where the guayaberas come from ?

Where the guayabera comes from?

7 min read

Have you heard about the guayabera but don't know its origin? Would you also like to wear a guayabera casually and stylishly but don't know where to start? Don't worry, we have the answer to all your questions.

The origin of the guayabera is still a mystery. Different regions dispute the origin of this garment from Mexico and other Spanish-American countries such as Cuba to the Philippines.

In this article, you will discover :

  • The origin and meaning of the guayabera.
  • The different types of guayabera
  • How to wear a guayabera with style

The guayabera will no longer have any secrets for you. You will know everything you need to know about this emblematic shirt.

Let's find out together right now.

I - What is the guayabera?

Before getting into the heart of the matter, it is important to lay the groundwork to understand what we are talking about. Let's start by looking at everything there is to know about the guayabera.

Origin of the guayabera

The guayabera is a loose-fitting shirt, worn over a pair of pants (so far, nothing very different from those seen around the world in recent years) and characterized by its four patch pockets (in this case, it looks more like a safari jacket) and its characteristic pleats and embroidery, and here we are at the uniqueness of the piece.

Why these patch pockets and why these pleats and embroideries?

We have to go back to the origins of the garment to understand it.

One of the versions establishes its origin in Mexico in the regions of Veracruz and the Yucatan peninsula.

This theory establishes that it is from these port areas of Mexico and through commercial exchange that the garment reaches the Caribbean islands and the Philippines, that is, on ships.

cuban guayabera

The Cuban guayabera

Another popular story tells that Yucatecan henequen growers saw the shirt for the first time in Cuba at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century.

And this story, that of the origin of the guayabera in Cuba, is the most credible according to historical evidence, more precisely in the city of Sancti Spíritus.

At the height of the eighteenth century, a farmer would ask his wife to make him a comfortable shirt, with a design that would be useful for the many tasks in the field.

It was then when the wife made him a unique shirt with four pockets, two on the upper part and two additional pockets on the lower part, in addition to some precious vertical saddlebags.

In a matter of days, the shirt would become very popular among the workers of the place.

Those who support this theory allege that it was first called yayabera, in allusion to the fact that the work of the workers was carried out next to the Yayabo River.

It is believed that shortly after, with the custom of keeping guavas in their pockets, the name was changed from yayabera to guayabera.

Another legend about the guayabera in Cuba tells that a Spanish immigrant in the 18th century set up a tailor's shop in the town of Sancti Spíritus, where he sold long shirts with comfortable pockets to keep tobacco, and for that reason he made the shirt with four pockets.

Another hypothesis is that the guayabera existed in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spaniards. In reality, there is no 100% reliable story that tells the origin of the guayabera, as you can see, there are several legends.

Another region that claims the origin of the guayabera is Baní, Dominican Republic because of its culture surrounding the harvesting of guavas in the area.

Legend has it that the wife of a landowner added extra pockets to her husband's shirt so that he could return with more guava fruit harvested, without needing to use both hands.

This theory supports that the guayabera came to Cuba through the Dominican liberator Máximo Gómez, who helped the Cuban people in their war of Cuban Independence in 1868.

Over time the guayabera shirt varies, we see that not only in its name, but also in its style.

II - The Mexican guayabera

Origin of the Mexican guayabera

Until the first two decades of the 20th century there was a maritime commercial exchange between Cuba, Veracruz and Yucatan.

The design of the Yucatecan guayabera has been attributed to Don Pedro Mercader Guasch -of Spanish origin- for having made it with alforzados designs, adding two upper front pockets with lids and buttons and making the lower pockets wide.

He also made the guayabera fashionable in white, observing the typical clothing of the place.

Towards the end of the 19th century, many well-to-do Yucatecans bought guayaberas, it was a symbol of social status and the guayabera textile industry began to grow in the Yucatecan peninsula.

The Mexican guayabera boom

In the 60s and 70s, with the rise to power of President Castro in Cuba and President Echeverría in Mexico, the use of the guayabera changed dramatically as these presidents wore it daily.

Implementing fashion, it was now worn not only by wealthy Yucatecans but also by various Yucatecan, national and international businessmen. This brought with it a tremendous increase in the number of factories.

Other models were created, creating variants, changing colors and fabrics and perfecting its manufacture, so that the slogan "Yucatan is the door to the Mayan world and Merida is the "world capital of the guayabera" became popular.

From there it went on to Campeche, Chiapas and Veracruz, and in these states it is currently their regional wardrobe.

In the face of the strong competition unleashed by Asian maquiladora countries, it received a boost during the government of Luis Echeverría, who used them in his tours both in Mexico and abroad, which made it an export item in that period. It also arrived in the Philippines on Spanish ships.

In Honduras they are called "guavas". It also became popular in Andalusia (southern Spain), where it is simply called "cubana".

mexican guayabera

The guayabera : An icon of Mexico

The guayabera is the piece that has been able to dye with authenticity every corner of Mexico, and thanks to its aesthetic value, the traditions of our ancestors have been strengthened as never before in recent times.

The desire to keep this Latin American shirt, also known as chabacana, guayabana or cubana because of its multiple origins, reaches its culmination in the artisan workshops that day after day pay homage to it in Yucatan, Chiapas and Veracruz, carrying the guayabera with an identity that inspires Mexico wherever you look at it.

Since ancient times, in countless scenarios, from the first identity of the guayabera as a shirt with a purely utilitarian character that with its peculiar pockets served men to keep their belongings at the time of carrying out the tasks of the field to the guayabera that would see the splendor to become the uniform of internationally recognized political figures during acts or traditional ceremonies.

The guayabera today

With the passing of the decades, the transformations that the guayabera has undergone may not be excessive, however the latest trends in the use and design of the shirt represent a break with the past, as designers, tailors, manufacturers and established vendors are reinventing the tradition.

Textile apparel companies, boutiques, web-based companies, and clothing designers are developing innovative designs and introducing new types of fabrics and diverse styles.

They are no longer just producing innovative designs for men, but also guayaberas and guayabera-inspired items for women and children.

The current availability of the shirt, both in luxury boutiques and department stores, has extended its reach and popularity internationally.

However, the best guayaberas in Mexico have undoubtedly remained in the hands of Yucatecans to ensure that the guayabera never lacks a Mexican soul.

III - Characteristics of the guayabera

The basic characteristics that define a guayabera are:

  • Two or four patch pockets on the front of the shirt.
  • Two vertical rows of small pleats (actually called dinner jackets) and/or embroidery
  • Straight hem intended to be worn loose.

Over the years, different artisans have taken the liberty of creating variations of the garment, such as slits with adjustable buttons on the sides of the shirt, French cuffs, short sleeves and even no pockets.

As for color, white and light pastel colors are the most common and traditional, but, like all shirts, guayaberas are now available in traditional and brighter colors, as young people have asked for more variety.

The original version also had side slits of about ten centimeters, completed by vertical rows of three or four adjustment buttons at the bottom of the shirt.

Since its creation and up to contemporary times it was always made in linen or cotton, mainly in white and some pastel colors.

IV - What is the guayabera made of ?

What makes a guayabera of high quality?

More than anything else, the material. Guayaberas are warm clothing. (Actually, you can't get away with this outside of the summer in places like the United States or Western Europe).

For comfort, this means 100% cotton, 100% linen, or something very similar. A small percentage of synthetic fiber may contribute to mold resistance, but more than 5% of the mix is a cost-cutting measure rather than a sign of good construction.

Synthetics don't breathe well and become sticky quickly when moisture is present, so opt for natural fibers.

Some South Asian countries make guayabera-type shirts from plant fibers such as bamboo, ramie or hemp.

Although they are sometimes heavier than cotton, they tend to hold up well to wet weather and are very resistant to mildew and foul-smelling bacteria that colonize human sweat.

linen guayabera

V - Choose a quality guayabera

As you can see, the guayabera is much more than a fashion look, it is a philosophy of life.

Your style, whatever the colors, fabrics or garments chosen, is a reflection of your personality.

With all this information, you are already a guayabera expert. It will also be very easy for you to choose the clothes and accessories for your next change of look.

This is an important decision that should not be taken lightly, since the most important thing is to feel good and comfortable with what you are wearing.

That is why we have selected for you a wide range of trendy guayaberas. They will allow you to create your own style and be at the forefront of fashion.

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