Philippines Boys Clothing: Chronological Trends

Figure 1.--Here we see the Western influence in the casual clothing worn by modern Filipino boys, including short-sleeved shirts, pants and shoes and flip-flops. Many boys wear flip-flops to make their feet comfortable and to avoid sweat.

Philippines clothing styles have varied substantially over time. A Filipina (this is the Tagalog spelling and there's no English one) reader tells us that clothing styles have been affected by the Spanish which ruled the islands for three centuries. Traditional clothing for boys was baro and for girls saya. America which seized the Philippines from Spain (1898) also influenced fashion. The Japanese which occupied the country (1942-45) during World war II had less influence. The Philippines became independent after the War (1948). Our Filipina reader writes, "Currently we wear what Americans wear. But I have to admit I believe that we are more modest than the Americans because we are more concious about how much skin we show, due to our religion. Also the climate is very warm and sometimes very rainy, we wear what suits the climate.

Pre-colonial Era ( -1521)

The Philippines had strong trading partners with other countries in Asia like China, Japan, India, Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Siam. As a trading center, pre-colonial Filipinos were influenced based on the sharing of knowledge from neighbor-countries.

Spanish Era (1521-1898)

The Spanish goverened the Philippines for three centuries. They thus had a major influence on Philippines culture and clothing. Traditional clothing was baro and saya. The baro is the top (blouse) and the bottom is the saya or skirt. The Spaniards made the native Filipinos who they called indios (Indians) to wear barongs untucked to distinguish them from the ruling class. An advantage for the Spanish was that when the natives wore baros, it could be easily determinefd whether the wearer was bearing a weapon or not. The baro evolved into the barong tagalog, commonly called just barong or even just baro. It became a formal shirt, but only since the 1940s an indepebdence, the national dress of the Philippines. In Spanish times, dress for the elite was much more formal. The barong is a lightweight shirt and worn untucked over an undershirt. It is similar to the Guayabera worn in the Spanish cultural areas of the caribbean, Central America and the northern Andes. There were some Filipinos, mostly villagers, who wore shirts that buttoned at the collar. They were called camisa de chino (Chinese shirts) which of course was adopted from Chinese clothing. The everyday clothing worn by Filipino boys into the early-20th century was very similar to compesino (peon) clothing of Latin America, again reflecting their common Hispanic heritage. We have very little chronological informtion about the Spanish colonial era. We are not sure just when compesino-style clothing became widespread, but believe it negan in the 19th century. We do nothink it could have been before the IndustriaL Revolution made possible the manufcture of low-cost cotton textiles. The one decade we know about is the 1890s. This is because of tghe Spanish-American War and the arrival of the Americans (1898-99). Suddenly with the arrival of the Americans we have a very substantial photographic record.

American Era (1898-1948)

When the American came, Filipinos including the boys were taught how to wear the right and proper attire. During that time, all boys and men were wearing white polo shirt, white coat and white pants symbolizing good grooming and cleanliness. The Japanese briefly occupied the Philippines during World War II (1941-45). As far as I know, thy had no influence on clothing.

Independence (1948- )

Most Filipino men and boys wear barongs with collar in attending formal occasions and coined a name Barong Tagalog. Because of the strong Western influence, they ear casual attire in attending the Sunday Mass and other casual occasions.


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Created: 11:15 PM 6/10/2007
Last updated: 11:15 PM 6/10/2007