It’s Aloha Friday!
The legend of the Hawiian shirt starts with it not even being called a Hawiian shirt ironically. Originally called the Aloha shirt and created in the 1930’s in Waikki the first versions were created out of leftover kimono cloth. The local newspaper caught onto the fad and coined the term Aloha shirt. Ellery Chun the creator of the shirts immediately trademarked the name and ran advertisements for them in 1935.
In the 1950’s tourists began coming in droves to the Hawaiian islands and the shirts immediately took off when any number of textile manufacturers began producing the shirts along with sun dresses and other Hawaiian themed merchandise. When you look back and see the shirts Elvis Presley and other wore back in the 50’s it’s pretty cool to think this style of shirt is still going strong some 60 years later. The original varieties were made of Rayon and were highly flammable. So think of that in combination with the favorite place to wear them which usually included tiki torches, some guy twirling a flaming baton and a large BBQ. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but hey it was the 50’s and we didn’t have all the regulations we have now.
In 1947 Hawaiian shirts even had their own week and it had expanded to six islands. Called Aloha week it was a celebration of the influence Aloha shirts had on the culture and the islands. Renamed the Aloha Festivals and expanded to a month long celebration in 1991the tradition was gaining steam and exposure and fueled the sales of the shirts. In 1962 the textile association mounted a campaign called “Operation Liberation” to get the shirts to catch on across all 50 states. Shortly after “Aloha Friday’s” began to catch on allowing men to wear the casual shirts on the last day of every work week during the summer months. It caught on officially in 1966 and by 1970 it was considered acceptable to wear the Aloha shirts any day of the week, but still only in Hawaii. The tradition of wearing the shirts on Friday spread from California east and has become know now as “Casual Friday’s” where businessmen can wear any casual shirt to work. Kimo Kahoano and Paul Natto even recorded a song to celebrate Casual Fridays in 1982 called “It’s Aloha Friday, No work til Monday” and was heard on every radio station in Hawaii every Friday.
Today there are Aloha shirts everywhere! From beach shops near every beach in the US to the more upscale shops like Ron Jon and Tommy Bahama you can likely find a pattern to fit your tastes. From Electric Guitars to Drink glasses, beer cans, Parrots, Parrot Head symbols, iguana’s, boats, Hula Girls and flowers you can find almost anything on a Hawaiian shirt. Also they can range in price from $20 to $10,000 for a Original Aloha shirt made of rayon (just stay away from the Tiki Torches).