|The classic guayabera.|
July 1 is National Guayabera Day, so the timing for a VIP party at HistoryMiami last Thursday couldn't have been better. The occasion? The Guayabera: A Shirt's Story exhibit, which runs through January 13, 2012.
HistoryMiami pulled all the stops with major exhibit sponsor Cubavera, treating guests to a lively shindig in downtown's Cultural Plaza -- paella, Bacardi mojitos, music, cigars and dominoes gave the evening a definite Latin sabor.
|Yes, ladies smoke too.|
|No Cuban-inspired party is complete without a cigar maker, this one from Mobile Cigar Store.|
|Dominoes are part of the Cuban tradition.|
|A massive seafood paella fed the guests after passed hors d'oeuvres.|
But the real star of the festivities was the guayabera -- a button-down man's shirt with vertical pleating and four pockets associated with Cuban culture. Today, the once-humble menswear has become iconic and a fashionable wardrobe item for women and children as well.
The exact origin of the guayabera is unknown, but variations of it exist in Mexico, where embroidery distinguishes it from its Cuban counterpart.
Michael Knoll, a folklorist at HistoryMiami, curated the exhibit through the cultural institution's South Florida Folklife Center. Originally from Wisconsin, Knoll became fascinated with the culture of the shirt. “The guayabera is culturally meaningful to a large number of South Florida residents," said Knoll in a statement. "You only have to look at how many men are wearing guayaberas on any given day to see that.”
George Feldenkreis, founder of Cubavera.
Knoll introduced the audience to George Feldenkreis.
Cuban-born Feldenkreis is the founder of Cubavera, a leading manufacture of the garment, which retails at Macy's and online. Widely known as the "King of the Guayabera," Feldenkreis joked about taking the title of king back from Lebron James after this season's Miami Heat victory.
For garment industry royalty, Feldenkreis was actually very humble during his speech. He told us he had arrived in Miami in 1961 and had fallen into the guayabera industry almost by accident. No sooner did he step behind the mic, he praised the U.S. as land of opportunity -- a very familiar tale among Cuban immigrants from his generation.
|Even dogs enjoy guayabera fashions today.|
|Local fashion blogger Kelly Saks, here sporting a guayabera dress, was Miss Cuba 2011 (mainland Cuba, aka Miami, not the island).|
|This dress, part of a one-night only special addition to the exhibit, was designed by a student from the Miami International University of Art and Design.|
(Incidentally, a new Ramón Puig store also held an opening night party Thursday just down Flagler street.)
For me, the guayabera has always been symbolic of my Cuban heritage and beckons a certain nostalgia. There's nothing more elegant than a crisp, white, well-pressed guayabera on a man. Picture him in that shirt, hair neat and trimmed, wearing a nice cologne and on his best behavior. A very fitting lady's companion indeed.
IF YOU GO
The exhibition will be accompanied by an online exhibition and a variety of educational programs, including a free family program on July 14th, a City Tour highlighting Cuban establishments in downtown Miami and a lecture/demonstration on the making of a guayabera.
For more information, visit HistoryMiami.