Exhibit in Miami tells story of the guayaberaIts roots are in 19th-century Cuba, but the guayabera - a button-down shirt in cotton or linen with four pockets and embroidery or pleats down the front - has evolved into a fashionable and formal shirt worn from Mexico to Miami.
“The Guayabera: A Shirt’s Story’’ at the HistoryMiami museum is the first exhibition to trace the story of the shirt’s evolution through Cuba, Mexico and the United States, where it is particularly popular in cities with large Latin American and Caribbean populations. The exhibition runs through Jan. 13.
Very little has been written about the origins of the guayabera, so researchers visited Cuba, Mexico and Miami to find out more about the shirt worn by everyone from guajiros (peasants) and abuelos (grandfathers) to politicians and celebrities.
Research suggests that the guayabera originated in Cuba and was worn in the countryside, but the garment may have looked like the Spanish military uniform made out of a fabric called rayadillo (blue-and-white striped material) worn by many of its soldiers during the Cuban War of Independence.
“The historical evidence that we uncovered suggests that in the late 1800s, a clothing item called the guayabera existed. What that looked like is another story,’’ said Michael Knoll, curator of the exhibition and HistoryMiami folklorist.
Pointing to a military garment on display and a document referring to the Spanish military uniform as “guayabera,’’ he added, “There are features of this shirt that are clearly reminiscent of what we understand the guayabera to look like today.’’
Unlike the contemporary guayabera, the military garments featured four pockets along the hem. By the mid-20th century, it had evolved into its iconic version: white, long-sleeved, linen with two chest and two hem pockets.