The Aloha shirt, commonly referred to as a Hawaiian shirt, is a style of dress shirt originating in Hawaii. It is currently the premier textile export of the Hawaii manufacturing industry. 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, as the shirts are not meant to be tucked in.
Aloha shirts exported to the mainland United States and elsewhere are called Hawaiian shirts and often brilliantly colored with floral patterns or generic Polynesian motifs and 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 and instead may have such elements as automobiles, drinks, sports team logos, or other elements arranged in the same pattern[specify] as a traditional aloha shirt.
Aloha shirts manufactured for local wear are considered formal wear in business and government, and thus are 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. Malahini (newcomers) and tourists (visitors) often wear designs of many bright colors while Kamaʻāina (or those who have been living in the islands for a long time) seem to prefer less busy patterns. These shirts often are printed on the interior, resulting in the muted color on the exterior, and are called "reverse print". For those not familiar, it may appear to be a defect in manufacturing as 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; 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. Although not uncommon to see professional women participating in Aloha Friday, it is more common to see men dressing this way.
According to Honolulu Advertiser's advertisement of June 28, 1935, Aloha Shirt, was first sold at "Musashi-ya shoten" in Honolulu, was preceded as "Musashi-ya", established by Japanese immigrant Miyamoto Chōtarō (宮本長太郎) in 1904. After Chōtarō'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 Miyamoto Kōichirō, who sewed Aloha shirt and sold it first.
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. Chun began sewing brightly colored shirts for tourists out of old kimono fabrics he had leftover in stock. The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper was quick to coin the term Aloha shirt to describe Chun's fashionable creation. Chun trademarked the name. 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 sprung up all over Hawaii and began manufacturing and selling Aloha shirts en masse. 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. 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 was a prominent designer of these shirts, establishing a business in Honolulu in 1956. Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen-designed red aloha shirt featured on the album cover for the Blue Hawaii soundtrack in 1961.
The aloha shirt has at times been associated with the gay community, as made clear in the season 8 episode of The Simpsons Homer's Phobia. The association may stem from the tendency of Magnum, P.I. main character Thomas Magnum, portrayed by Tom Selleck, to regularly wear aloha shirts on the show, as it was set on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Selleck was rumored to be gay, though he has since denied those rumors. Any association with the court case Baehr v. Miike, a lawsuit in which three same-sex couples argued that Hawaii's prohibition of same-sex marriage violated the state constitution which later provided an impetus for the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, is likely secondary at best, as the case wasn't initiated until 1991, roughly three years after the end of the television show's broadcast.
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. Aloha Week expanded in 1974 to six islands, and was lengthened to a month. In 1991, Aloha Week was renamed to Aloha Festivals.
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.
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. 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."
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. Aloha Friday officially began in 1966, 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.
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. 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. Now considered Hawaii's term for "Thank God It's Friday" (TGIF), the phrase was used by Kimo Kahoano and Paul Natto in their 1982 song, "It's Aloha Friday, No Work 'til Monday", heard every Friday on Hawaii radio stations across the state.
- Camp Shirt
- Bowling shirt
- Guayabera - Caribbean shirt worn casually or as business attire
- Kariyushi shirt - Okinawan shirt worn casually or as business attire
- Tori Richard - A producer of high-end Aloha shirts
- 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
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- 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.'"
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- Brown 2007
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- Brown, DeSoto; Linda Arthur (2002). The Art of the Aloha Shirt. Island Heritage Publishing. ISBN 0-89610-406-0.
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- Fujii, Jocelyn (2006). Tori Richard: The First Fifty Years. Honolulu, HI: Tr Press. ISBN 0-9785466-0-1.
- Hope, Dale; Gregory Tozian (2000). The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing. ISBN 1-58270-034-6.
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