Traditional Malay Headwears
for Men

tanjak hitamtanjak hitam
tanjak kuningtanjak kuning


The tanjak or tengkolok and the destar, are popularly accepted as the traditional Malay headwears for men in Pahang as well as in Malaysia, although the Malays traditionally wear their head-gears in various forms. 

tanjak warna brownishtanjak warna cokelat

Just as hats, berets, caps, and others are suited to their particular dressings in the western world, the Malay tanjak or tengkolok is worn and complements exquisitely the traditional full Malay costume of Baju Melayu. 

Besides worn during traditional Malay weddings by the groom during the bersanding ceremony, the tanjak or tengkolok and destar are usually put on during formal and public ceremonies where royalties grace the occasion.

They are always an essential part of the costume of sultans and high palace officials gracing public ceremonies and official functions at the palace courts.

In keeping with tradition and palace protocol, however, there are certain ethics and guidelines to be kept in mind and to be followed when wearing them with the Baju Melayu, as mentioned below.


As we all know, headwears and headgears, like hats and caps, are put on not only as accessories to add elegance and grace to the wearer, but they also serve as protection and shade against the elements of nature like snow, wind, sun or rain.

The traditional Malay headwears similarly serve the same purpose, protecting especially the head from the hot rays of the sun, and absorbing the sweat on the forehead.

But in modern times, the tanjak, tengkolok and destar, especially, are worn as ceremonial outfits only, being an essential part of the traditional Malay costume of Baju Melayu.

Where To Stay In Pahang?

Find Hotels and Resorts Here


What is the difference between the tanjak or tengkolok, and the destar?

Well, tanjak or tengkolok are traditional Malay headwears made of cloth or thick fabrics where the knot or the fold moves upwards to the top and curls slightly sideways.

Dastar is also a headwear tied around the head but it is wound at the same height and level.

The destar is the style of regal headwear that were worn by the Sultans of Malacca during the Malacca Empire period in the 15th century.



Other traditional Malay headwears for the men besides the tanjak, tengkolok and destar (sometimes spelled as "dastar"), includes the songkok, semutar and also the terendak.

As mentioned above, the Malay tanjak or tengkolok is worn with the Baju Melayu by Malay men as an important part of the costume.

destar worn in silatdestar worn in silat

However, nowadays they are seldom put on by the young Malay men except probably during their own wedding!

Rather, in its place, the songkok, also one of the traditional Malay headwears for the men, especially those of Indonesian stock, is normally worn. Almost all Malays in Pahang and Malaysia usually sport this in black velvet (usual), dark blue or other dark colors when dressing with the traditional Baju Melayu.


The songkok can be said to be a shorter version of the Persian "tarbus". However it is not round-shaped like the tarbus but perhaps a little oblong and follows the shape of the head.

Nowadays there are all sorts of colors and variations of the songkok – white, green, red, and some with colored bands - although the traditional black or dark blue velvet is always the popular choice of songkok for most occasions.

songkok and baju melayusongkok and baju melayu

The songkok is also the normal headwear for Malays when going for prayers at the mosque, although the simple ketayap or kopiah is now widely used as it is foldable, lighter and thus easier to carry around.

The ketayap or kopiah is like the scull cap of the Jews except that it is a little bigger. Also Muslim religious officials like imams sometimes wear the "serban"where a piece of cloth is wound round the kopiah or ketayap.


Other traditional Malay headwears include the "semutar", which is a piece of cloth wound round the head, and they are normally worn by the Malays of the east coast states, especially in Kelantan, by the fishermen and farmers when working to absorb their forehead sweats.

And in the east coast states of West Malaysia, the fishermen and padi growers normally wear the "terendak" hat as a shade when working under the hot sun.


The folds for the tanjak and dastar, being varied, are given names to distinguish them. They are tied or folded into semblance of animals or ideas in the abstract, something like the Japanese origami art.

And nowadays perhaps only the experts in traditional Malay headwears can identify or know how to fold and make them into various styles. With many different styles and shapes, names are given to distinguish them, such as:-

  • gajah berjuang (elephants fighting)
  • ayam patah kepak (chicken with broken wing)
  • menyonsong angin (facing the wind)
  • kelongsong bunga (flower wrapper/container)


tanjak kekuningantanjak kekuningan

The ethical aspects when putting on the Baju Melayu and dressing with the tanjak /tengkolok must be understood by the wearer.

The tengkolok or tanjak and destar are not just traditional Malay headwears or headgears to the Malays, because there are certain significant ethical and traditional connotations and values attached when putting them on.

For instance, the way or manner in which the tengkolok is tied or worn signifies the office or social standing of the person. So it is not just wearing any type of tengkolok or tanjak for an occasion.

The loop and the upturn end have various symbols and significance, identifying the wearer’s status. Whether the tengkolok is wound right-side or left, or it ends on the right or the left, or its ends are turned up towards the sky, all of these contain certain meanings to those in the know regarding customs and traditional practices.

Naturally in the different states of Malaysia including Pahang you will find different methods of tying the tengkolok or tanjak. And you will that while they are beautiful in their own ways, the various styles have inner meanings attached to them.


In the state of Pahang, the tengkolok or tanjak style, like other states of Malaysia, are differentiated through differences between royalties, officials and commoners.

Malaysia’s King or Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang diPertuan Agung, wears the tengkolok in the style of Ikatan Dendam Tak Sudah.

The Sultans of Pahang for instance wear the formal tengkolok in the style of the coffee leaf or Tengkolok Ikatan Cogan Daun Kopi.

The Tengkolok Sekelungsung Bunga was the style worn by the royalty during Sultan Abu Bakar's reign, with different colors to denote status, like yellow for Sultan, black for Tengku Arif Bendahara, blue for Tengku Arif Temenggung and red for Panglima Perang and Tengku Panglima Besar Pahang.

Even individual past Sultans of Pahang have their own favorite tengkolok identifying their own individual personality.

For instance, Sultan Ahmad (1882 -1914) wore the tengkolok style known as Tengkolok Sunda Mengamit.

Sultan Mahmud (1914 -1917) wore his tengkolok in the style known as Tengkolok Bugis Tak Balik and,

Sultan Abdullah (1917 – 1932) wore it in the style of Tengkolok Lang Menyusur Angin.


For formal occasions like weddings, and public ceremonies where sultans and royalties are involved, the tanjak or tengkolok are made from songket, telepuk, and sometimes silk, like Tenun Pahang Diraja. The headwears are normally made from the same fabrics as the traditional costume being worn.

These clothes or fabrics are naturally very finely made, thicker, durable and more expensive than normal cotton, and they match in color and fabrics for the whole costume, in what is known as wearing "sedondong" in Malay.

Of course when working in the padi fields or farms, the fabrics for the headwears are usually made from cotton or other materials that are comforting, that can easily absorb sweat on the forehead.

Well, the above are just some brief information on the traditional Malay headwears for men in Pahang.

The tanjak, tengkolok, dastar and songkok definitely add grace, elegance and style to the wearers of the traditional Malay costume of Baju Melayu.

As always, from me...


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Custom Search

› Malay Headwear