Q And Answer: Can I Wear A Guayabera?

September 12, 2010

Q and Answer: Can I Wear a Guayabera?

Peter writes: All summer, I have been struggling to look presentable in extreme heat. For some reason (I assume the mixture of extremely lightweight fabric and venting) guayabera shirts keep me cool. When I think back to sepia-toned images of my youth; I can picture my more radical philosophical uncles sporting these shirts with lightweight chinos and occasionally a panama hat. They were Chicanos but not Cuban (as am I). However, when I look for guayabera shirts to buy; I can only seem to find polyester or blended fabric ones…only the rare vintage shop has anything that looks decently made. Worse than this is the people I see who are not old rotund Latin gentlemen wearing these shirts. Invariably they look like assholes far down the spectrum of Ed-Hardy-ism. This leads me to ask you find folks two questions:  is it possible to find a well-made guayabera shirt, and can you wear one without looking like a jerk?

Not all fashion classics have roots in England or Italy.  The guayabera is accepted garb for even formal occasions in much of the tropical world, and is particularly popular in Cuba, Mexico and the Philippines.  You’re right, though, that here in the states, they’re popular among the polyester bowling shirt and tattoo of an old-timey revolver crowd. That said, I don’t think that’s any reason not to wear them, especially in very hot weather.  They’re good-looking, practical and a genuine classic.  If you’re Latino (whether your heritage is Cuban or not), or Filipino, that helps, too.

You’re right, though, that it can be maddeningly difficult to find decent-quality guayaberas.  The third world long ago moved to polyester and polyester blends (they’re cheaper), and what premium market there is here in the States tends to be pitched towards the Tommy Bahama crowd.  We’d be looking for something short-sleeved (we won’t be wearing them to formal events), and in lightweight natural fabrics – preferably a cotton-linen blend, which won’t wrinkle as badly as linen alone, but wears lighter than just cotton.

I did find a few shirts in a cotton-linen blend from one eBay seller, but they look like they’ve got a very end-of-summer stock level, and further efforts have borne no fruit. 

So I’ll throw it to you out there in PTO land: any sources for high-quality guayaberas?