How to style your barong

The national attire for men, just like the terno, is getting a makeover

Photo 2 - Gideon Hermosa.jpg
Gideon Hermosa

There’s a big dinner on June 12, Independence Day, and the dress code says “Creative Formal.” Although this phrase has been going around since 2015, it is still a bit of a conundrum every time it comes up on dinner invitations, especially to weddings.

The operative word is “formal,” which means jacket or, here in the Philippines, a barong Tagalog or long dresses for the women. To the purist, it is interchangeable with “Creative Black Tie,” which means tuxedo, but with allowances for flashes of whimsy, say, an orange bow tie, bright-colored shirt studs, or bright neon cufflinks.  But the purists are getting too old—and are finding it too tiresome—to keep checking whether or not the gentleman out there is keeping the bottom button of his single-breasted, three-button suit undone.

Photo 8 - Marco Lobregat.jpg
Marco Lobregat

On the homefront, the barongs, like the terno, are having a field day defying the rules, which kept them for a long time in the bottom of the baul or at the very back of the aparador, pulled out only for barrio fiestas, costume parties, or school activities like “Linggo ng Wika.” Now we are seeing it work on every occasion, and they’re looking more and more fun and fab—and stylish.

Kultura has of late expanded its collection of barong Tagalog and these modern-day gentlemen wear them in the style of the day, that is to say, anyway you like it, for any occasion, and everywhere. Here’s how you can play with your barong and imbue it with your own personality.

Photo 11 - Jiggie Alejandrino.jpg
Jiggie Alejandrino

Experiment with color. Not all barongs should be in classic off-white. It’s very modern to wear it in a not-so-common color, like gray, such as the gray silk cocoon barong embroidered with callado accents that Gideon Hermosa, who has been cited as one of the “100 Most Sought After Wedding Planners and Designers” in the world, put on for a modern take, putting to good use his flair for fashion and eye for intricate detail.

Wear it cool. For a contemporary spin on formal wear, Chris Koon, the new Ateneo Blue Eagles co-captain, suits up in a crewneck piña silk barong, whose silhouette, tunic-inspired, flatters his athletic build. The design of the barong, with geometrics embroidered on the pechera or the front, exudes Filipino elegance, but true to his athletic style, he pairs it with a cool pair of kicks!

Photo 5 - Jeffrey Crawford, Jr..jpg
Jeffrey Crawford, Jr.

Dress it down or style it up. The modern barong can be dressed down, even if it’s in a luxurious fabric like silk cocoon. Gamer, content creator, and devoted family man Jeffrey Crawford Jr. gives his barong with geometric embroidery and a mandarin collar an unconventional, if renegade spin, by tucking it in and rolling up its sleeves. A pearl bracelet rounds up the look, giving it an androgynous flair.

Wear it like a coat. Producer, entrepreneur, and media personality Marco Lobregat wears a barong that isn’t like most others. It’s a barong, it’s a coat, it’s both. It’s the new modern classic coat barong, with a fully lined organza tailored like a jacket. It offers a whole new world of options to don the national attire for men, an exquisite choice for contemporary formal wear with a distinctive, unmistakable Filipino touch.

Photo 13 - Isaac Go.jpg
Isaac go

Wear it casual. The barong shirt gives the barong Tagalog more reason to be and it’s now stylish to wear it for work, for leisure, and for casual occasions. Emil Nandres, who was raised in the family barong business, prefers the shirt jack, paired with casual pants and sneakers.

Wear it with jeans. Why not? Take your cue from portrait and wedding photographer Jiggie Alejandrino, who gives his black and white coat barong a lot of plus points by pairing it with his favorite, workaday denim pants. It’s bold and refreshing!

Photo 10 - Emil Nandres.jpg
Emil Nandres

Keep it simple. PBA player and basketball analyst Isaac Go keeps things low-key in this modern minimalist barong in snow organdy. With unfussy asymmetrical embroidery and a contemporary mandarin collar, it’s the perfect statement piece when he wants to look classy but not overly formal.

If there’s anything we can learn from these gentlemen, it’s this—Wear your barong, not the other way around. There’s a wide enough selection at Kultura to suit your personality and your personal style.