The history of the Aloha shirt -the birth and design transition of aloha shirt-

I think there are few people who know when and how Aloha shirts come were born.

Do you know that Aloha shirt may be made by Japanese people?

As a Japanese who likes Aloha shirts, I have studied the history of Aloha shirt.

Origin of Aloha shirt

Ancient Hawaiians made cloth by walnut from wood skin, it was called “tapa”.Tapa is now sold as a souvenir in Hawaii.

It is said that the first shirt  was transmitted to Hawaii when Captain Cook of the UK arrived in Kauai in the 18th century.

Then that shirt began to be called with the name “paraka”.Pioneer workers from settlers including Japanese wore it as work clothes.

As you can see, it is a checked open collar shirt. The shirt made of cotton in blue plaid pattern was similar to Japanese  traditional cloth and it also penetrated Japanese people.

Below is a reprint of Paraca by Japanese Aloha shirt brand Sunsurf.

There are several theories about the birth of Aloha shirt.

One of the theories is that when kimono and yukata which Japanese immigrants brought from Japan became old, they made a Paraka style shirt for children by kimono and yukata.

Its unique color and pattern must have been freshly reflected to local people and tourists, and it must have become a hot topic.

Then Japanese and Chinese tailors imported cloth from Japan and made shirts for souvenirs.

The word “Aloha shirt” was used for the first time in newspaper advertisements, one of Nikkei’s tailors “Musashiya Shoten”. This shirt became prevalent among local young people, and Aloha shirts(Aloha shirt) became popular as a souvenir even for travelers from the United States who saw it.

It was mainly Japan that produced and exported the dough of Aloha shirt at that time.

The reason are as follows.

  1.  At that time the yen was cheap, so they were able to purchase quality fabrics cheaply.
  2. American cloth makers were received only in large quantities of lot, whereas Japanese cloth makers responded to exports even with small quantities of lots

Kyoto and Osaka, the center of dyed fabrics and textiles, were important production areas for Aloha shirt fabrics.

Some of the designs of Hawaii-like tropical fabrics seemed to be designed in Japan. They were imported into Hawaii and an Aloha shirts were made.

As you can see, not only Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, but also Japan was deeply involved in the history of Aloha Shirts.However, there are almost no Aloha shirts made in Hawaii using fabrics made in Japan now.

The transition of design of Aloha shirt

Aloha shirt design has history as well.

The epidemic of Aloha shirt is mainly due to the development of Hawaii as a sightseeing spot.Tourists to Hawaii had increased since passenger ships from San Francisco to Honolulu came into service in 1927.During the war, Hawaii became a base for the US military, and after the war tourists further increased due to the development of airplanes.

Aloha shirts that were mainly Japanese patterns at the beginning, as the number of tourists from the United States increased, tropical design with motifs of canoes and palm trees, diamond heads, hibiscus, surfers and so on since 1938 was increasing.

All over pattern

n the early days when Aloha shirt was born, the mainstream was a design in which a certain pattern repeats continuously over the entire shirt called “all over pattern”.

This is a pattern that is still common today. Even if it looks gaudy, it’s easy to get familiar with it, I think it’s a type of pattern that suits jeans.

Border pattern

Then the size of the “overall pattern” motif was increasing gradually.And in the latter part of 1940, “Border pattern” is born as a more flashy design.

“Border pattern” is a design that takes time and effort in cutting and sewing because it is necessary to arrange the picture in the vertical direction when compared with “all over pattern”.

More impactful design

In the height of the Aloha shirts In the 1950s, as a stronger design, “Horizontal pattern” which looks like a picture of the whole shirt, “Back panel pattern” where the front of the back is regarded as one campus and “Picture print pattern” which is more picture-like design were increasing.

Besides that, designers created unique designs.One of the famous textile designers is John Megus.He devised “Gauguin · Woodcut” which collaged part of print works of French painter Gauguin.That innovative pattern is still advanced. This pattern is used not only for Aloha shirts, but also for Muu Mu and dress.

In Japan, Gauguin wood cut is one of popular patterns, and it will be sold out immediately even if it is reprinted.

In this way, a stylishly designed Aloha shirt has been born. Today,Aloha shirts of various designs that were impossible to realize at the time are born making full use of the new printing technology.

Aloha shirt is still evolving.

That is the history of Aloha shirt.


Next,I recommend you to know about brands of Aloha shirt, please click below.

Hawaiian shirts 11 brands recommended by Japanese who love hawaiian shirts