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  • Writer's pictureSIYEN

What is a Cuban Shirt and Why Do You Need One?

Men's fashion and lifestyle creator, Rey Styles wearing SIYEN S-logo Cuban Collar Shirt

It's that time of year, when the sun shines and we gladly substitute cosy layers for cool summer style. Every year, the Cuban collar shirt makes a resurgence in stores worldwide, but what is it and why do you need one too?

The Cuban collar shirt has many names, so you may also know it as a safari, camp collar shirt or Guayabera. It is a casual short sleeved shirt that dates back to the 1930s. It's origins have been a topic of debate with sources citing South America or the Caribbean being the place it first emerged.

Originally, it was a popular clothing item worn by working men who needed ease and to keep cool while working in the hot sun.

The Cuban collar shirt has key characteristics that set it apart from your standard button-down.

  • Short sleeves

  • Relaxed, roomy fit

  • Soft, flat, double-notched collar

  • Flat hem

  • Lightweight fabric

Shop these Cuban shirts here

While it is still worn out of tradition and practicality in many countries, by the 1950s the shirt had adapted to become the more popular wardrobe staple we know it as now.

In the 1970s, Jamaican Designer Ivy Raph, used this style of shirt to create a revised version of Western formalwear, the Kariba suit, a formal Caribbean two-piece. Rather than the typical European suit jacket and tie, the Kariba featured the same soft, double notched collar of the Cuban shirt. It was a hit amongst many politicians in Jamaica at the time.

Michael Manley wearing a Kariba suit

To this day, these shirts are still worn as school uniform. A nostalgic part of Jamaican childhood; the brown/khaki school shirt.

So "what separates a Cuban shirt from a Hawaiian shirt?", I hear you ask. There's not much in it apart from the elegance. A Cuban shirt has become a stylish summer essential often made from cotton or silk. It has fewer colours in the design than its Hawaiian counterpart, which is typically bright, floral and reminiscent of a fun trip in Honolulu.

Whether you're packing a suitcase for a journey abroad, going for brunch with friends, or evening entertainment, you need to have a few in your wardrobe. Wear them with shorts for casual summer days and tailored trousers for a smart, classy vibe. If you really want to push the boat out, try wearing your Cuban shirt with a neutral coloured suit to give sophistication a little bit of flare.


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