Why the Cuban shirt is the hero piece of the summer – no matter your age

Harago at MATCHESFASHION Dressing For Sun - Styled by David St John James./Brendan Freeman
Harago at MATCHESFASHION Dressing For Sun - Styled by David St John James./Brendan Freeman

The Cuban-collared or cabana shirt, or Guayabera (it goes by many names) is a mid-century menswear icon. With a soft double-notched one-piece collar lying flat to the body like a pyjama top, it found popularity in the 1960s following the Cuban exodus and was worn by everyone from Hemingway to Elvis.

Since that heyday it has stuck around as a more sophisticated choice than its louder Hawaiian sibling. I split cabana shirts into three categories: those with an all-over print (great for holidays and barbecues); those in a solid-colour (commonly called camp-collared shirts), which are obviously the most versatile; and those with a “placement” print – that is, a symmetrical border pattern.

These last are the most authentic and Reiss has a fantastic one (Patois) featuring an abstract tropical palm print that I would pair with a slim-fit chino and a penny loafer. The relaxed-fit Panama shirt in paisley viscose by AllSaints and Ted Baker’s embroidered cotton cabana are equally good candidates.

cuban collar shirts
cuban collar shirts

Patois shirt, £110, Reiss; Camp-collar short-sleeve shirt, £55, COS; Multi floral print shirt £25, Next; Didcot cheesecloth shirt, £80, Wax London; Terry Towel button front shirt £39.95, GAP; Quizzed embroidered shirt, £95, Ted Baker

The all-over print shirts are a great way to add summer sizzle to your wardrobe. Universal Works has a stellar one in an indigo check with an overlaid tropical print, sourced from a fabric mill in Osaka. J Crew’s hand-blocked print Guayabera shirts and the Cubano shirt from Levi’s are other favourites.

The solid colour versions are your everyday wardrobe basics, made for fine weather. Cos has got it right with a style that features two breast pockets in a throwback to the Rat Pack era, while Gap’s version in terry towelling is perfectly suited to the beach.

cuban collar shirts
cuban collar shirts

Guayabera shirt in hand-blocked print, £165, J Crew; JW Anderson blue chambray shirt £19.90, Uniqlo; Cubano shirt, £45, Levi's; Tropical Road shirt, £125, Universal Works; Panama shirt, £89, AllSaints; Camp-collar embroidered striped cotton shirt, £150, SMR Days