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MALO 101:

Overview of malo/

How to tie a malo

The malo (loincloth) was the main apparel for men in Hawai`i which was long strip of kapa 3-6 yards long that was girded around the loins with pola (flaps) down in from and back.  A variation of this was the pūʻali (warrior malo) which was girded around the waist with pole tucked in.  Fishermen on shore also used this pūʻali style so that their poles, lines, tackle or nets would not get entangled.  

While malo making was the general work of wāhine (women), kāne (men) did make very coarse kapa called uʻauʻa and wāliʻiliʻi, ribbed kapa like corduroy, for durability when fishing or farming.

The phrase, "E hume i ka malo," is synonymous with readiness as seen in these two phrases:

1.  E hume i ka malo, e hoʻokala i ka ihe. (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #299)
Gird the loincloth, sharpen the spear. (Pukuʻi, 1983, p. 37)
2.  E kū e hume a paʻa i ka malo.
Stand, gird, and make your malo firm. (Kalākaua, 1886, p. 20)


When the boy is ready to enter into the Hale Mua (institution of education for men), he will hume

his malo for the first time.


Hume           to gird the malo
Kuapo          the "belt" of the malo
Malo            men's loincloth
Pola             the flap of the malo
Pūʻali           warrior malo



(Time):
                                  Malo were put on before work which was in the morning.  In times of  battle, other coverings were layered over the pūʻali such as kāhei/kāʻai  

                                                    (fiber belts) or ʻahu moena (coarse mats).

Wahi (Place):                              The malo is gird in the privacy of the hale or hālau (house or school).

Kūlana (Position):                     When a boy dons his malo for entry into the Hale Mua, he enters into the world of men.  He leaves the world of women to learn his

                                                     profession and the ways of manhood.

Kuleana (Responsibility):          The poʻo or haiku hale is responsible for teaching the boy how to hume the malo.

Kiʻina Hana:         
(Instructions)

  1. Stand naked with legs slightly apart and one end of malo length tucked under chin and covering loins.  This will form the front pola and can be tucked into the kuapo.
  2. Keep in mind, the kuapo should be tied about 2 fingers below piko (belly button).  Front pola should be measured from kuapo to right above knees.
  3. Pull back of malo length up between ʻelemu (buttocks) making sure the genitals are covered and comfortably secured in place.  
  4. Twist fabric at top of ʻelemu to right.  Hold this twist in place with left hand.
  5. Wrap malo counter clockwise around right hip/waist to the front, under piko then to left hip/waist.  
  6. When you bring the malo back around above ʻelemu, twist-tuck (tie) the end flap over and under material coming up from buttock, and pull tight.
  7. Twist-tuck (tie) once more to tie a knot.
  8. With excess material, form back pola by squaring out material, lining even with front pola and tucking into kuapo.
  9. Square out front pola.
  10. Pola should be above knees; never below.


Video Instruction coming soon.