Made to Order
Penang Island’s Sole Songkok Maker
Lebuh King, George Town.
The tiny songkok-shop he runs is not something to boast about but the fact that Haja Mohideen OSM Mohd Shariff is the sole songkok-maker on Penang island, is.
Inheriting the shop and (of course, the skill) from his late father, Haja Mohideen started out by helping his father at the shop after school. From sewing the base of the songkok (a traditional Malay headgear), a simple task reserved for novices, he soon progressed to become a songkok “professional”.
Despite having the paper qualifications to secure a more stable job, the young apprentice decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. After all, he was the son of the man who practically founded the songkok-making business in the 1930s!
Haja Mohideen makes the songkok himself – from cutting the velvet cloth to sewing the base and putting all the materials together, he does it all. This, of course, means that he sometimes has to stay up past midnight to get the orders ready especially during the Hari Raya season and Maulidur Rasul celebration. After all, no outfit is complete without the traditional songkok!
Besides the usual songkok, he also sells the custom-made tarbus (higher and more rounded compared with the ubiquitous songkok) at his shop. Such orders are usually received from cultural performers.
Whether you want your songkok higher or wider, he makes sure the fit and design is just right. Although orders for his hand-made songkok have dwindled with the times, Haja Mohideen continues to champion this fading art.
Because it is his pride and passion, the 61-year-old works almost non-stop, producing an average of five songkoks a day. His shop is usually open from 11am to midnight. In fact, the only time you will find him away from his “songkok studio” is during Friday prayer time!