Ernest Hemingway loved Cuba — he loved her sultry nights, her bloody bullfights, and her magnificent blue marlins (Santiago’s “noble” and “able” opponents in The Old Man and the Sea). Hemingway also loved Cubans, and they loved him. After his suicide in 1961, fishermen in Cojimar melted down their boats’ bronze propellers and fashioned a bust of Hemingway. They named a marina near Havana after him, and a saltwater fishing tournament, the oldest, held each year since 1950 except for ’59 (the Cuban Revolution) and ’61 (the Bay of Pigs).
It is in this spirit that Blue Marlin, a small, 4-year-old clothing company out of San Francisco, pays tribute to Cuba, and to béisbol, her beloved pastime, with a series of vintage-inspired ringer T-shirts (sleeveless and short-sleeve), sweatshirts (pullover and front-zip) and caps bearing the logos of El Club Habana, the Cuban Nationals, Los Barbudos (a.k.a. the Bearded Ones, for whom Fidel pitched an exhibition game) and Alacranes de Almendares. Nutmeg, aqua, deep scarlet — the hues are drawn from the bright, hot Caribbean island of some 11 million that, in 1847, hosted the very first Latin American baseball game. The makers of replica clothing from the Minor, Negro and All-American Girls leagues introduced the expanded Cuba series, including nine new caps from pro and semipro teams, circa 1932 to 1971, in March, just prior to the Orioles/Cuban National exhibition game in Havana. Sizzling stuff this is — the Cuban Leagues’ caps are already among the company’s most popular — and not cheap. Caps are about $35, T-shirts around $36, sweatshirts about $80, available now at Fred Segal on Melrose and in Santa Monica, Anthropologie and Planet Americana in Santa Monica, and Planet Blue in Malibu (also online at www.bluemarlincorp.com).
Cuba may yet be off-limits to American tourists, but it wasn’t to Blue Marlin founder Erik Stuebe, 32, who felt mysteriously lured to the island last fall — “in-spired” by it. Hemingway, an American who was perhaps born again in Cuba, just might tip his hat.