All month long, every year in July, on Aloha Fridays, fans in Hawaii celebrate the birthday of a very special American icon from the Hawaiian Islands -- the Aloha shirt.
For three-quarters of a century, the Aloha shirt has been Hawaii's most enduring symbol of the relaxed, laid-back and tropical lifestyle of the islands.
Coordinators note that different tales have circulated for decades about the origins of Hawaii's Aloha shirt. Some say its roots can be traced to the kapa cloth found throughout the Pacific, made from pounding and dyeing tree bark. Others claim it was inspired by the tail-out shirts of Filipino immigrants, or elegant kimono cloth from Japan, or the vivid floral prints of Tahiti. No one is absolutely sure, and the origin of the Aloha shirt has many parents.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the tradition of beautifully sewn printed shirts spread from the Asian dry-goods merchants and home-sewers in Honolulu to the tailors and dress-makers, creating a new style of colorful clothing. Hawaii was emerging as a paradise for tourists and visitors arriving by ship were charmed by hula dancers swaying to the rhythm of the ukulele, boys riding the waves on their great wooden surfboards, and the colorful open-necked loose fitting Aloha shirts.
In 1946, the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce appropriated $1,000 to study suitable designs for clothing that businessmen could more comfortably wear in Hawaii's hot tropical climate. A resolution was passed to allow open-necked sports shirts during the hottest months from June through October. The Aloha shirt was specifically excluded because of loud patterns. The following year during the annual Aloha Week celebration, an exception was made to allow the wearing of casual aloha attire - the more colorful the better - for the entire week. With this breakthrough, the trend would continue to expand.
Soon, visitors and locals alike were donning these wearable postcards awash with coconut trees, surfers, outrigger canoes, hula girls, and endless varieties of colorful tropical flowers, birds and fish.
Duke Kahanamoku, beloved surfer and Olympic swimming champion, was the earliest and greatest promoter of the Aloha shirt. Duke even had his own line of shirts widely coveted by collectors today. Many other celebrities -- from Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley and Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I. -- were widely photographed wearing the shirts.
The modern era of the Aloha shirt began in the 1960s. In 1962, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild staged "Operation Liberation," presenting two Aloha shirts to each male legislator in the State House and Senate. The Senate passed a resolution urging the regular wearing of Aloha attire from Lei Day, May 1, and throughout the summer months.
In 1966, Aloha Friday -- the precursor to casual Fridays -- came into being and businessmen began the trend of wearing Aloha shirts to work.
By the end of the 1960s, the wearing of Aloha shirts for business dress any day of the week was accepted.
Today, there are Aloha shirts for every occasion and fancy.
Whether you fancy a collectible from the 1930s or a modern style of today, the Aloha shirt remains a symbol of the casual, carefree, and graceful lifestyle of Hawaii and its endearing culture.
"It's caught on everywhere -- from Los Angeles to Australia -- and every tropical destination in the world has adopted the born-in-Hawaii Aloha shirt -- even that guy Tommy in the Bahamas," noted an HVCB spokesman in announcing the observance.
The HVCB is contracted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the state of Hawaii's Tourism Agency, for marketing management services in North America. The HTA was established in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry well into the future. Its mission is to strategically manage Hawaii tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with the state of Hawaii's economic goals, cultural values, maintaining preservation of natural resources, community desires, and visitor industry needs.
So, head on over to and grab yourself one of my fine quality, authentic Aloha Shirts just for you to celebrate the Aloha Birthday of these Legendary Hawaiian Shirts.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and feel like you need a vintage Hawaiian Aloha shirt to go with it, here are a select few from my online shop. Mahalo Nui Loa.
Mens Hawaiian Shirt Tori Richard XL Cotton Lawn Tropical Leafy Bamboo Monstera Leaf Casual Aloha Friday Button Front Short Sleeve