First-time visitors to Fiji may be a little surprised at first to see men in skirts, but not for long. Before they even leave the airport, they will notice a number of men wearing sulus.
What is a sulu?
A sulu is the Fijian wrap-around skirt, worn by both women and men. At home and in villages, the sulu may be a simple rectangle of colourful bula printed cotton, tied around the waist. For many workplaces and for church, men's sulus are tailored, with pockets and hook or button fasteners. These are popularly known as pocket sulus. The top level of formality may expect a man to team his sulu with a long-sleeved business shirt, tie and sometimes a jacket, as in this official public service photo. Sulus just don't look good with shoes and socks, and so are always worn with sandals.
The pocket sulu comes with status attached. A primary school boy wears grey shorts to school. But when he goes on to high school, he proudly dons his uniform pocket sulu in his school colour, which could be blue, brown, green, red, grey or white (yes, white for teenage boys!). Girls' uniforms are dresses or skirts with shirts.
Fiji Police dress uniform sulu
So, it should be no surprise that the uniforms of both military and police officers include formal sulus. For daily work, the Fiji Police look smart in blue shirts, navy shorts or long trousers, navy berets, shoes and socks. But look at them on parade!
As you can see in this picture, the Fiji Police sulu is extra-special, the lower edge being cut in a saw-tooth pattern. These sulus must be fiendish to launder! Traffic police also wear this uniform on point duty, perhaps for better visibility. In my second Fiji Islands Mystery, Inspector Joe Horseman is quite put out when his visitor sees the traffic police as a bit of street theatre to entertain tourists. Horseman, like all Fiji police, loves his uniform, although he only wears it on special occasions as he's in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
I'll leave you with this link to the Fiji Police Band performing Isa Lei, the popular farewell song. I hope you take a minute to listen - you'll be glad you did.
Until next post,
Bernadette (B.M. Allsopp)