Hawaiian Shirts, Bowling Shirts, Tropical Attire, & Retro Style Aloha Wear, Plus Sizes Too!
Hawaiian Shirts - A Colorful History
Prior to the establishment of the Hawaiian Shirt in the fashion annals, Honolulu was a rather conservative, somewhat drab place from a fashion standpoint.
Many have attributed the invention of the Aloha Shirt to Ellery Chun, owner of a Dry Goods store in Honolulu who sold the tropical print fashions in the 1930s. In truth, what we now know as the "Hawaiian Shirt" had already been in circulation for numerous years, although Mr. Chun had a major role in the Hawaiian Shirt's proliferation.
Come to Hawaii
Bright Kimono cloth came from Japan, the relaxed and cool-wearing Barong Tagalog (an untucked shirt) came from the Phillippines, bright formal colored garments and silk came from China, the traditional collared shirt style came from the USA, and native Hawaiians provided their own traditional geometric block patterns, first seen on the Kapa Malo (loin cloth) and Kapa Pa'u (similar to a sarong).
In Plantation-era Hawaii, the probable precursor to the modern Hawaiian Shirt was the Palaka Shirt and the Kimono-cloth shirt. The Palaka is a short sleeved shirt with bright geometric line patterns, that was widely worn by plantation workers. It has a plaid design, and resembles a checkerboard. Also popular during that time were short-sleeved shirts sewn by Japanese housekeepers and made out of leftover Kimono cloth, designed for Japanese boys and men.
Shirts - The Ellery Chun Factor
and Surfriders Sportswear
In 1932, Ti Haw Ho, owner of Surfriders Sportswear Manufacturing began making and selling its "Hawaiian" shirts. Thus, in effect, the celestial shirt stars began magically aligning to produce our modern Hawaiian Shirt.
Some of the original Hawaiian prints sold by Chun included designs with Palm Trees, Hula Girls, and Pineapples. One of his tailors would make about 3 or 4 dozen at a time. Beginning in 1933, Chun was making his shirts out of cloth that was imported from the USA (at the time, Hawaii was a U.S. Territory, not a State), Japan, China, and Tahiti.
Shirt Popularity Grows
After his success with the shirts in the early 1930's, Mr. Chun, trademarked the term "Aloha Shirt" in 1936. He continued selling his Aloha Shirts, and widely expanded his line, with his sister Ethel designing the fabrics and shirt styles. It was during this period that Ethel Chun Lum began creating the bright tropical fabric patterns that were based more on Hawaiian designs vs. Asian styles. It was this design shift that really established and cemented the modern Hawaiian Shirt style.
In the late 1930s, the entrepreneurial Chun also began sponsoring a local radio talent show, which originated on the beach in front of the Moana Surfrider Hotel. The show provided his merchandise even more publicity and accelerated the Hawaiian Shirt's popularity even more.
Shirts - Chun's Legacy
Ellery Chun passed away on May 16, 2000 in Honolulu at the age of 91. Although he may not have invented the garment, he certainly popularized it, helped establish a staple Hawaiian industry, and helped assure the Hawaiian Shirt an enduring place in fashion history.
Hawaiian shirts also began receiving high exposure in Hollywood movies, and a succession of popular Hawaii-based TV-Series through the late 1950's, 1960's, 1970's and 1980's - but that's a topic for another Hawaiian Shirt article!
an important historical footnote (we think so, anyway) - in August of 2001,
your very own friendly neighborhood website, Beanteacher
Hawaiian Style went live, throwing open its website doors to Hawaiian
Shirt connoisseurs world-wide! :) Now you can wear your very own piece
of Hawaiian history!
Article Copyright © Beanteacher Hawaiian Style