When we say that kurtas are the most comfortable shirt, we mean it one hundred percent. Casual kurtas are loose fit and perfect for a night out with friends or a home movie night. Kurtas have existed for a very long time. Kurtas were worn by the poorest of the poor and by the kings of India. The kurta, much like the button down shirt, was an article of clothing that was versatile and fit for casual and formal occasions. Depending on the kind of kurta, the tail of the shirt can extend anywhere between the waist to the knees. Typically casual wear kurtas only extend to the thighs whereas the formal embroidered kurtas reach the knees or lower. Typically kurtas are worn with cotton “pyjama” pants so it is important for the pants to be visible when wearing a kurta. Kurtas also have sleeves which do not taper along the arm. Rather, the sleeve of the kurta is the same circumference from the shoulder to the wrist. This allows for a more comfortable experience when wearing the kurta. The kurta is still very popular today as it was hundreds of years ago. The kurta is worn by American South Asians for weddings, dinner parties, Eid day and for fashion when they go out with friends. The kurta is truly one of the most versatile shirts that exist and will go well with anyone’s wardrobe, no matter where they are from.
The Origin of The Kurta Shirt:
The Kurta itself originates from the time of the Persian empire. Even the etymology of the word is rooted in Persian vocabulary. However, the tunic was such a widely accepted form of clothing that its branches have stretched from Afghanistan to Malaysia and other civilizations around the world. The Afghan perahan closely resembles the Asian Kurta. Not only has the kurta influenced the garb of other cultures; other cultures have also played a part in shaping modern kurta fashion styles. One such example is the Mandarin collar which can be seen on many men’s tunics around South Asia and Malaysia. The Mandarin collar was inspired by Chinese cultural clothing which also resembles the formal kurta to some extent. This goes to show that all cultures have the potential to find common ground and collaborate on influencing society’s perception of fashion in a large scale. Muslim American plans to be the source for kurtas and cultural wear for all walks of life. Whether you are from Asia or not, you can still rock a stylish and ethnic fit. We would love to see you walk into your office on casual fridays rocking that sweet white tunic top in some rockin black jeans. Now that’s the American dream.
The Different Styles of Tunic Tops Around The World:
Indian and Pakistani Kurta
Although there are many versions of tunic tops, the kurta refers specifically to the Indian and Pakistani tunic top. Pakistani culture refer to these tunics as shalwar khameez. Even though the names are different, they are essentially the same garb and have little to no difference between their design or use. The kurta is also a common piece of ethnic wear in Nepal and Sri Lanka. The kurta is often very plain with little embroidery. However, some embroidered kurtas can have sequins, glass beads, ornate stitching and more to make it special for a specific occasion. Much like a dress shirt, the kurta can be worn to adapt to any occasion. The kurta also looks great on pretty much anyone wearing any kind of bottoms. Shorts, swim trunks, jeans, joggers, khakis, you name it; they all look great with a kurta. There are two main kinds of kurtas which are fairly straightforward.
These kurtas are simple, loose fitting and plainly colored with little to no embroidered additions. These traditional kurtas are meant to be everyday wear and are great for almost any event except your own marriage. The casual kurta is a staple in every South Asian man’s wardrobe. Kurtas are a great way to spice up your clothing rotation with a little ethnic flair. Most people won’t even know what you are wearing and talking about your kurta can be a great ice breaker. Not to mention, you’ll look cultured and educated in international fashion if you wear one.
The formal kurta, however, is meant for formal occasions such as weddings, holidays, family gatherings and anything that’s a special occasion. These kurtas are also very form fitting and are tailor fit to make you look spiffy in you kurta pyjama. The kurta pyjama are the bottoms that are typically worn with formal kurtas. The formal kurta look is not complete without the pyjama to complete your fit. Pyjamas are often baggy and have a drawstring to pull them around your waist tightly. If you don’t have some pyjamas around, joggers also work really well. Joggers add an air of modern fashion to your formal kurta as well. Joggers look especially good on tailored formal kurtas cause it looks like your whole outfit was made just for you. If your Indian or Pakistani friend invites you to his or her wedding, wear a formal kurta and they will appreciate it.
Malaysian Baju Melayu
The men’s Malaysian tunic top is called the baju melayu. Malaysian women wear the baju kurung. Baju melayu literally translates to “malay shirt”. This is simply because this is the common cultural garb for religious and special occasions in Malaysia. It is also worn by some Indonesians as well; although, the Indonesian variety looks very different even though they have similar names. The garb is adorned with pants made of the same cloth (similar to a formal kurta). Then the outfit is accessorized with a skirt like wrapping made of a cotton or polyester and a hat called the songkok. There are other versions of the garb such as the cekak musang or the teluk belanga which both have unique differences. The outfits of Malay culture are very colorful and intriguing. The influences of cultures that are needed to create such a garb are fascinating.
The Afghan perahan is a very similar to the pakistani shalwar kameez. The shalwar and perahan both extend very low and are worn with a scarf. The tunban is the bottom pants of the perahan and is loose fitting similar to the izaar or pyjama or South Asian cultural wear. The perahan is still very prevalent now as it was for the last few centuries. The outfit can be seen on almost every news coverage of the region or interview with the citizens. This outfit is also common in Iran and Iraq even though they are called by different names due to discrepancies in language. Modern versions of the perahan is also accompanied with a vest and kufi or turban. The perahan can be seen worn by dignitaries, religious scholars and the impoverished alike. The tunic top is definitely one of the most unifying garb in the world.
The Chinese changshan is a historical outfit adapted from the Qing dynasty which began some time in the 17th century. These formal tunic were considered the high class formal wear of society and were worn for every important occasion until the Western fashion of the suit and tie caught popularity during the 20th century. The tunic of the Manchu style mens clothing is still worn today for formal ethnic events such as weddings, chinese holidays and black changshan are worn for burials and funeral rites. The cheongsam is still worn by all classes of women in China to this day. The dress are beautifully embroidered and many modest versions exist for the Muslim women. However, there is a very deeply rooted history behind these garments and outfits and it is important to research the proper occasions to wear these before you buy one for your school dance or dinner party.
Another interesting tidbit is that the collar of changshan has influenced the collar of modern South Asian kurtas. The mandarin collar is a staple of today’s tunic top fashion around the world. The mandarin collar is more often found on formal kurtas because they look even more dignified just like the Chinese changshan. The stiff collar implies that the tunic is meant for formal occasions.
Where Should I Wear A Tunic Top?
Most tunic tops can be worn in any occasion, except for the changshan. The kurta, baju melayu, shalwar, perahan and other loose fitting tunic tops are great for any occasion. They are especially great at the beach or on sunny days where you need to cover yourself from the sun. They are also perfect for a night on the town with your friends and family. Men’s shalwar kameez and kurta pajamas are great for ethnic weddings and cultural occasions but the casual kurtas are meant for everyday wear at home or outside. The Baju melayu is common among Malaysian Americans and you can see them wear the outfit to the mosque or on fridays casually with some jeans or khakis. It looks great with the right combination of bottoms but be careful not confuse the baju for the kurta. They are both tunics but they are both unique.