Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hawaiian Shirt is Back Again and Again Today

Bahama Bob in 2000

     It its all about the way that I dress that spawned the nickname "Bahama Bob" and the Aloha style shirts that I so enjoy wearing.  It is amazing to me how that it keeps returning again and again.  In an article in the "Huffington Post", there is a great history of the shirts and  how they are returning again to the mainstream today.  This is a feeling that I have enjoyed several times in my lifetime as the style seems to be an everlasting one that really makes me smile a lot.

Bursting At The Seams: The Trend Grows In Popularity
Nixon in the 50's
     The word "aloha" was thrown around a lot in the '30s as tourism grew, but Musa-Shiya Shoten, an inspired shirt-maker, was probably the  first person to ever use "aloha shirt"in print. He ran an ad in a 1935 issue of the "Honolulu Advertiser" for "Aloha" shirts: "well tailored, beautiful designs and radiant colors: 95¢." Later, Ellery Chun noticed the hot trend and trademarked the phrase as a way to keep his store in business during the Depression.
     According to Dr. Bradley, aloha shirts of the '30s were technically "hash print," or a "hodgepodge of images [slapped] onto a shirt using linoleum stamps." During the war, stationed servicemen bought tons of these shirts, which served as a colorful antithesis to their uniforms, but it wasn't until a design house led by Alfred Shaheen hired salaried artists in the '50s that the style really took off.
Elvis in the 60's
     "I masterminded the look," Shaheen is quoted as saying in "The Aloha Shirt." "I wanted a certain look that was different from everyone else's. I would not do hash prints or chop suey prints. I avoided bright or garish colors ... I wanted my stuff to blend into a man's pair of pants or into a woman's jacket or skirt."
     Shaheen's mass-produced shirts were sold in 3,600 stores on the mainland, as well as stores in France, Hong Kong, London, Samoa and Cuba. Today, they fetch tens of thousands of dollars each at auctions. One of Shaheen's early designs, the Tiare Tapa, was worn by Elvis on the cover of "Blue Hawaii" in 1961.
     The 1960s also saw a huge shift in aloha shirt design: the reverse print, a more subdued style that looks like a shirt sewn inside out. Design house Reyn Spooner first put the reverse print out and locals loved them. "The reverse shirt was something special," Pua Rochlen, president of Jams World, told Hope in "The Aloha Shirt." "It was for the kama'aina, not for the malihini tourists."
When Shirt Hit The Fan: The Hawaiian Shirt's Fall From Grace
     The 1970s and '80s were a dark period for aloha shirts. The popularity of a mustachioed Tom
Tom Selleck in the 70's and 80's
Selleck in the television series "Magnum, P.I." had every paunchy guy thinking he could look as macho as Magnum if he, too, wore aloha shirts. Rochlen told The Huffington Post that the Hawaii style presented in "Magnum, P.I." "wasn't about embracing unique fabrics, color, art, and imagery." For instance, Magnum's Jungle Bird shirt -- which is now included in theSmithsonian's collection
-- was a basic print: a blue shirt with parrots on it. But as Rochlen points out, "it was Tom Selleck. He could have been wearing toilet paper and we would have chased the best toilet paper in the world."
     The real blow to aloha shirts' cred came later, according to Hope, who says you can pinpoint the date to August 1993, the month the brand Tommy Bahama was born.
     Tommy Bahama ushered in a new era for island resort wear.  It championed a Jimmy Buffett Parrothead lifestyle that confused the public's perception of aloha shirts, ultimately dooming the term to nothing more than kitsch.


Bahama Bob Today

     Today you will still find me wearing the colors of the "aloha shirt" proudly behind the bar at the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn in Key West.  It is a part of me that I don't see me changing in this lifetime.  One that makes me feel young and full of life , something that the colors and the life of the shirt keep alive in me.  ;o)