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The Cabana Shirt

Written by Tony Sylvester 


There’s a very famous photo in menswear circles that does the rounds every year as people start gearing up for summer. The iconic Hollywood leading men John Wayne and Gary Cooper stride toward us on a sun drenched patio, Wayne cigarette in hand, Panama hat with rolling brim perched just so, Cooper in ankle lace espadrilles, short shorts, a small suitcase in hand. Both men are wearing variations on the classic Camisa de Yucatan, the traditional summer shirt of Central America. Inevitably, the poster will hashtag it “vacation goals” or some-such.  Despite its omnipresence on the web, it is impossible to deny it as an evocative portrait of dressing well for the heat. 

 

The Camisa de Yucatan is known by many different names across the region. In Cuba it is the Guayabera, in Jamaica, the bush jacket, in Ecuador, the Shirt-Jac. All monikers reflect its practicality and application. Its origins are both contested and myriad, but given the heat and equatorial conditions, it is a garment that simply had to be. The shirt takes its influence from the uniforms worn by the Spanish troops stationed there in the mid 19th century, the Philippine emigres with their Barong Tagalog shirts of fine lace, and there is even a mythical folk tale of a farmer’s wife sewing extra large pockets to her husband’s shirts to help him carry the guavas home from harvest, hence guayabera - literally a “guava carrier”. 

 

The traditional garment was the perfect relaxation shirt for the holidaying film stars on the Mexican coast. The Hotel Los Flamingos high on the cliff tops of Acapulco had been a popular retreat since it was built in the 1930s. By the time Phil Stern snapped the now infamous pic of Wayne and Cooper there on the veranda in 1954, Wayne had bought the hotel along with a coterie of Tinseltown pals, closing it to the public, allowing him and his crew to enjoy its renowned sunsets away from prying eyes. The shirt became a uniform for their relaxed informal pastimes. 

 

Our Cabana Shirt shares this easy, breezy sentiment, taking its cues from Wayne’s loose, unfussed, long sleeved variant of the style. A generous, boxy cut, straight hem and open collar are paired with three patch pockets for all your vacation essentials. Perfect for chasing the sun all year round. 

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