Aloha Shirts

VFG member Linn Alber recently volunteered to help us fill in some gaps in the VFG Label Resource. Linn is lucky enough to live in Hawaii, and we really needed some help researching some of the great Hawaiian labels in our collection. Through the use of books, local resources and the internet, Linn not only beefed up the info in many of our entries, but she wrote a concise history of the Hawaiian shirt. Thanks so much, Linn!

Aloha Shirts

Prior to the early 1930’s all Hawaiian shirts were made to order. In the mid-‘30’s, the word "aloha" was applied to many types of merchandise. Musa-Shiya the Shirtmaker was the first tailor to offer custom tailored shirts. He was also the first to use the term "aloha shirt" in a 1935 advertisement. Ellery Chun, of King-Smith dry goods store, began to stock "warm weather" shirts in his shop in about 1932. Chun trademarked the term "aloha sports wear" in 1936, and the term "aloha shirt" in 1937. Chun began by selling shirts made of traditional Kimono fabrics but he wanted to produce expressly Hawaiian shirts and commissioned artists - including his sister Ethyl Lum to create Hawaiian designs of local flowers and fish. He had these designs printed on kabe crepe. Because they sold well, he felt the term "Aloha Shirt" should be trademarked.

In 1936, two companies underwent a transition from tailor-made to factory-made production of sportswear. Kamehameha Garment Company, Ltd., founded by Herbert and Miller Briner and Branfleet (later Kahala) founded by George Brangier and Nat Norfleet were the first to incorporate. Sportswear produced by these companies exhibited remarkable skill in the blending of island motifs and exciting color combinations with quality craftsmanship.

The Hawaiian Garment Manufacturer’s Guild was formed in 1949 and later became the Hawaiian Fashion Guild. The Hawaiian Fashion Guild was instrumental in the promotion and worldwide sales of Hawaiian made clothing. Statehood in 1959 added to the growth of both tourism and the fashion industry.

The first Aloha Week festival was held in 1947. It actually lasted several months, and during the first celebration, City and County workers were allowed to wear Aloha shirts to work for the first time - during the warm summer months. Business attire at the time was suits and ties. In 1956, Territorial Savings Bank was the first business to allow these shirts to be worn to work during the summer months, and in the summer of 1958 Governor Quinn allowed government workers to wear Aloha shirts to work. In 1962, Bill Foster, President of the Hawaiian Fashion Guild was instrumental in getting the Legislature to approve "Aloha Friday" where men could wear Aloha Shirts to work on the last day of the week. Two years later the Legislature approved "Aloha Friday, " but it wasn’t until 1969, ten years after Statehood, that the Chamber of Commerce approved "Aloha Summer."

Aloha attire became the norm on Friday – and at the present time business attire and aloha attire are synonymous – a tucked in usually reverse print "Hawaiian" shirt worn with slacks.