MANNY HERNANDEZ / FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
BY ENRIQUE FERNANDEZ | Miami Herald
Has the guayabera finally crossed over? It still may be mostly Cuban Americans who wear it, but this year it’s a new demographic.
For the past several summers, men’s fashion pundits have been telling us guayaberas are it. Here in Miami they’ve always been—at least for rather aged gentlemen of indifferent means who divide their lives between idealizing the island and cursing Fidel Castro.
But recently the gentlemen guayabera wearers have not inevitably been aged, and even if they were they appeared prosperous, and when they weren’t they appeared powerful. In other words, the guayabera seems to be regaining its original usage: a power garment to be worn instead of a suit jacket when the weather gets, as it’s been recently, too darn hot.
The real guayabera. Not the short-sleeve poly-blend shirt South Beach youths wear. Irish linen or Egyptian cotton. Always long-sleeved. Preferably custom-made. Embroidered initials. Needless to say, pricey.
Two weekends ago, Andy García opened his new Rum Bar at the Key Biscayne Ritz-Carlton Resort with an invitation-only reception. The actor wore a linen suit, but the crowd was filled with men in guayaberas. Yes, it was a Cuba-themed evening, but the guayaberas were not a costume; for one, they looked too expensive. The men wearing them were the kind who could afford anything.
Miami’s most famous guayabera personality, Ramón Puig, says he ‘‘can barely keep up,’’ with his custom-made business. The veteran clothier, whom GQ magazine called ‘‘the greatest guayabera maker’’ in 2002, is reluctant to give specific sales figures, but says his business has doubled this year.
His custom guayaberas start at $350 and can reach $600—‘‘depending on the quality of the cloth and the size of the client,’’ he says. Off-the-rack linen or cotton long-sleeved garments sell for $80. Puig’s store sells around 80 guayaberas a day, his staff says.
René La Villa, who owns Guayaberas Etc., echoes Puig. ‘‘The business has changed,’’ he says. From a shop on Bird Road selling modestly priced guayaberas, Villa has expanded to branches in Miracle Mile and Hialeah. And he too has gotten into the upscale custom-made trade, hiring an in-house tailor.
Puig does custom-made (he stocks cheaper ready-made) women’s guayaberas beginning at $400 and guayabera dresses at $600. Guayaberas Etc. carries off-the-rack guayaberas for women, but their custom-made business is strictly guayabera dresses, $475-500.
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