Open main menu
A vintage aloha shirt, circa 1960

The Aloha shirt, commonly referred to as a Hawaiian shirt, is a style of dress shirt originating in Hawaii. It is currently[when?] the premier textile export of the Hawaii manufacturing industry.[citation needed] The dress shirts are printed, mostly short-sleeved, and collared. They usually have buttons, sometimes for the entire length of the dress shirt and sometimes just down to the chest (pullover). Aloha dress shirts usually have a left chest pocket sewn in, often with attention to ensure the printed pattern remains continuous. Aloha shirts may be worn by men or women; women's Aloha shirts usually have a lower-cut, v-neck style. The lower hem is straight since the shirts are not meant to be tucked in.

Aloha shirts exported to the mainland United States and elsewhere are called Hawaiian shirts, and are often brilliantly colored with floral patterns or generic Polynesian motifs. They are worn as casual, informal wear.

Traditional men's Aloha shirts, manufactured for local Hawaiian residents, are usually adorned with traditional Hawaiian quilt designs, tapa designs, and simple floral patterns in more muted colors. Contemporary Aloha shirts may have prints that do not feature any traditional Hawaiian quilt or floral designs but instead may incorporate drinks, palm trees, surf boards or other island tropical elements arranged in the same pattern[specify] as a traditional Aloha shirt.

Aloha shirts manufactured for local use are considered formal wear in business and government and are thus regarded as equivalent to a shirt, coat, and tie (generally impractical in the warmer climate of Hawaii) in all but the most formal of settings.[1] Malihini (newcomers) and tourists (visitors) often wear designs of many bright colors, while Kamaʻāina (or those who have been living on the islands for a long time) seem to prefer less busy patterns. These shirts are often printed on the interior, resulting in the muted color on the exterior, and are called "reverse print". Those not familiar with this practice might consider it to be a manufacturing defect because the shirt appears to be sewn together inside-out.

The related concept of "Aloha Attire" stems from the Aloha shirt. Semi-formal functions such as weddings, birthday parties, and dinners are often designated as "Aloha Attire", meaning that men wear Aloha shirts and women wear muumuu or other tropical prints. Because Hawaii tends to be more casual, it is rarely appropriate to attend such functions in full evening wear like on the mainland;[1] instead, Aloha Attire is seen as the happy medium between excessive formality and casual wear (i.e., business casual). "Aloha Friday", a now-common tradition of celebrating the end of the workweek by wearing more casual attire on Fridays, initially grew out of an effort to promote Aloha shirts.[2] Although it is not uncommon to see professional women participating in Aloha Friday, it is more common to see men dressing this way.



Quilt made from vintage aloha shirt fabric, circa 1960s

According to The Honolulu Advertiser's advertisement of June 28, 1935, the Aloha Shirt was first sold at "Musashi-ya shoten" in Honolulu, was preceded as "Musashi-ya", established by Japanese immigrant Chōtarō Miyamoto (宮本長太郎) in 1904. After Miyamoto’s death, in 1915, the shop was revised as "Musashiya shoten" (Japanese title: 武蔵屋呉服店 (Musashi-ya-gofukuten) by his son Kōichirō Miyamoto, who sewed Aloha shirt using Japanese Kimono fabrics and sold it first.[3]

Tori Richard aloha shirts in a store

The modern Aloha shirt was devised in the early 1930s by Chinese merchant Ellery Chun of King-Smith Clothiers and Dry Goods, a store in Waikiki.[4] The first advertisement in The Honolulu Advertiser for Chun's Aloha shirt was published on June 28, 1935. Local residents, especially surfers, and tourists descended on Chun's store and bought every shirt he had. Within years, major designer labels sprang up all over Hawaii and began manufacturing and selling Aloha shirts en masse. By the end of the 1930s, 450 people were employed in an industry worth $600,000 annually.[5] Retail chains in Hawaii, including mainland based ones, may mass-produce a single aloha shirt design for employee uniforms.

After World War II, many servicemen and servicewomen returned to the United States from Asia and the Pacific islands with aloha shirts made in Hawaii since the 1930s.[6] Tourists began flocking to Hawaii in the 1950s as faster airplanes allowed for easier travel and the former U.S. territory became a state in 1959. Alfred Shaheen, a textile manufacturer, revolutionized the garment industry in postwar Hawaii by designing, printing and producing aloha shirts and other ready-to-wear items under one roof. The tropical-print shirts for men and sundresses for women became standard and sometimes tacky souvenirs for travelers, but Shaheen raised the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction. Tori Richard is a brand of these shirts, established in Honolulu in late 1956.[7] Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen-designed red aloha shirt featured on the album cover for the Blue Hawaii soundtrack in 1961.[6]

Aloha WeekEdit

Man with a typical Aloha shirt during the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade 2012

In 1946, the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce funded a study of aloha shirts and designs for comfortable business clothing worn during the hot Hawaiian summers. The City and County of Honolulu passed a resolution allowing their employees to wear sport shirts from June–October. City employees were not allowed to wear aloha shirts for business until the creation of the Aloha Week festival in 1947. The Aloha Week festival was motivated by both cultural and economic concerns: First held at Ala Moana Park in October, the festival revived interest in ancient Hawaiian music, dancing, sports, and traditions. There was a holoku ball, a floral parade, and a makahiki festival attended by 8,000 people. Economically, the week-long event first attracted visitors during October - traditionally a slow month for tourism - which benefited the Hawaiian fashion industry as they supplied the muʻumuʻu and aloha shirts worn for the celebration.[8] Aloha Week expanded in 1974 to six islands, and was lengthened to a month. In 1991, Aloha Week was renamed to Aloha Festivals.[9]

In the end, Aloha Week had a direct influence on the resulting demand for alohawear, and was responsible for supporting local clothing manufacturing: locals needed the clothing for the festivals, and soon people in Hawaii began wearing the clothing in greater numbers on more of a daily basis. Hawaii's fashion industry was relieved, as they were initially worried that popular clothing from the mainland United States would eventually replace aloha attire.[10]

Aloha FridayEdit

In 1962, a professional manufacturing association known as the Hawaiian Fashion Guild began to promote aloha shirts and clothing for use in the workplace, particularly as business attire. In a campaign called "Operation Liberation", the Guild distributed two aloha shirts to every member of the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Hawaii Senate. Subsequently, a resolution passed in the Senate recommending aloha attire be worn throughout the summer, beginning on Lei Day.[11] The wording of the resolution spoke of letting "the male populace return to 'aloha attire' during the summer months for the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state's garment industry."[12]

In 1965, Bill Foster, Sr., president of the Hawaii Fashion Guild, led the organization in a campaign lobbying for "Aloha Friday", a day employers would allow men to wear aloha shirts on the last business day of the week a few months out of the year.[12] Aloha Friday officially began in 1966,[13] and young adults of the 1960s embraced the style, replacing the formal business wear favored by previous generations. By 1970, aloha wear had gained acceptance in Hawaii as business attire for any day of the week.[11] Unlike the court dress required in most jurisdictions, attorneys in Hawaii may be allowed to wear aloha shirts in court, though this varies among individual courts.[14]

Hawaii's custom of Aloha Friday slowly spread east to California, continuing around the globe until the 1990s, when it became known as Casual Friday.[11][12] Today in Hawaii, alohawear is worn as business attire for any day of the week, and "Aloha Friday" is generally used to refer to the last day of the work week.[11] Now considered Hawaii's term for "Thank God It's Friday" (TGIF),[15] the phrase was used by Kimo Kahoano and Paul Natto in their 1982 song, "It's Aloha Friday, No Work 'til Monday",[16] heard every Friday on Hawaii radio stations across the state.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Mike Gordon: Aloha shirts, The Honolulu Advertiser, 2.7.2006 and "Wear Aloha" Exhibit Opens At Honolulu Hale, 8.6.2006 for the tradition of Aloha Friday, as well as Dale Hope: The Aloha shirt with a different year of introduction
  2. ^ "Aloha Friday"[dead link]Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.11 No.2 (March 2007)
  3. ^ "もっと知りたい!アロハの魅力". About Aloha's attractiveness. Japan International Cooperation Agency. 2012. Archived from the original on 2006-09-09. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  4. ^ Martin, Douglas (8 June 2000). "Ellery Chun, 91, Popularizer Of the Shirt That Won Hawaii". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  5. ^ Cheung, Alexis (23 February 2018). "The Origins and Appropriations of the Aloha Shirt". Racked. Vox Media. Archived from the original on 26 September 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b Smith, Ray A. (June 7, 2012). "When Designers Meddle With Hawaiian Shirts". The Wall Street Journal. p. D6.
  7. ^ "Tori Richard". San Diego Magazine. 51: 4. 1998. Since 1956.
  8. ^ Arthur 2000, p. 34-35.
  9. ^ "A Cultural Showcase of Hawaii". Aloha Festivals. Hawaii Tourism Authority. 2006. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  10. ^ Arthur 2000, p. 39.
  11. ^ a b c d Brown & Arthur 2002, p. 78-79.
  12. ^ a b c Hope & Tozian 2000, p. 45.
  13. ^ Mufi Hannemann: "When the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i voted in favor of Aloha Friday in 1966, they were acknowledging a sentiment widespread in our Island home: that we don't have to dress like Mainlanders to be taken seriously. Now the rest of the nation has caught some of the Aloha Friday spirit with 'Casual Fridays.'"
  14. ^ Ing, Louise K. Y. (January 19, 2011). "AHFI Insights : What Not to Wear — Hawai`i Lawyers Edition". Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  15. ^ Loomis, Susan Herrmann (16 October 1988). "Shopper's World; Hawaii's Short-Sleeve Plumage". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  16. ^ Brown 2007


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit