Wearing the Udeng

Heads up with the Balinese traditional headband

The beauty of exploring other cultures is the chance to see its attire. Most westerners would probably be smitten with the sarongs, the kebayas, and the various motifs that are spread across it with batik being the most popular one.

Headbands are also part of the look here, and the Balinese has got its own called udeng. Those who lived here might already be familiar with this cultural headband, seen worn by men of all ages on their way to temples, ceremonies or other special occasions. There’s no division in size nor motifs—everyone can wear it, from royalty to children, in any color or motif they prefer, though for praying purposes, white is the go-to hue. So what’s the story behind the udeng? Well, certainly it’s not meant to keep the hair in places!

Half-a-meter in length, there is actually a design philosophy behind the headband: the shape is asymmetrical, with the right side tilt a bit higher to reinforce the significance of being upright. Though udeng can be found in many shops across the island, but for the real deal, Sidemen village in Karangasem has been known to be the main producer of the headband.

Last year, udeng gained a somewhat comical spotlight when some motorcyclist would wear the headband on top of their helmets. An actual government decree does indeed exempt people wearing udeng from getting into trouble with traffic police. Whatever the reason, we should applaud the riders’ principle in staying true to their traditional garments and putting safety first!

Bali Pocket Magazine