Established in 1916, Penner's is still family owned and operated. Famous for our customer service, Free Tailoring, and Authentic Guayaberas made in Panama and Merida Yucatan!
Hot weather demands the right type of clothing — otherwise, you'll sweat too much and get overheated. There are a few rules of thumb to follow when it comes to picking out clothes that will keep you cool and comfortable in hot weather.
First, you don't want the clothing to be too skimpy. Less might seem like more when it's 85 or 90 degrees out, but a tank top will just leave your shoulders and arms exposed to the sun's burning UV rays.
Second, you want to pick the right fabrics for hot days. Skip anything that traps in sweat, like a heavyweight wool or twill, and go for breathable, lightweight fabrics instead, like linen or cotton. There are a few ways to tell if a shirt is made out of a lightweight fabric:
It should feel light when you hold it in your hands.
It should be ever so slightly see-through if you hold it up to the light.
It dries quickly when it gets wet, a must for days when sweating is unavoidable.
Where can you find a shirt that offers coverage, is made of a light fabric and is designed specifically for hot weather? Meet the guayabera.
The guayabera is a traditional men's shirt, commonly worn in Mexico, Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Nowadays, you can find guayaberas all over the world, including here in Texas, as the shirts have been brought back home by people who visit countries where they are popular or the shirts are given as gifts from one country to another.
Although you'll see some subtle differences among different types of guayabera shirts, each share a few distinct features. Those include:
Pockets: Perhaps the essential element of a guayabera shirt is the pockets. Some styles have two pockets on the front, while others have four. We'll get to why these pockets are so important in a bit.
Pleating: Another distinct feature found on guayabera shirts are rows of vertical pleats up and down the front. You can tell how well-made a guayabera is by looking at the pleats. The smaller and more delicate they are, the better the shirt.
Straight hem: When it's hot, the last thing you want to do is tuck your shirt in. guayaberas have a straight hem along the bottom, so you can wear them untucked.
Side vents: You'll typically find side vents or slits on either side of a guayabera. Usually, the vents have buttons that let you adjust how open they are.
Another critical feature of a guayabera shirts is the fabric. You won't find guayaberas in heavy wool or woven twill fabrics, nor will you come across silk guayaberas. Guayaberas come in lightweight fabrics to keep you cool.
Instead, the fabrics guayaberas are traditionally made from are lightweight and breathable. Penner’s sells guayaberas made from four types of fabric.
Irish linen is a lightweight, very breathable fabric made from flax. The fibers made from the flax plant are typically stronger than those made from cotton but have less stretch to them. The length of the fibers contributes to linen's durability and its texture. Longer fibers mean a softer fabric and a softer shirt. Shirts made of linen might feel stiff at first, but the longer you own them, the softer they'll become. Linen is also very good at wicking away moisture and has natural antibacterial properties.
Like linen, cotton fabric comes from a plant. Also like linen, there are a variety of different qualities of cotton, which vary based on the length of fibers used. Cotton is also very breathable and can absorb up to a quarter of its weight in water.
While cotton and Irish linen are more traditional fabrics for guayaberas, you're likely to find some modern-day shirts made from sateen fabric. Sateen repels and doesn't absorb moisture. Sateen guayabera shirts are also easy to care for. You don't have to worry about them coming out of the dryer a wrinkled mess, for example.
Some guayaberas are made from fabric that's a blend of polyester and cotton. A poly-cotton blend gives you the best of both worlds. You get the breathability and softness of cotton, combined with polyester's easy cleaning. Poly-cotton blend shirts are also less likely to shrink compared to linen or cotton shirts.
Traditionally, guayabera shirts came in light colors. White, light blue or other pastel colors were standard, as lighter hues don't absorb heat and sunlight the way darker colors do. That said, today, you'll find guayaberas in a full rainbow of colors, from dark red to light blue and from white to black.
Wedding Shirt: Guayaberas are often worn at weddings.
Bush Jacket: People living in Jamaica refer to the guayabera as a bush jacket. Chacabana: Similar shirts worn in the Dominican Republic are often called "Chacabanas."
Cigar Shirt: One version of the shirt's origin story involves a man wanting pockets to hold his cigars.
Cuban Shirt: Some trace the history of the guayabera back to Cuba
Guayabel: Shirts worn in Haiti are called this name.
Shirt-Jac: In Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, a style similar to the guayabera is called a shirt-jac.
Safari Shirt: People in the UK often call a men's shirt with two patch pockets on the front a safari shirt. It's worth noting that safari shirts aren't quite identical to guayaberas, as they don't have pleats or a straight hem.
But what about the name guayabera? Where does that come from? It's a bit of an interesting legend, with two possible origins.
The first story suggests that "guayabera" is a corruption of the word "guayaba," which is the Spanish word for guava. The legend is that hundreds of years ago, a woman living somewhere hot, where guavas grew, sewed four pockets on the front of her husband's shirts. The pockets were meant to hold guavas, which the husband could pick off of the trees while working or going about his day.
Another version of the story gets rid of the sweet wife sewing pockets for her husband and suggests that the name of the shirt comes from the name of a river in the area the shirt came from. Sancti-Spiritus, Cuba, is occasionally thought to be the birthplace of the guayabera, although some disagree.
The Yayabo River runs through that part of Cuba, and people who live in the area have been called "yayaberos," or, in some cases, "guayaberas." Of course, that story doesn't take into account the fact that some people believe the shirt came from Mexico, while others claim the Philippines as the birthplace of the guayabera.
The history of the guayabera in Cuba dates back to the 18th century. In some versions of the story, the man who asked his wife to sew pockets onto his shirt was named Jose Gonzalez and his wife was named Encarnacion. Gonzalez was an immigrant to Cuba from Andalusia, and apparently wanted the pockets for carrying his pens, cigars and "otra cositas," or other things.
In one version of the shirt's Cuban story, the local guava farmers were impressed by the shirt's details and style and began to wear their own. Since they placed guavas in the pockets, they started calling it guayabera.
It wasn't until the mid-1900s that the guayabera as we know it today became a "thing" in Cuba's urban areas, such as Havana. The 20th-century version of the shirt featured the two pockets on the chest and two pockets near the hem. It was worn by government officials and civil servants, and eventually by other men living in the cities.
The fortunes and popularity of the guayabera changed in the 1950s in Cuba. After 1959's revolution, the apparel industry was greatly reduced, and few, if any, guayaberas were produced. That remains the case today. Although you might come across a few of the shirts in Cuba, the guayabera has become a rare sight in Havana and elsewhere in the country.
The guayabera was also very popular in Mexico and remains so today. Two areas in Mexico where the shirt is particularly well-respected and frequently worn are the Yucatan Peninsula and Veracruz. It might not come as much of a surprise to learn both of those areas have had connections to Cuba. In fact, it's thought the shirt first came to Mexico after agave planters from the Yucatan traveled to Cuba in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
After the Cuban Revolution, when production of the shirts was reduced, clothing manufacturers in Merida, a city on the Yucatan Peninsula, picked up the slack. Those factories soon became known as the premier producers of the shirts.
While the guayabera fell out of favor in the later 20th century in Cuba, it became ever more popular in Mexico. Some attribute the shirt's rise in popularity to Luis Echevarría, the president of Mexico from 1970 until 1976. Echevarría wore the shirt to government functions both abroad and in the country.
Although Mexico is often thought to have borrowed the guayabera from Cuba, Mexican producers of the shirt did add one key detail not often seen on Cuban shirt — delicate and complicated embroidered patterns up and down the front of the garment.
Merida, along with Colombia and Panama, remain important producers of guayabera shirts to this day. All of the quality guayabera shirts we offer are made in Yucatan, Colombia or Panama.
For the most part, contemporary guayaberas are very similar to their ancestors. The shirts retain their two or four pockets and the pleating or embroidery along the front. Although some modern-day guayaberas are made from synthetic fabrics that didn't exist in the 18th and 19th century, a good number of shirts are still made from breathable, natural fibers like linen and cotton.
How the guayabera is worn has evolved slightly over the years, as has where the shirt is worn. It's no longer just a staple garment in Latin American and Caribbean nations. Today, you'll find the shirt all over, including in the U.S. and Europe. It's particularly popular in warmer areas of the U.S., such as Florida, California and right here in Texas. The shirt is also commonly seen in other areas of the country, such as New York, which have significant populations of people from Latin America.
Some of the contemporary guayabera shirt styles have made a break with the traditional designs. While the shirt was initially available in light colors, today it's not uncommon to see it in black or darker hues. It's also occasionally made from heavier fabrics, such as denim. Although the shirt remains a garment for men primarily, some designers and brands have toyed with producing guayaberas for women. There have even been guayabera dresses.
The guayabera is a shirt for all occasions. It's evolved from being a garment worn by people working in the fields to one that can be used for formal events like weddings. Politicians wearing the shirt have made it appropriate for business situations as well. Here's a guide to wearing your guayabera in a variety of situations.
It's pretty easy to put together a casual look with a guayabera, thanks to the shirt's working class origins. Choose a short-sleeved version in a light color or, if you're feeling particularly festive, go for a patterned style. Some guayaberas are very bright or that have very bold patterns, but wearing those will often mark you as a tourist.
For a casual look, you can't go wrong with jeans or a pair of chinos. If it's very hot out, you can try wearing shorts. Just keep in mind shorts will make the look very casual. Also, keep in mind that the shirt is meant to be worn untucked, so don't try to stuff the hem into your jeans or trousers.
Another popular name for the guayabera is a Mexican Wedding shirt, so it's no surprise the top is commonly worn to weddings in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. In the U.S., the guayabera can be an appropriate shirt to wear to a beach wedding or a wedding set in a warm location.
If you are going to wear a guayabera to a wedding, look for a style with long sleeves, which is more dressed-up and formal than short sleeves. You can play it safe and stick with a white shirt or, if the wedding is more casual, choose a brighter color or a guayabera with intricate embroidery down the front. You'll still wear the guayabera untucked at a wedding, but the fit of it should be slightly more tailored than the fit of a shirt you'd wear for casual occasions.
As far as trousers go, you'll want to wear a pair of black, or another dark color, tropical weight wool pants. Another option is to wear light or dark-colored linen trousers or, if the wedding is casual, a pair of gray or khaki chinos.
The guayabera shirt is the national shirt of several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It's also the official shirt of Puerto Rico. That means you may find leaders of those nations and territories wearing the shirt at political meetings and during other formal events.
Should you find yourself in a business setting where wearing a guayabera is appropriate or expected, here are a few simple rules to follow:
Just like any other garment these days, there are high-quality, well-made guayaberas available and there are low-quality "fast-fashion" guayaberas. The "fast-fashion" guayaberas are often made for the tourist market, meaning you're more likely to come across them in a tourist trap shop, rather than at a store that specializes in men's clothing.
There are a few things to pay attention to when buying a quality guayabera. They include:
The number of pleats on the shirt. How many pleats a guayabera has is a significant indicator of its quality. The more pleats the better, as pleats are difficult to sew and add to the cost and the time of construction. A general rule of thumb to follow is to look for shirts with at least 12 pleats on either side.
The fabric. Fabric quality can range from the cheapest polyester to the highest-quality of linen. Linen and cotton are the most breathable. A shirt made from a cotton-poly blend will be easier to care for than a pure cotton or pure linen shirt.
The construction. How the shirt is sewn together is a good indicator of its quality and durability. Look at how the seams are stitched — are there tiny pieces of thread hanging off? Are there more stitches per inch or less? Also look at the exterior of the shirt — is the embroidery or pleating well done or are there small threads dangling off of the shirt?
The fit. A well-made guayabera will hang off of the body but not be super baggy. It will hang past the waistband of your jeans or trousers by at least three inches but not be so long as to look like a tunic. Depending on your body shape, you might want a shirt that tapers in slightly at the bottom. It is possible to get a guayabera that doesn't fit quite right tailored. Penner’s has in-house tailors who assist with this process when you make a purchase at our store, for no extra charge.
Ready to buy a guayabera? Penner's has a selection of the shirts, made in Mexico, Colombia and Panama, in both long and short sleeves. Browse our selection and place your order online, or come to our store to see the options in person. If you have any question about fit, fabric or style, feel free to give us a call at 210-226-2487, and we'll be happy to help you out.