The deel is an item of Mongolian traditional clothing and remains an integral part of Mongolian culture. You can find plain and practical ‘working’ deels and then more ornate versions worn at ceremonial occasions such as Mongolian Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian Lunar New Year).
The deels worn by Mongolian herders are an all-purpose garment. They are usually a long overcoat often with long sleeves (Mongolian herders use the long sleeves to act as gloves to cover their hands when cold). As well as being warm and durable – working like a blanket when required – they can be used to prevent the wind, cold, and rain from penetrating and are of great use as padding when riding on traditional wooden saddles.
Deels are also worn by the urban population with local designers integrating generation-old techniques, materials, & designs into modern creations. The deel is also making a comeback among the younger urban generation who see it as a symbol of national pride and urban chic.
But … a few years ago – prior to when we had a dedicated arrival and departure transfer driver – I was spending a lot of time at the Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar waiting for our guests to arrive. Obviously, most tourism companies send a representative to the airport to meet their guests and I spent a lot of time looking at the uniforms the representatives were wearing. Branded polo shirts were the most popular choice followed by branded fleece jackets and then branded padded waistcoats. It is understandable why the ubiquitous polo shirt was so popular. They are easy to display a corporate logo on which helps to brand and differentiate a business as well as create a professional business image. But … although Mongolian people wear them, they are not a traditional item of clothing of Mongolia. And that got me thinking …
When I mentioned it to our team one night over beers, everyone mentioned how great it would be to have a company jacket. So after some discussion, we opted for an adapted version of a khantaaz – a shorter traditional jacket. In many ways, the traditional Mongolian deel and khantaaz are unisex outfits and colours are not typically gendered. In the end, the only difference between the khantaaz for our (male) drivers is that they are larger with a front opening and those for our (female) trip assistants have a closer more modern fitting. For colour we discussed blue (representing Mongolia being known as ‘The Land Of The Eternal Blue Sky’ and orange (the predominant colour decorating the inside of a Mongolian ger) and in the end went for … pink (as you do).
We then went to the Naran Tuul (Black Market) in Ulaanbaatar and purchased material from a local stallholder. We then showed our design to a local tailor who made it better and produced each jacket on a made-to-measure basis. We love our jackets. One of the negative impacts of tourism is a loss of the cultural identity of place and community and although we realise that without a logo our jackets don’t advertise our small company they do foster team spirit and a sense of belonging. They also help to instill a sense of pride, responsibility, and cultural identity in our beloved team.
We’re proud of our hand-designed, hand made, made in Mongolia company jackets. Not a generic polo shirt or fleece jacket in sight!