Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cubavera and the great shirt quest

by frédérik sisa

I confess my great shirt quest didn’t quite take me to the four corners of the fashion world. Mostly it’s because I balk at spending small fortunes on shirts that can only degrade with time…and are so nice and expensive that wearing them would make me paranoid about getting them dirty or damaged. But also because it IS possible to find good fashion design at non-Rodeo Drive prices.

The background behind my wardrobe upgrade was to stop being a lazy sod relying on t-shirts. (I know: ugh.) I wanted something a bit more professional, more stylish, more versatile. Among the requirements: short sleeves (because it’s mostly warm/hot here in SoCal), colour compliant (black, grey, sanguinary colours, the odd splash of white if necessary), and NOT simply a short-sleeve version of the usual dress shirts that give dry cleaners so much business. Hitting some of the usual spots let to results (Macy’s) and busts (Target), prompting me to go to not-the-usual spots like My Baby Jo’s only to be surprised and disappointed that bowling shirts rarely come in size small. And you read that right: bowling shirts, as in swing music, good times on the lanes, and rock ‘n roll. Long story short: there have been a few successes on the road to great shirts, and a few disappointments. We laughed, we cried, and kept on driving. Then a rather silly mistake. After perusing Topman USA’s catalog and finding a handsome number in black with white trim, I balked at the not-unreasonable price. Naturally, I ended up waiting too long and the shirt went poof in a cloud of pixels. Crumb.

So after much dithering it finally occurred to me to look up the brand of a comfortable, stylish quality Cuban-style shirt I bought at Robinsons May back in the days when they were still around: Cubavera.

As an associate brand of Perry Ellis International, Cubavera aims to translate the “ideals, joy and ‘sabor’ of Latin culture into apparel.” Cuban-born designer Lorenzo Ramos, who once ran his own company (Verge Clothing) and worked as an assistant designer at Kenneth Cole, is the key designer behind Cubavera. His work is clean, precise, with a judicious use of detail (e.g. embroidery). The products – which also include pants, herringbone jackets, Guayabera shirts, and a rather small but eclectic collection of accessories – are well-constructed and very affordable. Style-wise, the tropical-inspired look is classic in the timeless, refined sense – and the shirts are perfect for California’s bipolar beach-and-urban-jungle environment in that they can convincingly straddle the casual and the formal. In other words, these are shirts that dress up or down as the situation requires.

So I took advantage of a sale and bought two shirts, one of which has a similar aesthetic to that one from Topman’s I had my eye on. The venerable wardrobe workhorse, with the embroidered front white panels, is hiding on the left. (I apologize for the poor image quality, but I wasn't quite prepared to get a good photo. The middle shirt has a white front insert with a patterned border.)

All in all, my great shirt quest didn’t turn out to be an effort to tilt at windmills. Instead, it led me to rediscover a very appealing men’s brand that offers sensible, stylish design at accessible prices.


Samantha said...

Those are great black and white shirts! Definitely dress up or down!

xo, sam

*Style of Sam*

Frederik Sisa said...

Thanks, Samantha! They are very versatile shirts indeed, and a reliable go-to wardrobe staple!

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