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The History Of The Hawaiian Shirt

We all love looking at Hawaiian shirts. Looking back at the history of Hawaiian shirts, also known as the “Aloha Shirt”, we see that it can be traced to the 19th century and to the early western missionaries. Those missionaries thought that covering the recent Christianized natives would be more appropriate than allowing them to go topless. In the 1930’s Hawaiian shirts started to be produced commercially and continue to this day. Some researchers have discovered stories about the pioneer of the Aloha shirt, a Waikiki, Honolulu, Chinese merchant named Mr. Ellery Chun. Mr. Chun was the owner of the well-known King Smith Clothiers and dry goods store. He was born in Honolulu in 1909 and he died at the age of 91 on June 16, 2000.

With the help of her sister, Ethel Chun Lum, they started to shape the history of the Hawaiian shirt. Ethel Chun Lum made the first floral, brightly colored, short sleeved shirt which is made up of kimono fabric. On July 15, 1963, Mr. Chun registered his own business with “Aloha” as the trade name and it was then that he began generating and advertising Hawaiian printed shirts. He placed a sign on his window shop that read, “Aloha Shirt”, which ignited the success of the sales of his business.

The shirts were enormously popular and sold mainly to the local residents, surfers, tourists and boys who loved the beach. The “Aloha Shirt” was first displayed in an advertisement in the Honolulu Adviser on June 28, 1935 with the words “Aloha Shirt” as the title. Hawaiian shirts were improved in the mid 1920’s with Rayon. This made the Hawaiian Print Aloha shirt the ultimate souvenir for tourists.

Hawaiian shirts were well-known in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Even celebrities wore the famous “Aloha Shirt”. In fact, Elvis Presley, who was known as the undisputed king of rock, had a collection of Hawaiian Shirts that he used in his performances. He was often spotted and photographed wearing Hawaiian shirts.

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, wore Aloha Shirts. As a matter of fact, he was featured in a 1951 issue of Life Magazine wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Cliff also wore Hawaiian shirts during the motion picture “From here to Eternity”.

There are still a lot of celebrities and public figures who continue to wear and endorse Hawaiian shirts. A list of famous people is enough to prove that Hawaiian shirts are loved by many. The Hawaiian shirt served as the symbol of the island paradise. It represents the warm and pleasant greeting to people who visit the Hawaiian Islands. However, we would not have worn the Hawaiian shirts if they were not created at all. Let us pay tribute to the people who shaped the history of the Hawaiian shirt.

Submitted by:

Hannah Roberts

Hannah Roberts has an interest in Hawaiian Shirts. To access more articles on Hawaiian Shirts or for additional information and resources visit this Hawaiian Shirts related website.




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