Surfing was the new cool sporting pastime of the islands of Hawaii and the west coast of the States too, and once surfers started to wear these locally designed shirts they became a symbol for leisure, relaxation and happy times. Also music trends, and in particular Rock ‘n’ Roll, had a role in taking the shirt to a wider audience, with Elvis Presley wearing one beneath his Hawaiian garland, in the sixties musical Blue Hawaii.
Elvis and the early surfers were only the starter though and once the main course was served up by Brian Wilson and his brothers plus friends in The Beach Boys, West Coast cool and the hippy revolution added the shirt to their various style icons. The driver of the VW camper wouldn’t be seen dead with his Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt and the brighter more dazzling design, the better – even today a true beach bum would only be seen wearing this type of clothing or would not be taken seriously.
Jack Lord, played Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O, a hit TV show that ran for over 20 years and managed to establish many memories in the viewers minds at during its tenure on our screens. The theme tune will never be forgotten, nor will the opening sequences of canoeists battling the surf, cops turning to camera from high on a balcony, local beauties in bikinis and of course many wearers of the Hawaiian shirt.The police characters wore uniforms or suits until the chance of a stake-out cropped up when the local Hawaiian look could be utilised and the shirts taken from the wardrobe. A remake of the series appeared in 2010, with a slightly different title – for copyright reasons we presume – but the original remains the only true version for fans of the show and fans of the shirt too. Tom Selleck also took to wearing this design of shirt when, as Magnum PI, as he raced around the islands wearing his Aloha shirt driving his Ferrari 308 GTB.
Such is the acceptance of the Aloha shirt as normal attire, even in business, that the once-referred to Aloha Friday, when people would wear these shirts to the office, became known in west coast USA as Casual Friday and even today many businesses adopt a dress-down day during the week (typically friday) when suits and ties are left at home and casual clothes are worn. While Aloha shirts are still made, true and authentic originals from the fifties or sixties are becoming rare and much sought after. A high street retro clothing store may have a great range of designs on sale. For some people the best Hawaiian shirts are often the wildest, most dazzling designs and colours – the more outrageous the better.