SHIRT STORIES

Every AFFASO shirt comes with a history

Symbols and storytelling are very important in African culture. What is typical, is that the meaning isn’t fixed but subject to a range of interpretations. This differs per country, generation or even per individual. Essential for the individual is to tell their own story through the print they are wearing.

Well known companies and design studios were: Grafton African, ABC Studio, Moir & Co and Brown Fleming.

How to wear these shirts?
Be inspired by our Styleguide.

ABSTRACT APPLE

1988

This is a design starring a juicy apple, cut in half. The halved fruit may have been a European design conception offered to the African public to discover if they would like it. If an attractive cultural meaning could be built upon the split fruit, the pattern could outlast its novelty value.

ASHANTI SPOT

1961

This is a wax print version created the early 1960’s in Ghana. The Ashanti dot is a very popular symbol used in many variations and different colours. An old Ashanti legend goes that two young men were the first to learn the art of weaving when they saw a spider weaving its web.

CHAIN OF STRENGTH

2001

Interlinking and knot-work patterns are a meeting point of many cultures. African versions often focus attention on the background through patterned infills as much as on the figure: itself. You could say it’s about freedom, you could also say it’s about connection. A wise old man once said it is about both.

CHIEF’S SPECIAL

1966

This pattern features a character resembling the Ashanti Stool of Kingship inscribed on a squared stone. It was said that this golden stool symbolised the unity of the chiefs and their people. It is viewed as a gift from god. Wear the shirt with dignity and grace.

DIAMOND RUST

1960

Created around the same time as the Ashanti Spot design, this pattern is also likely to be an old favourite reissued as a wax print. Its simple geometric forms invite creative colouring. The diamond form occurs in every era, culture and religion. In general it stands for clarity, ascension and wisdom. If I was a rich man, I’d wear my Diamond Rust all the time.

EXOTIC AFRICA

1987

This pattern features a large pineapple cleverly placed in a tiled arrangement that somewhat resembles individual pineapple scales. The ripe character of the fruit possibly refers to fertility. In Europe, pineapples have associations with luxury, while in the East it is related to good luck. It is widely seen as a symbol of welcome, and used as such in architecture.

HANDS ON

1959

The hand, symbol of human cooperative effort and achievement, was a popular motif in West Africa since the late 19th century. A ‘hand and coins’ motif was used on a Moir & Co. printed handkerchief already back in the 1880. This version in brown and orange comes with the small hands all over. Definitely brings good luck.

HAPPY HOUR

1958

The use of billboard and advertising texts reflected the pride in the growing African urbanism of the 1950s. Glistening modern bars and bottled drinks were popular themes. Going out, having a drink, dancing, feeling the freedom. Happy Hour offers a light, nostalgic glance back at this vibrant period of optimism in Africa’s history.

HIBISCUS GARDEN

1963

This pattern features regular rows of serpentine stems holding hibiscus-like flowers, Malvaceae in Latin. Because the flower quickly fades, it has been associated with the fleeting nature of fame. But the flower also has many positive associations, for example that of the perfect romantic partner. Great shirt for a first date.

JUNGLE KING

1994

The lion’s head, symbol of bravery and strength, is a motif that goes back to antiquity. In its wreathed form, it was used for centuries for doorknockers. However, this lion – captured mid- roar – probably owes something to the popularity of Hollywood giant Metro-Goldwin-Mayer’s logo, created by art director Lionel Reiss in 1916.

JUNGLE LEAFS

1988

Fan-shaped bursts are a recurrent theme in African export design, whether expressive of growth, or simply of energy, as seen here. Such motifs can be traced back to early roller prints of the 1820’s. Old designs from pattern books were often enlarged and revived for the African market.

MINI FLORAL

1957

A beautiful pattern of small flowers and leafs in an apparently chaotic structure. The basis of this print design goes back to the Indonesian batik. A method of dying in which some pattern areas are covered with wax. The flower of course is a worldwide symbol of beauty and growth.

MOSAIC CIRCLES

1988

Roundels and radiating motifs occur across all human cultures. Associations with the earth and the sun are obvious. Here, with the circles in an overlapping fish-scale arrangement, the pattern evokes ideas of armour and protection. Feel safe in this knight’s hauberk.

PAISLEY LEAF

1967

This pattern owes its origins to Indonesian batik models in the handling of its floral motifs, although it is likely that sprays from at least two different traditional patterns have been combined to form this one. Such work sold well in the 1920’s which is likely the period when the original Paisley design was created.

RHYTHMIC FLOWERS

1984

The flower you see here is the Venus fly trap. This carnivorous plant from North Carolina was brought to the attention of European botanists in the 18th century and was named after Aphrodite, the daughter of Dione, and the goddess of love. This design is a highly stylised trail reminiscent of patterns.

ROYAL WINDOW PANE

1962

This pattern is a check that clearly emphasises the individual squares from which it is built. Checks are universal patterns derived from woven designs, often seen as uniting opposites: warp and weft, male and female, day and night, yin and yang. The royal colours of gold and brown and blue make it a very distinguished choice.

SAW & WOOD

1966

Woodgrain was a classic motif in African fabrics for a long time and continued in variants ever since. Here the saw adds an element of surprise and play, which lends itself to multiple interpretations through African proverbs: ‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.’

SPEEDBIRD

1977

This is a design that shows a swallow-tailed bird profiled in flight. Older versions show the bird stretching out both wings in a more abstract form. Migratory birds portray ideas of distant travel and safe return. Always remember: home is where the heart is.

WAVING MOVES

1987

The repeated lotus flower band combined with a wave somewhat resembles the profile of a large molar tooth. Molars have positive associations with adulthood and enjoyment of food, but may also evoke biting and the wear of ageing. Maybe this pattern holds some apotropaic quality to prevent toothache.