The Guayabera - Cuba's Traditional Shirt

The Guayabera - Cuba's Traditional Shirt

by Nick Hendry

It is often the case that the love of Cuban Cigars will lead to the discovery and appreciation of more of Cuba’s traditions, creations and exports.  The Guayabera shirt is a fine example of something created on the island which has then grown in popularity first across Latin America, and then across the globe.  Ideal for when warm weather hits, no matter where in the world, the light fabric and relaxed fit will keep the wearer cool and stylish at all times.

Origins of the Guayabera, as with so many popular garments, are hotly contested, but the commonly accepted beginning of this fantastic shirt are a couple in the Cuban countryside, tirelessly working their farm in the 18th century.  Husband asked of the wife to create him a garment with extra pockets to store his belongings while he worked, a style which was soon adopted by other local workers and eventually soldiers.  Through the 19th century the shirt is well documented as worn by Cuban workers and landowners alike, with the 4 pockets running along the hem.  By the 20th century these pockets had moved to the front – 2 at the chest and 2 at the hem – and the shirt we see today had arrived.  Now it is seen as acceptable dress for both formal and relaxed occasions in Cuba, Mexico, throughout the Caribbean and into the southern states of the USA.

A towelling Guayabera, perfect for the beach

The Guayabera is a stylish and comfortable summer garment.

A true Guayabera will display certain design features that mark it as traditional.  Most obvious is the 4 large pockets to the front, usually decorated with eye-catching buttons.  Short sleeved versions will often wear a cuff, another opportunity to embellish with buttons, and two rows of pleats will run top-to-bottom down the chest, behind the pockets themselves.  The hem of the shirt is straight, and should always be worn outside the trousers.  Fabric used is lightweight and breathable – linen, cotton or a blend of both – to suit the hot, humid climate in the land of its creation.  White is probably the most popular choice, although a wearer can be as creative as they like with colours and patterns.

This famous shirt is as much a symbol of Cuba as a Cohiba cigar.  Since the first was stitched in the Cuban countryside over 300 years ago it has been interpreted, embellished and embraced by many different cultures and styles.  Here are a few of our favourites, all with ample pocket space for your favourite smokes.

White Linen Short-sleeved Guayabera from Drake's

Drake’s Short-sleeved Guayabera in White

This crisp white example, crafted in 100% linen in Drake’s Somerset HQ, is a beautiful example of an international edition of the garment that retains all the traditional charm.  Slim pleats, the classic 4-pocket layout and elegant mother of pearl buttons add luxury touches.

Linen Guayabera Shirt in light blue from Mango

Mango Long-sleeved Guayabera in Powder Blue

Another version made in pure linen, this shirt from Mango features all the traditional elements we look for, even down to the side vents for added comfort.  Rounded cuffs give a contemporary feel and the light touch of colour will add a brightness and depth to your outfit.

Rubinacci Indigo Safari Shirt in Linen

Rubinacci Violet Linen Safari Shirt

The Safari Shirt is a fine example of a garment which has drawn its influence from the Cuban Guayabera.  Lacking the pleats which differentiate the original from the influenced, this is nevertheless a fine addition to a summer wardrobe.  Rubinacci are known to be one of Italy’s finest tailoring houses, a family enterprise now spanning its third generation.  The colour is exquisite and the construction light, making it ideal for around town in the summer or travel at any time of the year.

Cohiba Atmosphere Guayabera in black

Cohiba Atmosphere Guayabera in Black

This fully Cuban offering bears the name of the Cohiba Atmosphere cigar lounges, known around the world for offering the utmost in luxury smoking venues.  It is cut to the traditional Cuban requirements and the fabric used is a 50/50 blend of cotton and linen, giving excellent breathability but with a little more structure for more formal occasions.  Made on the island in spirit and in practice, this is the ideal cigar shirt for aficionados everywhere.

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