The origin of the guayabera is debatable, but its name likely refers to the Cuban farmers along the Yayabo River who used the shirt's lower pockets to store guava (aka guayaba). Some attribute the style's breezy design to an 18th-century Andalusian who immigrated to Cuba and made her husband a white linen shirt with four large pockets designed to carry cigars, writing instruments, a hanky, and "otras cositas." Guayaberas possibly arrived in Mexico via early 20th-century henequen farmers traveling between Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula — where the shirts evolved into the intricately embroidered garments many know as Mexican wedding shirts.
In Miami, high-end guayaberas come from Ramón Puig, a line established in Little Havana in 1971 and recently revived by Louis Puig, the son of "The King of Guayaberas." But in San Antonio they come from Dos Carolinas, a highly specialized operation founded by Caroline Matthews in 1987. Through the windows of her boutique in the Pearl, shoppers might catch a glimpse of Matthews measuring a customer who's just ordered one of her custom-made creations. While they're available in a ready-to-wear variety, the full-on Dos Carolinas experience comes in selecting fabrics and embroideries. While Matthews stocks plenty of traditional options that would fit in fine at a wedding, her line stands out for its playful use of color, whimsical prints, hippie batiks, and statement fabrics like nudie-print "mudflap camo."
In addition to making men's shirts in nearly a dozen styles (options include The Elegant, Rey Feo, Yucatán, and The Classic, which can be adapted as a hunting shirt), Matthews makes children's shirts (a practice she says started as a way to use up leftover fabrics) and dresses. Depending on embroidery, a custom-made garment can cost anywhere from $135 to $220 and take between four and five weeks to complete.— Bryan Rindfuss
303 Pearl Parkway, Ste. 102,
(210) 222-9117, doscarolinas.com