Cuban cool: the guayabera shirt and the Cuban 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 epitomé of latin cool on the streets of Cuba, which wasn’t to everyone’s taste. 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. On a recent trip to Miami, Oli was inspired by the guayabera shirts he saw on Americans and Cuban Americans alike and decided to create his own version of the classic for a modern British summer wardrobe.

 

Cuban Short Sleeve Shirt Bridford BeigeCuban Short Sleeve Shirt
Bridford Beige

 

Cuban Short Sleeve Shirt Clement Chambray BlueCuban Short Sleeve Shirt
Clement Chambray Blue

 

Cuban Short Sleeve Shirt Yardley Sky BlueCuban Short Sleeve Shirt
Yardley Sky Blue

The Cuban Collar shirt

Another iconic piece of Cuban menswear is the Cuban collar, also known as the camp collar shirt. Like the guayabera, the exact origins of the shirt are disputed, with some claiming it came from the Philippines, but it's more likely that the Cuban collar is simply a derivation of the guayabera, only without the pockets, vertical pleats and embroidery. It's 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. 

 Havana Short Sleeve Shirt Daymer Ochre

Havana Short Sleeve
Shirt Daymer Ochre

Osborne Drawstring Shorts Daymer Ochre

Osborne Drawstring
Shorts Daymer Ochre

Solovair x Oliver Spencer Tan Suede Loafer

Solovair x Oliver Spencer
Tan Suede Loafer

The original styles from the 50s and 60s were quite boxy since they work a functional shirt worn by outdoor workers sweating under the tropical sun, hence why you'll often see them constructed from lightweight cottons and linen. That's why we've chosen those fabrics to create our Havana shirts this summer. Cut in a soft linen and cotton blend cloth with a natural drape and featuring a semi-spread collar and chest patch pocket, it's a great match for summer chinos or tailored shorts for an elevated yet relaxed aesthetic.

 Havana Short Sleeve Shirt Burrow Brown

Havana Short Sleeve
Shirt Burrow Brown

Osborne Drawstring Shorts Burrow Brown

Osborne Drawstring
Shorts Burrow Brown

Reproduction Of Found
US Military Trainer Beige

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