The guayabera has a long, rich history, but Javier Treviño’s versions aren’t throwbacks. His shirts, made by hand in the studio above his Divide & Conquer Denim & Leather shop, in downtown San Antonio, are simultaneously pop art and haute couture. On my last visit I saw a bright red guayabera with wavy orange and green stitching on the pleats. I was also drawn to one with a wild print depicting punk rock cockatoos riding on skateboards. 

The guayabera’s origin is uncertain. Many claim that it was first adopted by Cuban fieldworkers, who wanted a shirt with pockets (a guayabera has four), while others believe it was developed in the Philippine Islands. Because it’s typically made of lightweight fabric and worn untucked, it’s ideal for hot and humid climates and is especially popular across Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Treviño launched his fashion career by making aprons of denim, canvas, and leather for restaurants and hotels; he later expanded to jackets. The San Antonio native added the guayabera to his lineup eight years ago as a way to honor his late grandfather. “It’s all he wore,” Treviño recalls. Like many Latinos and fellow Texans, Treviño also grew up wearing them. “Guayaberas are a symbol of our culture, of where you come from and the foundation of who we are,” he says.

His work connects the iconic shirt to the present, down to its distinctive vertical pleats. When Treviño started examining the tailoring of guayaberas, he noticed that the old brands he inherited from his grandfather had the pleated stripes sewn on as separate pieces of fabric. That felt like cheating to Treviño. “Every pleat is part of the shirt. It’s a tuck and a sew, a tuck and a sew,” he says of his guayaberas, each of which takes five hours to produce by hand. 

Treviño, who also designs guayabera dresses, sells shirts off the rack but loves working with clients on custom pieces, selecting just the right color, fabric, and embroidery pattern. 

Although his outlandish creations are his trademark, he’s happy to tone it down as well, offering traditional versions made of linen or cotton in solid, muted hues. 

His goal is to make the wearer feel confident. “We do things in the box, and we do things outside of the box,” he says. “But that’s why we’re appealing to so many different people and different cultures.”  

How to Pick Out a Guayabera

Because it’s an easy way to look stylish in the heat, a handmade guayabera should be a closet staple for Texas men. Javier Treviño shares his tips on how to pick the right one. (But to be clear, you don’t need to stop at just one!)

Hang Loose

Whether it’s a fancy long-sleeved embroidered shirt or a more casual short-sleeved option in a solid color, all guayaberas should be loose fitting—but not flowing—at the chest and torso. That gives the guayabera its trademark look and its most important asset: breathability.

Go with your gut . . . 

Picking the right color and fabric is relatively easy—because the shirt should be a reflection of you. As Treviño says, “A guayabera should bring out the confidence that you already have.” 

. . . But mind your gut too 

The key to the right fit is figuring out your size. The taller you are, the longer your torso and the trickier the sizing. Guayaberas are usually rectangular in structure, so if you’re heavier in the middle, you might want to go up a size. 

Elbow room

If you’re going for a short-sleeved option, the sleeve should end just above the elbow. 

White wedding

Is it for a wedding or other dressy occasion? Treviño recommends a crisp, white long-sleeved shirt, the most formal style. For an extra touch, choose embroidery that matches the wedding’s color scheme.