We’re Not Fashionable, We’re Malaysians

Posted on December 16, 2006


In Malaysia, the great divide between city and country, Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Kubu Baru, is narrowed by the fashion sense that the citizens and countryfolk have in common. Wherever you go, ‘walau di kota mahupun di desa’, Malaysians are united in their practical approach to dress styles in this hot and humid nation. In certain places, like the socially regressive state of Kelantan, this homogeneity in fashion, particularly among Muslim women, are more apparent, but in general Malaysians can be categorised just as well by what they wear as the race that they belong to.

One of the most enduringly popular is the tight shorts preferred by the Chinese.  Favoured by both men and women, these incredibly short shorts are normally beige or light brown in tone, although it is unclear whether this is the natural dye or the result of repeated washings, and is worn quite comfortably at home or in the glitziest shopping centres. The shorts help emphasise the pale and normally stocky thighs of the wearer and its tightness accentuate the ‘melenggang’ type of walking that we normally see among the wearers. This type of shorts is best suited to large families in suburban malls such as Midvalley Megamall, walking excruciatingly slowly and blocking other shoppers, while holding a hot Rotiboy, wrapped in yellow plastic bags as they strut their stuff, with Indonesian maid in tow.

Among the socially conservative Malays, the petite girls will normally be clad in a scarve, with a tight-fitting top of plain colour and tight-fitting jeans. The modesty of this style is betrayed only by the curvature it provides to these girls, which obviously sends their male counterparts crazy, particularly the men from Kelantan who are not so used to seeing the female form in its uninterrupted beauty. Among the more generously proportioned, or to be politically incorrect, fatter girls, the preferred form of clothing seems to be FUBU or any other hip-hop influenced fashion, whose baggy, loose form help cover their big size. The plain and decent (ie square) Malay guys would stroll around the mall with t-shirt and jeans, subscribing to the ‘simpel tetapi kemas’ school of style, while the more physically religious would finish it off with a fancy ketayap on the head and a messy goatee, for intellectual and religious authority.

The men of all Malaysian races, Malay, Chinese, Kadazan, Iban, but particularly Indian, presumably due to Bollywood influence, will not leave home without the customary orange comb placed conspicuously at the back pocket of their jeans. Like the keris of Hang Tuah’s Melaka, the sikat oren is today’s symbol of machoness for the lelaki sejati of Malaysia.

Posted in: Society