HAWAIIAN SHIRT'S COLORFUL HISTORY
If you’re a true-blue surfer, chances are that an
Aloha shirt or three are lurking in your closet – the next time
you plan to wear your bright, tropical Hawaiian gem, spare a thought
for this article of clothing’s colorful history…which you may
not have been aware of…
Hawaiian shirts were popular long before Elvis Presley
wore a red aloha shirt on the album cover for the “Blue Hawaii”
soundtrack in 1961. In fact, the modern Hawaiian shirt came about
in the early 1930s.
A Chinese merchant named Ellery Chun of King-Smith
Clothiers and Dry Goods, owned a store in Waikiki. Ellery started
to sew brightly colored aloha shirts for tourists fashioned from
old kimono fabrics he had leftover in stock.
The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper was quick to coin
them by the term ‘Aloha shirt’ and Ellery trademarked the name.
The first ad in the Honolulu Advertiser for Chun’s Hawaiian shirts
was published in June 1935. Local residents and as you’d expect…especially
those in the surfing community, as well as tourists descended
on Chun’s store and bought every shirt he had.
Within just a few years, major designer labels opened
all over Hawaii and began to manufacture and sell Aloha shirts
en masse. Retail chains in Hawaii, even mass produced Hawaiian
shirt designs to use as their employee uniforms. At sites like
Hawaiian Shirts Central you’ll see some of the best examples of
shirt Hawaiian and apparel.
After World War II, many servicemen and servicewomen
returned to the United States from Asia and the Pacific islands
with aloha shirts that had been made in Hawaii since the 1930s.
Then as the tourists started flocking to Hawaii post WW2 in the
1950s, the colorful tropical-print shirts for men and sundresses
for women became standard souvenirs for travelers.
In 1962, a professional manufacturing association
known as the Hawaiian Fashion Guild began to promote Hawaiian
shirts and clothing for use in the workplace, particularly as
business attire. In a campaign very aptly called 'Operation Liberation'
the Guild delivered two aloha shirts to every member of the Hawaii
House of Representatives and the Hawaii Senate. This was a success
because a resolution was soon passed in the Senate advising that
aloha attire (essentially Hawaiian shirts) be worn throughout
the summer in Hawaii.
In 1965, Bill Foster, Sr., the then president of
the Hawaii Fashion Guild, led a campaign lobbying for an official
and regular “Aloha Friday”, a day when all employers would allow
their staff to wear Hawaiian shirts on the last business day of
the week. In 1966 Aloha Friday officially began in Hawaii and
has since spread worldwide – although now-a-days it is commonly
referred to as ‘Casual Friday’.