For most men, the go-to of formal wear usually meant taking the safe choice of the suit jacket and tie combo that everyone is very familiar with. The colors are just as predictable: gray, blue, or the ever-so-expected black. Black stands out since it goes well for all occasions: from business meetings, to weddings, opera nights, funerals, inaugurations, and more. But what if you wanted to try something different? Enter the Filipino favorite: striking, exotic, and cultured, this is the Barong Tagalog. And before you ask anything else, yes, it comes in black.
It Was Not Always a Choice
The black Barong Tagalog is not something that most Filipino’s grandfathers would be familiar with. Indeed, the color variation is something that came about with the passing of time and evolution of tradition. Along with the introduction of the polo Barong, innovations to colors, fabric choices, and cuts help keep this traditional garment still relevant and useful in the current day.
For those wondering, while the Barong has a very long and rich history, it truly gained recognition among the Filipinos in the 1950’s thanks to its usage by then-President Ramon Magsaysay. While other previous presidents had also worn the Barong, most would prefer to use suits and they would be seen in such during most public events, but for President Magsaysay, he made the Barong famous. He does wear suits, but for most official functions, his go-to attire was the Barong.
But even during that time, the Barong was either white or beige. Over the years that passed, different colors were used to dye the traditional fabrics and allowed for amazing color variations. Most notable of all, of course, was the Barongs that came in black.
Tradition meets Style
There’s no doubting the regal elegance of a Barong Tagalog. The fabric’s semi-sheer attributes gives it that soft delicate touch, while the cut and overall silhouette provides the solidity and stature that any self-respecting man should have. It is a wonderful balance of contrasting elements that is unique to this traditional east-asian attire. The eye-catching Barong Tagalog is often seen in its more familiar colors of white and off-white (leaning towards a slight tinge of dark beige), sometimes, the colors are a little more loud and vibrant, taking on the palettes of reds, blues, greens and more. But today, our spotlight shines on a shade that only some Barong users have been acquainted with: black.
Every Shade of the Night Sky
Black is a timeless color to wear, it goes well with almost any occasion, any shape and skin tone of the user, and best of all, with a large variety of styles. It manages to be very modern and chic and yet classic, it is edgy but also respectable, when people say that black is a versatile color, they really mean it. The good news for Barong Tagalog lovers is that this is a color option available to them.
Now, given that the Barong’s real color is often a slightly transparent hue that goes over the wearer’s camisa, the black that you see will not just be a single shade. At first glance, a Barong on the shelf may seem like a normal black, but when faced towards the light, one can see that depending on the fabric and how it was painted, you can have anywhere from dark gray to absolute pitch black (some Barongs are made to not have any transparency at all as well, creating a flat color if that’s the look you are going for).
It goes without saying that if you are going for a black Barong, then the camisa (that’s the traditional undershirt for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology), will also need to be black. White camisas are rarely a good combo for a black Barong (it does go nicely for ash gray variations, but we’ll be focusing on truly black Barongs for the purpose of this discussion).
Evenings and Black Formalwear
An evening formal is basically any event that requires attendees to suit up and is set at around six or seven in the evening. Depending on where you are in the world, this is right around sundown or more than an hour after. Expect the party to be lit up with artificial lights -which tend to be direct and will cast strong and defined shadows. The lighting makes the choice of darker colored wear a great match (as opposed to the way normal sunlight tends to slightly wash out colors and details).
Speaking of lighting, wearing black looks splendid when posing for photos. The Barong has a similar frame to the more common suit, but it brings its own features (like the embroidery) into play when seen up close. For those of you accompanying a date, the color and fabric combination complements dresses with a softer contrast, something that ladies would certainly appreciate. On a minor note, thanks to the various designs of embroideries on the Barong, you can actually be able to differentiate them. In contrast, suits tend to look uniform.
Thanks to the Barong’s history as traditional formalwear and cultural value, it manages to outmaneuver the suit and tux for the seat of all-around formalwear: it can go places these two cannot. Take an honest to goodness black-tie event, this usually translates into needing to rent a tux. On the other hand, a black Barong fits right in with no problem.
While the tux is considered the modern adaptation of the tailcoat (or at least, what you wear into events that used to require tailcoats), the Barong makes it a no-brainer. On the other hand, you cannot bring a tux into a formal-but-modern event, say a gallery night for a video game artist –the Barong is still a good pick. It stands out enough to trendy, but still cultured enough to be finery.