The barong Tagalog, a sheer button-down shirt adorned with intricate hand-stitched embroidery, has long been a symbol of Filipino identity. For first-generation Filipino American immigrants, it represents stories of their homeland, traditions, and a connection to their roots. The garment’s significance is further underscored by its association with Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, who popularized the barong as the country’s official formal wear.
However, the barong’s journey has been marked by both highs and lows. While it once symbolized national pride, its association with President Ferdinand Marcos led to a decline in its popularity. But in recent years, as Filipino influence has grown in global fashion, music, and pop culture, the barong has made a striking comeback.
Fashion editor Rap Sarmiento describes the barong as “inherently glamorous,” noting its appeal to second-generation Filipino Americans. Its origins trace back to pre-colonial Philippines, with the sheer fabric either being a practical choice for the country’s tropical climate or a result of Spanish colonization, ensuring Filipinos couldn’t conceal weapons.
The barong’s modern resurgence is evident in its adoption by brands and celebrities. Vinta Gallery, specializing in Filipino clothing, offers barongs that blend traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designs. Jian DeLeon collaborated with Bode to create a shirt inspired by the barong, while music executive Marisa Pizarro highlighted its increasing presence in creative industries.
Filipino-American celebrities and influencers have embraced the barong, showcasing its versatility in various settings. NBA players Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney, though not of Filipino descent, wore barongs during their Asia tour, highlighting its growing global appeal.
The barong’s revival among the younger generation, especially on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, signifies a blend of cultural pride and modern fashion. As entrepreneur Rembrandt Flores puts it, the barong has become a source of pride and sartorial creativity for many.