Waist Beads – An Age-Old African Tradition For Today’s Fashion

Waist beads are stunning relics from Africa’s rich history that have made a home in today’s fashion trends. Beyond that, they are a tool for body awareness and a sensual symbol. Let’s talk about it!

Waist beads
Credit: Google

How did waist beads come to exist?

An adornment consisting of beads made from glass, wood, or metal, strung together and worn around the waist or hips, waist beads have roots in West African cultures.

History has it that this fashion accessory was first seen on women from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria centuries ago. Other West African countries including Ghana and Senegal have also imbibed it as a symbol of womanhood.

Credit: Google


Waist beads may be a showy adornment that often includes crystals and other precious stones, but they are not just for beautification.

Back in the day, they served as a symbol of femininity, fertility, spirituality, and sensuality. African women took great pride in choosing colours that best accentuated these symbols. For instance, the colour red represents sexual energy and passion while green is for prosperity and hope.

Most importantly, waist beads were of intimate significance, strictly worn under clothing.

It also served as a symbol of transitioning and maturity. In some African tribes, babies are adorned with waist beads and these are switched with other varieties as they age.

Credit: Google

Fashion trends

Today, this trend has evolved beyond Africa and have since spread out into the west for a variety of reasons. While most women love the aesthetics of this distinct fashion trend, others have adopted it for more symbolic purposes.

Essentially, it is no longer uncommon to walk into a crowded restaurant in, say, Europe, and see a woman wearing waist beads over her jeans.

These pieces of jewellery are pretty, culturally appealing, and evergreen. But beyond the allure, why are they still such a rave in 2020?

Credit: Pinterest

Body awareness 

Waist beads are an interesting medium for keeping your body in check. It is like having a weight scale for your waist because it lets you know when it is wider or narrower than desired.

For instance, if you had a late dinner and get bloated stomach, you will feel so much discomfort around your waist that you will be tempted to take them off.

Also, they make you more aware of your sitting and breathing postures, depending on how snug or loose you wear them. Either way, they instil a psychological need to sit up straighter and breathe more freely.

Unlike your regular workout routines, waist beads serve as a more intimate reminder of your body’s changes while encouraging positivity in self-awareness.

Credit: Google


As expected, waist beads are grossly fetishized by society today. Just like piercings and tattoos, people see a woman wearing them and adopt an impression of her, usually sexual or negative.

It is true that this jewellery emits sensuality so much that several musical artistes of African descent have paid tribute to its ‘wonders’ in their songs. Fondly called Ìlẹ̀kẹ̀ ìdí (in Yoruba dialect), it is said that when a woman adorns herself and moves her waist, the rhythm becomes hers.

waist beads
Credit: Google


Although still largely frowned upon as a bewitching tool used to charm and enslave men, waist beads have become a more profound and personal journey for many women.

They connote a strong sense of individuality where you get to dictate what colours, styles, or form they come in. Wearing them not only makes you feel instantly alluring but inspires the power and confidence that comes with self-expression.

Waist beads are here to stay, whether for symbolic or aesthetic purposes. Sometimes, It is never ‘that deep.’

Either way, this is a fun trend you want to explore if you haven’t already!

Also Read: Tribes Of South Africa: Meet The Ndebele People 

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