Alté fashion, alté style, alté vibe, alté! Unless you’re a baby boomer or Gen X, that word shouldn’t be strange to you. It’s a popular term among Gen Zs (and some millennials) today. Thanks to music and pop culture, we’ve had a resurgence of this trend and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be leaving anytime soon.
But unfortunately, not everyone knows what this fashion trend entails. Some think it’s a wild dress sense among young adults. Others deem it weird. But for a teeming number of people, it’s called Gen Z fashion. And if you’re looking to imbibe or learn more about it, this post will show you how to dress the Gen Z way. But first things first. Let’s see how the whole Alté movement came about.
A Peek into the Origin of Alté
Alté is a Nigerian lingo that represents a Nigerian subculture that began in 2007 when the Internet was starting to gain traction among Nigerian youth. Short for the word alternative and pronounced as uhl-teh, it first began as a music genre pioneered by DRB LasGidi members TeeZee, Boj, and Fresh L.
The style gained commercial success in the late 2010s down to the 2020s—thanks to artistes like Odunsi (The Engine), Cruel Santino, Lady Donli, Wavy the Creator, Tems, Burna Boy, etc., and other altéists pushing the movement. Alté started as a lifestyle that fosters individuality and non-conformity as means of self-expression. The key idea of this movement is to stay true to yourself regardless of existing beliefs or cultural restrictions. It involves going beyond the conventional to express what you stand for despite what anyone thinks.
In music, the Alté genre experiments with sound and fuses existing music styles to birth an entirely new form. Artistes such as Santi, Odunsi, Lady Donli, DRB Lasgidi, etc., fall into this category. As Nelson C.J, Lagos-based Nigerian Culture Journalist, captures it:
“In music, it is the gritty soulfulness of Tems, the psychedelic vibe of Odunsi or Santi, or even the old Nollywood-inspired sentimentalism behind some of Lady Donli’s artistry….In fashion, it is the radically sex-positive designs of Mowalola or the eclectic mix of grunge, goth or y2k fashion popular among influencers and stylists like Ashley Okoli or Dunsin Wright. And in photography, it is the immersive and mind-bending photography of Tse, to name a few.”
What is Alté Fashion?
Alté fashion is a unique way of dressing that adopts a retro, vintage, and edgy style even though it is perceived as “new school”. The style is common among young creatives as it’s a fusion of old and new, drawing inspiration from past times like old Nollywood.
The watchword that guides this subculture is “normal is boring.” And that’s true. It’s why Altéists aren’t afraid to break rules and not conform to existing precepts and conventional ways of dressing. For instance, as an Alté guy, rather than wear a pair of tapered pants, you’d tilt toward baggy options.
Furthermore, Alté style is different from the norm. It is creative, fun, and edgy. In the words of Nelson C.J., “It celebrates an individualistic approach to style rather than the communal expectations of it.”
Most lovers of eccentric style are subscribers of this movement. And the thread that binds them all is their self-confidence coupled with defiance. Indeed, the Alté movement is a bold one, especially in a country like Nigeria where social profiling and labeling is prevalent among authorities known for dictating how young adults should dress.
Though the style was once ostracized, it has now become prevalent among young Nigerian adults. Little wonder Teezee, member of DRB and a co-founder of the youth culture magazine Native Mag, shared with Okay Africa:
“It’s inspiring. We pioneered a movement as outcasts, now everyone wants in. The best part is, we are still young so we are working harder to get to the next level everyday… more kids coming out to do what they want, breaking rules, actively pushing boundaries in every way.”
What Makes up Alté Fashion?
Nigeria’s alté fashion movement doesn’t work in isolation. As earlier established, it’s a combination of old and new. This includes goth, grunge, and Y2K fashion blended with retro and vintage styles. If you’re tilting toward becoming an alistté, these edgy staples should be your starter pack:
Baggy Clothes for Alté Fashion
Altéists have no middleground. They love oversized clothes and at the same time love small, tight-fitting pieces.
So, depending on the alté aesthetic you want to pull off, you either go baggy or switch to small pieces — there’s no in-between.
Dirty (or Clean) Sneakers
Whether alté or not, everybody needs at least one pair of sneakers in their wardrobe. Though they may be conventional, they’re versatile enough to accommodate different fashion styles.
And as an Altéist, your sneakers will come in handy when it’s time to wear your suit, baggy, or tight-fitting pieces.
Since this style draws inspiration from gothic fashion, it’s only necessary for you to infuse the color black into your wardrobe.
This could be as an ensemble or a particular component of your outfit.
Knee-High Boots for Alté Fashion
This statement footwear draws attention to your legs while also shielding them when you wear short stuff.
Add them to your wardrobe if they aren’t already there.
Since this style employs creativity, you have to show it in your hairdo too.
So opt fot colorful coiffures, dyed hair, locs, etc. And accessorize with beads, cowries, trinkets, cuffs, etc.
They’re loose-fitting and perfect to be rocked with your flared pants and baggy jeans.
Add it to your Alté wardrobe.
These are small pouches usually worn around the waist.
They’re an alté essential too.
Piercings & Bold Accessories
In the same vein, accessories transform your outfit. From earrings to knuckle rings, bracelets, waist beads, chains, etc., you’re welcome to try them anytime. You can also wear braces even though they aren’t necessarily an accessory.
Bold Eyewear for Alté Fashion
You also need unusual sunglasses and frames.
Whether colorful or big, these eyewear ooze alte fashion.
Crop Tops, Micro Mini Skirts & Shorts
Another signature piece of this fashion style is clothes that barely conceal.
So imbibe crop tops, mini skirts, shorts, and anything that lingers around your thighs.
Alté Fashion Headwear
Don’t be scared to incorporate this when dressing the Gen Z way.
It wouldn’t hurt to add some extra inches to your height, would it? So throw out your slides, sandals, and other flats, and wear heeled boots or platform shoes instead.
You’ll look great no matter the gender you identify as.
Grunge-style makeup is also in the handbook of Alté fashion. So think smokey eyes, full coverage foundation, and bold lips.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t simply shade your brows, line your lips and eyes, apply lip gloss or dark lipsticks, and get going.
Alté fashion enthusiasts love leather pieces, from shoes to jackets, pants, and whatnot.
And so should you if you plan to excel at it.
Colorful Clothes for Alté Fashion
As an altéist, you have to be daring.
And most of the time, this involves wearing colors the rest of the world would dare not.
Alté Fashion Has no Rules
Wouldn’t it be ironic if such a subculture as Alté had must-follow rules? Thankfully, it doesn’t. Therefore, there’s no specific way to dress the Gen Z way because it embodies creativity. So, do what rocks your boat but ensure it follows the guidelines we’ve laid out for you.
In addition, shop from brands that nurture the Alté movement. Popular ones include Wafflesncream, Severe Nature, Piece et Patch, Pith, etc. And follow alté fashion icons such as Ashley Okolie, Santi, Wavy The Creator, Amaarae, Lady Donli, and a host of others. Through their photos and videos, you’ll learn more about combining pieces to give off the Alté vibe.
Above all, while we can’t specifically categorize everything that makes up this fashion, one crucial detail stands out: when you see alté you’ll know.