Posted by: kauaikolea2 | July 4, 2011

Magnum PI, Jimmy Buffett, and Cosmos Kramer: Aloha Shirt Ambassadors


The Aloha shirt is  seen on all ages of men all over the island, and on the mainland, too.

What exactly is an “Aloha Shirt”?

The history of the Aloha shirt reportedly starts in the mid-1930s in Honolulu with Mr Ellery Chung, a shirt maker who is credited with making the first shirts of bright fabrics. The shirts were meant to be worn outside the trousers, a boon in the tropical heat.  As tourism to the Hawaiian islands was just beginning to take off at this time, tourists eagerly embraced Aloha shirts as comfortable resort wear and as souvenirs. Even today, an Aloha shirt can get men into most resturants and events, such as a wedding.  An Aloha shirt is so much better than the ubiquitous saggy tee shirt!

Early in the Aloha shirt history, shirts were sewn from cotton or silk, and often custom shirts were made for a wedding or anniversary or other important event. Early Aloha shirts had metal buttons, many stamped with the Royal Hawaiian crest, or buttons of carved coconut.

Aloha shirts at this time were sewn with a new material, rayon, that allowed them to be made cheaply and in quantity.  Alas, WWII caused a slow down in the manufacturing of Aloha shirts, but thousands of American GIs had boots on the ground in Hawaii, fell in love with the islands, and returned on vacation after the war’s end.  They purchased and wore Aloha shirts, spreading their popularity.

Some Hawaiian historians argue that the palaka shirt is more Hawaiian than the Aloha shirt. The palaka shirt is still worn on the islands and if you have visited, you may not have even noticed it!

The palaka shirt is made of palaka, a cotton twill with the blue and white checkered block print woven, not stamped or printed, right into the fabric.  It is a work shirt, not usually purchased by visitors.  In the 1800s, immigrant workers wore palaka shirts to cut pine and  cane, as the tough material withstood the rigors of this work. Immigrant Japanese workers were fond of palaka as it reminded them of their native kasuri fabric.  And Hawaiian paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys!) wore palaka for their rough work.

So, botton up your Aloha shirt in concert with Magnum PI and Kramer, or slip on the palaka for the romance of Hawaiian cowboys!  With either shirt, you will be in the Island State of Mind.

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Responses

  1. […] love Aloha shirts and have blogged about them earlier (https://kauaikolea.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/magnum-pi-jimmy-buffett-and-cosmos-kramer-aloha-shirt-amb…) .  While 2011 was the Year of the Aloha Shirt in Hawaii  — marking 75 years of its arrival […]


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