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Sunday, September 25, 2011


The history of the Aloha Shirt is a story of Hawaii tourism itself.  The female equivalent is the muumuu (modeled to the right by Homer Simpson), although the holoku is the upscaled version, like a long-sleeve aloha shirt.  Suffice to say that Hawaiian women, in the days of the early missionaries, walked around bare breasted, triggering the invention of the muumuu and aloha shirt.

The ideal aloha shirt is made from rayon, which to the surprise of most, is itself manufactured mostly from wood.   First invented in the middle 1800's as artificial silk, the manufacture was expensive, and some forms, unfortunately, flammable.  A sixteen step manufacturing process to produce a stronger rayon that could breathe finally evolved in 1950, setting the stage for the ultimate aloha shirt, the Kabe shirt, below.  Surprisingly enough, rayon is more biodegradable, plus cheaper, than cotton.  You might not see rayon on your shirt, for trade names are used--Bemberg, Modal, Tencel, Galaxcy Danufil, Viloft, --and India produces one-fourth the world production.

The aloha shirt was first registered by Ellery Chun in 1936, 55 years ago.  Beachboys, luau feasts, Aloha Fridays and, now, everyday, made this piece of clothing something that many tourists must buy.  Movie stars wore them.

The aloha shirt, tucked in, is the standard business attire in Honolulu today.  I don't like the current evolution because, first, that shirt is usually made of a not totally comfortable material, and secondly, this is all too formal for me.  Made of rayon, a long sleeve aloha shirt, left out of your trousers, is the epitome of high style in Hawaii.  Even La Mer will allow you in without a sports coat.

Designer Amos Kotomori has become a kind of icon for these shirts.  How many times have you paid more than $100 for a shirt.  Probably never.  Kotomori's Nieman Marcus specials only sell for $245:

Well, if I had kept my father's Kabe shirts, I would be rich today, for they sell for thousands of dollars, each.  Oh, I'm grieving, but a few months ago I donated a bunch of my clothes to Goodwill, and one of them was that print at the top, which I now learn is a particularly famous aloha shirt.  Want more information?  Go to The Hawaiian Shirt:  Its Art and History.

From out of nowhere comes Typhoon Nesat (also known as Bagyong Pedring), only 80 MPH now, but in about a day will reach Category 4 status (meaning higher than 130 MPH), and slam into the Philippines, with the eye just north of Manila.  Watch out for this one.


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