When it comes to style and fashion, I’m a late bloomer. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever really bloomed at all. I was always the jeans, sneakers and shirt kind of guy. As long as my clothes don’t stink, and there aren’t any visible stains or holes, they were good to go. The only time I really began caring about what I wore or how I looked was when I lost a considerable amount of weight. You see, I belong to a very strange but common body type: chunky/stocky/big boned- or any variety thereof. Neither fat, nor thin, can pass off as athletic, but will never fit into skinny jeans (which I think should be phased out immediately). It was a brand new consciousness for me to be wearing tailor-fit dress shirts, straight-cut jeans, and leather shoes that had a point too prominent for comfort.
I was being styled for a campaign and the producer took me on a shopping spree for an entirely new wardrobe and look. We walked into a shop called “Tyler” and I remember asking the in-house stylist (who is now stylist to the stars) if the shoes he was making me wear were really for men. He laughed and told me that those were “in-style” for Men’s wear. I shrugged and shoved my Nike-only caveman feet into the tender european leather. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt good. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a prepubescent teenager anymore. The dress shirt was snug but flexible, the denim pants elongated me and weren’t tattered and torn, and yes, the pointy leather shoes made me feel more distinguished. I suddenly graduated from looking like Eddie Vedder to James Bond. Ok, at least I felt like I did.
From then on, well fitting clothes meant more than looking good, it meant feeling good. I now understand the importance of having a relationship with your tailor, just the way you would with your barber and well, your butcher. Your tailor knows you, knows when you’ve put on weight, knows when you’ve lost it. He also knows if you’ve gained muscle, or fat. There’s a difference and it affects the suit. But your tailor won’t judge, he will work around your limitations and in my case, my big ass. Your tailor’s objective is to make you feel good and look good with no judgements. Plus, it also helps that he’s aware about some of the most important milestones in your life.
Let me introduce you to my Tailor. She has suited up some of the most dapper and handsome men in the country. I will include myself in that list since this is my blog. But kidding aside, she knows what looks good on a Man, and will stop at nothing to make him look his best. I like talking to her and constantly learning from her and her taste on Men’s wear. She prioritises aesthetics over trend; not that they are mutually exclusive, but sometimes, following a trend can be detrimental if not limiting. She collaborates and she researches. Not too shabby for a tailor.
JPV: First of all, why Men’s wear?
MLCK: Aside from the fact that I am a fan of menswear myself, years ago before all these foreign retail brands got here, there was a lack of menswear selections. Our local retail shops didn’t have much clothing items for men back then. Men would either get local designers to make their clothes or shop abroad. I also noticed that there were very few Men’s Wear designers and the price would be too steep for someone who wanted something comfortable and casual.
I wanted men to have more choices and access to basic clothing that fit them right and that felt good. My goal was to be part of each man’s wardrobe- to give them the best so they can look their best.
JPV: Apart from jeans, a shirt and a reliable pair of sneakers, what else do we men need anyway?
MLCK: A well fitting suit. I’ve asked some men, some in their mid 20s to their early 40s, only to discover that the only suit they have was from their prom or their wedding! I was shocked. I was thinking… WHY? I know that we are not a suit wearing country but why not own at least one decent formal suit? Most of these men would need to attend a formal event or someone’s wedding right? I wondered. I’ve gotten answers as to how they feel it’s impractical to have one because they rarely use it or that they find it too expensive to buy or have one made.
A suit also needs a tie or bow tie plus a pair of formal dress shoes. These all go together, so men should have these as part of their wardrobe. Staples don’t have to mean something you wear often but it should always be there in each man’s closet.
JPV: You’ve dealt with a lot of different “case studies”, what can you say are the most problematic areas in a Filipino Man’s closet?
MLCK: Most common would be that they tend to wear whatever is on top of their pile. So they wear the same clothes over and over again. The tendency with that is they forget that they have clothes with tags still attached and left unused. Another would be shirts that are not ironed or are already too old but they seem to be comfortable in them (even with some holes which I guess makes it “airy” or gives them some sort of ventilation). It’s comfortable so they still keep it. Sometimes they even keep a stash of old clothing items because of their sentimental value.
JPV: It is easy to equate style, class and fashion with being rich, how expensive is it to look good? What’s the price we have to pay?
MLCK: “Fashion can be bought. Style, one must possess.” – Edna Woolman Chase
Fashion is something that you buy while style is when you put it together. Price does not really matter in looking good. You can buy the most basic shirts in very reasonable or affordable prices, then mix and match with whatever you already have, expensive or not. You can wear designer labels from head to toe, but it still won’t look good. So it’s not really about the price tags; it’s how you put things together in a manner that is pleasing to the eye and that makes you feel good.
JPV: How important are the basics? and what are they?
MLCK: The basics are your foundation of a wardrobe capsule.
Here are my top staples:
1. The WHITE shirt
2. Plain White/black/grey crew neck and/or v-neck shirts
3. dark blue jeans
5. dark colored 2 button suit (black/charcoal/midnight or navy blue)
6. Black and brown belts
7. Colored socks
8. Brown brogues
All of these things on my list can already be mixed and matched with each other and create both casual and formal looks. The key is to make sure that these pieces fit you well and that it is of the best quality that you can afford. My tip is to always invest in the basics because these are the ones you get to keep no matter how much the trends change.
JPV: There’s a rise in bespoke culture again. Barbershops, bakeshops, coffee shops, why do think people are interested in the “handmade” process again?
MLCK: I think more and more people are going back to a “rebirth” stage. In a world of high technology and fast-paced lifestyles, one would appreciate something that is real, raw and organic — something with the human touch. The basics of anything and everything that is made by the hand obviously makes it more personal.. It feels exclusive and important. You want something that is made for you or catered to your needs. We are not one and the same person. We have different tastes and styles, and the idea of handmade, DIY and something customized makes it more special and unique just like each one of us.
JPV: What can we expect from you and your articles here in Berto?
I would like to share my own choices when it comes to fashion/style. I may write about what inspires me or what may inspire you. You will probably read a lot of the basics which I’d like to remind everyone of. Sometimes you get caught up with the trends that you forget about yourself and what is basic and true to you. Although I may still tackle a few trends here and there, it doesn’t hurt to try and explore it. We can do experiments together and discover ourselves more and eventually learn how to make the right choices.
I may also write about sources — where you can find clothes, shoes and other accessories whether it be classic,trendy or vintage. I can also make my own reviews of anything to do with fashion, design and style. I may also feature some of my personal fashion icon choices both local and international and maybe sometimes even fictional.
I will write about anything and everything based on how I see it. I’m not one to follow rules so don’t expect that what you know about fashion will be confirmed through what I write. Or that I will be teaching you what you should wear or not. My articles will be always drawn from inspiration and experience. It will not be full of fashion terms and history. It will be about discovery and learning whether it be something tangible or not.
Treat me and my articles like your girl best friend / styling coach. I’ll share what I know and I’ll be honest. Just like a true best friend.
Suffice to say, we at Berto in Brogues are glad to have you on board. Behind every great Man, is an even better Woman.
Feature Photo image: Leo Castillo
Gallery Images from MLCK Facebook Page