International News

Ditch the Track Suit, Fidel: Cuban Government Declares Guayabera 'Official Dress Garment'

​Attention cortadito sippers, cigar smokers and domino players of Calle Ocho: You may think you're relaxing the day away in a cool cotton guayabera, but no, muchacho. In the eyes of the Cuban government -- as of this week -- you're as formally dressed as the stuffiest Brickell banker in the finest tailored three-piece suit.

A Foreign Ministry resolution formally passed into law yesterday in Havana makes the guayabera the nation's "official dress garment" and mandates that the iconic four-pocket shirts be worn at all state functions. Comfortable!

As the AP reports, Cubans have long claimed the guayabera as their own. The government even opened a Guayabera Museum a couple years back in Sancti Spiritus, where legend has it Spanish immigrants invented the lightweight shirts to beat the heat and sewed on the pockets to handle the huge cigar load they needed in the fields each day.

"The guayabera has been a part of the history of our country for a long time and constitutes one of the most authentic and legitimate expressions of Cubanism," the new law says.

But wait! The most famous Cubano of them all, one Fidel Castro, is known for two other iconic fashion choices: the dark olive military uni and the flashy, always hip track suit.

Does this new law mean a power grab for Raul? Is the nation spinning inexorably toward a new regime? Is Fidel already dead?!

Whew. Sorry, got a little carried away there. No, it turns out Fidel is also a proponent of the guayabera, thanks to his buddy and genius Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who convinced him to give the shirts a try back in 1994.

Now, thanks to the new law, all men at government meetings will be required to don white guayaberas with long sleeves; women have a choice of colors, the AP reports.

And in Domino Park on Calle Ocho, the games will go on -- with the players abruptly more formally attired than they were yesterday.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink