Much like sequins and anything neon, the Hawaiian shirt is something you wear with the intention of having a good time and sharing a few laughs. But it’s no good if the laughs are made at your expense. And in the defense of a lot of men out there, it’s very easy to be mister-fun-loving guy with good intentions who doesn’t realise just how ridiculous he looks.
The key to avoiding this is choosing the right style of Hawaiian shirt, and to be able to differentiate between the good and bad, it’s important to understand the shirt’s history. To no one’s surprise, it hails from Hawaii, and while its exact origin is disputed, it’s clear that a patchwork of cultures contributed to the design we know today.
In the early 20th century, job-seekers from east Asia and the continental US flocked to Hawaii’s thriving plantations, and each culture contributed a distinctive design element: the Japanese brought the kabe crepe fabric used in the design of their kimonos; Americans brought the shirt collar; Filipinos brought the straight hem. The locals already had bright patterns locked down, but added these other elements to create an early version of the now iconic shirt. By the 1920s, it had become the unofficial uniform for plantation workers.
A decade later, a young Hawaiian store-owner called Ellery J. Chun spotted their mass-market potential and trademarked his version as the ‘Aloha shirt’. It blossomed into a must-have souvenir, then a mainland essential, after they appeared on the backs of A-list heartthrobs like Elvis Presley and Montgomery Clift in the 1950s.
As with any up, next came the down, as big box stores began producing cheap knock-offs that only a wacky uncle could love. But now the shirt is back, and designers have focused on making new versions of the shirt that are more Blue Hawaii, less Wayne Knight in Jurassic Park. That said, they’re still not a failsafe and nailing the look requires some thought.
Photographed: Percival Cuban Short Sleeve Shirt | The Fuji Merchant (£49), Arlen Mid Weight Cotton Crew Neck T-Shirt (£21), Arlen Straight Fit Tailored Trousers (£51), Boden Cheaney Deal (£350)
Embrace the camp collar. “Attitude is a key part of pulling this shirt off,” says our stylist, Alice Watt. “You don’t want a silhouette that buttons all the way up to the top – it conveys the wrong, stuffy message. A camp collar captures the same laid-back spirit and retro sensibility that makes the Hawaiian shirt so enticing.”
Style it with other busy pieces. This will only overwhelm your outfit and draw attention away from your shirt. “The key is keeping the rest of your outfit simple – preferably colour-free and certainly print-free,” Alice says. Smart styles to pair with yours instead? A simple white tee, a pair of jeans or chinos, and some simple white kicks or boots.
Know your brands. As we mentioned, there’s a lot of scratchy polyester out there, so it’s best to stick to brands who capture the authentic spirit of the shirt, while making it look fresh and new. “Percival and Reiss are two of my go-tos for great prints - they’re bold but not too gaudy,” Alice says. “The colours can be bright but in the right way; they don’t scream for attention.”
Opt for a rigid fabric. “The more stiff the fabric, the more stuffy and forced the outfit will look,” Alice says. “It needs to ooze a nonchalant, care-free attitude, and choosing a looser fabric is the first way to master this.” Lightweight cotton, viscose, and linen blends are all great options, and as a bonus, they’ll keep you cool in Hawaii-style weather.
Look for vintage-inspired prints that nod to the golden age of the shirt. Anything too loud or artificial will just look contrived, especially if the print is too on the nose – think hula dancers or pineapples. “Stick to abstract prints too,” says Alice. “Think florals that are more painterly than graphic. They’ll feel authentic and true to the original Hawaiian designs.”
Go overboard on colour. The shirt should make a bright statement, but it shouldn’t give anyone a headache. “Stay away from neons,” Alice says. “You want to add spirit but still be taken seriously, and anything to ostentatious won’t do you any favors.” Luckily, there are plenty of colourful but tasteful options available – from pastels to punchy shades of yellow, red, and orange – that will lift your look without feeling kitschy.
Put thought into how you style it. “There’s no one way to wear a Hawaiian shirt,” Alice says. “Because it’s typically made in a loose fabric, it can be worn tucked in, tucked down, and styled over a tee or vest – it really depends on the environment. It’s also possible to dress them up or down. Pair yours with some green chinos or tailored shorts and a pair of trainers, and you’re ready for a rooftop party. Style one with tailored trousers and boots, and you can even wear it in some casual office settings.”
Forget to have fun with it. You’re in a bold print, so carry yourself with confidence and enjoy yourself. “At the end of the day, your attitude is the biggest indicator of whether you pull off something bold like the Hawaiian shirt,” Alice says. The idea is to evoke an easy, holiday feeling, even when you’re months away from your next trip to the beach.
Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Alice Watt
Styling assistant: Toby Standing
Once upon a time we would have scoffed at the idea of wearing flamboyant, over the top floral and printed men’s shirts. But that was then, and here we are…in 2018 and for some reason we’ve accepted that flamboyant is the new black and it’s time to get onboard the bold shirt trend.
How To Pick A Great Shirt
This part’s the hardest. There’s a big difference between bold print shirts in quality and design, therefore you want to choose carefully.
- Stick with pattern colours which are of complimentary colours already in your wardrobe. Mixing a pink shirt with khaki trousers is not going to work. Green, blue, black, red are all colours which are easy to match with trousers and shorts regardless of season
- Choose patterns with objects which are interesting and not ‘lame’. Birds, plants are preferable over rocket ships and toilets
- Fabric is important – silk is best, followed by wool/cotton. For the cheaper shirts from Zara you’ll be getting polyester which can smell pretty funky after a night on the dance-floor. (learnt that the hard way when I was 18)
“More versatile than you may think. Poolside in shorts, over a t-shirt with your fave jeans or tucked into a pinstriped suit. The bold print shirt is your next best friend.” – Jeff Lack, Stylist
How To Wear The Print Shirt
Smart Casual (With Trousers or jeans)
Make no mistake, the printed shirt is not formal suitable. Use it where you take fashion liberties and make a statement without offending the party hosts.
Here are our simple tips for making the bold printed shirt look amazing:
- Wear with drawstring or pleated trousers – tuck it in or leave out for a most casual look
- Combine with a plain black or blue suit as a statement piece
- No belt required – a bold print shirt can be a lot to take in so go belt-less if you can – it’s one less thing to catch the eye
- Pair with sneakers, oxfords or loafers (in the summer months)
- Ripped jeans…say no more
Beach Casual (With Shorts)
The printed shirt is the perfect beach to bar fashion item in summer. It looks dressy and will ensure you’re arriving in style (and with a collar). Keep the pairings simple, this means plain shorts (blue, black or white), classic sneakers or slip-ons and let the shirt do the talking. Hello darling…
RELATED:Rocking A White T-Shirt No Longer Needs To Be A Boring Affair
What To Buy
Printed shirts are not necessarily a case of ‘the more expensive, the better’. You can pick up inexpensive printed shirts from the likes of Zara. Slightly more expensive shirts are available from Calibre or REISS. If you have big bucks you can hit up Gucci or Stella McCartney.
Hawaiian Shirts FAQ
How to style a Hawaiian shirt?
Keep your bottoms simple – chinos or flat-front shorts in black or neural colors. For your shoes, wear a pair of lace-up oxford or slip-on in a solid matching shade.
How should your Hawaiian shirt fit?
A contemporary Hawaiian print shirt should stand out on its own, so keep it slim and structured. Pick one with a straight or vented hem that you can tuck in or out with ease.
Should I wear an undershirt with a Hawaiian shirt?
It is your call. If you will wear an undershirt, make sure it is solid color, preferable white or black. Pull the Hawaiian shirt over and keep it open.
See below for our exclusive selection of the best bold print and Hawaiian style shirts for men.
Camp-Collar Printed Satin Shirt AUD $266.11
Flowing, printed viscose shirt with a collar and short sleeves. Button-up front. - $59.95
Slim fit floral print shirt with long sleeves - 59.95 AUD
Camp-Collar Printed Cotton Shirt AUD $402.95
Rattle Snake Printed Shirt $160
Obey Soft Pink Short Sleeve Shirt $160
Fish-print short-sleeved silk-satin twill shirt
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Once I decided to get my head out of the world wide web and pay less attention to my phone, I noticed the amount of well dressed men out there. Well, sort of… let’s not get carried away here. It also dawned on me that during these hot summer days men tend to be divided into two groups. The sartorial savvy and the fashion ignoramus. With the boiling degrees out there you can’t blame either, bless ’em, BUT we can certainly talk. And stare… and ‘judge’ (for the sake of style you know). And then stare some more… and of course talk some more.
Anyway, seems like in 2015 summer the former group has a penchant for: palm trees, bubble gums, insects, beautiful bugs, trees, leaves, romantic sunsets, Instagram blue skies… you know, the regular postcard prints on HAWAIIAN SHIRTS for men. And if you think their style is borderline Tom Selleck while humming ‘Bermuda Bahamas c’mon pretty mamas’ tune, trowing pool parties around the clock trying to channel some cool middle aged man, who’s in fact anything but cool – think again. The only middle-aged related thing about these guys is probably the dad-bod, which is happening, because it’s totally happening as a trend apparently.
Yeah. It would be fun to go there. But not today.
Today we talk men. I mean men in Hawaiian shirts, fine. Here’s the thing about this 1935 shirt invented in Honolulu for tourists to take home postcard looking clothes – it’s been out there, floating around the idea of style for sometime, and with the exception of the 30s, 40s, and 50s when really, REALLY stylish men rocked them, I can only recall less great things about this type of shirt.
Back in the day circa 80s, 90s, it was a holiday attire and slipped its way around town as an Aloha casual Friday at work thing. Cargo shorts, hawaiian shirts for men, sandals. Here’s the gun. Please shoot me.
So when the hell, between those retro stylish 50s and the kitsch 80s, did the hawaiian turn into the fucking sex symbol of all shirts?
It was actually recently in SS 2014 collections that designers sent their male models down the runway looking like the best combo out there: retro rock star meets stylish grown up with a penchant for drinks and expensive cars, always wearing sunglasses and great shoes with no socks. Mid 30s, ok, late 30s, calm, beautiful smile, knows good music, wine or whiskey, good food… plus has a few other cool hobbies under his belt.
Then this dude was thrown out there, into the non-VIP version of the catwalk, aka the street style, and what do you say, what do you know: it boomed. And before we knew it out our men were turning into the hottest things around in fucking hawaiian shirts.
They mixed and matched them to their own looks and personal styles, and wore them regardless of the floral tropical print, but more for the fun of pairing something retro with something trendy.
Of course having a little swag, being fashion creative and adventurous doesn’t hurt. Shades, tats, beards, cool haircuts… might make a tiny difference. Of course, it could only just be me, and my personal preferences, but since you asked, I’m telling.
Talking’s fun and all of that, but seriously HOW do men wear hawaiian shirts without looking either like 90s kids who mimic adulthood on vacation, or middle aged adults stuck in teen land by the pool?
How do men wear hawaiian shirts and look cool?
Funny you should ask, here are some tips and tricks, to help boost that jazz and swag y’all got already.
Office Hawaiian Look. Out of all the looks, this has got to be the sexiest out there, because it shows that a man who can pull off a funky print shirt to work and look polished like he’s the fucking ruler of his empire – is bloody irresistible.
Chose a more understated print or colour hawaiian fitted shirt and pair it with dark chinos or black pants. Shoes wise, anything that’s not sneaker style for this outfit. A great bag, a pair of shades, and dayumn.
OFFICE ALOHA look.
Casual cool meets retro. Think of 40s sex symbols walking aground town in 2015, on hot summer days. Hawaiian shirts, 2 unbuttoned buttons, a cool hat, pair of sunnies, espadrilles or sandals (no socks. I repeat, no socks), chinos, or distressed jeans. Any pant style must be cuffed. Shorts will do as well.
CASUAL RETRO COOL looks.
Urban dope Hawaiian style. This is casual meets trendy meets sporty: tennis shoes, jeans or shorts, hat, somewhere between Pharell & Clark Gable on holiday. I makes little sense I know, but the best ones do.
Urban dope hawaiian look.
Now excuse me while I pick myself off the floor. Good. By now, you either more confused or you got the hang of this summer trend: hawaiian shirts for men. In either case a few more street stylers for inpo are not gonna hurt. Let’s roll and scroll then.
What to keep in mind: never tuck in your hawaiian shirt, always pick the right size and fit, and never compromise on your style. Make the hawaiian shirt fit your personal razzmatazz, not the other way around. Wear it, don’t let it wear you.
If that doesn’t work, just take it off.
How do you wear a Hawaiian print shirt and not make it look like a gimmicky novelty thing? Certain garments never quite disappear – take cargo pants and athletic shoes – but see their popularity wax and wane.
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Once a ‘90s staple, cargos now have a reputation as a go-to garment for fashion-unconscious bros. Tech footwear and dad shoes, on the other hand, take athletic styles beyond their practical uses.
Short-History of the Vintage Hawaiian Print Shirt
The Hawaiian shirt falls within this pattern. For decades, the relaxed fit and bold prints embodied the clueless tourist, usually someone on a cruise, and were a quick signifier that, no matter where you are, you’re just visiting.
But, it’s also had its pop culture moments: Think cheesy Elvis flicks in the ‘60s and gun-wielding bad-asses from 1983’s Scarface through True Romance and Romeo + Juliet in the ‘90s.
The latter coincided with the casual popularity of bowling shirts through the early aughts, and considering fashion’s 20-year cycles, those familiar palm prints returning to the runway.
The Hawaiian Shirt Revival
Much of the Hawaiian print shirt’s revival coincides with the camp collar shirt’s return. Another retro garment getting an upgrade, the camp collar shirt – also called a Cuban collar shirt – features a similarly relaxed silhouette, a straight hem, and a double-notch collar.
Despite the differences, both styles present a variation on the ubiquitous button-up, and in response, every brand from Gucci and Louis Vuitton to Carhartt WIP, Stussy, to Levi’s Hawaiian camp shirt unveiled their take on this familiar staple.
However, while they are all grouped together as Hawaiian shirts, prints and silhouettes vary. Here are the three key ingredients of a modern Hawaiian shirt.
How to Style a Modern Hawaiian Shirt
1. Bolder Prints and Graphics
Your rule for summer: The more flamboyant the print, the better. This season’s statement garment can’t be too modest, so it’s best to go all out.
What’s out there? A boundless assortment of choices. Of course, you can start traditional, with florals, palm leaves, or repeating island and surfer graphics.
Even within these classic parameters, however, brands have tried out neon shades, layered on the yellows, oranges, and pinks, or opted for psychedelic combinations.
For full starkness, a two-tone silhouette print removes any potential grey areas.
However, in terms of prints, there’s a whole world beyond of retooled options. Thus, in place of florals, consider pineapples – really, they’re everywhere this season. Replace those palm fronds with bamboo leaves.
And, if you’re not fond of standard surf prints, go with a pattern reminiscent of a souvenir jacket – particularly carps or koi.
2. How Your Hawaiian Shirt Should Fit
After you’ve gotten your prints in gear – and truth be told, you can’t have just one – think about how you’ll wear the shirt. Building on its reemergence, the Hawaiian shirt projects a more refined silhouette this time around.
As such, veer away from the tourist trap: A baggy, draped fit paired with knee-length shorts and Velcro strap sandals. And, unless you’re attempting a strictly retro look, it’s best to leave the pop culture influences in the past.
Particularly, a contemporary Hawaiian print shirt should stand out on its own, rather than be layered over a tank top or white T-shirt.
As a starting place, examine the fit. If it’s too loose, the shirt becomes reminiscent of a muumuu. Rather, keep it slim and structured – a straight fit to the hips, ideally with a straight or vented hem that can be worn out or tucked in with ease.
Secondly, consider the material. Older shirts featured a light rayon or polyester construction. While it felt effortless, understand that the material traps perspiration, and on a hot day, those sweat stains show up in no time at all.
As an alternative, consider a cotton blend for its natural breathability. If you’re going in a slimmer direction, make sure the material has at least a hint of stretch, so you can move without any restriction.
Thirdly, how you style your shirt makes the difference between a loud, convoluted outfit and an effective statement piece. As such, keep your bottoms simple: chino pants or flat-front shorts, depending on the weather, in black or a neutral hue.
Any shoes should follow suit: Keep your lace-up oxford or slip-on in a solid matching shade. And, as a finishing touch, don’t forget to roll up the shirt’s cuffs.
For much of its history, the Hawaiian print shirt rattled around in vacation status: something you’re taking out for days away from home on warmer months. By the ‘80s, it gained some clubbing status, as a dressed-up, intentionally loud casual shirt.
Now there’s a new progression, one building on the acceptability of patterned shirts in an office environment.
Dress codes have moved beyond solid shades and pinstripes, and particularly if you work in a more casual space, most prints, provided they’re not too heavy-handed, easily fit in with flat-front pants and a blazer.
But, in this context, the double-notch found on camp collar shirts projects too strong of a leisurely attitude. After all, you’re there to get things done, rather than sit back and wait. Instead, a Hawaiian shirt with familiar button-down features adapts to the 9-to-5.
For your work wardrobe, look for a buttoned collar, a straight fit, and a rounded, shirttail-style hem, and for prints, keep the colors on the neutral to muted side: navy, tan, green, and even red, over hot pink and neon yellow.
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