It all started in a white house in the coastal town of Bataan. I was a rambunctious child who enjoyed his early years catching ladybugs in the park, playing with my German shepherd, Missy, and swimming in nearby beaches—I love the sea very much and there’s plenty of seawater to go around back where I’m from. It was a memorable childhood filled with plenty of summer trips and happy memories. My grandfather, who I affectionately call ‘Papa,’ was the first to spark in me a love of horses as early as age four. Most weekends were spent in his ranch riding ponies under mango trees. At around eight years old, I would be racing with the caretakers of the land. Papa would often ask me to help untie his soiled and heavily-worn boots when we arrived at their house, my first encounters with a sturdy, long-lasting pair of shoes I would later inherit.
My mother loved dressing up her entire life, but it wasn’t always the case with me. Like most mothers, she took charge of my wardrobe. I detested the Lacoste polos she made me wear because I found the embroidered crocodile too itchy. Plaid button downs from Rustan’s kids department tucked into belted chinos? Hated it. Getting dressed was a challenge but I wore the clothes anyway since it made my mother happy that I looked “decent, with a collar on.” I would then untuck these shirts minutes into the socials she would bring me along to, much to her displeasure.
I’ve always been nostalgic about the days of old. I would spend hours looking at photographs of my elders in their youth tucked into hardbound photo albums. Portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley hang in my grandparents’ house, and being the curious cat I was, I would frequently ask about them and other Hollywood legends. It also didn’t help that Papa would often drive me to school in his ’96 Land Cruiser telling me stories from back in the day as we listened to Frank Sinatra.
Uniforms were mandatory throughout my entire academic life. I transferred to an all-boys institution in Metro Manila for high school and with adolescence came my gradual interest in clothing. Our high school uniform was a blank canvas begging to be painted: white polo barong, black trousers, and black leather shoes. The year was 2006 and the hallways were decked in graphic hoodies from People Are People, keeping the kids warm in our air-conditioned classrooms. I wasn’t fond of these hoodies that everyone was wearing, and it was only this purple sweater I wore over the uniform that provided me some sense of identity, the nickname “Barney,” and not many friends.
On special days when we were allotted the “smart casual” dress code, black polo shirts buttoned to the top, skinny jeans, and checkerboard Vans/Nike Air Force sneakers were the norm. My way of dress on these days was met with even more hostility. Pastel Oxford shirts made me look like a teacher, my khakis were too baggy (they were slim cut!), and the Sperry Topsiders I loved so much were grandpa shoes. It even came to a point when one of my batch mates told me, “Your clothes are disturbing. Can’t you just wear something normal?”
“What is preppy?” I asked a classmate who called me that.
He couldn’t describe it, and so I Googled and liked what I saw. There was a relatability to it I couldn’t point my finger on. Fast forward to 2008 and I’d be skimming through Tommy Ton’s Pitti Uomo photos in computer class, and browsing collections of the now-defunct Rugby Ralph Lauren on the daily. It was also at this time when I discovered Tumblr, when #menswear was at its peak. Pre-Instagram, my eyes were opened to this not-so secret society of well-dressed folks posting #wiwt’s in their Barbour waxed jackets and J. Press Shetlands. Blogs like Ivy Style by Christian Chensvold, A Continuous Lean by Michael Williams, Unabashedly Prep by Fred Castleberry, among several others, transported me to a world where I wasn’t alone. I could care less about the opinions of my peers at this point.
Through the years, my conviction for this style has grown. Looking back on how it’s evolved with me, my attachment to it must come from the fact that it’s always been there, and probably always will—this part of who I am, this sensibility that extends beyond mere garments. A preference for past traditions. Wearing a herringbone sport coat to dinner. A windswept approach to life and a loose reverence for the rules, reflected in Oxfords that are never ironed too perfectly, in sloppily cuffed pant hems. Vacations spent at some summer house in Fuego or surfing in La Union that would lead to a reliance on Madras, seersucker, and never enough stripes. Missy finding herself in my closet by way of dogs (followed by ducks, lobsters, etc.) embroidered on chinos. Endless horseback rides leading to a deep appreciation of the great Ralph Lauren and the equine nature of his work. Early exposure to Papa’s boots—alive up to now—that translated later into two of my favorite pairs: the Alden 9694F penny loafers and a pair of L.L. Bean duck boots that hopefully live just as long. And let us never forget those Lacoste polo shirts.
Mom did know best.
Photos courtesy of Anton Miranda
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