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Cambodian Khmer Garments – The History of the Krama Scarf

Traditional Khmer scarves rolled in the box

Are you a fan of multi-functional clothing? Of course, you are. So are we – and our absolute favorite, we discovered across our Rainforest Cruises travels, is the beautiful Krama scarf of Cambodia. These uniquely applied garments have old stories with modern applications, making them not only beautiful but significant too.

How Do Cambodian People Utilize These Unique Garments?

From carrying babies to weaponry, this item of clothing is likely to possess the most purpose of any accessory you will come across. Traditionally put to use as a scarf, as protection from the sun, or a bandana to cover the face, the scarf has become an integral part of Cambodian life. Being applied to Bokator fighters during spars, wrapped around their waists, heads, and fists; contrastingly swaddled around babies to hold them close to their mothers, or even spotted as a handyman’s quick fix to bicycle damage, you are guaranteed to spot these traditional clothes all over Cambodia. If you find yourself around more residential areas you can even catch adorable children using the Krama rolled into a ball, like a homemade version of a dodgeball.

Originally worn by Khmer women to reflect status, you will find the materials used generally follow the same patterns with varied color schemes. Manufacturing villages are the birthplace of the Khmer scarves – it is not uncommon for a whole family of Cambodian natives to be living and working on these items. Consisting of mainly 5-10 people, each person takes on a different role in the production. There is even documented evidence of spindle worms from 500 BC, which are believed to have been used for the production of Khmer scarves! Now that is what we call vintage headwear.

Man carrying bamboo pole with vessels, wearing Kroma

Kramas have many uses

Who Exactly Wears and Styles Them?

A strong part of the Cambodian legacy, these scarves are worn by everyone. That’s right! A completely unisex garment that is sported by women, men, and even children. Traditionally, they are created from a checkered red and white, or blue and white material. However, some people will use a Krama to show sorrow, sporting choices made in black. Alternatively, designs are fabricated using bright silks, which are worn during pagoda festivals. A fashionable statement of dress wear since the first-century reign of Preah Bath Hun Tean, the Krama is stunning; a national symbol of Cambodia, distinguishing it from its nearby countries Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. It proudly symbolizes how far the Khmer people have come past their previous challenges lasting centuries. Interestingly, it has been re-discovered by younger generations as cultural outerwear, to maintain the values, spirit, and legacy of the people as the country rebuilds its society.

Take Your Chance to Explore Cambodia

Here at Rainforest Cruises, we offer a range of cruises through the Mekong River, with opportunities to explore Vietnam and Cambodia. You will even be approached with the opportunity to purchase a scarf, a great souvenir or gift to others.

Our experts sales team can happily help you organize every detail of your trip. Please contact our team to see what we can offer you; send us an inquiry or call 1-888-215-3555.


While Rainforest Cruises aim to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information herein or found by following any link on this site. Rainforest Cruises cannot and will not accept responsibility for any omissions or inaccuracies, or for any consequences arising therefrom, including any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the display or use of this information.

This entry was posted April 18, 2019
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