The sarong, that classic piece of Southeast Asian clothing and indispensable item of backpacker fashionwear, never seems to go out of style. Another thing that never seems to change is that Westerners, especially Western guys, don’t know how to wear them. I’ve seen quite a few guys walking around looking rather silly because they can’t take more than a few steps without retucking the fabric, or otherwise they have to constantly use one hand to hold it up. The Indonesians make it look so effortless….
But it can be, really! Bob and I each bought a sarong and the woman who sold them to us was kind enough to explain to us how to tie them. For women, it’s pretty easy. Simply wrap the whole thing around yourself twice, then tie the top two corners together. For men, it’s a little more complicated, but nothing impossible. Check it out:
There are men’s and women’s sarongs, distinguished both by the colors and the designs or pattern used. To the untrained eye, it was pretty hard to tell where the line was drawn, but I think the one Bob chose is definitely masculine.
Then it gets a little tricky. The basic idea is to fold the remaining fabric like an accordion. Keep the fabric tight as you go. The pleats should start out bigger and get smaller, i.e. the length of fabric for the bottommost fold should be the longest, the fold after that slightly shorter, and so on.
The bottom one should be several inches long, but the top one might be just two inches or so. When finished, you’ll be able to see all the pleats. The number of pleats you make is up to you.
Voila! Pair with a nice shirt and traditional cap for the complete Balinese look. For women, wear a long- or 3/4- sleeve shirt and complete the look with a scarf tied around the waist. This is the traditional outfit, and of course many Balinese wear t-shirts and jeans nowadays, but both men and women still dress traditionally for formal or dressy occasions. And they never have to walk around with one hand glued to their sarong… now you know why!