Krama avaOne of the most symbolic and favorite Cambodian pieces of traditional clothes is the checkered scarf called “krama”. It is an amazing multifunctional and very handy item, so it’s no wonder krama became so popular among Cambodians. You can see it everywhere in the streets, on men, women, and children, wrapped around heads, necks, waists, used to carry goods and babies, etc. Although, a krama is not just a fashionable accessory, it’s a symbol of the Khmer kingdom and what differs the Khmer from their neighbors.

The majority of Cambodian population are the Khmer, so this culture is considered official in Cambodia. As you might know, Southeast Asian countries have a rather similar wardrobe and clothing traditions, because the climate and weather conditions are the same. Nevertheless, there are customs and items of clothes that differ the Khmer from all other neighboring cultures – Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and others. For example, a krama scarf that is a significant part of Cambodian traditional attire.

A krama is a checkered scarf worn with the Khmer folk costume. It’s usually made from cotton or silk, natural fabrics perfect for the hot and humid climates. Originally, a krama was always red & white, or rather mauve & white, but modern krama scarves can be made in any color, size, and even from unusual fabrics.

Probably the main purpose of a krama is to protect the head of the wearer from the hot sun and to wipe the sweat from one’s face. But Cambodians use it for many other things. For example, a krama is wrapped several times around the head to serve as padding when a person carries heavy baskets on top of the head. Or people make hammocks for babies from this scarf, carry goods in it like in a shoulder bag, wrap it around the legs like a sarong, use it as protection when scaling trees, and so on. There are multiple things you can do with a krama.

All in all, this Cambodian accessory is a useful tool in the local lifestyle. And also, it’s a symbolic item in the Khmer culture, a part of the local heritage. Krama scarves are popular in Cambodia even today, they became handy modern accessories rather than old-fashioned traditional pieces we see only in museums. This is a great example of a traditional item of clothing that evolved perfectly together with the society.

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