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Gele: The Traditional Nigerian Head-Tie

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Woman wearing a red and white dotted Gele

Woman wearing a red and white dotted Gele

The Gele head tie

The Head ties come in various applications like the bandana, headscarf, head wrap or other traditional head covering. Head ties because of its practicability and functionality has become not only a convenient way of covering the head but a fashion statement.

The head tie is common to most African countries like Ghana, Gambia, South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. African women have evolved the head tie tradition making it an integral part of their outfit.

The head tie could be simplistic, elaborate, impractical, or functional dependant on the wearer and purpose. Rural women wear head tie for their practicality and functionality adding the headpiece to their outfit as a rule.

A head tie is usually the same material as the dress, blouse, bubu, or loincloth referred to as the iro in western Nigeria. By using the same material for the head tie, it gives the outfit uniformity and elegance.

Although wearing the same fabric head tie is the usual practice, the head-tie does not have to be identical to the lower outfit.

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A beautiful golden colored Gele head tie

A beautiful golden colored Gele head tie

Blue Gele fabric.

Blue colored Gele fabric

Blue colored Gele fabric

What exactly is the Gele-head tie?

Most Gele head tie start their journey as a flat plain piece of material, either tough and rigid like the Damask or light weight like paper. The weight and density of the flat piece of cloth mostly depends on the fabric such as sego, tie and dye, net fabric, brocade fabric, velvet fabric even jean fabric.

The wearer then skillfully designs the flat fabric into amazing shapes by bending and twisting it on the head. The turgidity of the fabric also affects the type of shape the person is able to create if an underlay is not included.

On special occasions, a professional head tier is hired to fashion the head tie into something astounding and usually does the elaborate makeup as a total package. A notable actor in the eighties known by her stage name Madam Kofo designed elaborate and amazing head tie pieces for her character.

This singular act increased awareness of the beauty and potential of Gele head-tie making it a must in today’s social gatherings

Head tie fabrics and shoes

Head tie fabric come in various colors and materials

Head tie fabric come in various colors and materials

Gele fabrics

Gele material include some of the under-listed fabrics

1 The beautiful Sago fabric

2 The turgid fabric Damask

3 Light flirty and elegant French lace

4 Amazing embroided fabrics

5 The old reliable Aso-Oke

6 Seductive and light material the Net fabric

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7 Swiss Fabric used for Gele

8 The Jubilee fabric

9 And many more fabrics

Head tie fabrics

The head tie comes in various colors and fabrics like gold, white, African print, yellow, pink, blue and any variant you can think of. The material used for Gele head tie is vast like the Aso-oke, sego head tie, embroidered materials, and brocade.

Top Gele types is the African print Gele, Gele with fringes, patterned Gele, brocade Gele, Aso-oke, crowntex(super net), plain Gele, monochrome Gele and paper fabric Gele.

Modern head ties

Head ties come in all shapes and sizes and have become fashionable at weddings, engagement ceremonies, and traditional outings especially in Nigeria. The dress code for weddings in Nigeria is native outfit that is the blouse and skirt/iro complete with matching head tie.

The head tie chosen on such occasions might be the fabric of the iro/skirt or the blouse. Sometimes the color combination is a deliberate mix and match for greater effect.


Stunning beauty

Stunning beauty

Gele head ties styles

Gele head tie styles are too numerous to mention because the art of tying the Gele material is limited only by the artistry and imagination of the person tying the Gele. The styles range from simple to complex geometric patterns and they may be plain or glamorous dependant on the occasion or purpose of the wearer.

The type of fabric used also accounts for the style the Gele, harder fabrics stand at the edge while softer fabrics cannot. Harder fabrics used for Gele are more difficult to bend and shape than softer fabrics but the harder variety offer greater dramatic effect.

Gele fabric

color variantsstylefabric










blue and red


french lace

How to tie aso-oke Gele

Tying the perfect Gele

Gele tying is rather difficult and complicated but with practice or in the hand of an expert it looks real easy. To tie the perfect Gele you need to start by folding the end horizontally.

Then wrap the fabric back to front around the head making sure both ends are equal. The fabric is tied Left to right and right to left with the longer side round the back.

The next step is to arrange the layers, squeeze the edge firmly from middle, and repeat the process. Secure grip by tying both ends equally-arrange the layers….lets say it’s very complicated (SMILLING)


The Gele head tie has become a status symbol, an important aspect of native attire and the fashion item noticeable in weddings and engagements. It gives the African woman a fashionable identity and would be around for a very long time.

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© 2015 femi


Vic Dillinger on March 19, 2015:

The models in the pics you selected for use here are absolutely gorgeous. It's also refreshing to see something that spotlights and celebrates women of color and the couture of another culture. Good piece.

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