Gele Tying: Traditional Nigerian Headwraps

Gele (pronounced “geh-lay”) is a traditional Nigerian headwrap that holds deep cultural significance and is a stunning fashion statement. Worn predominantly by women, especially from the Yoruba part of Nigeria, the gele is an essential part of attire for weddings, celebrations, and other significant events. This headwrap is not just a piece of cloth; it’s an expression of elegance, cultural pride, and personal identity. Let’s explore the art of gele tying, its significance, styles, and how you can master this beautiful tradition.

Cultural Significance

Gele tying is a rich tradition that captures the essence of Nigerian culture. It’s a symbol of sophistication, social status, and individuality. Here’s why gele is so important:

  • Expression of Status: The style, fabric, and complexity of the gele can indicate the wearer’s social standing. Elaborate designs and high-quality fabrics often suggest a higher social status.
  • Marital Status: In some Nigerian communities, the way a woman ties her gele can signify her marital status. Married women might tie their geles differently from single women.
  • Occasion Significance: The gele style can also reflect the nature of the event. For example, more intricate and elaborate geles are typically worn for weddings and significant celebrations, while simpler styles might be worn for less formal events.
Choosing the Right Fabric

The fabric of the gele plays a crucial role in how it can be styled and tied. Here are some common fabrics used:

  • Aso-oke: This is a traditional, handwoven fabric that is stiff and perfect for creating structured and dramatic styles. It’s often used for very formal occasions.
  • Damask: A richly patterned fabric that is slightly softer than aso-oke but still holds its shape well. It’s a popular choice for both formal and semi-formal events.
  • Brocade: This fabric is known for its intricate designs and firm texture, making it ideal for creating detailed and elaborate gele styles.
  • Ankara: A vibrant, colorful fabric that is softer and more flexible. It’s ideal for casual or semi-formal gele styles, offering a broad scope for creative expression.
  • Paper Gele: A modern innovation in gele fabric, paper gele is stiff and has a unique texture that allows for very structured and elaborate designs. It’s called “paper” due to its texture, though it’s typically made from synthetic materials. This type of gele holds its shape exceptionally well and is ideal for creating bold and intricate styles.
  • Sego Gele: Another popular type of gele fabric, sego is known for its glossy finish and rigidity. Made from a blend of synthetic fibers, sego gele is often used for very formal events. It’s relatively easy to manipulate, making it a favorite for elaborate headwraps.
Basic Techniques for Tying a Gele

Before you start tying your gele, it’s important to prepare the fabric properly. Starching the gele can make it firmer and easier to manipulate. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

Steps to Tie a Gele

  1. Positioning: Place the gele at the back of your head. Ensure that one end is shorter than the other. The shorter end should rest on one side of your head.
  2. Wrapping: Take the longer end and wrap it around the front of your head, overlapping the shorter end. Continue wrapping it all the way around until you return to the starting point.
  3. Tightening and Shaping: Adjust the gele to fit snugly. Begin to create pleats or folds, shaping the gele as you go. Pleats add structure and an elegant look to the headwrap.
  4. Securing: Securely tuck in the fabric ends to ensure the gele stays in place. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure the pleats and overall shape are neat.
Popular Gele Styles
  • The Butterfly: This style features wide, dramatic folds that resemble butterfly wings, giving a striking and elegant appearance. It’s ideal for creating a bold and long-lasting impression at any event.
photo credit:
  • The Fan: This involves creating pleats that fan out from one side of the head, adding a dynamic and sophisticated element to the look. It’s a preferred option for weddings and formal events.

    photo credit: pinterest
  • The Rose: This intricate style mimics the shape of a blooming rose, making it a beautiful choice for very special occasions. It requires careful pleating and tucking to achieve the floral effect.

    photo credit: pinterest
Modern Gele Trends

Today, gele tying has evolved with fashion trends, incorporating new fabrics and innovative techniques. Contemporary styles often blend traditional and modern elements, making gele tying a fashionable art embraced worldwide. Designers are experimenting with different textures, colors, and tying methods to create unique and eye-catching looks.

Learning Resources

If you’re keen on mastering the art of gele tying, these resources can help you begin your journey:

  • Workshops and Classes: Many cultural centers and organizations offer hands-on workshops where you can learn from experienced gele stylists. These classes provide practical experience and personalized guidance.
  • Online Tutorials: Numerous videos and blogs provide detailed, step-by-step instructions, allowing you to learn at your own pace from home. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram have a wealth of tutorials that cater to all skill levels. Here’s a gele tutorial playlist from my YouTube Channel that you may find helpful.

Gele tying is a beautiful and culturally significant tradition. It’s a way to showcase personal style, cultural pride, and creativity. Whether for a wedding, a celebration, or simply to embrace Nigerian heritage, mastering gele tying can add a touch of elegance and cultural depth to your look.

Hugs and Kisses,



I’m a beauty blogger, love to write, share experiences and keep you up to date, as I embark on my fab journeys into the world of beauty, fashion and all things stylish!

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