As aesthetic as the Aloha Shirt

Aloha shirts hawaii

A very discernible beach holiday vibe, funky in the equally evident display of tropical prints and indeed no less popular in their essentially colored premises at least in the pattern though also otherwise, sometimes vibrant but also passing off often as less vivid but striking still, there is no case of mistaken identity as what concerns a classic Hawaiian shirt, also equally popular as the Aloha shirt. Collared and buttoned and pocketed as well in a single assertion, short sleeved and printed and androgynous rather, generally a tad bit loose but surprisingly never ill fitting and worn untucked as almost a religious norm, these almost a century old classification in style exude a charm in comfort and coolness as what needs to be catered to in a clime characteristic of the tropical type that Hawaii resides in.

A fashion phenomenon that unlike many of them do not rest in the premises of ambiguity or tends to be a misnomer, the Hawaiian shirt is very definitely and as much Hawaiian as what it suggests. It had been sometime in the 1920s or the early 1930s that these shirts came to be as flaunting Japanese prints back then, more precisely tailored out of kimono fabric as what the origin stories of it suggests. The more popular vision that conjures up this fashion identity in today’s times could not however be any more Hawaiian what with prints in florals and foliage and fauna and foreshores as well of what indeed evokes the sunny allure of the island essentially explored as part of its distinct design.

david beckhan in aloha shirt
Source: British GQ

Stereotypical rather an alluding to the tourist identity and a faux pas of fashion in times not so recent, this specimen of the shirt does however justify every single element of prominence or otherwise that has come to do up its mood in its 100 years long history. How this commonly called Hawaiian shirt assumed a more authentic identity by yielding essentially that same notion in nationalism is a story as unpretentious as the very humble, frill free make of the garment itself.

With the immensely cheerful sounding Hawaiian greeting of aloha denoting a range of products stemming from the nation at that time, it would be only natural that the newest shirt on the block should also exist in that very dimension of naming. And thus emerged in true nature the Aloha shirt of global fame, sparking some kind of a fashion trend that would continue to find favor perhaps not as something very essential but exhibiting still a certainty and exuding a flavor that immediately conveys every spirit of the holidaying kind. By extension therefore, this fashion staple of today not necessarily sported while on vacation in the sunny climes of Hawaii also came to encompass in its character every associated element of leisure, unfurling across all feel good ideas of the laidback and relaxed and destressed and enjoyable to present itself as the ultimate way to dress down for the weekend in even the strictest of professional settings.

It is out of these defining attributes of what connotes the essence of the Aloha shirt that there grew a couple of specific traditions of the Aloha Week and the Aloha Friday. And while the Aloha Week began as a cultural celebration, it also were economic ideas that led to this now festivalised custom in celebrating Hawaii through its definitely own namesake shirt. It has been out of this effort in both fun and consideration that these quirky shirts became an accepted part of the informal work attire in the country. A tourist attraction since then, these since named Aloha Festivals added further to the appeal of the Aloha shirt that became increasingly and essentially donned by those seeking to partake of the true leisurely indulgence of Hawaii perhaps in adhering to the very spirit that these shirts stood out as even in their not so profound symbolism.

The more global but still more particular concept of the Aloha Friday dwells exclusively on that donning of this surely casual shirt that the last day of the week allowed for as nothing less than a luxury indeed to business people. In fact it has been from this custom originating in Hawaii that the western unfurling of Casual Friday emerged even as Aloha Friday itself came to denote the last working day of the week and the phrase being now the Hawaiian version of the ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ rendition in relief.

Equally relevant to this popular cultural concept in the whole Aloha scheme of things shirts is the expression of Aloha attire that sums up the business casual scene in Hawaii. The designated attire in semi formal functions and casual events that passes off as striking the perfect balance between extremely formal and exclusively casual wear, the Aloha shirt has indeed come to redefine fashion in a way that does not just endow upon Hawaii that image in beachy vibes but also addresses the actual issues of comfort and convenience that are of particular concern in the generally warm climate of the country.

And yet even in their sprawl across such curations in tailored indeed measure, Aloha shirts haven’t been so clear cut in their dimensions. Indeed they have always been imprinted in that definite visage of the blooms and the colors and vividness but it is in this very feature of their defining that aloha shirts does not pass off so much as male clothing even when it largely is that. Beginning to become popular with tourists visiting Hawaii, these shirts came to find greater favor during the period of the Great Depression in being invoking of the idea of what people aspired for in all carefree, indulgent leisure during those days of difficult existence.

But entangled with this facet had been another rather contradictory element of what also characterised the prevailing societal mood at that time. With men out of work, there was a serious fear of them losing their dignity in manliness which led them to chart out physical options in muscle building and the like to sustain that earlier, desired status of theirs. Even in that scenario though, these largely floral printed and therefore seen as somewhat feminine Aloha shirts acquired for itself a considerable male market as almost a paradoxical assertion in what governed the apparent reality.

What drove this staggering demand for the attention grabbing flair unleashed through the Hawaiian shirt’s signature style in exclusively natural motifs representing of the tropics had been the equal amount of extravagance that this otherwise ordinary shirt commanded out of its essence as a glaringly holiday commonality. The indulgent exuberance of Hawaii being one of impeccable standards, it were the uber rich who flocked to this utopia of natural riches and therefore happened to be the ones flaunting their love for the shirt. That of course would be a given considering the easy breezy appeal flowing through the comfortable built and material of the Aloha shirt. But this display of love by donning them made also Hawaiian shirts be viewed as luxury almost goods as well, enticing thus one and all by the sheer majesty of its vouching.

Out of such intense idealism in riches through which the Hawaiian shirt strengthened its case in immense popularity, there manifests yet again a contradiction of that same piece of clothing coming to symbolise the uniform of the labor class. This though also speaks of the versatility that these quintessential luggage of tourists and now popular mode of summer wear has come to embody through its evolvement as being characteristic of a fashion consciousness denoting the desired awareness of coolness along the vibrant climes of warmth, in physical indeed but metaphorical as well as terms.

This distinctiveness of its being would come to characterise even more the Aloha identity during the period after the Second World War. As the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour came to be a surprising unrevealing during that time, it was deemed proper for the Hawaiian shirt to move away from its Japanese influences and emerge as more of its own kind, allowing thus for the prominence of the prints to establish in the style as encountered in the present day. And with service members returning to the US from Hawaii after the war, they brought along with them also this signature style of the nation setting the stage for its global takeover in a measure unparalleled.

hawaiian shirts
Source: Roody

The time period of the ensuing decades saw the Hawaiian shirt covet even more popularity and with the trailblazing concept of Aloha Friday ushering in a whole new experience of casualness even within the strict rigidity of the professional space, it was only natural that the triggering agent of it all would be an object of definite fancy. So much so that it wasn’t just the rich but the famous as well who took a liking to this eccentric perhaps expression of both style and sensibility so that the craze of it only grew and grew. From Elvis Presley to Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Aniston, pop culture was flooded with references of just how popular the Aloha shirt had become spurring thus yet another wave of its popularity so that it grew to be a phenomenon that even time could not dull the vibrancy of.

A modern chic style and yet resident in that vintage, iconic appeal of what would continue to trend as an eternal fashion statement, sending out vibes in carefree luxury, emanating a charm of refreshing indulgence, exuberant yet easy, exotic as well as ordinary, as much touristry as it is native, this assertion of what identifies as the Hawaiian or the Aloha shirt stems therefore as a character in itself, one so flamboyant in its minimalistic adherence that surpasses perhaps even the most stylish of fads that the fashion world regularly entertains.