It is the evening of the ABS-CBN Ball, and everyone will be asking who wore what, or who wore it better. Being a veteran of this media titan and its parties for more than three decades now, I know the celebrity power tonight is going to be off the charts: the heavens will be dark, and everything bright and starry will be on the Makati Shang red carpet. Mr. Eugenio Lopez Jr., the company’s Chairman Emeritus, Mr. Television himself said something along those lines when we had one of our first huge events after returning from the network’s dark years.
I imagine most of the men in the ballroom tonight will be walking around in dinner jackets (very British), which takes a bit of skill to carry, as well as a degree of pomp. It conjures something out of a Bond movie, where dressing well and being a badass just seems to go really well together. The tuxedo is what the Americans call it, God knows why.
First, find yourself the right tailor. Local tailors are very good, and offer good value. These are guys I have been to through the years, and they have earned their needles: Nap Arrienza, Lino Cudia, and more recently, Masanting Sasteria.
Arrienza of Tino worked with Giovanni Sanna, the head of Pierre Cardin Manila—and with Don Giovanni he saw the birth of the Pierre Cardin Barong. Don Giovanni was an Italian tailor through and through, and I had the pleasure of having my prom suit made by him. Dark grey, double breasted, and fitted armholes. Very Neapolitan. When Giovanni Sanna closed, Nap went on to work with Rustan’s. But he made his mark when Brioni opened in Manila. Nap is the only tailor in the country to have studied at Brioni. He also worked on one of Pierce Brosnan’s suits for a Bond role. Nap I think is the best local tailor. He has the skills and, like all good tailors, can read your body.
When Brioni closed, some of the tailors set up their own shops or worked in other stores. One of them is is Lino Cudia, quite junior to Nap, but also a good tailor. He works at the small boutique, Sarto. I have had many day suits done there, and Lino has always been spot on. The media crowd (well, at ABS-CBN) have a liking for Oscar Dangca, also ex-Brioni. He dresses Julius Babao who has become quite a fastidious dresser.
The new kid on the block is Masanting Sasteria, who experiments with fabric, taking a cue from Oswald Boateng and Paul Smith. Their print linings are outrageous and exclusive only to the shop.
Nap, Lino, Oscar and Masanting are great choices. It's really taking time to visit one or the other to see who you’re comfortable with. I work with all three and each one is unique to me. But Nap is still the best there is—except getting an appointment to see him is like getting a table at a Thomas Keller dining spot.
If you find yourself the right tailor, your relationship with him can be the same one you have with your barber, your mistress, or even your therapist. As you go along from suit to suit, as they get to know your every scar or bump or hidden disfigurement, you will find that you will entrust him with more and more of your secrets. But for starters, you can tell him where you carry your junk, and how like your cuffs (one looser than the other to allow the gargantuan watch to have a humblebrag moment).
Having a tux made is like filling out a housing loan form—the tailor has to know what you have in mind. So it will help if you have your ideas on a Pinterest board.
Keep it simple: go for basic black. When you get more adventurous and confident, play Blofeld in Bond and wear beige. I generally wear crème. My dad did. He said it’s a tropical country. Just keep away from the drunks in the room; your coat can go to ruins after a dribble of Chateaux Lynch Bage.
More tux-related tips: Keep away from the twinky bee-bop type tux—you know, like the suits they wear in those prenup videos. Remember we’re going for James Bond. Keep the shirt collar turned down. Wing collars are meant for white tie, and when you really tie a tie. Make sure you use cufflinks. It adds polish to your look. And use a nice white pocket square.
As to shoes, nice black oxfords are good, but the patent pump—with ribbons—are the real deal. They’re not extravagantly expensive but deliver the required flourish. When it comes to socks, it’s your choice. But yes, a pair is necessary.
So have I tuxed you out? Having a tux made is part of growing up. The tux is a power tool that, done and carried well, can easily transform a slob into an accomplished man—at least in the looks department. For a final word of advice: learn to tie your bow tie; it’s the only way you will have earned the right to pull it off at the end of night while you hold your scotch and cigarette. And keep it black. This isn’t your first communion.