Originally authored on January 13, 2019
The fashion history of the Barong Tagalog as the Philippine national wear for men had evolved for more than four centuries. Although it retained its essential look since it was first worn, various factors have influenced its style and purpose.
Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, ancient Filipinos possessed a distinct culture that distinguished them from other races. The Tagalogs of Luzon already wore a garment that was a forerunner of Barong Tagalog or Baro. In the historical account of Ma-I (pre-colonial name for the Philippines), the earliest known fact on the Baro was that Filipinos wore a sleeve-doublet of rough cotton cloth called kanga which reached slightly below the waist, was collarless, and had an opening in front. The doublet specified the badge of courage and social status of men. Red was for the chiefs and the bravest while black and white were for the ordinary citizens. The loins were covered with bahaque or G-String.
However, the attire of Tagalog men presumably those of the upper crust was made of fine linen or Indian muslin which barely reached the waist. It was a short, loose jacket called chamarreta without a collar and fitted with short sleeves.
On the other hand, men from the Visayan islands wore a moorish style robe (marlota) or jacket (baquero) made without a collar reaching down to the feet and embroidered in full colors.
IN THE 17TH CENTURY
When the Spaniards came and started its colonization, the fashion changed drastically as their culture influenced the succeeding centuries of Philippine history.
The Ilustrados brought in their dressy shirts with a high Elizabethan collar trimmed with lace and adorned with gem or a big button. This kind of attire required the use of slippers if not shoes. It was extended just above the knees and worn with a thin sash across the waist.