The History of Guayabera


Any tourist to the Caribbean and Latin America may have seen the locals, both men and women, wearing clothing that they do not see in their countries. That is called a guayabera, a comfortable cross between a shirt and a T-shirt, ideal for wearing in a hot, humid climate. Guayaberas come in usually sun colors, in all shades and hues of yellow, orange, or red.

Where did the Guayabera Originate From?

The honest answer to this is, no one knows. Some say a Mexican took the design of the barong Tagalog back home from the Philippines. The claim originates from the fact that a kind of Guayabera in Yucatan, Mexico is still being called the Filipinas. The barong Tagalog has been around since the pre-colonial era of the Philippines. Others believe it came from the Cubans, because references were made in Cuban records to this particular kind of clothing as early as back in 1880. The Cubans also have another similar looking clothing, which they call the yayabero, as it originated from their Yayabero River people.


Types of Material Used

The barong Tagalog was traditionally weaved by hand from pineapple fibers, called Pina. Another variant was from Pina and silk, called Pina seda. The Jusi version was made from abaca fibers, and there is also a Pina Jusi hybrid. Jusilyn is a modern-day version and could come in cotton, polyester or silk. In fact, all modern-day versions of the Guayabera in Mexico, Cuba or the Carribeans commonly are made with the same three materials, due to cost and other mass production factors.

Guayabera Designs

There are both formal and casual variants, and all versions are available in either long or short sleeves. Philippines President Duterte is often seen in public appearances in a guayabera, either a casual or a formal variant.

There are variants with two or either four pockets, with two rows of tiny pleats running down the front of the shirt through the pockets, and three rows running down the back of it. Often, there is a similar shirt button at the top of all pockets.

There are variants of the shirt with either slits on both sides of the sleeve, or no slits at all. The Mexican versions always come with complicated patterns. What is common in all countries is that the shirt is never worn tucked in.


Symbolism in Politics

While the origins of the guayabera is in dispute, the shirt itself has no political message or agenda. How it become a political symbol is because of public appearances by various global leaders wearing them. In Latin America, the leaders wear it to appear closer to the working class. In Mexico Luis Echevarria famously snubs the western business suits, and the guayabera became a symbol of nationalism. Visiting leaders to Latin America also wear them as guests. The most famous instances of the guayabera are probably when American Presidents appear in them at American Latin events.

Shirts of Similar Design

There are many shirts that look similar, including the Dominican chacabana, the shirt-jac of Guyana, the Jamaican bush jacket, even American shirts that cowboys wore mirror the guayabera in design.

The guayabera is a traditional piece of clothing with a modern twist. Its rich history should be a fascinating story to tell, especially to people who have never seen it before. Accentuate your wardrobe with one today.