Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Chunky knitwear, tasteful v-necks: South Africa's Xhosa get a style makeover

By Leonie Erasmus and Daisy Carrington, for CNN
updated 6:10 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
In South Africa's Eastern Cape, Xhosa men undergo an initiation, after which they must wear formal clothing for six months. <!-- -->
</br>Knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo was dismayed that the formal clothes available to Xhosa men were from the West, so he created formal wear that incorporates the Xhosa aesthetic. In South Africa's Eastern Cape, Xhosa men undergo an initiation, after which they must wear formal clothing for six months.
Knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo was dismayed that the formal clothes available to Xhosa men were from the West, so he created formal wear that incorporates the Xhosa aesthetic.
HIDE CAPTION
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
South African style
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In South Africa, Xhosa boys undergo an initiation when entering manhood
  • After a month-long process, the men swap traditional clothes for formal attire
  • Designer Laduma Ngxokolo makes clothes that match the Xhosa aesthetic

Every week, Inside Africa takes its viewers on a journey across Africa, exploring the true diversity and depth of different cultures, countries and regions.

Eastern Cape, South Africa (CNN) -- The journey from boyhood to manhood is a poignant time in any community. This goes double for the Xhosa men that live in South Africa's Eastern Cape. Males between the ages of 18 and 20 undergo an initiation, whereby the don traditional robes and paint their faces in clay before they are circumcised by traditional healers.

"We have to go through an initiation process, where we have to go to the initiation school for about a month, and learn about manhood protocol and learn about our culture as well," explains Laduma Ngxokolo, a leading knitwear designer, and himself a Xhosa man from the Eastern Cape.

The mohair capital of the world
Eastern Cape's poaching patrols

But for six months after initiation, as a symbol of their journey, Xhosa men swap their traditional clothing for formal wear -- typically tweed jackets, khaki trousers and checked caps -- all distinctly Western in their origins.

"For me, that's awkward because we are practicing a traditional culture and yet wearing clothes which are Western," Ngxokolo says. Spotting an opportunity, Ngxokolo decided to create menswear that incorporated more local designs and materials through his label MaXhosa.

"I decided to come up with something that would speak a language of the Xhosa, and actually use some of the aesthetics which is well known among Xhosa." He uses patterns inspired by Xhosa bead work, and uses wool and mohair available in the Eastern Cape. It's a look that has resonated, not just at home, but in the global fashion community as well. Last year, he exhibited at Labo Ethnik Fashion Week in Paris.

Read: Africa's hottest new fashion designers

But even as his popularity grows overseas, he remains proudly South African. "There are a lot of products coming into the country that don't support the economy and which don't resemble any of the heritage and culture around us," he explains.



"I would prefer to celebrate what I have here before going abroad and celebrating things that are out there."

Read: Tribal beauty -- photographer captures a vanishing way of life

Read: Alien landing site, ancient monument, or something else?

Read: Savannah from a bird's-eye view

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Fri June 27, 2014
lake retba, senegal
On the edge of Senegal's Cap Vert peninsula, a lush coastal region, lies Lake Retba ... a coral pink lake.
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Meet the Rolling Rockets, the skate soccer team made up of polio survivors.
updated 6:09 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
Italian photographer Marco Casino spent a month capturing 'staff riders', or train surfers, in Katlehong, a South African township about 20 miles southeast of Johannesburg.
A group of South African youths have taken up the deadly sport of train surfing. For them, it's a shot at redemption.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
updated 6:20 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
updated 5:27 AM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
The Hadza are one of the oldest people on Earth. Today, they battle for land, and continued survival.
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
updated 6:59 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
updated 6:17 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Unhappy with Liberia's image on the Internet, a photographer decided to present his own view, using GIFs.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
updated 6:16 AM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
Makoko Floating School
A new wave of African architects are creating remarkable buildings in the continent, and beyond.
updated 6:30 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Vintage clothes are proving a hit with fashionistas across Africa, as retro goes back to the future.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.
ADVERTISEMENT