President Joko Widodo sang praises for the sarong at the Indonesian Sarong Festival in Jakarta on Sunday (03/03). (Antara Photo/Indrianto Eko Suwarso)

Jokowi Wants Indonesians to Wear Sarong at Least Once a Month

MARCH 05, 2019

Jakarta. Fancy wearing sarong going to the office this year?

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo thinks you should and now he wants Indonesians to wear the traditional unisex tubular skirt at least once a month.

Since 2010 the Indonesian government has already required staff in government offices to wear some form of batik, helping to make the ornately printed cloth cool again. 

Jokowi said the sarong is a significant element of Indonesian culture and that wearing it will be a sign of appreciation for sarong craftsmen. He hopes soon Indonesians will wear sarong on a specific date every month.

"This [sarong] is a cultural heritage that no other country has. Let's wear sarong on a specific date every month," Jokowi said at the 2019 Indonesian Sarong Festival on Sunday.

The festival was held at the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan, South Jakarta. The president was accompanied by his wife Iriana and a number of ministers from his cabinet. He was wearing a sarong from the Donggala region of Central Sulawesi along with his signature white long-sleeve shirt.

Almost all Indonesian ethnic groups have their own version of the sarong, decorated in colorful geometric or animal and plant patterns.

However, since the introduction of fast fashion, Indonesians rarely wear sarong as everyday wear.

Fancy sarong is reserved for traditional ceremonies or special occasions like wedding, while cheap sarongs are often worn as pajamas.  

The sarong is also the traditional attire of santri, students at Islamic boarding schools or pesantren.

Ma’ruf Amin, a kyai (senior santri) and Jokowi's running mate in April's presidential election, is rarely seen without his sarong.

The controversial Muslim cleric is famous for matching up his sarong with a blazer, a scarf and a peci, the traditional black velvet cap commonly worn by Muslim men.

On a visit to a pesantren in Bandung earlier this year, Ma’ruf promised to continue wearing the sarong if he becomes vice president.

Leading up to the presidential election, both Jokowi and Ma’ruf and their rivals Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno have been trying to woo Muslim voters, especially the santri, who make up a significant percentage of Muslim youths.

Jokowi’s administration has already implemented an entrepreneurial training program for santri in 16 pesantrens throughout Indonesia.

Not wanting to be outdone, Sandiaga last year stated that if he and Prabowo win the election, they will develop a program to support the creation of more santripreneurs, or santri enterpreneurs.

Shrugging off liberals and progressives, it is likely that both camps will continue to try to appeal to millennials and conservatives alike, who they believe will be more decisive in this election.

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