Come to Myanmar and you’ll quickly notice an item of clothing that is worn by pretty much everybody, men and women alike, both old and young. Well it’s called a longyi and today we’re going to find out what exactly it is, and where it comes from.
What is a Longyi?
A longyi is a garment or piece of material that is worn by both men and women on their lower half, is around 2 metres in length and can often look a bit like a long skirt or sarong.
It is actually an incredibly practical item of clothing, allowing those who wear it to stay cool in Myanmar’s stifling heat, while also having other uses such as being used as a bag to carry items back from a day out working in the fields.
To the untrained eye, it might look like the same type of longyi is worn by both men and women, but in fact there are a few differences.
First off is the way they are tied, which we’ll go into a bit more detail later on, but there’s also different patterns as well. Men’s longyi’s usually have either cheques or striped patterns and come in a variety of different colours ranging from bright pink to a dark green which often reflect the wearer’s ethnicity.
In contrast a women’s longyi is almost always made with bright colours, and will often feature ornate patterns and designs that are unique to the wearer.
The modern longyi is actually a fairly recent addition to Burmese culture, having become popular during the British colonial rule. The word “longyi” was previously used as a way to refer to a sarong worn by a Malay man, but is now used to described Myanmar’s iconic garment. As you might be able to tell from this, the longyi was influenced from nearby Malaysia and also India.
Prior to the longyi becoming so popular in Myanmar, most men would wear a taungshay paso, which was much longer at 9 metres in length and unsewn, while the women wore a htamein The longyi was seen as more practical then both of these, and as a result became more popular.
How to Wear a Longyi
The men’s longyi comes sewn, forming a loop which you step into and bring up to your waste to get started with. From here you:
For first timers, you’ll almost certainly need someone to help show you how it’s done.
By contrast, a women’s longyi will come unsewn and is a lot easier to put on as a result:
Ensuring that the longyi is tied tightly is pretty crucial in stopping it falling down or becoming loose.
So there you have it, all the information you could possibly need on the Burmese longyi. You’ll be able to find a cheap longyi at almost any shop you pop into during your trip, but if you’re going to buy one, we’d highly recommend spending a little bit more, and getting a longyi that is of higher quality (we’re only talking an extra $5 here, and it’s definitely worth it).
If you’re in Myanmar any time soon, make sure to check out the longyi, and better yet, try one on for size.