Cuban Cool: the Rise of the Camp Collar

Cuban Cool: the Rise of the Camp Collar

Cuban icons number aplenty, from Che Guevara - immortalised on posters and t-shirts - to the Soviet-era Ladas that cruise the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba in the shape of taxis, emergency vehicles and pimped-out tourist rides. One lesser-known icon however is the guayabera shirt, thought to have originated some time in the 18th century in the city of Sancti Spiritus where a wealthy landowner asked his wife to create him a shirt with multiple pockets cut from a lightweight cotton fabric called batiste. The landowners fruit-picking workers decided to copy the shirt and named it 'yayabera' after the river that ran through the estate.


Another account suggests that the name was derived from the large pockets of the shirt which were used by the workers to carry the fruit 'guayabas' (guavas as we know them). Either way, the shirt was born, with the earliest versions featuring four front pockets, vertical pleats and in many cases decorative embroidery. Think of it as a lightweight safari shirt for the tropics.

By the late 1940s, the guayabera shirt was the epitome of latin cool on the streets of Cuba, although it wasn’t to everyone’s tastes. The upper classes found reasons to snub their noses at the proliferation of the shirt, which they deemed uncouth and certainly not to be worn past 6pm. Part of this was because the shirt had become hugely popular in the much more casual Miami, and the Cuban authorities did not like what they saw as the appropriation of slack American morals. Yet the shirt defied any notions of inappropriateness and became something of a badge of honour for Cuban Americans, or at the very least an icon of nostalgia towards their former home, so much so that in 2010, the Cuban government declared the guayabera as the official garment for diplomatic and state events. 

While the guayabera has remained a historical icon, it gave both to the more contemporary Cuban collar shirt, defined by its double-notched stitched-on collar that sits flat against the chest. In recent years, the Cuban collar - also known as the camp collar - has exploded in popularity. 

The Cuban Collar shirt

From the guayabera came what is widely known as the Cuban (or camp) collar, which omits the guayabera's vertical pleats, embroidery, and usually the chest pockets. Its defining feature, as you might have guessed, is the collar, which is typically a soft, double-notched, one-piece collar that is sewn directly to the body of the shirt so that the collar lies flat against your chest. 


The original styles from the '50s and '60s were quite boxy since they were functional shirts worn by outdoor workers sweating under the tropical sun, hence why you'll often see them constructed from lightweight cottons and linen. We've used both linen and organic cotton to create shirts with a beautiful natural drape, both of which are a great match for summer chinos or tailored shorts.

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