Are you an old fat white guy, and you want to know whether its okay to wear a Guayabvera? I have an answer for you.

Are you an old fat white guy, and you want to know whether its okay to wear a Guayabvera? I have an answer for you. July 31, 2022



Yesterday on Facebook I wrote:

Soliciting sartorial advice. Probably a mistake on Facebook. But, I’m going to give it a shot.
I’m thinking of how to class up my retirement act a bit. Even though I live in SoCal and shorts are as common as seagulls here, I give ’em a pass. Fat old white men are incapable of looking anything but silly in short pants.
I am fond of my Hawaiian shirt collection, almost exclusively high end stuff found in thrift stores. I wear them a lot.
Especially in the summer, which here is a bit more than half the year.
But, I’m thinking it time for something long sleeved. That classing things up a bit. (Also my dermatologist has said I should like both long sleeves and hats. I’ll save my views on baseball caps and other children’s articles of clothing for another time.)
In those thrift stores I see a lot of guayaberas. And I am intrigued. I know they’re not tied to any single country, apparently Cubans and Mexicans both claim to have invented them. And they’re worn in the Caribbean, the Philippines, and parts of Africa.
But. Neither I nor any of my ancestors, best 23 and Me says, come from those places.
I desire these shirts. But, I don’t want to offend anyone. Life’s too short to be a jerk.

If you’re unfamiliar with the shirt, here’s how Wikipedia’s article begins:

“The guayabera (/ɡw.əˈbɛrə/), also known as camisa de Yucatán (Yucatán shirt), is a men’s summer shirt, worn outside the trousers, distinguished by two vertical rows of closely sewn pleats running the length of the front and back of the shirt. Typically made of linen, silk, or cotton, and appropriate for hot and/or humid weather, guayaberas are popular in the Caribbean (especially Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico), Mexico, Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, the south of Spain, and Portugal” It also has a following in Africa.

They are all over the place. I’ve even found guayabera’s designed for concealed carry as well as clergy shirt guayaberas.

My guery generated quite a little storm of responses. And it is Facebook, so with lots of digressions. For instance a side war, well, people were largely polite, so more skirmishes between those who think concerns with cultural appropriation are an assault on individual liberty and those who feel in varying degrees differently. And with that some questioning of who exactly is the jerk.

With all that some complemented or chided me for thinking about such a question.

I chose not to engage in those conversations. Although here I’ll confess that I have a qualified concern with matters of cultural appropriation. I think there is an extreme view, which would silo all cultural encounter and influence, that I wholeheartedly reject. An example that cuts to the bone for me are the couple of times people have told me my being a Zen Buddhist is cultural appropriation. I will spare you the litany of why that is both offensive and wrong.

But there is more than a germ of truth in concern for those, particularly indigenous peoples, really all who have been under the boot of another culture, who see aspects of their culture pulled out for the amusement of the oppressors.

There is a place for common decency. And to paraphrase the first of the three pure precepts in Zen, if nothing else, don’t be a jerk.

And it’s not always easy. Truthfully it’s often hard to unravel where specific things fit.

And so I wanted to know where people think the guayabera fit into this.

As I said among the many responses was a rehearsal of the questions regarding the cultural appropriation writ large. Several people really wanted me to embrace shorts. Others wanted to extol the virtues of the Hawaiian shirt, with a couple of asides about the attempts of some right wing nut jobs wanting to appropriate the Hawaiian shirt as their uniform. Someone wanted to make sure I understood being fat is not a good thing. A few offered interesting alternatives ranging from embracing the good old Oxford button down to other simple lightweight cotton plain front shirts. Some of it made real sense.

And. I was about to despair of the whole project. Then out of the blue, and old friend who lives in Columbia offered what I feel comes to the last word as regards the guayabera. Okay, we know there is no last word in such matters. But, a reasoned and reasonable response to my specific question. I won’t name her as she chooses to have a pseudonymous Facebook presence.

“I assume you’re worried about offending someone’s sensitivity to cultural appropriation guidelines? After an interesting conversation between the three of us, in my opinion, the opinion of my Colombian men’s clothing designer daughter, and my Colombian husband, this garment does not have unassailably strong enough ties to the history of any one long enduring culture to have appropriation come into play. In fact, there is significant evidence that the garment may actually have Spanish colonialist roots here in South America. But there is no conclusive evidence of its origins anywhere. In addition, the garment is of relatively modern lineage, having no significantly deep cultural roots in any of the geographic locations where it’s currently popular.”

So. You’re an old fat white guy and you’re interested in whether it’s okay to wear a guayabera?

You have as good an answer as you’re likely to find.

You’re welcome.

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