It’s typical of modern menswear to find its greatest inspirations in the past. Despite the likes of Kanye West, Ryan Gosling, and Harry Styles, we still always reserve a spot on the pedestal for the style icons of yesteryear, like Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and John F. Kennedy. We’re drawn to the timelessness of their style—or at least, the idea of timelessness—and to the clothes they used to wear (which, you can be sure, were very different from the fast-fashion threads of today). We like to imagine it as a simpler time; a more stylish time for men.
And while it’s difficult to think of current local celebrities or personalities who we can look up to as style icons, we can certainly take inspiration from our own past. In our history, there have been many Filipino statesmen who cared to dress well, and whose style we can still take cues from. We’ve come across a few of them while browsing the Tumblr page of the previous administration’s Presidential Museum and Library:
Manuel L. Quezon matches a dark, wide-lapel suit jacket with light-colored trousers, and tops it off with a boutonnière. He did, however, neglect to unfasten the third lowest button on his jacket—which is not a mistake you’d want to make.
Looks like good old MLQ also pioneered the cozy boy look with that jacket.
Elpidio Quirino alights from a plane in a light-colored suit with a double-breasted jacket, plus a nice pattern tie and a hat to top it off. Meanwhile, you probably got out of your last flight in sweatpants. For shame.
Ramon Magsaysay flexing white dress shoes with dark soles under white trousers and a barong. A bold style move, no doubt.
Before today’s Cool Teensâ started walking out of Felipe & Sons with faded sides and the top slicked back, there was Arturo Tolentino.
Sergio Osmeña can school you on exactly how much shirt cuff should peek out of your jacket sleeve.
It’s a fairly simple hat, but Jose P. Laurel matched it perfectly with that peak lapel blazer.
The beret is an advanced style move that we would never hope to pull off ourselves, but someone needs to ID that coat on the bottom-most photo of Carlos P. Garcia.
You think all your artist friends are stylish in their beat-up white tees and tattered jeans? Let a real artist show ‘em how it’s done.
Round frames are making a comeback in 2017, but the Balagtasan boys were way ahead.
Printed camp collar shirts and big, widely-spaced patterns? Ramon Magsaysay beat you to it, man.
A vintage Fred Perry polo would be a highly covetable item today, but to Ninoy Aquino, it was just a clean, pinstriped shirt for an inauguration party.
A thoughtfully-disheveled pocket square and necktie are great ways to add a little sprezzatura to a strong, formal three-piece suit, demonstrated here by cover guy Manuel L. Quezon.
Before there were 21st-century trends like logo-overdosed streetwear and eccentric embroideries, Manuel L. Quezon was already testing the limits with what seems to be a Filipino-American friendship barong.
Few power-dressing moves are as strong as the dark pinstripe suit—and with peak lapels, you can basically rule the world (or in Manuel Roxas’ case, the Philippines). But look closely and you’ll see the real masterclass-level style move at work here: that shih tzu necktie.
We’re not sure if there are any more photos of Filipino statesmen that are as stylish as this one of Manuel L. Quezon being badgered by reporters. Everything about the outfit is perfect: a solid dark blazer paired with lighter pinstripe trousers; loafers with a pop of white, that polka dot tie, those sunglasses, the boater hat; and a pipe and a cane at the same time? This photo could almost just as easily be a Pitti Uomo street style shot.
Diosdado Macapagal walks out on the tarmac wearing a perfectly-tailored suit in a classic American fit. The tie-to-lapel proportions are ideal and surprisingly modern—not too wide, but not too skinny. If you’re looking for timeless, this is it.
If you ever forget the rules on buttoning a suit jacket, remember this photo of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a child. Sometimes fasten the top, always fasten the middle, and never fasten the bottom button.
We’re not sure which is more stylish: Jose P. Laurel’s perfectly-slim pleated trousers, or the fact that he’s getting into a car through suicide doors.
Even in his old age, Emilio Aguinaldo’s Clubmaster-style half-frame sunglasses are more stylish than whatever it is you wore to the beach last weekend.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.
*Minor edits have been made by the Fhm.com.ph editors.