Tropical Traditions: Guayaberas

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The guayabera – a tropical tradition at the core of Latin fashion. Guayaberas are typically constructed of linen or cotton and have very fine rows of vertical pleats and two or four pockets adorning tGuayaberasheir front. They are to be worn untucked and will keep you cool in the Caribbean’s sultry heat or while pounding the pavement of the city streets. While most commonly called a guayabera, it is also referred to as a chacabana in the Dominican Republic, a shirt-jac in Trinidad, and a barong in the Philippines. 

Have you ever worn a guayabera? Maybe you’ve seen them on other guys, liked the look, and wondered what they are called. You wanted to know where you could get one. Maybe you weren’t sure when it’s appropriate to wear a guayabera and didn’t know who to ask. Maybe guayaberas were part of your everyday life growing up. Your Abuelo rocked one playing dominoes with vecinos at the corner bodega. All your uncles wore one to your 2nd cousin, Elena’s, wedding. Your dad had one custom-made that only came out on the most special of occasions. No matter your personal experience with this tradition, you can find a guayabera style that fits your look and lifestyle.

The exact origins of the guayabera are unknown. Spain, Mexico, and the Philippines all claim ownership of the iconic garment, but history points to the first guayabera being made in Cuba in the 1700’s. A farmer, needing a shirt that could hold all his work tools, asked his wife to make him a functional shirt with pockets. Thus, the guayabera was born. Later on, it garnered a resemblance to the service uniforms donned by soldiers in Cuba in the 1800’s. When city workers began wearing the guayabera, it was picked up by everyday people and its popularity began to spread.

In 1959, the political revolution in Cuba caused manufacturing to come to a halt so guayabera production moved to Mexico. This is where ornate embroidery was added to the shirtfront as an additional stylistic element. Mexican President, Luis Echevarrìa, wore guayaberas as a way to forge a connection with his people. China has begun manufacturing these shirts in great numbers, but Mexico still remains the main source of guayabera production. 

What is a Guayabera?

Besides factories, there are still a number of artisans who dedicate themselves to crafting guayaberas by hand. Of course, the shirts produced by these tailors and seamstresses can be likened to works of art as they are of superior craftsmanship than those made in factories. They are made from higher quality fabrics and in smaller quantities. They also may be made to order exclusively for a particular customer based on his tastes and needs. Tailors who produce these traditional pieces can typically be found in places with warm climates like Florida or Texas, but they are also found in cities with high Hispanic populations like New York City. 

To get more insight into the history and growing popularity of the guayabera, or as he calls it, the chacabana, I spoke with Dominican fashion designer, Johan Hernández, of the Johan Hernandez Atelier, located in the Inwood section of Manhattan.

Guayaberas

  1. Why do you make guayaberas?

 Chacabanas are an important garment in Dominican culture. Back in 2011, I was introduced to this handcrafted piece and saw the opportunity to transform the traditional chacabana into a fresh look for young people to wear. Chacabanas are unique. They are hard pieces to find.

  1. What do you like so much about the guayabera? 

 The chacabana is an important and elegant handcrafted piece that replaces the conventional two-piece suit. It goes with any man’s style and can be adapted to anyone’s body. 

 

  1. What’s your earliest memory of the guayabera?

I have memories of the chacabana from as far back as I can remember! I recall seeing men wear them for important events. My uncle wore the traditional 4 pocket guayabera. 

Guayaberas Men's Fashion

  1. What are some contemporary guayabera trends?

I have played with the chacabana style a lot.  I have made the chacabana into a jacket. I’ve made it super trendy and added zippers. That style has been very popular. I’ve used all types of fabrics and added rhinestones. If a trend arises, I incorporate it into a guayabera!

Guayaberas

 

  1. Can larger size men wear guayaberas?

Of course! My specialty is custom pieces. This give me the opportunity to work with all kinds of clients to create a garment any way they want it.

  1. Where can a man wear a guayabera? 

Traditionally, because the chacabana came from a tropical climate, it is usually made of linen or light cotton. Having my store in NYC, I transformed that idea and began using heavier fabrics to suit the cold weather here.

  1. Do you find that the guayabera is becoming a mainstream fashion trend? 

Absolutely, Younger people appreciate the style and enjoy wearing it as much as the older and more traditional crowd does. 

Guayaberas

The summer is here and wherever you might be headed, you’ll want to look hip and stay cool. Wearing a guayabera will give you a modern yet traditional approach to summertime fashion. 

 

Interested in having a guayabera made custom just for you? Or maybe you’d like to try a style a bit more daring than the usual? Contact Johan Hernandez for an original look all your own.

 

Want to wear a guayabera for an event right away? The links below have got you covered.

 

Did you know guayaberas are not just for men? Buy a gift for that special woman in your life! (Thank me later!)

 

Babies & kids wear guayaberas too! Make it a family affair!

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