Were Hawaiian Shirts Popular In The 80s – Some people see them as dark, others see them as vulgar, but few things represent Hawaiian culture more than a Hawaiian Hawaiian shirt. Its history is derived from various cultural sources, the multiplicity of which is aptly represented by the patchwork nature of the colorful T-shirts.
For fans and collectors, the first question is what to call them: are they Hawaiian shirts or Aloha shirts? The answer, it seems, depends on where you live. When Ellery Chun Honolulu invented the shirts in 1931, they were known as aloha shirts and are still called aloha shirts in the islands today. However, as soon as the shirts crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached the continental United States, their name changed to Hawaiian shirts.
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Much of the inspiration for aloha shirts came to Hawaii with the waves of immigrants that came to Hawaii in the early 20th century. In addition to bringing their culture to Hawaii, these new citizens also brought their clothing. Japanese immigrants brought the shiny fabrics used for kimonos to the Hawaiian Islands, while Filipino men wore barong shirts. While mainland Americans headed west in collared shirts, Chinese settlers preferred silk.
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Inspiration can also be found on the islands. In the 1920s and 1930s, workers on Hawaiian plantations were already wearing brightly colored palaka shirts. Japanese men living in Hawaii made beautiful patterned shirts for themselves from crepe kabe material imported from Japan. All of these influences combined helped Chun create his legendary Hawaiian shirt.
After graduating from Yale University in 1931, Chun returned to Honolulu to work in his family’s dry goods store. She called the business King-Smith Clothiers and began using leftover kimono fabric to make sparkly shirts. In 1936 she trademarked the name “Aloha Shirt” and advertised it as such.
At the same time, Musashia and Surfriders Sportswear began producing “Hawaiian Shirts”. The brand names may differ, but both Chun and Musashia worked on prints that included classic Hawaiian themes like palm trees and hula girls.
World War II halted the fledgling Hawaiian aloha shirt industry, but after the war, Alfred Shaheen took what Chun and Musashia had started and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon. Initially, in 1948, Shaheen imported patterned fabrics from the mainland for his shirts, but the young fashion entrepreneur found it too expensive, so in 1950 he built his own print shop, which he called Surf Sand Hand Prints. . Not long ago, stars like Elvis Presley and John Wayne wore Hawaiian shirts.
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Shaheen pioneered a tradition that is still common in Hawaiian Hawaiian shirt designs today: the horizontal buttonhole. Not all of his shirts had horizontal buttonholes, but most did, although there seems to be no rhyme or reason why Shaheen deviated from the standard practice of vertical buttonholes. Today, it is estimated that more than 60 percent of Hawaiian aloha shirts have horizontal buttonholes, with a higher percentage of shirts made from rayon.
Some of Shaheen’s early popular prints abound in ancient Asian iconography. There were prints depicting pine trees and manuka trees, which represented a successful life, as well as prints of tigers, which symbolized strength. Shaheen found her designs in the different cultures that inhabited the islands. The result is classic prints like the Pua Lani Pareau, Antique Tapa, and Joss Sticks, drawing from Hawaiian, South Pacific, and Asian cultures, respectively.
Historically, the preferred materials for making Hawaiian Hawaiian shirts have been rayon, cotton, and silk. Many collectors of vintage shirts prefer rayon shirts to the other two because rayon has a way of separating colors, bringing out the intricate details of yellow people, dragons, and trees on the faces of black surfer sport shirts. To the dismay of collectors and enthusiasts, contemporary shirtmakers have begun using ever finer grades of polyester, which look like rayon or silk, but aren’t.
Another feature of early Hawaiian aloha shirts is the bow at the neck. In the past, men buttoned Hawaiian shirts at the neck; Since Hawaiian shirts are associated with relaxation, hardly anyone does this these days. Also, older shirts have longer collars, three or four inches, than shirts made since the 1950s. This can help the collector date the shirt.
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By the mid-20th century, the Hawaiian aloha shirt had become so popular that mass imitations were a serious problem; in fact, the counterfeiting of clothing continues to this day. Many of these early sims are done on the mainland rather than islands, and more than a few are on the shelf, online, and advertised as “classic.”
There are several ways for collectors to determine if they are considering purchasing a vintage Hawaiian aloha shirt. The easiest counterfeit to spot is “back printing.” Since the 1960s, some manufacturers have made jerseys that look sunny on the outside but are new and fuzzy on the inside. Reverse prints were not made in the 1940s or 1950s.
Another deadlock is a separate fabric care label in addition to the manufacturer’s label. Wash labels weren’t added to shirts and other clothing until the 1960s, so if you see a 1940s Hawaiian shirt with a label, keep it.
Then there are the coconut button down shirts. If you see one of these, you are viewing the original article. Coconut buttons were originally only seen on Hawaiian-made shirts and were most common on early Hawaiian aloha shirts. Also, the old shirts only had three to five buttons down the front; six or more are very common today.
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Another feature of the old Hawaiian aloha shirts are cabana pockets, pockets at the waist instead of the chest, which were common before the 1970s but not after. And if you find a shirt with a size “ML” (medium large) on the tag, that shirt is at least from the 1950s.
Today, the most collectible labels of Hawaiian aloha shirts include Catalina, Kahanamoku, Kamehameha, Kahala, Hale Hawaii, Royal Hawaiian, Duke of Hollywood, and JC Penney.
In this interview, writer and researcher Dr. Linda Arthur talks about the evolution and history of the Aloha shirt. She talks about important designers like Alfred Shaheen and explains when and how the shirt was made in the continental United States. Arthur’s many books include “The Art of the Hawaiian Shirt” and “Hawaiian Attire: Hawaiian Dress in the 20th Century.” Arthur can be reached through Washington State University, where he is a professor and curator in the Department of Apparel, Design, and Textile Marketing.
When I arrived at Washington State University, I brought with me my passion for textiles and ethnic clothing. As a result, our collection of historical costumes at WSU has grown in size. We now have almost 100 aloha shirts in our collection at Washington State University. At the University of Hawaii, where I taught from 1991 to 2002, there are about 5,000 items of Hawaiian clothing, probably half of which are Hawaiian shirts. The collection is housed in the University of Hawaii’s Clothing Product Design and Marketing Program and includes 15,000 pieces from around the world dating back to the 18th century. It is a very important collection.
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Most students in the University of Hawaii’s Apparel, Marketing, and Design program end up in the apparel industry in Hawaii. When the university hired me, there were no adequate books on the history of Hawaiian textiles and clothing. One was published in the 1980s that was full of misinformation. I decided to research and write about this topic so that students and the general public can get complete and accurate information. Hawaiian textiles and clothing are still regularly worn today. It’s a big industry.
Since then, I have produced six books and numerous articles on aloha clothing. My first book, “Aloha Attire: Hawaiian Dress in the Twentieth Century,” was published by Schiffer in 1999. It covered the entire history of Hawaiian dress and aimed to put the Hawaiian shirt in chronological order. It is the only published book that covers the women’s aloha dress as well as the men’s aloha shirt and provides dates and values for each garment.
Island Heritage Publishers, a major publisher of Hawaiian books, published “The Art of the Hawaiian Shirt” in 2002. It was later translated into Japanese, and “Art of the Aloha Shirt” was republished last year in English, with a new cover. This is a very complete book. DeSoto Brown, Archivist at the Bishop Museum, co-authored it with me. He contributed many wonderful images to the book.
In 2000, a sportswear executive named Dale Hope wrote a good book called “The Hawaiian Shirt: The Spirit of the Islands,” and I have a new history of Hawaiian quilting in the fall of 2010. It will be called “The Hawaiian Quilt: A uniquely American art form.” So there’s some good work in print right now.
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Arthur: Before westerners came to the islands, the native Hawaiians wore kapa; This is the bark of a tree.
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