Growing up, I was used to seeing images of American women on TV wearing itsy-bitsy shorts — which I later came to learn were called Daisy Dukes — and bikini tops. They would be walking around the city, and it was normal.
I was raised as a typical African child in the ’90s. It was unheard of to see women wearing clothes that exposed too much skin. This meant nothing above the kneecaps. Women who wore garments that were too tight and too short were automatically believed to be women of the night.
As I grew older, I became a little bit more daring and wore skirts that were slightly above my kneecaps, and my grandmother detested it, saying I was sending the wrong message to the public, so I stuck to jeans because wearing pants was much safer and resulted in less public criticism.
I was always envious of the American women who I’d see going to the swimming pool with two-piece swimsuits that seemed to just cover areas that weren’t supposed to see the light of day. It seemed risqué, but the 13-year-old me thought, “Wow, they are basically wearing underwear out in public, and it is OK.”
As times continued to change and Western cultures continued to be adopted way beyond the West, more things became acceptable; girls would wear much tighter skirts or pants.
In 2010, I relocated to the United States. To say I was not ready for the difference in fashion is an understatement. I came during the peak of summer, and I saw girls wearing the mysterious Daisy Dukes. I tried to picture myself in them, but it was impossible.
However, within the past five years or so, Kenyan fashion has evolved and more things have become acceptable.
With this digital age, the Internet has become a staple source of information, and thus the existence of more fashion blogs all around the world.
With fashion bloggers here in the United States, such as Aimee Song, or Song of Style, and ones in Kenya, such as Sharon Mundia or This Is Ess, the similarity between American fashion and Kenyan fashion has become apparent.
The trends are similar in both cultures, but the designs may be different. It has become more common to see girls in shorter or tighter shorts, pants, skirts or dresses; and the idea of skinny jeans among guys is also normal in Kenya.
However, it is still close to impossible to see girls wearing garments that expose too much, as this is considered disrespectful to the community and to herself.
Western fashion is a lot more of “Wear what you please because it is your body,” and Kenyan fashion, and African fashion in general, is more of “Wear what you please so long as it is acceptable in public.”
Being exposed to fashion across cultures has been a learning experience and taught me that it is easy for cultures to spread globally, but the original ideals of a society may take a long time to shift, if ever.
Tracy Awino is a campus reporter for The Plainsman. She can be reached via email at campus@ThePlainsman.com.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman