It is the Hawaiian shirt, once the last bastion of utter tack, male camaraderie and loud cheerfulness, and now a nouveau ironic fashion statement. Think Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii, and Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity, but accept a passing reference from Tom Selleck or Jack "book him Danno" Lord of Hawaii Five-O fame and you've got the gist.
If you have one hanging in your wardrobe, go have a look at it. Chances are with all the sultry weather we've been having its garish print will be pleasing to the eye, and its tropical nature suddenly appropriate.
Katharine Hamnett, Paul Smith and Mambo have included loud print short- sleeved shirts in their collections for summer. Not strictly Hawaiian, but close enough in cut and print to get fashion-conscious young things scouring the thrift stores. At recent summer parties, clubs and gigs they have been duly noted bobbing up and down on the dance floor, as the battle is on to have the best clash of colour. The more kitsch the better - bright yellow and orange flowers compete with lurid lime green and white.
The traditional Hawaiian shirt dates back to the turn of the century. Much in the same way as with Levi's jeans, there are avid collectors, who can date particular shirts, and even a book dedicated to its art and history. Specialist American vintage clothing stores such as American Classics, and Rokit, always have them in stock, and prices for classic rayon shirts can be as high as pounds 500, depending on the intricacies of the print and the fabric. The shirts that fetch this kind of money are the rayon "Aloha shirts". (Aloha is the traditional Hawaiian word for welcome, warmth, friendliness and pride.) A shirt does not necessarily have to be made in Hawaii to be sought after. One of the shirts pictured was made in Japan in the early Fifties for the American company JC Penney. At the time the Japanese-made shirts took second place to those from Hawaii but now they are highly sought after by Japanese nationals eager to buy back their home-made goods, hence the pounds 250 price tag.
Whether your penchant is for exotica, cartoony kitsch or the genuine article, there is a loud shirt for you. It is too easy to go for the trend like a lemming, just grabbing the first bit of Club Tropicana you see. Be discerning, this is the kind of shirt that could say a lot about you. Will you go for dancing girls in grass skirts, a beach scene, a bombardment of hibiscus, or something that could become a family heirloom?Reuse content