Hawaiian shirts

The vintage Hawaiian shirt - a story of multicultural friendship

Considered a fashion sin by some, loved by many for the transition between etiquette (shirt) and casual style (patterns and prints), the vintage Hawaiian shirt found its way into our hearts and closets as a fashion staple.

The shirt finds its pop culture origin in the business world and in the military. Not necessarily the ambience in which we would locate the lightness and lifestyle of Hawaii. The vintage Hawaiian shirt broke with this image and did much more - more on that later.

But how did the colorful original Hawaiian shirt spread from a Pacific island in the ocean to the whole world? As is so often the case, the answer is: movies and series! We thought about it, how many classic films can we think of that made the colorful shirts famous?

  1. Tom Selleck as the TV detective of the same name in the series “ Magnum ” can be seen permanently in the colorful shirts, the so-called Magnum Hawaiian shirts
  2. Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley in which he plays the ukulele and wears a Hawaiian shirt and makes music for his sweetheart
  3. Al Pacino wears Hawaiian shirt in gangster classic Scarface
  4. The Montage guys in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet all wear Hawaiian shirts

Back to the roots - these shirts from Hawaii

The history of the Hawaiian shirt dates back to the 1840 's, the year the first records of brightly colored shirts sighted on the streets of Honolulu, at that time worn exclusively by the male population, are found. Because there was no name for the shirts in the Hawaiian-Polynesian language, the English description of the Hawaiian shirt (German Hawaiian shirt) or even more popular Aloha shirt applies to this day.

But why is the vintage Hawaiian shirt also a story of multicultural friendship ? Originally, two styles of shirts were worn by the native Polynesians and immigrants from the Philippines: Barong tagalog (Filipino); called bayan for short & palaka (polynesian).

The Bayan was best known for its loose fit and was comfortably airy to wear on warm, humid days. The palaka, on the other hand, was rough and tough, so it was worn as outerwear by plantation workers and originally came from Japan. In Japanese fashion, it was not customary to produce with few dyes, this was also the case with these work smocks, which were usually dyed blue with indigo. In Hawaii, they have long been considered a kind of national costume and identifying feature of the common workers, not entirely dissimilar to jeans. By the way: The palaka ultimately means simply a work smock.

Beginning in 1924, this stigma was gradually discarded as Hawaiian shirts were worn by dancers and replaced with Samoan designs. This made the already colorful shirts even more eye-catching. The dancers adapted this style as a kind of uniform and paid the local Musa-Shiya Shoten Ltd. for the production of Hawaiian shirts for all dancers.

That was the start of an absolute classic and export hit in Hawaii, newly produced as an Aloha shirt or Hawaiian shirt or even better in the second life cycle as a vintage Hawaiian shirt. The popular shirt has now also been woven from other, ambitious fabrics - namely yukata, a light cotton fabric originally worn by children in Japan.

Another special feature of the production are the narrow strips of fabric - so the shirt had to be sewn together from 10 individual parts. An original Hawaiian shirt can still be recognized today by this “patchy” style . So this product came together from Polynesia, the Philippines, Japan and Samoa. But wait, there's more to tell:

Mainly American tourists from the mainland visited the fiftieth and youngest state of the USA. In addition, before the Second World War, the Pacific Fleet and thus the Hawaiian naval base was expanded. As a result, the Hawaiian shirt was worn more and more by sailors and taken with them on vacation home. In 1947, Honolulu officials were allowed to wear the Hawaiian shirts in simpler color variations on duty - and you'll be surprised to hear they even wear them over their pants.

The story is almost finished here. Do you remember the little Musa-Shiya Shoten Ltd. textile factory? This was later the first to advertise the original Hawaiian shirt under the name Aloha Shirt – at the price of 95 cents US dollars at the time.

Style and cut of Hawaiian shirts

Ultimately, the Hawaiian shirt is not only sustainable but also diverse! Originating in Hawaii from the influence of the Polynesian people and light shirts from the Philippines , dyed by Japanese weavers and complemented with patterns from Samoa , it finally gained worldwide fame through American pop culture like the Magnum Hawaiian shirt.

To this day, the original Hawaiian shirt or Aloha shirt is worn loose-fitting and made of cotton or cotton fabric, it consists of 10 parts that are sewn into a shirt in Hawaii. The Hawaiian shirt as a mass product is mostly made of cotton or polyester and is no longer produced in Hawaii itself. In addition, for reasons of efficiency, 10 individual pieces are no longer sewn.