Arguably, no garment is more idiosyncratic to Hawaii than the Aloha shirt. One could even consider it the symbol of vacation itself because when you see an Aloha shirt after landing at HNL Airport, you know you’ve arrived in paradise.

Business Casual

People in Hawaii often have a mixture of ethnicities and cultural practices. Similarly, the Aloha shirt is the multifaceted item of Oahu. Locals of all ages depend on Aloha shirts when the ever-elusive words “business casual” pop up on e-vites or work memos because they are embraced as typical downtown professional workplace wear. This could be traced back to after World War II, when businessmen realized that suits and ties don’t mix well with Hawaii’s tropical climate.

Formal Wear

They are even acceptable for formal events like weddings or graduation parties. Here in Hawaii, Aloha shirts are okay for almost every occasion, which is part of what makes local culture unique.

It is the only article of clothing that is acceptable both at work and for strolling down Waikiki on a Saturday morning.

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

Multiple bolts of kapa cloth (bark cloth) handmade by master kapa maker Marie McDonnell. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds.

Inspired by Native Hawaiian Cloth

Aloha shirts themselves can be traced back all the way to the early 1920s and are based on kapa, a fabric originated from Native Hawaiians that features tribal patterns. Kapa was used for things like clothing and shawls. Early Aloha shirts stayed within patterns similar to those found on kapa, but today you can find an Aloha shirt with pretty much anything on it. Pineapples, surf scenes, Birds of Paradise flowers, etc. There’s something for everyone when it comes to Aloha shirts.

Slipping on a Crisp Aloha Shirt

There are moments in life that we’ve come to rely on for small bouts of happiness, like catching the sunrise on a morning hike or breaking into a mound of fresh shave ice. One of those moments is slipping on a crisp Aloha shirt at the start of your day, whether you’re a tourist or local.

Aloha print is everywhere. It is an integral and widely-loved part of the Hawaii experience and you’re welcomed to join in.