In the world of fashion, every season has its on-trend looks and hyped-up fads. Some come and go in the blink of an eye, so quick that in years to come no one will actually remember ever wearing anything like it, no matter how many column inches a few glossy magazines devoted to it for a while.
Others are more enduring. For the past couple of summers, the cuban collar shirt has been very much up there with the hottest summer looks for men. This year, with the warmer months now upon us, it seems you can’t pick up a gentleman’s lifestyle publication without reading how big the cuban collar is set to be in 2019.
But far from being a modern phenomenon, the cuban collar shirt is actually a revival of an old classic - a very old classic indeed. Its two key identifying features - the double-notch, angular, little-and-large collar, and the loose, straight fit - are thought to date back to the simple worker’s shirts favoured in tropical regions of Latin America as early as the 18th century.
Presumably via migrant communities, it had found its way into US wardrobes by the early 20th century. The current revival comes to us via the 1970s, when the staple of Hispanic working class men first started to be adopted by hipsters and fashionistas.
Simple, versatile, practical
So how has the cuban collar made this fabulous journey from the 18th century tropics to the high streets of 21st Century Britain? Well mainly because it boasts three qualities which tend to underpin most fashion classics - it is simple, versatile and, in warm weather, practical.
Like the Oxford shirt, which famously transitioned from a little-known invention of Scottish clothiers to a gentleman’s staple because a polo team in British India noticed it was very comfortable in the heat, the cuban collar is all about looking and staying cool when the temperature soars. The straight-sided, baggy design is purposefully intended to keep everything loose and the air circulating, helping perspiration to evaporate quickly.
The simplicity and versatility of the design go hand in hand. In modern times, the cuban collar has often been co-opted as the vehicle for the most garishly colourful and loud men’s shirt designs. Most Hawaiian shirts are based on the basic cuban collar outline, for example, although the focus of attention is usually on the depictions of palm trees and pineapples, not the style of the collar.
But just as the plain simplicity of the cut makes the cuban collar attractive to those who want colour and vibrancy from a shirt, in recent years people have started to realise that straightforward has its own appeal. A cuban collar shirt in white, beige or pastel, cut from a quality cotton, is perhaps the ultimate summer all-rounder. It looks just as good with a jacket as it does without, providing an option for all occasions from casual to semi-formal.
Starting to think about adding to your summer shirt collection? Well why not book an appointment to come and discuss all things cuban collar and more, at your convenience.