A Short History: Cigars, Fashion and Influence

A Short History: Cigars, Fashion and Influence

Known to many aficionados all over the world, there has always been a relationship between smoking Cuban Cigars and the world of refined fashion. To many cigar novices, it can be intimidating to adhere to such particular standards - often asking themselves - Is this appropriate to wear? Do I need to exhibit a certain degree of elegance? To answer this question, we will review the relationship between cigars and fashion throughout the centuries - we will touch upon how such standards develop and who were the individuals that influenced the world of cigar and fashion.

"BACK TO THE ORIGINS"

THE MAYANS - Though the modern world has acknowledged and commercialised cigars - shaping expectations of fashion and etiquette. You cannot understand the true purpose and origin of something without going back to its roots. The invention of the cigar was thought to have originated in the tobacco land of Cuba, all the way to the existence of the Mayan civilisation. Thousands of years ago, where ancient beliefs of Sun Gods and old methods of Agriculture existed - they were believed to have smoked tobacco according to traces in archaeological artefacts. About the nature of survival and tradition, the Mayans likely did not place a great deal of interrelation between cigars being a display of wealth - but as an ordinary custom.

GUAYABERA CUBANO - Fast forward to Cuba in the 18-19th Century, garments called the 'Guayabera' were spotted being worn by Cuban men. Known to be a summer garment, the guayabera is frequently worn in the Latin American shores. Made with delicate embroidery and pleating, the guayabera traces its roots to the province of Sancti Espiritus, as legend says, a man named Jose Gonzales asked his wife to make a white long-sleeved linen shirt with four large pockets to carry small things like cigars throughout the day. The shirt was admired by the local guava farmers due to the small pockets that could fit the guayabas fruit and have coined the term ‘guayabera’ shirt. The shirt has since become an icon for Cuba, with brands such as Cohiba creating their Cohiba Atmosphere Guayabera Shirt .

Left: Vintage Photo of a Cuban Man wearing Guayabera; Right: Cohiba Atmosphere Guayabera Shirt

"THE GOLDEN ERA OF CIGARS & POLITICS"

VICTORIANS, SUITS & SMOKING JACKETS - By 1845, the cigar trade replaced coffee as Cuba's main export and becoming a symbol of wealth all around Europe; particularly England and France. The cigar band and many well-known, premium cigar brands were established by this point; such as Punch and Partagas. The rich and upper-class recognised cigars as a luxury product to be adorned along with their lavish lifestyles and their tailored suits. Around this time, cigar lounges were also constructed and wealthy men began wearing "Smoking jackets" made popularised, which was primarily used to protect their clothing from falling ash or the smell of smoke. But if a smoking jacket was not worn, tailored suits and attire were worn often while smoking tobacco. This gave the impression and expectations that smoking cigars should have a degree of refinement.

20TH CENTURY - This era was highly turbulent for both the world and the sale of cigars - the era whereby two world wars occurred and the political environment was fluctuating all-over the globe.  Political figures like Fidel Castro and Winston Churchill were often seen with a stick of cigar in their hand or mouth, both were figures who loved cigars. These figures accentuate the symbol of 'power' and 'wealth' for cigars - as figures of politics and their attire which is associated with the elite. Look at Churchill, who's favourite was Romeo y Julieta Cigars, a dapper man often wearing tailored pin-stripe suits and the most lavish coats. According to Smoking in British Popular Culture 1800-200 written by Matthew Hilton, cigars do convey a sense of being 'real men' with power and an adventurous spirit.

Left: Vintage Photo of Victorian Men wearing a suit and smoking jacket; Top Right: Winston Churchill smoking a cigar; Bottom left: Rail Travellers in 1850

"MODERN ELEGANCE"

SPORTS & CELEBRITIES - Despite the decline of cigar smoking since the Victorian Era, some celebrities and figures adapt to cigar smoking as part of their lives or for special occasions. The 'smoking jacket' became a pop culture icon - often worn by Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy mansion, he often adorned the jacket and is recognised for it. Furthermore, the sports industry features athletes who often smoke cigars as a form of celebration or for their leisure - some notable names included David Beckham, Michael Jimenez and Michael Jordan.

OCCASIONS - Amidst the 20th Century towards the 21st Century - cigar smoking has become some sort of novelty after the invention of the cigar rolling machine - commercially making cigarettes. Though there are many cigar enthusiasts all over the world, the cigarette industry dominates - enhancing the exclusivity of the cigars. If you enter into a cigar lounge, there is still a certain expectation to dress the part - however - it is an optional choice. After EGM Cigars attended the Amigos De Partagas Cigar festival in Italy, many men wore their lavish suits but also, many people wore casual clothing fit for the summer. Though, you cannot deny that if you do wear a suit, you are met with a degree of respect. 

Left: Jasim Ahmed smoking a cigar in Amigos De Partagas; Top right: Michael Jimenez; Bottom right: Wayne Gretzky

All in all, the attire you wear when smoking cigars is up to you and the occasion. If you want to commemorate its true Cuban origins, grab yourself a guayabera shirt; or if you want to be the epitome of class – wear a suit or a smoking jacket; alternatively, if you just want to relax in the comfort of your own home, just be casual. Throughout countless eras and countries, there isn’t one special way of dressing the part – the most important thing is enjoying the cigar that you have in your mouth.

To learn more about all things Cuban Cigars, check out our Cuban Cigar Blog: