Saturday, May 21, 2011

Indigenous Guatemalan Men's Clothing

While the indigenous men's clothing in Guatemala is disappearing at a much faster pace than the indigenous women's clothing, it is still visible, especially in the smaller towns. Jeans shipped from the north have rapidly replaced the hand-woven textiles that formed pants or shorts identifying each man's region and heritage. Sometimes, instead of being replaced, a unique compromise occurs with Mayan textiles and Western patterns.

Another example of that is this heavily (and heavy!) embroidered-collared shirt necessary for warmth in the mountains of Todos Santos, Huehuetenango.

Apparently this is a topic many people who study indigenous people are interested in. There are many museums and universities out there with a ton of information on the different types of influences of Western culture on the Mayan indigenous dress, male and female. One university museum who has researched this topic is the Sam Noble Museum from the University of Oklahoma. The Sam Noble Museum's website says:
"This man's shirt from Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala, shows the influence of Western style in its chest pocket and machine stitching. Also, it is worn with pants largely of Western design; the pants are fitted rather than loose and have a waistband and beltloops, features absent in the older styles of pants."

They go on to say: "In many ways, though, this outfit remains true to the traditional clothing styles for this Mayan community.

The fabric of the shirt is woven on a backstrap loom, the cuffs and collar are heavily brocaded, and like most traditional shirts, it has no buttons."

Ball caps are rampant, but the hand-woven sombreros with textile bands are still very common.

While it is hard to reconcile "Western" rules of matching to Guatemalan textiles that are worn together, there is no denying that they are wildly vibrant and colorful!

Though most Guatemalan men have switched to the cheaper, less labor-intensive Western clothing shipped down from the States, others proudly wear their indigenous clothing and identify with their ancestry through it. According to the Sam Noble Museum website: "Even within a community where men and women both continue to wear traditional styles of clothing, these styles are different and reflect the sexual division of labor. There are only a few villages where men continue to wear traditional clothing, and oftentimes they continue to do so to demonstrate their pride in being Mayan. By far, villages where men and women both continue to wear traditional styles of clothing, such as Todos Santos Cuchumatan, San Juan Atitan, and Santiago Atitlan, are exceptions to the rule. Men of these villages are instantly recognizeable because of their distinctive clothing styles."


  1. Guatemala's mens clothing is like a colorful cowboys clothing and the design or the pattern of the clothes are like ifugao's clothing, this ifugao's are the native tribe from philippines. By the way I love your post.

  2. Nice to read your article! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences.mens clothing