Ankara/African Print in the US Workplace: Yes, it's "Professional" (Men's edition)
Welcome back! In case you missed the first part of this post, be sure to read "Ankara/African Print in the US Workplace: Yes, it's "Professional" (Women's edition)" first so you can get the background story for this post.
This post is all about showing you the different ways and styles that men can wear ankara print in the workplace and still look (and be taken) professionally and credibly. Just like the tip I gave for women wearing ankara print, ensure the colors (and patterns) match, and keep your accessories to a minimum. Also, please don't relegate wearing your African-inspired attire only for "Black History Month," or for "special" presentations or meetings. Our outfits are not "garbs" or costumes. They are just regular clothes for us, just like jeans or a dress shirt or even a blazer are regular clothes for you. You can swag in it too. For this men's edition, I will highlight five ways to wear it in the workplace.
There are many shirt option designs to choose from: short-sleeved vs. long-sleeved; pull-ons vs. button-downs. Pair with black slacks, khakis, or even jeans, and you have anything from casual to business professional. Note that you do NOT need to wear a tie (or bow tie) with the button-down dress shirt designs.
Dress pants are another option to wear in the workplace. Made of 100% cotton, they are very comfortable to wear and leaves your skin feeling fresh and dry even under heat. Ankara pants are very fashionable, stylish, and can be custom tailored just like "regular" slacks. and quite trendy. Men who love style will love a piece of the African print on them. They can be styled with plain shirts, dress shirts, jackets, or blazers.
Jackets and blazers are classical pieces in most men's wardrobes. Ankara print is often bright and lively, so when wearing one, make sure to tone down the rest of your accessories. Stick with neutral-colored pants and shirts to complement the outfit. You can go casual, modern, or business depending on the style and cut of the jacket or blazer. You can even wear a blazer with a bow tie and pocket square for a black-tie look.
4. Dashiki/Tunic Sets
When wearing a set, stick to more neutral colors or a pattern that is not so busy. Many men in fact wear "atiku," a different type of fabric from ankara. It comes in cotton, nylon, polyester, etc--it is not always cotton. Why most men find appealing with the fabric is that it is monochromatic in color, and therefore, you can choose how you want to accessories it--if at all. It is often made in the pant and top (tunic) sets, as well as agbada. So, if you tend to shy away from bright colors, but still like the "Nigerian" look of a dashiki/tunic and pant set, look for an outfit using the atiku fabric.
This is a great way to infuse just a little bit of African print into your office attire. Whether it's a colorful tie in ankara or kente print, or somce socks, or even jewelry--these are little hints of that "Africanness" you can start to incorporate if you are not yet ready to wear a full outfit.
Overall, regardless of which one of the above you decide to go with, make sure to keep it classy, tailored, simple, and above all--IRONED! Most Nigerian men take great pride in always looking "fresh" and keeping those creases in their clothes. Do not come to work rocking your African gear and looking frumpy or like you just rolled out of bed in the clothes. Not a good look for anyone. YOU wear the clothes, don't let the clothes wear you!
And again, if you are looking for some awesome tailors in the Midwest area, check out my previous blog post, "I've Just Bought My African Fabric, Yay! Now What? (Part 1)." Men, hope these tips help. Please tell us what your favorite workplace combo is in the comments!