into various styles. and which comes in very many different colors and patterns. Aso Oke comes in three major styles based on pattern and coloration;
Alaari – a rich red Aṣọ-Oke,
Sanyan – a brown and usual light brown Aṣọ-Oke, and
Ẹtu – a dark blue Aṣọ-Oke.
Other clothing materials include but are not limited to:
Ofi – pure white yarned cloths, used as cover cloth, it can be sewn and worn.
Aran – a velvet clothing material of silky texture sewn into Danṣiki and Kẹmbẹ, worn by the rich.
Adirẹ – cloth with various patterns and designs, dye in indigo ink (Ẹlu or Aro).
Clothing in Yoruba culture is gender sensitive, despite a tradition of non-gender conforming families. For menswear, they have Bùbá, Esiki and Sapara, which are regarded as Èwù Àwòtélè or underwear, while they also have Dandogo, Agbádá, Gbariye, Sulia and Oyala, which are also known as Èwù Àwòlékè / Àwòsókè or overwear. Some fashionable men may add an accessory to the Agbádá outfit in the form of a wraparound (Ìbora).
They also have various types of Sòkòtò or native trousers that are sewn alongside the above-mentioned dresses. Some of these are Kèmbè (Three-Quarter baggy pants), Gbáanu, Sóóró (Long slim / streamlined pants), Káamu and Sòkòtò Elemu. A man's dressing is considered incomplete without a cap (Fìlà). Some of these caps include, but are not limited to, Gobi (Cylindrical, which when worn may be compressed and shaped forward, sideways, or backward), Tinko, Abetí-ajá (Crest-like shape that derives its name from its hanging flaps that resembles a dog's hanging ears. The flaps can be lowered to cover the ears in cold weather, otherwise, they are upwardly turned in normal weather), Alagbaa, Oribi, Bentigoo, Onide, and Labankada (a bigger version of the Abetí-ajá, and is worn in such a way as to reveal the contrasting color of the cloth used as underlay for the flaps).
Women also have different types of dresses. The most commonly worn are Ìró (wrapper) and Bùbá (blouse-like loose top). Women also have matching Gèlè (headgear) that must be put on whenever the Ìró and Bùbá is on. Just as the cap (Fìlà) is important to men, women's dressing is considered incomplete without Gèlè. It may be of plain cloth or costly as the women can afford. Apart from this, they also have ìborùn (Shawl) and Ìpèlé (which are long pieces of fabric that usually hang on the left shoulder and stretch from the hind of the body to the fore). At times, it is tied round their waists over the original one piece wrapper. Unlike men, women have two types of underwear (Èwù Àwòtélè), called; Tòbi and Sinmí. Tòbi is like the modern day apron with strings and spaces in which women can keep their valuables. They tie the tòbi around the waists before putting on the Ìró (wrapper). Sinmí is like a sleeveless T-shirt that is worn under before wearing any other dress on the upper body.
There are many types of beads (Ìlèkè), hand laces, necklaces (Egba orùn), anklets (Egba esè) and bangles (Egba owó) that are used in Yorubaland. These are used by both males and females, and are put on for bodily adornment. Chiefs, priests, kings or people of royal descent, especially use some of these beads as a signifier of rank.
Some of these beads include Iyun, Lagidigba, Àkún etc. An accessory especially popular among royalty and titled Babalawos / Babalorishas is the Ìrùkèrè, which is an artistically processed animal tail, a type of Fly-whisk. The horsetail whiskers are symbols of authority and stateliness. It can be used in a shrine for decoration but most often is used by chief priests and priestesses as a symbol of their authority or Ashe. As most men go about with their hair lowly cut or neatly shaven, the reverse is the case for women. Hair is considered the ' Glory of the woman '. They usually take care of their hair in two major ways; They plait and they weave.
There are many types of plaiting styles, and women readily pick any type they want. Some of these include kòlésè, Ìpàkó-elédè, Sùkú, Kojúsóko, Alágogo, Konkoso, Etc. Traditionally, The Yoruba consider tribal marks ways of adding beauty to the face of individuals. This is apart from the fact that they show clearly from which part of Yorubaland an individual comes from, since different areas are associated with different marks. Different types of tribal marks are made with local blades or knives on the cheeks. These are usually done at infancy, when children are not pain conscious. Some of these tribal marks include Pélé, Abàjà-Ègbá, Abàjà-Òwu, Abàjà-mérin, Kéké, Gòmbò, Ture, Pélé Ifè, Kéké Òwu, Pélé Ìjèbú etc. This practice is near extinct today.
The Yoruba believe that development of a nation is akin to the development of a man or woman. Therefore, the personality of an individual has to be developed in order to fulfil his or her responsibilities. Clothing among the Yoruba people is a crucial factor upon which the personality of an individual is anchored.
This belief is anchored in Yoruba proverbs. Different occasions also require different outfits among the Yoruba.