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What is a Guayabera Shirt?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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A guayabera shirt is an article of clothing typically worn by men and are popular in hot climates. Also called a Mexican wedding shirt, it is often thought that this article of clothing has its origins somewhere in Latin America, though not necessarily in Mexico. The shirt's design includes two vertical rows of tiny pleats on both the front and back of the shirt, and either two or four symmetrical large pockets on the front of the shirt.

These shirts may be constructed from any lightweight fabric in any color. Popular fabrics include cotton, silk, polyester, and linen. Traditionally, the shirt was made in white, pastels, and earth tones, but currently any color may be produced. High-quality shirts are usually made from linen, but the most common fabric is a poly-cotton blend, which is popular both for its breathability and its durability. A guayabera shirt may also be made from heavier materials so long as it conforms to the pocket and pleat constraints of the design.

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The pleats used as a distinguishing part of guayabera shirt design are called alforzas. They are sewn closely together using extremely diminutive amounts of fabric. These pleats often give the appearance of a single vertical band when viewed from a distance, not of many small lines. Sometimes, the pleats are replaced entirely with an embroidered band, particularly if the shirt is for a child. Since the shirt's pockets are placed over the vertical bands, they are aligned and embellished as a separate layer, continuing the design on both the body of the shirt and the pocket covering it.

While most people think of a guayabera shirt as a men's summer shirt, this is merely the most common incarnation of the design. For men, a version of this design is also made with long sleeves, the torso portion of which directly resembles the more summery guayabera shirt. Women's versions of this design also appear in stores, made either by modifying an existing shirt or designing a new one from scratch. The shirt can be a fitted version of the men's model, or it can be completely unique, such as a guayabera shirtdress.

Guayabera shirts tend to be popular anywhere that a lightweight, cooling shirt is necessary due to climate, no matter where in the world that may be. It is a common design in Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. The shirt is considered part of Puerto Rico's national costume. In Zimbabwe, this shirt became popular due to its association with the Cuban teachers who lived there, and is now worn for special occasions. A guayabera shirt may be seen occasionally in almost any country, and has become a common article of clothing the world over.

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