From Cool To Cringe-Worthy To Cool Again: The Hawaiian Shirt

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.
So, it's time to cast away any notion of the Hawaiian shirt as a novelty garment. Click through to see some of our favorites, and follow our lead by teaming yours with cut-off kick-flares and Birkenstocks this summer.

More from Shopping

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.