July 27, 2009 / 11:29 AM / 10 years ago

Traditional Indonesian headgear falls off fashion map

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia, 0uly (Reuters Life!) - At one time, most men in the Javanese cultural capital wore traditional batik headgear. Today, the distinctive “blangkon” is old hat in the city of Yogyakarta.

As Western fashion becomes increasingly popular in the ancient royal capital, the tightly wound cloth headgear is becoming a thing of the past and many from the younger generation are wearing modern hats such as baseball caps instead.

“I don’t feel comfortable wearing the blangkon, I don’t know, I think it doesn’t have a shade like a normal hat that protects me from sunshine and rain,” said Ignatius Kendal, who was browsing at a Yogyakarta kiosk selling hats.

In ancient times, the traditional Javanese headgear determined the status of a wearer in Yogyakarta. Different batik motifs separated Indonesian royalty from ordinary folk in a society where the palace played an important role in daily life.

Today, the unusual headgear — generally black and brown — is worn more on ceremonial occasions such as weddings, festivals or royal funerals.

“I only wear the blangkon for my job as a royal servant and on special ceremonies like weddings, I will wear it to complete my traditional costume,” said Hadi Utomo, a 59-year-old palace worker.

Despite waning demand, blangkon makers aren’t abandoning their craft.

Blangkon maker Slamet Rahardjo, 62, said he inherited the skill from his father, Notodihardjo, who was a well-known craftsman in his day.

“I am just continuing what my father did, so the business is my father’s legacy,” Rahardjo told Reuters Television at his home and workshop in Yogyakarta.

He employs five craftsmen who work five days a week, cranking out up to 12 blangkon a day with prices ranging from 75,000-250,000 rupiah ($7.4-24.7) a piece depending on the quality of the batik cloth used.

But for people on the streets of Yogyakarta, the blangkon just isn’t practical in the tropical sun and rain.

“Honestly I am not comfortable with it,” said Harry, a student in Yogyakarta. “And I don’t really like it.”

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