It might seem surprising, but some of Nigeria’s sharpest sartorial efforts can be found on the backs of the motorbikes zipping through the streets of Lagos. The bikes are known locally as keke or okada, a play on now-defunct Nigerian airline Okada Air due to their riders’ ability, albeit terrifyingly, to get you from point A to B.
With their lack of appropriate headgear and outrageous, sometimes comically overloaded cargo, the okada riders aren’t always popular with government and locals. They are usually depicted as rough and rowdy biker boys, but for okada riders, ferrying people and goods to and fro is a no-fuss way to make a living. They are primarily men from poor backgrounds who save up to buy a keke bike as a quick way to make money without the licensing needed to drive a taxi or bus.
Despite numerous attempts by various administrations to remove the okada from Nigeria’s roads, they have survived time and again, and their drivers are all the more fly for it.
Riding the streets of Lagos all day can leave your eyes vulnerable to all kinds of dust and debris in a city of 21 million, and the bikers protect their peepers with pure steez. As many Nigerians will testify: no matter the situation, style is never worth sacrificing. You’ll frequently find okada riders decked out in the most extravagant eyewear, from large embellished hot pink frames to gold-trimmed cat-eye lenses. If you’re going to hit the Lagos streets, it’s got to be done in style.
We teamed up with local photographer Stephen Tayo to capture the infamous okada riders of Lagos in their most lavish eyewear. Check out some West African street style below.