Liberians, especially Liberian youth, seem to be strongly influenced by American popular culture, which includes their style of dress. Compared to other West African countries I’ve visited, in which the majority of women wear ‘traditional’ African dresses (often with a spectacular headpiece fashioned in matching fabric), the ladies in Monrovia tend to dress in western styles, i.e. jeans paired with funky shoes, bling earrings, and a tight-fitting, brightly colored top that screams “I’m going clubbing” (in the middle of the day). Many young men also model their dress after American hip-hop culture, with baggy jeans, gold chains, loose fitting T-shirts, and flashy trainers.
That said, several of my co-workers, particularly the middle-aged and older ones, regularly show up to work in some beautiful African outfits. In particular, one of my colleagues who hails from Lofa (a county in the north, near the border with Guinea) frequently wears beautiful “country cloth” shirts. Country cloth is a thick cotton cloth that is hand-spun, hand-dyed, and hand-woven on a foot treadle loom. Usually the fabric is died in muted colors like navy, black, and tan.
The cloth is made in strips (about four inches wide) which are then sewn together to make a piece of striped cloth. It is then fashioned into a heavy, loose-fitting shirt that is elaborately embroidered around the neck and pockets. Men generally look very impressive when they wear it! Especially if they don a matching cap.