The other day, my husband and I were invited to a Hawaiian shirt party. It was a fun event on probably the hottest day of the year with plenty of wonderful food and beverages – and of course lots of Hawaiian themed attire. Needless to say, we played along in full gear. My husband bought himself a Hawaiian shirt, and I got a dress with a tropical flower theme.
Of course, we all know what a Hawaiian shirt looks like. But why is it called that? And what makes it so typical and recognizable?! I had to check Wikipedia …
“Palaka aloha” is the original term for the aloha shirt, which originates from Hawaii and is made of printed material. Short-sleeved and collared, it can be worn by men and women though the cut for women is slightly more V-necked. It is usually worn shirt-tail out, and – you might have guessed it – locals seem to prefer the less garish patterns and colors. Their shirts are most often old quilt designs, floral patterns or beautiful geometric bark prints.
The first Hawaiian shirts were produced in the 1920 nor 1930s, depending on whether we want to believe the Japanese fabric version (Koichiro Miyamoto) from Honolulu or the Chinese mass production (Ellery Chun) from Waikiki. The latter is definitely proven to have coined the term “aloha shirts” by way of advertising in their shop window and by owning the trademark into the late 1950s.
American military brought the colorful fashion to the U.S., and Elvis Presley made it even more widely known when he wore aloha shirts in one of his movies. To this day, aloha shirts are Hawaii’s best textile export article.
Hawaii created even an Aloha Week festival in 1947. As it celebrates everything originating from the archipelago, the local people also bought more and more aloha shirts. The Hawaiian Fashion Guild started promoting the wear more generally in 1962, and in 1965 its president Bill Foster Sr. lobbied for “Aloha Fridays”. The idea sparked especially with younger people. In the 1970s, aloha shirts became accepted as work attire any day of the week. And 1982 celebrated “Aloha Friday” even with a song:
Interesting what one finds once one pokes around a bit, right?! Listening to Karaoke, wearing a Lei complementing the colors of my tropical print, I contemplated that Hawaiian shirts are actually both leisurely and nicely dressed. I might try and persuade my husband to get some more of the subtler patterns. Just as I might get myself some more aloha dresses …