Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday Detail: The Hawaiian Shirt

3. The Hawaiian Shirt


Hawaiian shirts, 2014, from Saint Laurent and Sandro

Take a look at the men’s casual shirts section on Mr Porter and you’ll see it’s been livened up a bit, thanks to some Hawaiian-style prints from brands including Saint Laurent, Sandro, AMI and Beams Plus. Junya Watanabe is at it too, as is Prada.

Why the Hawaiian shirt and why now? Some attribute it to the embracing of the style by discerning hipsters (and Hedi Slimane is therefore continuing the finest YSL tradition of elevating streetwear). I personally like to attribute it to Don and Megan Draper’s Hawaiian sojourn at the start of season six of Mad Men.


One of the best collector’s guides to Hawaiian shirts appears in Harriet Love’s 1982 Vintage Chic book, where she gives a brief history of the style before dispensing advice on finding the finest 1940s and 50s Hawaiian designs (silk or rayon, shorter than a regular shirt, carved coconut buttons) or the best of the American brands (mother-of-pearl buttons and perfectly matched patch pockets).

It’s also a reminder that even vintage is subject to trends – Hawaiian shirts must have been going through a revival at the time of writing, given the space she devotes to them. The prices are interesting to note too: from $85 for collectible shirt: over $100 for a silk shirt (despite this journalist’s insistence that a rayon shirt is somehow more genuine), and a forties Hawaiian shirt up to $140 (as comparison, she prices a 1950s Dior dress at $100). A 1950s rayon shirt, shown above, with a print very similar to one described in the book, recently sold on eBay for $310.88.


Alfred Shaheen, one of the designers attributed to popularising the Hawaiian shirt, also made womenswear using his company's hand-printed fabric. Prada used Hawaiian motifs in its 2014 Resort collection too. And Hawaiian-influenced women’s designs can also be bought for a lot less from the likes of River Island and ASOS. I like the kimono styling on the ASOS top – a reminder of the Japanese influence on Hawaiian shirts – and the cute pattern on this Traffic People dress.


How to wear an Hawaiian shirt today? Well, here are a few suggestions from Harriet Love (but I’m guessing a 1930s dangly fruit necklace won’t be quite so inexpensive anymore):
  • Hawaiian shirts are versatile and can be worn summer and winter, by men and women. 
  • Pair them with jeans, with white cotton shorts, or with anything linen in summer. 
  • Wear them all winter under a solid-color Shetland pullover, with the collar out. 
  • To contrast styles, to soften a conservative look, Asher Jason sometimes wears his red-blue-yellow-white palm tree and flower Hawaiian under his navy Cerutti suit, with a blue knitted tie and, for the fun of it, a yellow and blue printed  Roy Rogers cowboy handkerchief tucked in the jacket pocket. 
  • Wear a Hawaiian open to the waist over a pretty camisole with a simple white Edwardian petticoat. 
  • Try a fitted white-piqué vest over your shirt, wear it with navy or white pants or Bermuda shorts. 
  • Accessorize Hawaiian shirts inexpensively with thirties Deco jewellery. Examples: a red carved bangle bracelet ... a dangly fruit necklace ... colourful dress clips worn at the neck. 
  • Wear a soft solid-color or dungaree jacket over a Hawaiian shirt the soft, floppy collar falls nicely over the lapel. 
Or you could simply take a look through this gallery of famous Hawaiian shirt wearers for inspiration.

Previous Monday Details:
1. The Collar
2. The Boater

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