How to wear a Hawaiian shirt
Hawaiian shirts in film and tv
Words— Frank And Oak staff
Hawaiian shirts (or Aloha shirts as they are sometimes called) with camp collars are having a moment right now. They instantly bring a playfulness to any outfit and give you a reason to party. There’s really not a cooler way to get dressed this season when it gets a little too hot out. Yes, they’re loud - but they’re easy to style. As a menswear staple since at least the 40s, let us walk you through film and television history to find out just how easy they are to wear.
A very brief history
In the late 19th century most men on the Hawaiian Islands wore light, checked work shirts with an open collar called Palaka shirts (think a light gingham shirt). They were breezy and perfectly suited to life on the islands, but in the 20s, male islanders wanted to spice things up a bit. They took the fabric of their wives' more lively kimonos and made shirts from it.
These shirts were just made for personal use, but the ever-present tourist took notice. Suddenly shirts were being sold to visitors and shops started to spring up.
There is some dispute but it’s generally accepted that the first man to use the term “Hawaiian/Aloha shirt” was a Japanese fabric merchant by the name of Ellery Chung who set up a shirt shop in Waikiki. From here, patterns eventually began to shift from traditional Japanese designs to more island-centric fare like waves, coconuts, and surfers.
By this time travel became cheaper, more tourists were coming to Hawaii, and these popular printed staples spread around the world.
How to wear
Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii
Nobody was bigger than the King in the late 50s and early 60s. Elvis' very popular film Blue Hawaii might have had a little something to do with the Aloha shirts’ continued popularity. White jeans make his festive shirt pop even more. Ukulele optional.
Harry Dean Stanton in Alien
While ol’ Brett didn’t last too long in Alien, his sartorial choices continue to inspire. Toss a classic olive green army jacket over your favourite floral shirt, pair with some faded jeans, and you’re set. You could even think about un-doing a couple of buttons and showing off your chest (see what we did there?).
Brad Pitt in Fight Club
Tyler Durden here has opted to lighten up...his shirt anyway. Paired over a darker jacket, this is a way to wear a bolder shirt without feeling like it’s packing too much of a punch.
Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona
While we can’t vouch for the moustache – the white, beat-up undershirt and dark pants is a look worth stealing from young Nic Cage here. Wear it while getting into some summer trouble.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet
Young Leo helped bring back the Hawaiian shirt in the late 90s and it’s still inspiring fashion today. Chatting with Opening Ceremony, Baz Luhrmann revealed why the tropical choice was made for his Romeo saying, "The Hawaiian shirt as fashion will wax and wane in its relative cultural coolness at any given moment. But there will always be — if we're lucky — some lingering symbolic palimpsest of Romeo as that young boy in the Hawaiian shirt.” Basically a very smart way of saying, you should always have one in your closet.
Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and loathing and convertibles and road trips and too much partying and bucket hats and sunglasses and just some all around cool looking shirts paired with the right accessories.
Jon Hamm in Mad Men
Even the dour Donny Draper needed to appear as though he was having fun once in a while. But he also expertly teamed a casual blazer with his sharp blue Aloha shirt. To make it less late-60s; mix in a solid, not patterned jacket.
Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name was one of the coolest films of the last year, but it’s also a fantastic guide on how to dress this summer, i.e. like an 80s prepster. Pastel colours, loose-fitting Oxford shirts, polos, above-the-knee shorts and...well look at that – a printed Hawaiian shirt. You can’t escape them.
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