Baju Melayu ("Malay dress or attire") is the general term for the traditional Malay costume for men in Pahang.
Specifically, the traditional Malay costumes for both men and women in Pahang as well as in Malaysia, are the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga and the Baju Kurung Cekak Musang.
But to differentiate between the male and female attire, the male costume is simply referred to as Baju Melayu while the female costume is normally referred to as the Baju Kurung.
This dress for the male Malays is generally quite the same all over Pahang or Malaysia.
It has the same simple design cut, with loose fitting being the accepted concept and fashion.
The length of the shirt dress for the men is about the length of the person’s arm, and it is very loose fitting, widening downwards.
Like the female Malay costumes, the little differences in the men’s traditional attire relate to the design of the neck area, and the way the upper dress or shirt is worn (whether outside the samping or inside).
Then of course the fabrics and pattern designs making up the costume and samping are subject to the individual’s taste.
The main difference between the two fashion styles is the cutting style at the neck or collar design, where the Teluk Belanga style has no collar and the neckline is stitched in the style known as "tulang belut" (eel's spines or bones). There is a loop at the end of the neckline to fit a "kancing" (a hook or button).
This Teluk Belanga collar design therefore exposes the neck of the wearer in contrast to the stiff or firm collar (like a Nehru or Mandarin collar but with buttons) of the Cekak Musang style.
On the other hand, as noted above, the Cekak Musang style has a raised or stiff collar of about 1 - 2cm, and is opened down to the chest, with holes for five buttons including two buttons for the collar.
The Teluk Belanga style originated, as its name implies, from the Johor Sultanate. Teluk Belanga, on the island of Singapore, was the administrative capital of the Johor Sultanate until 1866 when it moved to Johore Bahru. Read more on the Teluk Belanga style here.
This Malay male attire is worn either with a sarong or trousers in both the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga and Baju Kurung Cekak Musang styles.
As a traditional costume, however, this male dress is worn rightly with matching pants or trousers. The trousers are long, that is, they are worn up to the ankles, like the normal gentlemen’s long trousers.
When thus worn with long trousers, the essential accompaniment for the whole attire is the sampin or samping. It is this that adds the extra elegance to the costume.
If the shirt, trousers and samping are worn in a similar colour, fabric or pattern, that is, in matching styles, then in Malay the style is called sedondon.
The Baju Melayu is worn either in the style of "kain berdagang luar" or "kain berdagang dalam". In the "kain berdagang luar" style, the shirt is worn outside the trousers and covers part of the sampin. In the "kain berdagang dalam", the sampin is worn outside the dress and it covers the lower part of the shirt.
Normally, the Teluk Belanga style is worn as "kain berdagang luar" and the Cekak Musang worn in the "kain berdagang dalam" style.
In the Malaysian state of Johor, there is a style for the trousers or pants, called the seluar kiul. The pants are wide at the waist, tied using a piece of string instead of buttons or zip, and the pants, instead of baggy, become smaller down to the legs.
This Malay male traditional costume is only truly complete when it is worn with a head-dress, either the tanjak, tengkolok, dastar or songkok. These are the traditional head-wears for the traditional male costume.
The tengkolok or tanjak has many designs, and must be worn in the traditional ways with set rules.
Of course with the advent of modern designs and global influences, we find instances today where the collar of the shirt is stitched along the Chinese Mandarin-style or Indian Nehru-style with no buttons at the neck, and with three or more buttons at the upper body.
Nowadays also we may find that the pockets, ends of the sleeves and collars are bordered with embroidered linings to make them look more colorful, and more striking, compared to being plain.
But these slight changes do not make the Malay costumes any more attractive as they are without them.
Well, I hope you’ve learnt a few things about the Baju Melayu, the traditional male costume of the Pahang Malays.
The costume has a really simple cut, very comfortable to wear being loose fitting, and of course, it is more than aesthetically elegant. It’s simple but awesome!
You can always find someone wearing this traditional costume everyday in Pahang or Malaysia, since it is usually worn for prayers, during festive and formal occasions, and especially during traditional Malay weddings.
Do try them whenever you’re in Pahang.
And read here if you wish to know the brief history and ethical aspects of this traditional Malay attire.
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