Touching on the smocks, Alhaji Osman, who is touted in many quarters as the country’s foremost authority on the subject, indicated that there were four types of them.
He said the first type is called ‘Yensiche’ – Hausa word for singlet – because they are sleeveless, “to allow free flow of air, and they are the smallest of all.
“They are nowadays worn casually to events and other social gatherings, but traditionally they are singlets, meant for use as an undergarment.”
He said the second type, called ‘Binma’ – Dagomba word for ‘short one’ – has sleeves, but short. “This infers that a longer one has to be worn over it.”
Alhaji Osman indicated that the ‘Yensiche’ and ‘Binma’ were for commoners, whilst the other two types, ‘Kpaakoto’ and ‘Yabli’ are for royalty.
“Kpaakoto’ is a bigger version of the ‘Binma,’ which usually covers up to or below the knee. Those are the heavy ones that the chiefs wear when they sit in state.”
He said the ‘Yabli’ was differentiated from the ‘Kpaakoto’ by the elaboration of the embroidery in it, although both, being royal dresses, are worn with big pantaloons – “which some people call the hernia trousers.”
Nevertheless, he said commoners of good economic standing could as well wear the royal smocks, “except that when they do, they should show some reverence by folding the arms of the smock on their shoulders.”
This, he emphasized, was for purposes of social classification.
“So if you see someone who has folded only one arm, that person is a Prince, an expression that he is neither a chief nor a commoner.”
Alhaji Osman observed that with modernity, a lot of Ghanaians were wearing smocks wrongly, citing an example as wearing them over a shirt.
“This is some kind of fashion which I think was started by tourists who probably wanted to blend their culture with ours. But we have copied it blindly, and it is wrong.”
He said calling smocks as ‘Batakari’ was also wrong, because ‘Batakari’ is only a Hausa word for three-in-one lace, the type often worn by Pastor Mensa Otabil.
People from southern Ghana also call the smock ‘fugu,’ a name which Alhaji Osman claimed no knowledge about its origin.
Alhaji Osman explained that the prices of smocks were dependent on three major factors: the quality of fabric, the quality of craftsmanship and the size.
“Aside these, you also look at whether it is hand-sewn or tailor-made, and the elaboration of embroidery in them.
“So the price of the ‘Yensiche’ ranges between GHc 60 to GHc 150; ‘Binma’ – GHc 120 to GHc 250; Kpaakoto – GHc 300 – GHc 500; and Yabli GHc 800 – GHc 1,500,” he said.
In a bid to promote the smock, the Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) last month declared the first Friday of every month as National Friday Wear.
The initiative, meant to boost the patronage of made-in-Ghana goods and stir up a global appeal for the smock, is in collaboration with the Ghana office of the World Bank and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
By JAMES HARRY OBENG