The Baju Melayu has been around for more than 500 years and was first made widely popular by the Sultan of Malacca named Tun Hassan Temenggong. There are actually two variations of the Baju Melayu which are known as Baju Kurung Cekak Musang and the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga.
The Malaccan Empire was known as the strongest in the region which stretched from Sumatra in the South and Thailand in the North. The Strait of Malacca was not only used by merchant ships, it was also a cross-traffic barter trade as well as maritime trade. Traders from surrounding countries such as India, China, Middle East, and Europe were trading at this location.
Due to the arrival of foreigners, various fashion styles were also brought to Malacca. Sooner or later, it influenced the Baju Melayu which is a combination of loose fitting styles from the Arabs and Indians, while the trousers and pants were from the Mongols and Turks. It is also influenced by the Europeans based on their simple and elegant styles.
The evolution of Baju Melayu
During the Malaccan Empire in the 15th Century, it was said that the Malay men wore simple attires which resembled the outfits of Silat performers. The style of the attire was short sleeved and tight-fitting.
It was not until Tun Hassan Temenggong redesigned the Baju Melayu by extending the overall length of the shirt dress. He also made it loose-fitting where the shirt dress widens all the way down along with the sleeves of the shirt. The purpose of the design was so that wearers were able to fold the sleeves up when it comes to having a meal. Although the modern day Baju Melayu has been made accustomed to the newer trends, the cut remains similar to the original design.
Moral code of wearing Baju Melayu
There are actually certain traditional practices and ethics that need to be followed by Malays when it comes to wearing the Baju Melayu. If you take note of the Cekak Musang which is the name given for the shirt, you will notice that there are five buttons – two at the collar region and three on the upper body. The five buttons represent the five pillars of Islam which are Shahada, Salat, Zakat, Fasting, and Pilgrimage to Mecca, due to the fact that Malays follow the Islamic faith.
As a fashion style, the Baju Melayu cannot be tight-fitted due to ethical reasons. The reason being that when Muslims perform their Islamic prayers, they are required to bend and sit a couple of times. Other than that, the attire is a significant attire during major religious festivals such as Aidil Fitri and Aidil Adha.
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