Father's Day

5 Shirts Latino Dads Have in Their Closet for Sure

Latino dads are known for many things — waiting up in their favorite recliner until you get home from a party, waking up from their nap as soon as you turn the TV off and claiming to have been awake the whole time, reusing paper towels, getting to the airport six hours before the flight — but fashion is not one of them. In fact, I have vivid memories from childhood of my dad sitting on a bench with his arms crossed at the mall while my mom and I shopped. 

For the most part, our papás enjoy a no fuss approach to style. All they need are a trustworthy pair of cargo shorts, paint-stained sneakers and a steady rotation of four to six shirts, one for every occasion. Here are the top five staples in our dads’ closets, from what they wear to tinker with the car, to a funeral, to Christmas dinner with the entire familia.

We’ve got to give it to them — if nothing else, they have range. 

1. White tank top. 

Old or young, Mexican or Puerto Rican, doctor or mechanic — all Latino dads own a white tank top.

In most cases, since they tend to come in packs at the store, they own at least half a dozen, which is good because our dads put them to daily use. Whether they wear it under their dress shirts to go to the office, or to work on the car when it’s hot out or at home as their very own specific brand of athleisure, this ribbed-cotton garment is endlessly versatile.

Don’t be alarmed by its aggressive nickname, “wife beater,” which dates back to a heinous 1947 crime in which a man wearing the iconic white tank top beat his wife to death. Despite its dark past, the white tank top is a beloved constant in our father’s lives, and by association, in ours. It’s okay, white tank, we believe in second chances. 

2. Guayabera.

When I think guayabera, or camisa de Yucatán, I think: party.

The only times my dad ever wears these are for celebrations. Someone’s birthday, an anniversary, even a backyard wedding — all of these events call for the billowy linen shirt.

Designed for summer with both maximum breathability and panache, all of our dads have had a brush with the guayabera. It’s always hanging there, in the back of the closet, waiting for its time to shine.

The origin of the guayabera is unclear, some speculating that it was created in the Philippines and brought to Latin America via the Spanish, its signature pleated pattern resembling the Philippine barong. All we know for sure is that these ubiquitous party shirts are a must-have for Latino dads. Maybe it’s the effortlessness of it. Maybe it’s the instinctive love of tradition, the knowledge that this article of clothing bonds you to everyone who wore it before you and to everyone who will after. Maybe it’s just too breezy to pass up. 

3. Fancy long-sleeved button down. 

This is a shirt your dad only wears for truly special occasions, although they might not all be good. Tio Jose’s funeral, for example, would require a fancy long-sleeved button-down shirt.

Traditionally, a black one. Then again, church on Easter Sunday might require a pastel yellow or a baby blue one. For Noche Buena, a red one.

The long-sleeved button down’s stuffiness is mitigated by its ability to rebrand itself as it changes color. Basically, it’s the Madonna of shirts, a chameleon for the ages. Your dad doesn’t love wearing this shirt. He prefers the freedom of no cuffs or collars and hates how hot it makes him, but your mom makes him wear it for pictures. And after he sees the pictures, his fancy long-sleeved button-down taking center stage, his arms outstretched around his family, he admits quietly to himself, making sure no one can hear: “Hm. I do look good.” 

4. Checkered short-sleeved shirt. 

Although this shirt lacks the rugged manliness of a lumberjack’s flannel print, it certainly makes up for it in avuncularity.

This shirt makes your dad look approachable, friendly, a family man who occasionally indulges in a game of dominoes and a Corona — hold the lime. But he’s also not your plain t-shirt kind of dad. He’s got a little bit more pep in his step, not afraid to take a walk on the checkered side.

There are lots of popular color combinations — red and white, blue and gray, green and black. After all, para los gustos se hicieron los colores. And your dad has gustos, believe it or not. The small pocket on the breast is a bonus, a safe place where he can put his comb or flip phone, which he uses to call you every hour on the hour when you’re at a party until you finally come home. 

5. The “Best Dad Ever” shirt.

Even though this last one might not be exclusive to Latino dads, it does delightfully highlight the fact that Latino dads are just… dads. Yes, they happen to wake you up with “Las Mañanitas” on every birthday and tend to be as overprotective and dramatic as any character in a telenovela, but they still make up half of you.

And they’ve always been there for you, haven’t they? They stayed up all night with you when you had a fever, they read you bedtime stories, picked you up early from school when you had a stomachache, worked hard to buy you your first car and cried hot, salty tears when you left for college, not to mention the myriad sacrifices in between.

Although this shirt’s cringe factor is undeniable, it is superseded by the sweet, heartfelt sentiment behind it: we all believe we have the best dads in the world and we want them to know it. If you’re looking for a sign to get your dad the cheesiest Father’s Day gift of all time, this is it. 

Felicidades a todos los padres!

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