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The History Of The Aloha Shirt & Aloha Friday

The History Of The Aloha Shirt & Aloha Friday

History of Aloha Shirts

First comes the design

 

Ever wondered why that one guy in the office always wears a Hawaiian shirt every Friday? Hey, I thought we were all professionals here? At my old job on the mainland it was called “Casual Friday” and we were allowed to “dress down” for the day. Actually, come to think of it, that guy wore Hawaiian shirts everyday, but on Fridays he’d be sporting shorts and flip flops to boot. Because of him, nobody in my cubicle looked forward to Fridays. Anyhow, have you ever wondered how “Casual Friday” or “Aloha Friday” as it’s called here in Hawaii got its start? Probably not, but I’m gonna tell you, so sit back, grab a mai-tai and learn a little something.  You’re about to discover there’s a whole lot more to the Internet than Facebook. Oh, If you’re not wearing your Hawaiian shirt already, now would be a good time to go change. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Ready? All right, let’s continue. It’s history lesson time.
Today’s Aloha shirt was actually devised in the early 1930s by a Chinese merchant named Ellery Chun of King-Smith Clothiers and Dry Goods, a store in Waikiki. Mr. Chun began sewing brightly colored shirts for tourists out of old kimono fabrics he had leftover in stock. The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper was quick to coin the term “Aloha shirt” to describe Chun’s fashionable creation. Chun trademarked the name. The first advertisement in the Honolulu Advertiser for Chun’s “Aloha shirt” was published on June 28, 1935. Local residents, especially surfers, and tourists descended on Chun’s store and bought every shirt he had. Within years, major designer labels like  Kahala sprung up all over Hawaii and began manufacturing and selling Aloha shirts as well. Retail chains in Hawaii, including mainland based ones starting mass-producing single aloha shirt design for employee uniforms. Something we still see today. I’m looking at you “Trader Joe’s”.

 

Screen Printing Hawaiian Shirts

Screen Printing Hawaiian Shirts

 

After World War II, many servicemen returned to the United States from Asia and the Pacific islands with aloha shirts that had been made in Hawaii since the 1930s.  Tourists began flocking to Hawaii in the 1950s as faster airplanes allowed for easier travel and the former U.S. territory became a state in 1959. Alfred Shaheen, a textile manufacturer, revolutionized the garment industry in postwar Hawaii by designing, printing and producing aloha shirts and other ready-to-wear items under one roof. The tropical-print shirts for men and sundresses for women became standard and sometimes tacky souvenirs for travelers, but Shaheen raised the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction.  Elvis Presely wore a Shaheen-designed red aloha shirt featured on the album cover for the Blue Hawaii film soundtrack in 1961.

 

President Truman on the cover of LIFE

President Truman on the cover of LIFE

Elvis Presley : Blue Hawaii

 

Anyhow, In 1962, a professional manufacturing association known as the Hawaiian Fashion Guild began to promote aloha shirts and clothing for use in the workplace, particularly as business attire. In a campaign called “Operation Liberation” the Guild distributed two aloha shirts to every member of the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Hawaii Senate. Subsequently, a resolution passed in the Senate recommending aloha attire be worn throughout the summer, beginning on Lei day. The wording of the resolution spoke of letting “…the male populace return to ‘aloha attire’ during the summer months for the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state’s garment industry.

In 1965, Bill Foster, Sr., president of the Hawaii Fashion Guild, led the organization in a campaign lobbying for “Aloha Friday”.  Employers would allow men to wear aloha shirts on the last business day of the week a few months out of the year. Aloha Friday officially began in 1966 and young adults of the 1960s embraced the style, replacing the formal business wear favored by previous generations. By 1970, aloha wear had gained acceptance in Hawaii as business attire for any day of the week. (yeah!)

 

 

Hawaii’s custom of Aloha Friday quickly spread to California, soon after around the entire globe until the 1990s, when it became known as “Casual Friday” Today in Hawaii, aloha-wear is worn as business attire for any day of the week, and “Aloha Friday” is generally used to refer to the last day of the work week. Now considered Hawaii’s term for “Thank God It’s Friday” (TGIF) that’s all… nothing more.  The phrase was used by Kimo Kahoano and Paul Natto in their 1982 song, “It’s Aloha Friday, No Work ‘til Monday” heard every Friday on Hawaii radio stations across the state. “Aloha Friday” was officially lobbied for in 1965 and accepted as a public tradition in 1966. Local history says that Wilson P. Cannon, Jr., a Maui native who was the president of Bank of Hawaii, kicked off the tradition when he started wearing aloha shirts to the office. Way to go Wilson, You Rock!

So there you have it. “The history of Aloha Friday.” Impress your friends with your knowledge at the next luau or around the water cooler. Whatever comes first? Oh and stock up on some more shirts will you. Don’t embarrass yourself by wearing the same Hawaiian shirt every single week. We’re professionals around here remember?

And of course the best place to get hawaiian shirts on the internet is at Hawaiian Shirt Dude.

Mahalo, ~ Zippy Moondog