The History of the Hawaiian Shirt

Who invented the Hawaiian Shirt?

The origin of the first Hawaiian shirt, or Aloha shirt, is hard to track down, but some people believe that the first Hawaiian shirt was created in the 1920s or 1930s when a dry goods store in Honolulu, Hawaii called Musa-Shiya the Shirtmaker started selling the shirt.

Other people believe the first shirt was invented by Ellery Chun, a Chinese merchant, which he mass-produced and sold at his store called King-Smith Clothiers and Dry Goods in Waikiki, Hawaii.

It wasn't until a few years later that the shirt got its name. Musa-Shiya showcased the shirt in one of its advertisements in The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper in 1935. Both locals and tourists to were fans of the Hawaiian shirts so much so that they would always sell out.

Larger retailers and department stores took notice of the success of aloha shirts and copied the design and style to sell to their own customers.

After World War II, the shirts were commonly worn by servicemen to show their love and appreciation for their home islands and their aloha spirit. The shirt also had a spike in popularity during the 1950s as more people traveled to Hawaii to vacation.

They would take home their shirts as souvenirs and continue to wear them back home on the mainland.

What is the purpose of an Hawaiian shirt?

The Hawaiian shirt is a specific dress shirt that is considered ideal for wearing in casual and laid-back settings. They feature floral and tropical patterns and have short sleeves, making them ideal for wearing in warm climates at barbecues or pool parties.

They have a collar and a button-up design, making it easy to leave them unbuttoned and wear a shirt underneath.

The Hawaiian shirt is often a popular style to wear to different types of gatherings, family reunions, and parties in Hawaii and at beach-theme wedding and other events.

Where to get vintage Hawaiian shirts

You can find vintage shirts at many different online websites that specialize in Hawaiian shirts.

It's important to find a retailer that has authentic vintage shirts to ensure you purchase an original product. Some of the Hawaiian shirts are worth hundreds of dollars and can increase in value over time.

Vintage Hawaiian shirts are also available on websites like eBay and Etsy from private sellers.

There are event vintage Hawaiian dresses for women to purchase. Some of the shirts are from the 1990s, whereas others are even older and come from the 1950s. The older the shirt, the higher the value.

Photo Title Price Buy
SSLR Mens Hawaiian...image SSLR Mens Hawaiian Shirt Flamingos Casual Short Sleeve Aloha Shirt (Medium, Blue) $19.00

How are Hawaiian shirts made?

Clothing companies manufacture Hawaiian shirts in a similar way to how they were produced in the 1930s. It's considered to be an extensive process that requires a high level of skill with each stage of the production process. Originally, the shirts were manufactured out of silk and cotton materials. Today, these same fabrics are still used, as well as synthetic fabrics.

One of the first steps requires deciding how many shirts to manufacture and what type of fabric or print to use. The fabric is manually rolled out onto a table one layer at a time. The process is repeated multiple times until there are more than 300 layers.

Because this is a large production run, it can take up to a day.

A white sheet of paper is then placed on top of the Hawaiian-print fabric and stapled down to prevent it from moving or shifting around. The next step involves a skilled technician cutting through the fabric with a sharp electric blade.

Over 300 layers of fabric are cut through seamlessly. This step requires a high level of precision because the smallest mistake can ruin the entire batch of fabric. A small mistake can result in thousands of dollars in loss.

Each part that is cut out is set aside onto a separate table and bundled up before it's sent out to various contractors. Hundreds of shirts are then delivered for the final step of preparation.

As the product is finalized, buttons are attached. Each shirt is then ironed by hand with a team of specialists who are capable of ironing hundreds of shirts in a single day. The shirts are now ready to be packaged and shipped to various stores.

Are they called Hawaiian or Aloha shirts?

They go by both "Hawaiian shirt" and "Aloha shirt". It's believed that the phrase “Aloha shirt” got its name from Ellery Chun, who was the first man to mass-produce them and possibly invent them. The term was created around 1933 when his store advertised the shirts with signs that said, "Aloha shirts."

He trademarked the name "Aloha sportswear" in 1936 as he found success selling the shirts to his customers. He continued to have the rights to this term for two decades.

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