Everything you need to know about the Aloha Shirt.

Hawaiian shirts are having an extended moment. You may have noticed that these shirts that were once more associated with beaches or sipping tiki cocktails by the pool have now made their way into the everyday rotation.

Well, what you may not know is that what we call a Hawaiian shirt is actually something else entirely: The Aloha shirt.

You also may not realize that if you’re a beneficiary of a more casual office dress code, you probably have the Aloha shirt to thank.  

The Origin Story

Two Aloha Shirts on a beach background.

The Aloha shirt was created in 1935 at a Japanese-owned business on Hawaii called Musashiya. At this fabric shop, customers could have a custom shirt made, choosing from a range of printed kimono fabrics. Eventually, due to demand, the shop began sourcing fabrics with prints inspired by the Hawaiian islands and Polynesia.

After World War II, as servicemen returned from the Pacific theater and tourism on Hawaii boomed, Aloha shirts began being mass produced by a variety of purveyors, including Reyn Spooner.

Reyn Spooner

Aloha shirt hanging with tropical fern decoration.

Reynolds McCullough had served as a paratrooper in WWII and within years of returning to Catalina Island, CA had built a series of successful menswear stores. However, when he and his wife visited Hawaii in 1957, they were presented with an opportunity to open a store in a new shopping center there on the Island. By 1959, Reynolds and his wife had left California behind and opened a new shop in Honolulu.

After opening his menswear shop, Reyn’s, Mr. McCullough partnered with another clothing entrepreneur on the island for a new venture. Ruth Spooner was renowned on Hawaii for her quality swim trunks, which she produced with a single sewing machine at her shop, Spooner’s.

In 1962, the two partnered to created Reyn Spooner. Their mission: produce quality Aloha shirts, returning some dignity to the garment that had been taken over by tourists. They created shirts with heritage prints and quality construction, not novelties meant only for vacation. Later, they developed a reverse print shirt for a more muted feel.

Reyn Spooner, now featured by Bombfell, has continued to innovate with the Aloha shirt, updating the styling with more modern cuts, all while remaining true to the shirt’s Hawaiian heritage.

Aloha Friday

Flat lay with white Hawaiian shirt with polo and shorts. Belt and flip flops accompanying.

In terms of dress code, offices across the country are the most casual they’ve ever been. The Aloha shirt is to thank for this.

In the 60’s, the Hawaii Fashion Guild began to promote Aloha wear as business attire on the islands. This led to the creation of “Aloha Friday,” which allowed workers to wear Aloha shirts on the final day of the work week.

Sound familiar? Yup. Aloha Friday was the beginning of casual Friday. Over the years, this tradition slowly spread to the California coast and later, all over the country.

Looking further into present, the tradition of casual Friday has spilled over to the rest of the week. Now, many offices are leaning toward business casual–or everyday casual–for dress code.

For that, we owe a mahalo to the Aloha Shirt.


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