Pants aren’t comfortable attire in tropical humidity and blaring sun. During our travels through the Middle East and Asia, we’ve seen men wearing varieties of skirts and gowns. Malayalee men have perfected the mundu as their solution to heat. A mundu is a rectangular cotton cloth worn in a similar fashion as a sarong and is preferred attire all over the state of Kerala. In fact, Sandeep attended half our wedding in one. Mundus come in various assortments, all either solid or with a stripe border. Any further designs or prints demote a mundu to a lungi. A lungi is worn in a similar manner, but is usually made of lower quality cotton and, as per Sandeep “is like wearing your gym clothes or pajamas.”
Historically, men wore lungis most of the time, as they worked at home or in farms. Mundus were reserved for occasions such as religious observance and celebrations. Hence, after one wear, they were washed, pressed and ready for the next occasion. Today, with more of life occurring outside the home, men prefer cream mundus, which are better at hiding dirt and can be worn a few times. Just like jeans.
Even as much of the country trades in traditional clothes for ‘Western’ attire such as pants, jeans and dresses, conservative Kerala holds steadfast to its roots. It’s no wonder, the mundu serves so many glorious functions.
Most importantly, it’s cool. The light cotton provides a natural ventilation system, churning up cooler air from the ground with every step. If you desire an even cooler walk, feel free to lift up one or both ends of your Mundu to increase the breeze.
If you’re really hot, go ahead hike it up into a mini skirt.
A Mundu can even serve as a towel when there is none.
The free flowing fabric makes it easy to perform all sorts of tasks, from playing cricket to straddling a bike. So inspired was I by the mundu that I bought my first sarong. The only problem is that it won’t be acceptable in Kerala for me to hike it up. Women don’t show leg here, but it’s perfectly acceptable for men.
Inspired by the Mundu? They go for between $5 and $15 depending on the quality of the fabric and border design. Wear it as you would a towel, just be sure to pull it tight. Match the border with an appropriate shirt. The only other direction is that you may want to consider a religious allegiance before you proceed. Hindus and Christians wear the mundu left to right. Muslims wear to right to left, as the Koran is written left to right.