The trendlet: Aloha shirts

August 1, 2016

Aloha shirts are coming back in style this summer.

These bright button-downs are bringing a barrage of multicolored style this summer to the otherwise drab world of summertime khakis.


Aloha — also called Hawaiian — shirts are the epitome of this summer’s fancy florals in menswear. But the 2016 version is more fitted and meant to be worn with skinnier jeans and tapered khakis.


Back in the 1920s, Hawaiian tailors started making bright, floral-print button-downs for tourists eager to take a bit of the island’s tropical flavors back home.

Yale graduate and native Hawaiian Ellery J. Chun turned the shirts into a big business when he named them Aloha shirts and began mass- producing them. Aloha shirts entered the greater fashion lexicon when President Harry S Truman was photographed for the 1951 cover of Life magazine wearing a slightly wrinkled blue-printed version, and Elvis Presley coolly donned a red-and-white one in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Cliff, and Bob Hope were also famous Aloha-shirt- wearing guys of the 1950s.

In the 1970s, hippies were drawn to the Aloha shirt’s easy-breezy personality, and celebrities — think Robert Reed as Mike Brady, and the Jackson 5 — kept them hip. In the 1980s, Uncle Jesse on Full House was an Aloha-shirt aficionado, as was Tom Selleck in Magnum PI. (One of Selleck’s has a permanent home in the Smithsonian.)

The crazy-patterned top enjoyed a break from the 1990s through the aughts. Last year, however, menswear runways, from Saint Laurent to Marc Jacobs, reintroduced the flashy button-down. And this summer, brands from Tommy Bahama to Urban Outfitters are offering additional versions of the flowery classic.


You can count the macho silver screeners Matt Damon, Justin Beiber and Harry Styles.


Aloha shirts are neither for the faint of heart or the fashion unsure. That said, if a print moves you, go for it. But don’t attempt to mix it with a pair of plaid shorts. Remain solid.



Associated Press