From farm fields to fashion runways, the Guayabera shirt has had a storied history. Now the shirt's tale is part of an exhibit at History Miami. But the story isn't over yet, Guayaberas are now appealing to a younger generation.
Mariano Arce has been making shirts since he was a kid and Guayaberas for 10 years. Each of his shirts takes 10 hours to make and costs anywhere between $350 and $550.
”We try to make something that looks beautiful,” said Arce.
“An early use of the garment was to store guayarva or guavas, that use may have inspired the shirts naming,” said History Miami’s Michael Knoll.
He assembled the exhibit which follows the Guayabera from peasant use to a military jacket in Cuba in the late 1800's.
”It would have served as cargo pockets and there probably was a variety of item that could have been stored in there,” said Knoll.
Over the next 50 years the Guayabera evolved into a classic. The 2 most iconic aspects of the shirt are its 4 pockets, usually 2 pockets at the breast level and 2 pockets near the hem.
Also the pleating, 2 vertical strips and or embroidery. More recently traditional whites and off-whites have given way to bolder colors and prints.
“Designers are playing with the traditional design in ways I would say are very innovative, and they are doing that in order to attract customers including younger customers,” said Knoll.
Styles for women, children, and even dogs have widened the audience. And those old military jackets have now turned into a Guayabera leather jacket. It's the innovations that have excited Marce's customers.
“Marce, he doesn't make a Guayabera for my husband, he makes a piece of art,” one customer’s wife told Arce.
Some of Marce's “art” is part of the exhibit. Marce's customers like exclusivity in their Guayaberas.
He only makes 10 out of each bolt of fabric. Arce says nobody wants to see their shirt on somebody else.