Despite eye-popping trends like the Black Panther-inspired baju koko traditional blouse and sleeveless baju Melayu tops, the Cekak Musang and the Teluk Belanga still stand out as the two most popular baju Melayu designs out there.

We speak to Bon Zainal Harun, image consultant and chief creative officer of bespoke luxury menswear brand Bon Fashion Legacy who shares his fool-proof tips on how best to wear this regal traditional men's garb as the Raya season fast approaches.

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Baju Melayu basics: Cekak Musang vs Teluk Belanga

Terengganu-born designer Bon Zainal is an admitted traditionalist when it comes to baju Melayu styles.

To him, the Cekak Musang design is a classic that needs little improvement, with its characteristic 5-button stand-up collar top tucked neatly under a kain sampin that goes around the waistline.   

Johoreans take pride in their Teluk Belanga style, its blouse sporting a hand-stitched tulang belut or ‘eel spine’ round neck collar with a slit in the middle connected by a single button. Unlike with the Cekak Musang design, the Teluk Belanga baju Melayu is worn with the kain sampin under the blouse and not over it.

See the colourful traditional outfits worn at Che Puan Nina Karina's Majlis Melenggang Perut.

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Fabric facts

As with any tailor-made suit, your baju Melayu top and trousers should be made of the same material, whether cotton, linen or satin.

Some can get away with breaking this unofficial rule by substituting the baju Melayu pants with a good pair of black trousers – this can still do elegantly for more casual events.      

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Missing buttons and other fashion faux pas

Harsh, but true: in some cases opting not to wear a baju Melayu is better than strutting about in an old, faded one that’s missing buttons or torn.

A complete and well-presented baju Melayu can make as much impact as a good three-piece suit. That said, certain style choices, while not wrong, aren’t exactly right – like wearing baju Melayu tops rife with brand logos, pairing old jeans with new baju Melayu tops and mismatched buttons.

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Striking a balance with colour

Families wearing similar-coloured traditional outfits is a beloved Hari Raya tradition – until the year the missus decides on a shocking green colour that’s dubious at best.

“To clients who want a custom-made baju Melayu to match the colour of their family members’ outfits, I always say, ‘ask your pocket - is it worth spending so much on a neon green or pink baju Melayu that you wouldn’t wear to any open house afterwards?” Bon says.

In most cases, the answer is no. An ideal compromise, Bon suggests, is to choose darker shades of the colours worn by family members.

When choosing colours for daytime events, Bon suggests medium to light colours, keeping the darker coloured outfits for evening occasions.

See Dato’ Jovian Mandagie's and Datin Nina Ismail Sabri's matching light purple traditional Malay outfits for their daughter’s Aqiqah ceremony.    

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Sleeve and pants length

What’s the ideal length of a baju Melayu’s shirt sleeve? When you stand up, it should fall between the middle of your palm – giving you just enough room to move around comfortably.

Try standing barefoot when having your pants measurements taken – the pants material should just about touch the ground, ensuring that your pants will fall nicely around a good pair of dress shoes without revealing your ankles.

It’s classic and still a good look to strive for in the era of ‘hipster’ baju Melayus with their slim cut pants and ‘no socks’ style.

 

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Make the cut

Similar to the baju Kurung blouse, a typical baju Melayu top sports a ‘pesak’ style – a loose fit that lets the wearer move his arms about comfortably.

Should you opt for a slim fit ‘shirt cut’ when having your baju Melayu made? Ultimately, it’s up to you – as long as your baju Melayu isn’t tight enough to constrict activities like bending or bowing down during prayers on Hari Raya morning.   

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Accessorise to the occasion

Many men consider the kain sampin an investment – spending anywhere between RM5,000 to RM150,000 for authentic handmade songket material (sewn with pure gold or silver thread).

Check out the traditional Baju Melayu and songket worn by Faliq Nasimuddin at his wedding. 

There are other ways to smarten up your baju Melayu for open houses and evening events – anything from elegant Swarovski crystal buttons and a well-fitting songkok to a pair of good socks and stylish black shoes.

To keep your feet comfortable in the morning, stick to the traditional ‘capal’ leather sandals so you can easily enter and leave the mosque for prayers.