The commonwealth of Puerto Rico may be a U.S. territory, but it has a rich culture and heritage all its own. The history of the island has shaped its traditional styles of dress up through the present. Although most of the outfits you'll see on locals are just the same as what you'd expect in any Western nation, the influence of historical costumes is particularly apparent during special occasions and traditional holidays.
The guayabera is the most distinctive and well-known garment from Puerto Rico. A kind of tailored shirt for men, it has patch pockets on the front and is usually worn over an undershirt. The fit is tailored but loose, to be worn over trousers. Often, the shirt has short slits on the side and is worn with a few buttons open, so the undershirt shows underneath. Traditional materials include cotton and linen, though polyester is also used for modern guayaberas. A traditional version of the guayabera, primarily used as formal wear, is made with fibers from the pineapple plant.
Historically, Puerto Rican dress has changed with each wave of new inhabitants. The indigenous Taino people had very little clothing, with the men, children and teens wearing nothing at all. Only married women wore garments, simple cotton skirts called naguas. The length of the nagua indicated the woman's status in society, with higher-ranking individuals wearing longer garments. Men and women used paints to decorate their bodies and wore jewelry made from bones, rocks, feathers and coral. By contrast, the Spaniards who first arrived in Puerto Rico wore full uniforms despite the island's extreme heat and humidity.
In modern times, Puerto Ricans dress similarly to individuals in any Western country. Guayabera shirts remain popular, as well as a full range of other garments well-suited to the hot climate. In San Juan, many restaurants forbid you from wearing shorts, jeans, T-shirts or other casual attire. Tourists visiting religious places are also -advised to abstain from wearing sleeveless shirts or short skirts, dresses or shorts. It's common for women to carry umbrellas, both for protection from rain and intense sun.
During festivals and special occasions, it's common for Puerto Ricans to wear more traditional costumes. During the quinceanera, a coming-of-age celebration for 15-year-old girls, the quinceanera wears an extravagant gown, usually in a pastel color or in white, much like modern Western wedding gowns. Another tradition has babies wear gold bracelets or necklaces adorned with coral charms, made to protect them from the mal de ojo or the evil eye.