The Hawaiian shirt may remind you of lost tourists wandering through Times Square, or retirees sipping Pina Coladas poolside, but we're here to tell you that it's back — and it's determined to add a tropical flare to your summer attire.
The Aloha shirt, with its collar, loud print, and short sleeves, originated in Hawaii in 1935. Who made the original piece is still disputed, but some believe a Japanese tailor in Honolulu used kimono-inspired prints, silks, and tailoring to create the top. Bought en masse by locals and visiting surfers alike, within a few years it was worn by everyone from uniformed workers to servicemen returning to the USA post-WWII.
With the shirt's popularity spreading from the Pacific across America, films like Blue Hawaii — which saw Elvis in a red and white floral number — and From Here To Eternity set the shirt firmly in people's minds as an exotic, romantic item. More recently, the Aloha shirt, despite maintaining its cult status, has fallen in and out of popularity: Among the slicker turns are Alien's Brett wearing a deep-cut pastel number under a khaki jacket, and Tom Selleck baring his chest in Magnum P.I. — and who can forget the beautiful Leo in his electric-blue boxy shirt in Romeo & Juliet? Gimmicky appearances, meanwhile — like Jim Carrey's pet detective in Ace Ventura – placed the shirt firmly in cringe territory.
But, this season seems to have ushered in the latest revival of the Hawaiian shirt. In spring 2016, Saint Laurent's Surf Sound men's collection featured classic Aloha shirts and embroidered silk bombers, and now womenswear has followed suit. Max Mara's spring '17 show displayed palm prints over visors and two-pieces, House of Holland brought out flares and slip dresses adorned with Pacific flowers and birds, and Alexander Wang presented a more subtle homage, with Hawaiian sunset-fronted hoodies.