Gele Headwrap| A Significant Cultural African Head Covering

August 25, 2020 4 min read 2 Comments

Gele Headwrap| A Significant Cultural African Head Covering

The African Gele Wrap

Gele is asophisticatedtraditional head wrap mostly adorned bywomen of African descent.This distinct and dynamic head tie is seennot onlyas a part of Africa’s cultural heritage but also a fashion symbol.For many women, thegeleis more than just a head-tie;it’s an expression of beauty and femininity.

Generally, different African countries have their own differentheadwraps, and each has its own name associated with it. In the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, head wraps are referred to as “Gele” or “Iborun”. It is used as an ornamental head covering or fashion accessory, or for functionality in different settings. Itspurpose can vary depending on the religionor cultureofthe wearer.

This African head wrap isusuallyworn as a matching piece to complement women’s outfits.You’ll most likelyfind women in variousgele styles atweddings and other traditional events.Tell me, what’s a Nigerian wedding without agele?



Types of Gele Fabrics

Depending on the type of fabric, it could either worn casually or during special occasions. Most casual gele styles in Nigeria are made from Ankara fabrics, and for Ghana, kente fabric. 


Gele can either be made from soft fabric that can easily be wrapped around the head, or made out of stiff fabric to formflamboyant head wrap styles.

African women have appropriategelestylesfor every occasion; be it wedding or burial ceremonies,religious activities,and even everydaycasual slay.  

In the oldies, Nigerian women wore soft fabricgeles, usually made of cotton or African fabrics for casual, everyday look or for religious purposes.

For special occasions,women preferstiff fabricgeles for a more fashionable look.


Some of the populargele fabrics include:

  • Aso-oke – A jean-like fabric
  • AbekeAvantGardegele
  • Embroidered
  • African print – Ankara,Kente,duku,etc
  • Brocade – Starched cotton fabric
  • Nettedfabric popularly known asSingele
  • French lace
  • Damask – Patterned paper-like fabric
  • Sego/Zego and Jubilee - Paper-like fabric
  • Swiss
  • Hayes

Usually the name of ageleis derived from:

  • the fabric it is made of,
  • the embellishments used;
  • the style of head wrap.

Aso-Oke’ isthe most common type forspecialceremonies in Nigeria. It is a locally wovenfabric made of cottonand silk.In the past, it wasmostly worn by the rich and was seen as a symbol of one’s social status.Thematerial isperfect forthe differenttwiststhat are required to style thegele.Itsbright shadesandglimmering metallics are responsible for the glamorous lookit gives on the wearer.


Asides from gele, Aso –Oke fabric is also used to make Iro and Buba (a type of blouse and wrapper), for women. While for the men, the fabric can be styled as buba and soro (a type of top and trousers). They are mostly worn as traditional wedding attires, for birthday parties of the elderly, for festivals, and many other types of celebrations. 

The Evolution of Gele

The times have changed, but head ties are still popular among African women.Today, new techniques are applied to making of gele to make it even more fashionable. This explosion of creativity has made it a must-have accessory for many. 

With more advancement in production, the gele now comes with added accessoriess to add even more glamour to the wearer.There are so many ways to accessorize gele; it all depends on the taste of the wearer. Some of the popular ones are:

  • Beaded Gele

  • Sequined gele

  • Stoned gele


Other designs are laser-cut, edge designs, two-tone effects, Swarovski-encrusted, embroidered, polished, etc. Those who embellish their geles usually stand out from the crowd. 

How to Style your Gele

Well, there are no set rules on how to style a gele. What you need is creativity and a mind set on looking good. However, most styles cover the top part of the ears (just the tip), leaving the face and earlobes out.

  • Gele matches with any traditional outfit. You can use it as an accessory to the traditional ‘iro’ (a wrap-around skirt) and ‘buba’ (a loose fitting blouse) for women.
  • You can go for a demure or outlandish look depending on the occasion. Your gele can even be sky-high, and you’d have fun watching heads turn at the party.
  • You can match it with the same color of your fabric or complementing colors.
  • You can also match it with a different type of fabric.
  • Gele also fits most modern attires; whether skirts, jeans, tops, etc. The result would be a semi-afrocentric look. 
  • You can go for completely contrasting colors; with or without prints or patterns.

Here are some of the styles you can achieve with your gele:

  • The infinity pleat                     
  • You can make use of any fabric type to achieve this look, whether soft fabric Ankara or stiff fabric Aso-oke.

    • Take a Bow
    • Icon style

    • Turban style
    • Abeke
    • Rose gele
    • Orente style

    The gele business is no small business in Africa. In Nigeria, gele tying is now a service provided by many make-up artists and salons for women going for special occasions. So if you are not good at gele-tying, there are so many experienced hands that offer this service.

    With the bold and beautiful effect of this beautiful accessory on the African woman, there is no doubt that GELE is here to stay! 

    So would you want to slay this beautiful masterpiece? 


    2 Responses

    Saundra Magana
    Saundra Magana

    August 26, 2020

    I would love one or two. How would I purchase them.

    Margaret Henderson
    Margaret Henderson

    August 26, 2020

    Love them…

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