The origin of the garment is disputed, as various claims for the distinctive style have been made in several Latin America countries as well as the Philippines. Some Latin Americans believe that the guayabera was created in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, whereas alternate theories have held that Mexicans either stole the design concept from the "El Encanto" store of Cuba, or copied the trend from Cuban tourists who visited Mexico.
The origin of the name guayabera may come from a Cuban legend that tells of a poor countryside seamstress sewing large pockets into her husband's shirts for carrying guava (guayabas) from the field. Guayabera may also have originated from the word yayabero, the word for a person who lived near the Yayabo River in Cuba.
Though commonly called "guayabera" in Mexico, the shirt is sometimes referred to as a "Mexican Wedding Shirt."
The guayabera shirt is distinguished by several details: either two or four patch pockets and two vertical rows of alforzas (fine, tiny pleats, usually 10, sewn closely together) running along the front and back of the shirt (the pockets are separately detailed with identical, properly aligned alforzas).
In Mexico, guayaberas designed from linen are generally considered the most popular attire for beach weddings due to their combination of style and comfort of wear.
The top of each pocket is usually adorned with a matching shirt button, as are the bottoms of the alforza pleats. Vertical rows of adjusting buttons are often seen, one on each side, at the bottom hem. While the Mexican version usually has no front placket covering the buttons, the Cuban guayabera has a button-placket, also decorated with alforzas.
The bottom of some shirts have three-inch slits on either side, and these include adjusting buttons. The Mexican shirt will usually have three such buttons at the bottom, on each side. It has a straight-bottom hem, thus it is not tucked into the trousers.
The guayabera is generally worn open-necked. Though traditionally worn in white and pastels, guayaberas are now available in many colors.
In the past, guayaberas were typically sold to and associated with older men ranging from 45-75. When retro clothing styles began to make a resurgence in recent years, the consumer base began to shift to a significantly younger audience.
In some countries and in several areas of Florida, the guayabera is often an acceptable form of office wear as a means of coping with hot weather.
In the Philippines there exists a popular shirt that bears some similarity to the guayabera, referred to as a Barong Tagalog. The Barong Tagalog is an elegant, typically long-sleeved shirt. Its major difference from the traditional guayabera is that it typically has no pockets, whereas a guayabera often has four.