History of the Aloha shirt
October 8, 2008 12:02 PM • by Learn about Hawaii • Posted to Hawaii | Hawaii Culture | Hawaii Facts | Hawaii History | Comments (167) | PermalinkIt was during the time of the 19th century when the early Western missionaries took notice of the need to have the natives be properly clothed in preparation for their conversion to Christianity. The shirts with flamboyant colors and tropical prints were conceptualized. But it wasn't until the mid-1930 when it went into full production.
Research discovers stories of a Waikiki, Honolulu Chinese merchant by the name of Mr. Ellery Chun and owner of King-Smith Clothiers and Dry Goods, who was believed to be the pioneer of the Aloha Shirt. Along with his sister, Ethel Chun Lum, they manufactured the first vibrantly colored, floral, short-sleeved shirt from left-over kimono fabric.
One of the first manufacturers of the Aloha Shirt was the Kamehameha Garment Company. They were the ones who initiated large shipments of the Aloha Shirt to the mainland in 1960, branded them as "Made in Hawaii" and were sold out right away. Other early shirt labels included names like Musa Shiya, Watamulls, Kahala, Surfriders, Alfred Shaheen, Duke Kahanamoku, etc.
Not only was the Aloha Shirt popular in Hawaii, famous celebrities immediately joined the bandwagon and started to go Hawaiian. These celebrities included the undisputed king of rock and roll Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Montgomery Clift and the legendary Frank Sinatra. US President Harry Truman also loved the Aloha Shirt and was even featured on the cover of Life Magazine wearing one.
Up until today, the Aloha Shirt still stands true to its original concept of conveying the rich images of the Hawaiian island, and will remain as the unique souvenir to boast of what the aloha spirit is all about.