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Totally Shirtatious

Daisy Fuentes Shows Why Guayabera is Cuba's Shirt For Romance
Kimberly Cihlar
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

(continued from page 1)

Today, the guayabera is a great equalizer; witness the same style that sheaths old men playing chess or cards outside the bodegas on New York City's Lower East Side, as well as the young, alternative crowd that wears it clubbing for its coolness factor. Radford Brown, owner of the Manhattan vintage retail boutique Cherry, tracks down guayaberas all over the nation. "I've seen the really old ones that are really intricate, as well as the Dacron polyester ones that are just fun. I always think of the old men in south Florida wearing their guayaberas with their loud plaid shorts, straw hats and black socks."

Like Puig, Cuban-born George Feldenkreis, the chairman and chief executive officer of Supreme International, also relocated to Miami, at age 25, just two months before the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle. "Our father was a manufacturer's representative," recalls Feldenkreis. "I was a lawyer before the revolution. Once here, my brother and I started this business, manufacturing in the Orient. The guayabera in Havana was a very popular shirt. I remember my father wore one almost every day--he carried a lot of papers and notes in his pockets, some of them going back four to five years. That's why people wore them, for that. There are also songs about the guayabera." Here, he croons into the phone, "'I want a hat of straw and a flag; I want a guayabera and I want a song to dance with.' That's an old Cuban song. This shirt is the essence of Cuban culture," he laughs, a bit wickedly. "Of course, maybe you want a good Cuban girl next to you as well...."

The guayabera can be as dressy as one wants. "They are the perfect evening shirt in these more informal times," observes Bartlett, who says he has many original guayaberas that he wears and uses as inspiration when reinterpreting his own. "They are great, elegant pieces that look good on men of any age. I love seeing the old Cuban guys playing cards on the hot summer streets in the original guayaberas. They are the original peacocks!"

Kimberly Cihlar is a freelance fashion feature writer who lives in New York City.

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