Monday, 10 June 2013

Aloha - Hawaiian Men's Shirt review

You may ask "What's so vintage about a Hawaiian shirt?" - well, first of all, a Hawaiian shirt is a classic, it never gets out of fashion. And it has a long history!

Hawaiian shirts, or Aloha shirts how they used to be called first, were made since the mid 30s or even earlier, by Japanese and Chinese immigrants - in Hawaii, obviously. They used to be made of left-over kimono fabrics.

 The shirt became constantly more and more fashionable, especially when after WW2 many soldiers brought back the garment to their mainland homes from the service in the Pacific islands. In the 50s, tourism on Hawaii increased due to faster airplanes. And so the colourful shirts with tropical prints became a standard souvenir.

Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift (r.) and Ernest Borgnine (l.) in the 1953 movie "From here to Eternity" - Photo: Ronald Grant

Renowned fashion designers and textile manufacturers like Alfred Shaheen raised the Aloha shirt to a higher level. He also produced the fabrics with tropical designs and traditional batiks.

Alfred Shaheen (1922-2008), Photo: AP

In 1961, Elvis Presley is wearing one of Shaheen's shirts on the cover of "Blue Hawaii". And of course in the movie as well...

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

The Honolulu Chamber of Commerce 1946 funded a study of Aloha shirts and designs for comfortable business clothing worn during the hot Hawaiian summers. The City and County of Honolulu passed a resolution allowing their employees to wear sport shirts from June–October. City employees were not allowed to wear aloha shirts for business until the creation of the Aloha Week festival in 1947. Obviously this helped the textile industries on the islands and made the shirt even more attractive to visiting tourists.

Since the 50s high-end Aloha shirts are produced today by Tori Richard until today. In the 1983 movie "Scarface", even Al Pacino is wearing an Aloha shirt. Unfortunateyl tucked in his trousers. A terrible fashion faux-pas. The same mistake was also made by Mr. Moustache Tom Selleck aka Magnum P.I. in the famous series about a private investigator on Hawaii. Despite this (I guess it was common in the 80s) the Hawaiian shirt became more popular even in Europe. 

Magnum P.I.

Some of the shirts worn in these episodes are still available today. Funny thing: the unforgettable Frank Sinatra is appearing as guest in one of the episodes - again wearing an extremely cool Aloha shirt. Did I ever mention how much I adore Frank Sinatra? Who says men cannot wear flower-patterned shirts?

Don't mess with Frankie Boy (unknown source)

If you are interested in further details about Hawaiian dresses, have a look at Konadlicious' wonderful blog (Vintage Musing of a modern Pinup). Mainly about the most beautiful women's dresses... Awesome!

You may ask, after reading my post, why I am writing so much about the Aloha or Hawaiian shirt? Well, I recently fell in love with a vintage fabric on, and despite my cram-full stash I couldn't resist to buy it. 
It's an Alexander Henry fabric with marvelous, rather traditional white orchids, plumeria and hibiscus flowers on a dark-blue background. Of course I have no idea how old the fabric is, I guess it's from the 90s, not what comes close to the vintage range of my interest, but I thought it would be nonetheless nice to share it with you.

However, after getting my fabric I was talking to my husband about something, and somehow the conversation got to the subject of Hawaiian shirts. My husband is a keen admirer of Magnum P.I., and he told me how much he would like to have such a shirt. He even showed me a picture of his favourite pattern - it was a white hibiscus flower print on a dark-blue background. How cool is that?

So after being absent from my sewing machine for some weeks, this is going to be my next project. It's going to be a gift for my husband's birthday - today!

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