Linguists believe that we are shaped by our language –this is a time-proven fact, given a wide range of cultural instances. But, could it also be true that our thinking reflects in the way we dress?
Recently, as I watched a documentary on China, a question popped up in my mind: How many similarities does our Nigeria share with the People’s Republic of China? While there are lots of similarities between the two countries, I will only identify the common characteristic of a long standing culture. The intention here is not to ramble or discuss their similarities but to direct our consciousness towards a singular observation: how dressing, which is an element of culture, reflects a politician’s thought pattern.
I sought to know the psychological effects of clothes on their wearers and made a few findings. I used the suit (or business suit as some call it) and the Yoruba’s agbada as my objects of study. Agbada is a loose and flamboyant masculine outfit put on by several Nigerian politicians. These two were chosen because they are commonly worn in the southwest of Nigeria. I discovered that contrary to our flamboyant agbada, the suit serves as a visible sign of hard work and seriousness. The traditional attribute of agbada as a garment mainly suited for ceremonial functions and corporate formals makes it depict pleasure and less seriousness when worn.
Perhaps, you are wondering why I am emphasizing politicians when other individuals also wear it on noble occasions. Well, Nigerian politicians are the easiest to talk about (that should come out as humour). But seriously, they are Nigeria's public image; they are our official image makers. With more cravings in my heart, I continued my research and found the reason why agbada was created in the first place. Though there are other reasons, the main motive was to showcase the superiority of its wearer in finance and authority over its non-wearers at significant events; which of course is good, right? Yeah, right (that should come out as sarcasm!)
No one has to tell you that while wearing agbada you will be relatively hindered or distracted by the garment itself; the looseness of the clothing is enough to get one stuck to the hinge of a vehicle’s door. To even sign an ordinary document while wearing an agbada is a unique problem. If the wearing of agbada therefore hinders performance, why can't the Nigerian politicians concerned here simply put on the agbada’s undergarment without the overall itself? Such an act will be a visible sign of simplicity and seriousness, if they actually find the suit as an extreme and still want to promote our culture. Or, is the humility it takes to wear the simple agbada undergarment too expensive? Politicians who bear the burden of wearing the full agbada every time really miss out on daily body exercise.
In my own opinion the agbada undergarment wear serves as a visible sign of simplicity, seriousness and traditional prowess.
Recalling facts from the China documentary I watched, I can say that a constructive comparison between the dressing of the politicians of Nigeria and China presents dissimilarity in that Chinese politicians do not wear loose traditional attire to the office. They just don’t make it an office wear –and I think that’s cool. While I am not asking Nigerian politicians to copy them, I believe they should learn from their Chinese counterparts. Can it then be said that the clothes we put on reflect the way we think? Could this also be a pointer to why the Chinese seem more focused and effective than Nigerians? I leave you to judge.
Yimika Ilori is a purposeful and prolific writer. He facilitates Larntan and his articles have been published on Nuggests For Nobles and CFA Leverage amongst several other e-platforms. He can be reached via his blog (www.larntan.blogspot.com).