LAGOS, Nigeria — Looking good is important for Nigerian women and men, and that rarely means wearing western-style clothing.
In Nigeria (see map below), brightly patterned and colorful designs are popular and women often wear headdresses from the same material as their dress.
Styles can be inventive and even humorous. One popular man's hat is known as “the dog-ear system” because the corners of the hat bounces like a dog’s ears when the wearer walks.
Typically, Nigerians buy cloth from a market stall and take it to a tailor to be made up into an outfit. Street traders often carry fabric on their heads and sell it to passersby.
Style of dress can also signify which part of the country one comes from, especially for men. In the southwest, the Yoruba tribe favor brightly printed or Ankara fabrics. Yoruba men wear long shirts over matching trousers. They wear distinctive caps, pulled over to one side.
On the southeast coast, the men of the Niger Delta wear wide-brimmed hats. A style picked up from Portuguese traders who came to the region hundreds of years ago to buy palm oil.
And in the north, where Arab traders brought Islam, men wear small caps and long flowing cotton robes that keep them cool in the dry heat.
When there’s a traditional festival, clothing becomes even more elaborate. At the Durbar festivals in northern Nigeria, dancers wear matching costumes as they entertain the crowd.
Young boys sometimes wears the clothes of a traditional hunter.
By far the most elaborate outfit is worn by the traditional ruler, the Emir. In white robes and a sequined hat, he rides through the Durbar parades on horseback. His guards, dressed in red and green, keep him cool with an ostrich feather fan.
More GlobalPost dispatches from Africa: