Monday, September 15, 2008
Louis' List: Guayabera
In fashion they say what's old is new again, but there's a shirt that's been around basically unchanged for 300 years, and though you may think it's something only your dad or grandfather would wear, tonight Louis Aguirre discovers the guayabera never really went out of style. It's on Louis' List.
WSVN -- I'm on a quest to embrace an iconic symbol of my Cuban heritage, one that hasn't hung in my closet since I was a boy, the guayabera.
This classic linen, four-pocket shirt has been the Cuban uniform since it was created 300 years ago in the town of Sancti Espiritu in Las Villas, but forget the image that it's strictly for the older generation, playing dominoes or drinking a cafecito at Versailles, talking politics. The guayabera is hip, timeless, elegant, and you won't believe who's wearing them and where.
Louis Aguirre: "So if you're in Miami, and you want an authentic Cuban guayabera there's only one place to find it, and there's only one guy to make it for you, Ramon Puig the king of the guayaberas.
They've got all kinds of guayaberas here, fancy embroidered ones, hip cool modern ones, striped ones, denim ones, even some for the ladies, but the mac daddy of all guayaberas is one custom-tailored by the man himself.
Louis Aguirre: "He should be the king, he's been making them for 65 years."
Louis Aguirre: "How are you? Pleasure to meet you, I'm Louis Aguirre. Are you the king of the guayaberas?"
Ramon Puig: "I am the king of the guayaberas."
Ramon speaks no English nor does he do interviews without following traditional Cuban social graces.
Louis Aguirre: "So it's tradition to drink a cognac at 1:00 in the afternoon?"
Ramon Puig: "Yes, before lunch just a little."
Ramon Puig: "May God grant us health."
Louis Aguirre: "To your success."
Ramon Puig: "Thank you."
Puig says he has dreamed of being a tailor when he was a little boy, and at 23-years-old, after he says only five lessons, he learned his craft, eventually becoming the master guayabera maker in all of Cuba until Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Ramon Puig: "Fidel took everything away from me, but what I learned I had it here, and that he could never take away from me."
After being forced to work in the fields for one year and half, Puig came to Miami in exile in 1961, working as a janitor at the Fountainbleu and doing alterations at a men's store until he saved enough money. In 1971 he finally opened his own shop, La Casa de las Guayaberas where he's been making the classic shirts for 37 years.
Louis Aguirre: "The greatest guayabera maker is still probably Ramon Puig."
Puig proudly shows me a 2002 GQ Magazine article declaring him the best guayabera maker in the world, even surpassing designs of Oscar de la Renta and John Bartlet, who had attempted guayaberas of their own.
Ramon Puig: "It's good to be the king. The problem is that Oscar de la Renta is a millionaire, but at least I am happy."
He's literally made thousands of guayaberas for celebrities, world leaders and customers who just come in off the street. Now it's my turn.
Louis Aguirre: "This is just a mock one, he's going to come and pimp my guayabera."
Puig fastidiously takes all my measurements. From these numbers, he draws a pattern and cuts the mold for what will soon be my guayabera. He doesn't sew them; his ladies do that.
Two weeks later, Puig's creation is done.
Louis Aguirre: "This is a Ramon Puig original. Designed by the man himself, Ramon Puig, el rey de las guayaberas."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
La Casa de las Guayaberas
5840 SW Eighth St.
West Miami, FL 33144-5051
Phone: (305) 266-9683