Pinoy Style: Sando Nation: Are we flaunting inferiority?

By Lalaine Chu-Benitez


When you think about Filipinos and fashion – and I mean, mere mortals like us who do not inhabit the style firmament of the Michaels, the Furnes and the Ezras of this world, you are presented with extremes.  On one hand we have the t-shirt and jeans, flip-flop wearing Pinoys who walk around like the world is their little Boracay.  Then you’ve got the fashionistas who live for Fashion Forward, so that they can prance and show-off their fierce statements, svelte silhouettes and sometimes gasp-inducing stylings.

Even our own folks say that we are a “t-shirt nation,” a people who lack fashion sense.  And yet, some of our most talented occupy the highest echelons of creativity and daring when it comes to designing style.

Is fashion really relevant?  How important is it for the ordinary Filipino?  Is it a useless and frivolous exercise?  Or is fashion the hallowed domain of the snobbish air-kissing and pouting few?

Let me frame this question with an incident from the past.  A few years ago, while presenting Illustrado Magazine to an agency in Dubai, the director suddenly remarked – “But aren’t Filipinos laborers?”

Pinoy Style: Sando Nation: Are we flaunting inferiority?


Excuse my thin skin, but I was miffed.  Here we were, impeccably dressed in sharp suits, eloquent in our line of expertise, and we were being asked if we are laborers.  One wonders how the happy-go-lucky-t-shirt-and-jeans-wearing-flip-flop-swinging Pinoy would be treated here.

Then, again, perhaps these outsiders are not to blame.  Because, really, by and large, we as a community are not exactly exuding an air of success out there in the streets – where perceptions are formed and our value, summed up.

Case in point, if I had to count the number of Pinoys who applied here for a job wearing what they would wear to the supermarket, add to that the number of Pinoys walking in certain parts of the city (especially on a Friday) like they just got out of bed (in pajamas, sandos, and pak-na-pak shorts), I would be totally overwhelmed.  Our Consulate General and Embassy have to carry notices that visitors should be appropriately dressed – something we don’t see in other diplomatic offices.  Why is that so?  Sadly, the immaculately and appropriately dressed Pinoy is more of an exception than the norm.

What is an outsider supposed to conclude when they see most of us shabby?  And when sometimes, even the real honest-to-goodness laborers are more decently dressed in slacks and collared shirts during their days off?


Whether we like it or not, the ugly truth is that – hindi ka babayaran ng mahal, kung mukha kang mumurahin.

There is one important thing to be learned about fashion that goes beyond just being trendy and acquiring brands, and that is – that style is an important part of how you package yourself.   It is intrinsic to your personal brand.

You might think that you are smart, that you have substance and that there are more important things in life than what you wear; or you might be one of those arrogant types who couldn’t care less due to over confidence. But remember this – in the harsh glare of reality, especially under the glitzy lights of Dubai, your weight as a person is summed up in a cursory glance. An in advancing in life, unless you’re the complete package and look convincing enough for the ambition you hold, I’m sorry dahling, but that glass ceiling and that negative Filipino stereotype will always be there.

So come on now, it’s time to shed that inferior image.  Retire those scruffy t-shirts, those sandos and flip-flops.  Burn those pak-na-pak shorts.  Get rid of that fresh-off-the-barrio look for something more dignified.

Dress for success, they say.  More importantly, I say, dress for how you value yourself.



Editor-in-Chief “almost superwoman” Lalaine has been driving Illustrado’s mission to uplift Filipinos in the region for almost a decade now.  A former corporate dynamo living in Dubai for over 20 years, her natural knack for marketing and mass communications makes her a formidable authority in any dialogue regarding the re-branding of the Filipino image on a global scale.




Recommended articles:

Power to the Pinoy: Goodbye, Mam-Ser.

Power Pinoy: You’re Not Special. Get With The Program.

Power to the Pinoy: Dahling, I’m not fat. You’re just obsessed.


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