The origin of the Basotho blanket goes back over a century. In 1860, King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of of Lesotho, was given a wool blanket as a gift. The King loved the blanket so much, he abandoned his traditional leopard-skin kaross in favour of the blanket.
The Basotho people soon followed suit and to this day the blanket is an inherent part of their lives and culture. You will see blankets of varying colours and patterns at all important life events, from marriage to childbirth to the coronation of kings.
Versions of the Basotho tribal blanket, or ‘Seanamarena’ in Sesotho, are also worn in every day life by herd boys, grannies and even children to keep warm. Lesotho is the only nation south of the Sahara that identifies the culture of an entire country through a nationalistic article of clothing like the Basotho blanket.
Many people in Lesotho live in farming and animal husbandry based communities and therefore wear clothing that is suitable for this lifestyle. For example, herd boys wear large rain boots, referred to as gum boots, to wade through the muddy mountain terrain with their animals.
Most herd boys also wear woolen caps or balaclavas year-round to protect their faces from cold temperatures and dust blown around by the strong mountain winds.
Women usually wear long dresses and skirts in vibrant colors and patterns with blankets around their waists, and for special occasions (like church or weddings) they wear a traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe. Seshoeshoe are worn in endless varieties of designs, patterns and colours. Wearers purchase seshoeshoe fabric and then work with a seamstress to create their preferred design.
Young men and women usually wear more casual clothes like jeans and t-shirts.
Basotho Hat (or Mokorotlo)
The Basotho hat is another traditional item of clothing worn to this day. The conical woven hat with a top knot is made of local mosa grass and can be seen and purchased all across the nation. The mokorotlo is also the national symbol and can be found on the Mountain Kingdom’s flag.
Mount Qiloane (below) is said to be the inspiration for the mokorotlo.
In Lesotho, school uniforms are mandatory. You’ll see school-age children running around in uniforms (colours and styles vary by school), until they change into their street clothes after school.