History of Guayabera
The story starts that a farmer's wife, she sewed on four patch pockets on to the front of his shirt so when he went out, he could easily pick up the local fruit.
The story gets twisted because the Cubans claiming that it's their invention, the Mexicans claiming it's their invention. There are even stories of it coming from Thailand or the Philippines. All of these stories seem to have Spain in common.
Where Did Guayabera Originate?
Not really sure. All I can tell you is that it's an incredibly functional and stylish shirt that every man should have in his wardrobe.
In this interview, I speak with Rafael Contreras Jr., a second generation guayabera maker who carries on the tradition taught to him by his father in Miami, Florida.
What is a Guayabera?
- Two or four patch pockets on the front of the shirt.
- Two vertical rows of pleats. They're actually called “tuxes” and I learned this whenever I spoke with the gentleman over at D'Accord.
- Embroidery. You'll see that on a lot of Guayaberas
- Straight hem and this means that the Guayabera is meant to be worn untucked. It's incredibly comfortable.
- The higher end Guayaberas are made from linen or cotton. You're going to see sometimes they're going to be made from other materials.
- They're often light colored.
How to wear a Guayabera
Guayabera started off as work wear. However, it's now common to find them at festive events.
It's a tourist favorite in Miami, Cuba, or Mexico. There are stories of Danny Glover coming down to Miami and immediately getting a Guayabera made so that he can wear it around.
They can be worn with jeans, but it's better to be paired with a lightweight pair of trousers made of cotton or linen.
Formality & the Guayabera
In the US, they're mostly worn casually. However, in other parts of the Americas, they are seen alongside suits.
A formal Guayabera is long-sleeved, plain white, or light colored, two pockets, low contrast, and tailored to fit.
How to Buy a Quality Guayabera
#1 Count the pleats. 12+ is high quality. Most people that manufacture Guayaberas, they're going to try to save money. If you count the pleats, those are properly called “tuxes” and they've got around 12. You can pretty much be rest assured that the rest of the Guayabera is going to be good quality.
#2 Length. Not all the Guayaberas you're going to see out there are going to have 12 tuxes. They should all at least be three to five inches past your trouser waist.
#3 Buttons. Look at the buttons. Are they good quality?
#4 Fit. A more tapered fit is usually going to signal better quality because it's going to be made to fit fewer men.
#5 Look at the material. Linen or cotton is best, although sometimes you'll need to go with the synthetic blend if you're in a hurry and you want to take one as a gift. I also know that if you're going to be indoors and you're not going to be sitting out in super hot weather wearing this, you can go with mixed linen, but I really like linen.
FYI – I wrote a detailed guayabera article based off this interview and other bits of research that is featured at the Art of Manliness.