Have you had a look at our new parrot print Hawaiian shirt? Did you think – Hang on! Parrots aren’t native to Hawaii! Probably not, although you’d be correct. But even more interesting: did you know that Hawaiian shirts aren’t strictly speaking Hawaiian either? They do, of course, originate from that hot little cluster of Pacific islands, but their history is much more varied and interesting.
Before the 1800s, Hawaiian clothing was made of Kapa, a cloth made of tree fibre, plant dyed in geometric patterns. In the 19th century, enterprising Americans began trickling over to the island to set up plantations. They needed cheap labour to harvest the crops, which led to a great influx of workers from Japan, Portugal, and the Phillipines, who naturally brought with them their own cloth, and their own sartorial traditions.
Quite exactly who created the first “aloha” shirt, as they’re known in Hawaii, is up for debate, but they were definitely popping up in Hawaiian shops in a recognisable form by the 1920’s, and by the mid-1930’s they were being advertised and sold to increasing amounts of tourists. In 1936 the name “aloha shirt” was trademarked by shop-owner Ellery Chun, and the garment became the staple Hawaiian souvenir.
With all those shirts making it back to mainland USA, it was inevitable they’d break into popular culture. Arguably the moment that happened was when Elvis Prestley wore a stunning red and white number in the film Blue Hawaii. Jimmy Buffett and Tom Selick did their part for the colourful garments in the 70’s and 80’s, and they’re now just as widespread and recognisable as a kilt or a kimono (though possibly more fun to wear!)
Another fun aloha fact: in the mid 60’s, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild started an initiative to promote Hawaiian shirts in the workplace. On ‘Aloha Fridays’, office workers were encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts instead of formal businesswear. This spread to the mainland US and is the origin of Casual Fridays around the world!
As with all our short sleeve shirts, if you like to roll up your sleeves, our parrot shirt has a little tab and button on the sleeve which allows a turn up to stay in place.
Why not pick one up and make it the star of your next Casual Friday?