Isi-Agu simply means ‘the head of a lion” and signifies power, pride, and authority. As a popular traditional outfit with mostly by the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria, the Isi-Agu is a pullover tunic shirt that may either be long or short-sleeved. Usually the Isi-agu may have gold buttons which are linked by a chain and a breast pocket on the front of the shirt.
One of the striking things about this attire is its fabric which is designed with prints of lion heads. As a result, it is so named because of the lion head patterns on the fabric.
In the Igbo culture, the Isi-agu is given to a man whenever he gets a chieftaincy title. As such, it is also known as ”Chieftaincy”. To complement the attire, it is usually paired with either Okpu Agu (Igbo leopard cap) or a red fez hat. It is mostly worn on special events, such as weddings, introductions, and chieftaincy titles, and so on.
In the past, women were forbidden from wearing this attire. It was only for the men at that time. However, with time, women began to use the fabric in making beautiful designs and styles. Over the years, many people have adopted the attire and it is now very popular in society. The fabric for the Isi-Agu may either be cotton or velvet and it comes in several stunning colours of choice. Isi Agu fabric can also be combined with Italian suit fabric. When it comes to occasions and ceremonies, this fabric will definitely be worn by a good number of people who have a keen eye for the great fabric.
The Isi-Agu for both men and women is quite similar to the Dashiki but it’s differences are very obvious. Unlike the Dashiki, the Isi-Agu usually has a breast pocket and gold buttons. Also, its fabric is made with Lion head prints unlike the Angelina prints found in the Dashiki.
As a unique and prestigious Igbo apparel, the Isi Agu signifies pride and authority on the wearer as every Igbo man is a lion, while the woman is a lioness. In Igbo royalty, the Isi Agu is one of the king’s garments which is worn for several events. The Isi Agu serves as a coronation garment or robe of honour and hence, it is believed that it should never be worn profanely.
Before 2012, Isi Agu was worn by a few Igbo people. However, the attire was later re-designed to a more stunning style that would be acceptable to Igbo people all around the world.
Today, the latest Isi-agu styles come in various colours and fabrics but with a uniform pattern. It can be worn with a nice-fitting sandal or a shoe. For men, wearing Isi Agu can be paired with a matching cap or bead (optional). For women, depending on the style of the outfit, a lovely flat, low heels, or high heels with a nice handbag would be perfect. In wearing the Isi-Agu, the most crucial thing to keep in mind is to wear shoes that will go with your outfit as well as the one that you are comfortable in. If you are comfortable in flat shoes, save yourself the stress of wearing heels and slay your outfit like the lioness that you are.