The 1980s were a time of bright colors and geometric patterns, so naturally, the aloha shirt grew in popularity throughout the decade.
While traditional aloha shirts featured more tropical prints, the Hawaiian shirts of the 1980s included a wide assortment of geometric prints and colors.
The History Of Hawaiian Shirts
The aloha shirt (later known as the Hawaiian shirt) can be traced back to the late 1920s when they were sold out of a Honolulu-based store by Kōichirō Miyamoto. These colorful shirts featured Japanese-styled prints, but would later include a more tropical theme. By 1935, the shirts had become so popular that they were dubbed aloha shirts, and in 1937 the term was trademarked by Ellery Chun.
The aloha shirt industry grew rapidly throughout the 1930s, and by the end of the decade, more than 450 people were employed at various factories throughout Hawaii. The designs were mass-produced and were commonly used as employee uniforms at resorts and restaurants.
During World War II, servicemen who had been stationed throughout Asia and Hawaii fell in love with the look and feel of the shirt. As result, after the end of the war, a number of fashion designers started producing shirts that were sold in chain retailers throughout the country.
One of the more popular brands was produced by Alfred Shaheen. Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen shirt on the cover of his album Blue Hawaii.
Hawaiian Shirt Design
The Hawaiian shirt came in a number of different designs and patterns. Most shirts start with a solid base color, then prints are applied on top. The most common designs featured palm trees and other exotic plants and flowers.
Because of their association with the sea, a number of popular designs also featured shells and a wide variety of undersea creatures. But the designs of the Hawaiian shirt did not just reflect life on the beach, rather they featured all aspects of life. Today, it’s not uncommon to see a wide variety of desert flora and fauna, as well as abstract geometric shapes.
By the 1980s, there were a number of companies producing aloha shirts, but one of the most popular brands of Hawaiian shirts was Paradise Found. The company was known for its choice of colors and designs, as well as for its appearance in a number of television shows and movies.
One of their most popular designs was a red-colored jungle Bird print that was worn by Tom Selleck in the hit TV series Magnum PI. Because of the positive way that the show portrayed Vietnam veterans, the Smithsonian Institute inducted a number of memorabilia from the show, including the popular Paradise Found shirt.
Hawaiian Shirts In The 80s
Despite its humble Hawaiian beginnings, the Hawaiian shirt would eventually become a popular fixture on TV and in films during the 1980s.
Many of the 80s most notable icons at one time or another wore Hawaiian shirts, only adding to the popularity of the fashion at the time.
Without a question, the popularity of Hawaiian shirts in the 1980s can be widely attributed to a single television show that first appeared in 1980. The hit show Magnum PI was a crime drama that ran for 8 seasons on CBS. Tom Selleck played Sullivan Magnum IV, a private investigator who stayed in a guesthouse At Robin’s Nest.
Robin Masters who owned the 200-acre estate invited the Vietnam War veteran to live there due to a need for his security expertise. Throughout the entire life of the popular television series, Tom Selleck was always seen wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Another memorable icon from the 1980s that wore Hawaiian Shirts was Tony Montana in “Scarface” (1983). Played by Al Pacino, we see the Miami drug kingpin wearing a Hawaiian shirt as he battles it out with his enemies in the film.
Not all Hawaiian shirts were worn by gun toting men during the 1980s. In fact, a Hawaiian shirt was infamously worn in “The Goonies” (1985) by “Chunk”. If you remember Chunk, he was notorious for the “Truffle Shuffle”, and it was a Hawaiian shirt that he lifted up to perform his trademark jig.
And who could forget the Hawaiian shirt Nicolas Cage wore in “Raising Arizona” (1987). He plays H.I. McDunnough, and is seen wearing a bright red Hawaiian shirt while getting his mugshot taken.
Are Hawaiian Shirts Still Popular?
Though Hawaiian shirts were popular during the 1980s, you definitely do not see them as much today. While they were worn as casual wear in the 80s, typically we only see Hawaiian shirts when it comes to tourists vacationing in Hawaii.
The bold colors that were so fashionable in the 1980s died out at the end of the decade, and with that so did the popularity of Hawaiian shirts. However we hope that one day this colorful fashion will once again be in style, and that we can whip out the ones collecting dust in our closets once again.