The Hawaiian or “Aloha” shirt has been a cultural icon of the Hawaiian Islands and surf history for than 75 years. Still as popular as ever, collectors on eBay and at New York auction houses are paying thousands of dollars for a single shirt that cost less than a dollar in 1935. Now a half-billion-dollar-a-year industry, the Aloha shirt holds its legacy as a palpable symbol of Hawaii’s “Aloha Spirit.”
The newly updated edition of The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands (Patagonia Books) by Dale Hope is the complete book on the most enduring souvenir ever invented. It recounts the colorful stories behind these marvelous shirts celebrating the waterman culture and lifestyle, lavishly illustrated with hundreds of full color images, vintage black-and-white photos, and priceless examples of period “Hawaiiana.”
JOE QUIGG, MATT KIVLIN, TOM ZAHN RETURNING HOME AFTER A SURF TRIP TO HAWAII, 1947,
PHOTO: JOE QUIGG COLLECTION
First developed in the early 1930s as a “tourist attraction,” Aloha shirts have their roots in the graphic prints and comfortable clothing that South Seas islanders have been wearing for hundreds of years. Around 1935, a small group of clothing manufacturers in Honolulu began to produce these wildly colorful, “air-conditioned” short-sleeved shirts for tourists that would give them an immediate sense of relaxation, and going “Hawaiian.” The shirts were considered “postcards you can wear.”
Hope draws from interviews, newspaper and magazine archives, and personal memorabilia to trace the splashy history of Hawaiian shirts from their beginnings right after the Great Depression to today, when they are enjoying a revival. Originally published in 2000, the new edition features more photos and new material, including an introduction by surfing legend Gerry Lopez and contributions from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.
Second-generation Aloha shirt maker, Dale Hope inherited his parents’ clothing business, then bought and served as creative director of the legendary Kahala label. He has spent his career devoted to the Aloha shirt.