Yesha Callahan

Guess What? Dashikis Are The New “It” Item — Elle Canada Said So!

elleI’m starting to think every fashion editor from mainstream America got together and had a secret meeting on how to piss black girls off, because there’s just no way white people can be this dense. Or can they?

As if Teen Vogue didn’t just get dragged for showcasing Senegalese twists on a non-black model two months ago and Allure didn’t find out the hard way that afros actually aren’t for white women a mere three weeks ago, Elle Canada decided now is a good time to tell people (i.e. their white readers) Dashikis are the newest “it” fashion item. And why? Because Sarah Jessica Parker was seen rocking one.

sarah jessica parker

Sex and the City’s leading lady wasn’t the only reason Elle Canada decided dashikis were worth writing about, but she was the fair-skinned star power the mag used as proof for why “this tribal printed shirt” belongs on their “style radar,” as was noted in an intro feature on their site. That page was followed with a picture of the actress in a pink and white dashiki accompanied by the caption: “When SJP starts rocking it you know it’s hot! She even wore a dashiki to her collection launch at Nordstrom.” Funny, I knew dashikis were hot when I saw my people wearing them some 50-plus years ago during the height of the civil rights and black power movements — and it wasn’t because they went nice with a wedge heel in the summer.

To be fair, Elle Canada did include some black women in their feature (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jhene Aiko) which, interestingly enough, is now nowhere to be found on the fashion site. However, as these things often go, the stain of their ignorance has not been scrubbed from social media. And I wouldn’t expect it to be anytime soon as the magazine clearly took the route of cowardice, quietly removing the article rather than fessing up to falling prey to their own privilege. Media Diversified threw out a great hashtag — #MyCultureIsNotCouture — that I’m personally hoping ends up on a t-shirt one day soon. Amandla Stenberg, are you reading this? Can we make it happen?

I won’t pretend like when Ri Ri and Bey are wearing dashikis they are doing so to honor their West African kinfolk for whom such apparel is typical every day dress. But I would hope they at least are aware of the history and why and how dashikis became an “it” thing in the western world. That’s the part that’s missing from all of these magazine missteps. I really don’t care all that much about a white girl walking down the street with a ‘fro or braids or “the new kaftan” as Elle Canada wants us to believe the dashiki is. But I do have a problem with the ignorance that often accompanies wearing said styles and the way in which they are dumbed down to merely represent something cute when they originated as iconic cultural symbols — ironically in some cases to combat the very thing so present in these consistent examples of cultural appropriation: white privilege. If you’re going to tell a story, tell the whole one. Otherwise, as most black people would probably prefer at this point, leave it alone.

  1. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    This reminds me of when white folks were rocking kimonos like America had just invented them. Some things just look stupid on other cultures. Especially when these women are basically cross dressing (aren’t dashikis men’s wear?).

    • August 21, 2015 - Reply


      You’re right. Dashikis are worn by men. The way I see it written here in America is different from how Africans were it.

      • August 21, 2015 - Reply


        Yea. I had to google to make sure I wasn’t crazy. As soon as I saw the picture, I thought to myself, she looks ridiculous wearing a dude’s top. But then I’m not from any of the African countries that wear it so I didn’t want to put my foot all the way in my mouth. Even black Americans quit appropriating African dashikis in the early 90s b/c it became a played out way to feign “down with the motherland”. I can’t see a white woman in it and do anything more than roll my eyes.

      • August 21, 2015 - Reply


        Yeah they’re worn by men but African women in recent years started wearing the shorter version (fitted, of course) over leggins or skinny jeans. Some even sew danshikis from their individual traditional cloth and not necessarily from the material seen in the pic. My mom’s even bringing over some for me sewn from traditional cloth.

  2. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    I want one sooo bad!!! I going to order a few.

  3. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    I am waiting for the day when some fashion designer decides to tout Ghanaian garb, especially the traditional wedding dress, on white models. You know it’s going to happen. That is why I was glad that Pharrell (with his “new” black foolish talk) got dragged on Twitter for his Indian Headdress. Donning something to market, and therefore increase your bank account that has always represented spirituality or the fight against oppression in the past is so disrespectful.

  4. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    Anything and everything is trendy with these fashion mags. It’s getting annoying now. My family is from Congo so Dasikis ate nothing new to me. However the fabric that I’m seeing in these images aren’t African fabrics. Dasikis are for men btw

  5. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    White western culture couldn’t exist without the wholesale theft and erasure of indigenous cultures and their traditions. This is just example #871,430,267,483,625 of that fact.

  6. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    We are the originators of fashion without question. We are the originators of creativity. Many fashion designers disregard the historical and cultural significance of dashikis or various African fabrics for the pursuit of monetary profit. Some just don’t care about sensibilities of black people. Some want to express cultural appropriation rather openly. One aspect of human existence is respect. We know that people globally wear diverse clothing. Yet, it would be fair for many companies to acknowledge the cultural origins of various clothing designs. Men have worn dashikis a lot and many women have worn them as well.

  7. August 21, 2015 - Reply

    Dashikis are not new.

  8. August 22, 2015 - Reply

    Dashikis are beautiful and I’ve been tempted to wear one, but even I, as a Black woman, felt weird about it because I honestly don’t know the origins of them. Also seeing them painted up like basketball jerseys seem a little disrespectful to me.

    • August 23, 2015 - Reply


      popular back in the 60’s. angela davis, black panther members, musicians, actors, etc. wore them, usually sporting an afro — the time of the revolution.

      • August 23, 2015 - Reply


        True. I never thought about it in that context. I just don’t want to offend anyone.

        • August 23, 2015 - Reply


          i understand. back in the 60’s, the people that were a part of the revolution lived to offend.

  9. August 22, 2015 - Reply

    sighs…what is next water is the newest IT item. These magazines try so hard but still come up short. I remember not to long ago some people used to clown Dashikis as a fashion “fail” but now all of a sudden it is an IT item…side eye. Well, at least they didn’t use the general term “tribal print” like they did last time. I do agree that when you wear something that directly relates to someone’s culture/heritage you should do research and learn about it instead of blindingly wearing it because it is an “IT” item.

  10. August 23, 2015 - Reply

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  11. August 24, 2015 - Reply

    I love how in the second pic the “dashiki” says “Kulture” on it, because that’s just how they think: They wear culture like a costume.

  12. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    Its so trendy when it adorns a white female. Like I guess its is so cool. This is just one of many reasons I cant’s stand the fashion industry and their blatant racism. This may not be worst example of it but it’s still not the prettiest.

  13. September 4, 2015 - Reply

    Am I the ONLY one who’s tired of whites conducting OBSESSIVE and pathological levels of surveillance on Black people in lieu of them just growing up, being accountable, and atoning, apologizing, and compensating Black people for their CONTINUOUS crimes against humanity so we can ALL move on with our fucking lives? Seriously. Tired of it.

    Furthermore, many Africans do use the word tribe, but it’s meaning is closer to that of an “ethnic group” than what white “Westerners” understand by the term “tribe.” When we regularly start referring to the WWI and WWII as primitive European “tribal” wars and the English and French as “tribes”, then maybe we can rethink just how racist the term “tribe” is.

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