The Guayabera Shirt

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I’m haven’t used mine for picking guavas yet, but I’m starting to be a fan of this shirt!  It’s like a great mix between a chore coat and a sport shirt!

Disclaimer: I received a free Guayabera shirt from Garments for No One. They do not have any influence over what is written nor have they seen the piece before it was published.  

I never thought I’d be into guayaberas.  Growing up in LA (and around Filipinos), it always seemed as an old man shirt, worn by men at my church with baggy black pants and dress shoes.  I could understand utilitarian appeal with all the pockets, but it just never seemed interesting to me, especially as the shirts were usually seen as “fancy” due to the embroidery and pleating and not as workwear (of sorts)  I simply thought of it as a barong just with extra pockets; not really my thing to wear.

But as always, things change with time and understanding.  It comes after I started incorporating more casual wear of the 1930s-1960s, with spearpoint polos, alohas, and the infamous sport shirt.  Taking these into a contemporary context was a game changer and a real way to me to expand my casual style.  It was only natural that I started to look at guayaberas again, after being suggested to them by my friend Michael (and seeing fashion brands reinterpret them).

Now, I’m not going to profess to know the history of the guayabera shirt; you should read this great piece on it by Heddels.  In that piece, they note that it is a Hispanic cultural (but note that not every Hispanic country has a guayabera) shirt with roots in everyday (work?) wear.  Hearing that context made me like it a bit more, especially when Michael shared pictures of Hemingway wearing it.

On him and a few other historical photos, it really changed my view of the guayabera. Seeing it in sturdy cottons, minimalistic pleating/embroidery, and nice sport collars really reinforces the workwear history of it. Hell, it even reminded me of safari shirts, which remain one of the best lounge wear pieces you can have.  As the Heddles piece states, the best ones are made of cotton or linen, as we should avoid the cheaper, shiny ones made of poly-blends.

Overall, the guayabera is meant to be an easy-to-wear shirt, that you can relax in or put to work as needed, carrying pens and fruits to your hearts content.  To me, it was a mix of a chore coat and a sportshirt, with the added bonus of being a cultural piece of menswear.

Now it was a bit hard for me to Google up some images of guayabera outfits that I liked, or rather, that worked in a menswear context.  the closest thing I could think of was comparing them to cabana shirts. They’re slightly similar, as they have patch pockets (only 3), are made of cotton or linen, and feature a sport collar; the only difference is that cabana shirts lack the distinctive decorative pleats.

Wearing a guayabera to a pool seems like a no-brainer move (the comparisons to terry cloth shirts are apparent), but that shouldn’t be the end all for it. Thats why I looked to Bryceland’s for inspiration.  Again, they wear cabana shirts, but the idea was the same: these easy shirt-jacks of sort go with denim, shorts, and even trousers.  Soon I was ready for one of my own.

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The Garments for No One Guayabera

So I briefly met the dudes behind  Garments for No One (GFNO) at the last Inspiration LA (you know, the one where I crashed my car).  I actually didn’t get a chance to talk to them properly since I was running around the exhibition hall with limited time, but my friends were immediately taken with them.  In fact, MJ and Andrew ended up buying chore coats from them! What I did know was that they were just regular LA guys who wanted to make a great pieces at an affordable price, something I definitely admire.

The reason I bring them up now is because they offered to send me one of their new short sleeve guayberas in exchange for my thoughts on the product.  I happily agreed, as I had become enamored with the style, but not finding much motivation to try one for myself. They gave me a tan (appears white) in a size medium, as their shirts are noted as slim fit.

A nice wide sport collar.

It reached me in about a week and upon first opening it, I could feel the fabric.  It’s 100% cotton twill but it felt quite substantial.  It’s both good and bad, as this means it can take a beating, but acts a bit incongruous with the short sleeves. It softened up a bit during a wash and will continue to do so during consecutive cleanings, so I’m not upset at that.

Honestly, it can be a bit hard to wear in LA’s 90F+ degree summer,  but it’s not overly uncomfortable.  It may best to simply wear it during the spring, until it softens up.  With that said, I’d take 100% cotton over a poly-mix.

The overall quality is pretty good, though with all the decorative pieces, it makes the shirt a bit hard to keep pressed (though it being casual, isn’t really a big problem).  There were a few loose threads on the inside, but again, it’s not a big deal.  The shirt was ready to be thrown on!

On Me

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The first outfit I wore was an intentional nod toward Ethan Newton’s look when I met him during my trip to Japan. I was enamored with it immediately, as Newton mixed together casual and crisp tailoring in the only way he knew how.   I love how slouchy he looked, especially with the move of leaving the shirt untucked.  I know that’s the point (as it has hip pockets), but it can present a challenge to some, if you’re used to tucking in your sport shirts (as I am).  That’s why it’s best to think of the guayabera as a chore coat/shirt rather than a shirt.

Obviously, I could’ve replicated it with a regular sportshirt, but I liked the challenge of using the guayabera.  I call it a challenge, because this guayabera has a bit more going on, with the details negating (in my eyes) the clean, crisp look of a plain cabana shirt. Luckily, the GFNO crew designed the guayabera with pleats but no embroidery, maintaining its versatility.  As a result, it works in this Newton-inspired look, working well with my grey stoffa trousers and vintage Stetson.

The plain cream scarf is something I’ve been trying out as an accent piece, a bit as a throwback to the jaunty scarf. It’s a different vibe, being more elegant (since this is a vintage evening piece) but I’ve been digging it.  It really makes the outfit more than just a sport shirt and pants.

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I really love this look and it’s something you’ll definitely see more often, with different approaches to trousers.  Because the shirt is white, I’m not sure it will go well with chinos, but I guess that’s my challenge to make. Denim also concerns me, as I think it might come across too much as a rockabilly, but I guess that’s why the use of loafers and a scarf will come in handy.

For now, we can at least know the shirt can be elevated to fit more of a tailored/Bryceland’s style.  I’m a little interested to see how it would look under one of my cotton suits, worn untucked, if I have the confidence for it.

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Next, I wanted to dive into my casual style and mix up the shirt with some wide leg trousers, namely the “seersucker” Uniqlo ones from two years ago. I felt that the untucked shirt contrasted against the overly wide (but crop-rolled) trousers was a Japanese-inspired move, something that has defined my non-sartorial style for a while.

You can really see how the shirt fits here.  It’s not overly slim, but you can tell that there’s a slight taper through the body, contrasting it against most of the casual shirts I own.  Again, it’s not uncomfortable and I appreciate the figure, but I would’ve loved an even looser fit; however, this is probably their main selling point for the youth, so I understand!

The one thing I’m finicky with is the buttons. Because it’s a slim fit, I find myself debating on the buttoning.  I typically tuck in all of my shirts, so it’s a bit awkward for me to wear something that “skirts out” near the end. My work around is to think of it like a long chore coat or even a jacket, since that’s what normally happens with those pieces anyway.

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There’s not much else to say, other than it’s a comfy, relaxed outfit. I put it with some vintage converse because I felt their chunkier profile (compared to my vans authentics) contrasted against the crop-roll of the trousers.  The bucket hat helps emphasize that slouchy take and removes the latin-vacation feel, but I can’t help but feel like the outfit is missing something.  Perhaps a chore coat worn on top might help it, or maybe it’s because I’m just put off by the short sleeves.

Long sleeves rolled up definitely add something to a look and make a shirt more versatile; a short sleeve shirt is doomed to only be used in spring/summer.  That’s not inherently bad, but I like versatility! IMG_0429

Lastly, we have something incredibly easy: the guayabera with shorts.  I actually like this one more than the previous one, because the short sleeves make sense with the short pants.  There’s no fuss here (no hat or scarf) just a super casual outfit, that definitely harkens back to the casual style of the 1930s-1940s. Tassel loafers were chosen over penny loafers, because I liked the last and vibe of the tassel loafers; a bit more elegant.

While a tucked in sport shirt would be no different than most of my gurkha fits, I like how the untucked guayabera interacts with it.  I think that it works here, since it is echoed in the longer inseam of the shorts; if the shorts were cropped or rolled up, it might look a bit too weird.

Okay, I couldn’t resist using the scarf with it. Whoops.

Conclusion

I’m really glad I was actually able to try the guayabera for myself.  It’s a natural extension of all the sport collar shirts I own, from the tried-and-true sportshirt to the seasonal aloha.  With it’s pleated front and quadruple patch pockets, this functions more as a utilitarian shirt (similar to a safari shirt) with the added bonus of it being a piece of cultural menswear.  The main challenge is that this shirt is meant to be worn untucked (so you can use the hip pockets), which is odd for me as I tend to tuck in every thing.  Luckily, there’s plenty of inspiration to be had, because it essentially is a cabana shirt, favored by the Bryceland’s guys.

Even though I was interested in the look, I never really had motivation to try it for myself until GFNO reached out to see if I was interested in trying it.  Theirs was a 100% cotton twill, making it a better option than the plethora of poly-blend ones you’d see at Goodwill.  I’ve yet to see if it will soften up more, but it’s a damn good shirt (with a wide vintage collar!) at a good price, and perfectly versatile, just like the Bryceland’s cabana shirts.  Think of it like a chore coat or a safari jacket that works on your bare skin!

If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, I suggest trying to GFNO guayabera in white. It’s very versatile and a good investment for LA wear; the blue one is a bit of an odd color.  Just be sure to size up, since this is a pretty slim fit.  If not, I’m sure there’s plenty of other fashion options, but I like the idea of having something a bit more classic that comes from my own city.

Always a pleasure,

@ethanmwong 

9 comments

  1. randy · August 12, 2019

    I wanted an original one from the Philippines, costly to import. I picked up a junk one here in the states, 50% cotton.

    Like

  2. Andrew · August 12, 2019

    I enjoy wearing my suits, but in South Texas where in the summer it is routinely 110F, they become impractical. Wearing a guyabera as an alternative to a suit is a common acceptable practice, and I have been doing just that for a few years now. I get my guyaberas custom made in Mexico, but Dos Carolinas in San Antonio does a great job also. Guyaberas are really just great shirts for almost every occasion!

    Like

    • Ethan M. Wong · August 12, 2019

      Definitely! It’s a lovely combination of chore coat and sport shirt that can be worn almost anywhere.

      Like

  3. Jason · August 13, 2019

    What the heck. It looks cool, has a vintage aesthetic and the price is reasonable. Didn’t see that coming. Ultimately I agree that a long sleeve one would be even better, especially as you mention the cloth is quite heavy. I envision it as a light unstructured overshirt/leisure jacket! I wear a Uniqlo U overshirt in this way and I am really happy with the look.

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  5. Evan Everhart · August 20, 2019

    I dig the guayabera shirt Ethan! I still have my Grandfather’s one from back in the 60s. It’s a blend, I think, but wears very well. It’s a yellowed white, with minimal embroidery, sort of mid-century modern meets traditional. I used to wear it in my early teens with chocolate brown gabardine flat front trousers, brown cotton argyle lozenge clocked socks, and russet penny loafers and a white panama hat. My guayabera is a short sleeve model with sewn in turn ups on the rather short sleeves (just to mid bicep), and triangular mid shirt cuff indents with sewn in buttons at the point. I believe that it also had a sitting sphinx or gryphon embroidered over a few rows of white embroidery that made an inverted pyramid, and that was located discretely on the breast. I hope that we’ll see more of this! I also used to wear mine with a red and white with no black, antique cotton paisley printed bandana handkerchief for my neck in the heat of Summer. I’ll see if I can dig it up and get a picture posted or something. Thumbs way up! Love the white scarf as well. Keep these posts coming!

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