Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Alfred Shaheen the Hawaiian Shirt Guru Dies at 92

Comfortable. Usually cotton. Roomy. How many people out there have a Hawaiian shirt hanging in your closet right now. Chances are ... quite a few. Today, the colorful shirts are a staple of most people's closet. Aloha shirts are colorful, they are the first hint of spring and summer and they go with jeans, skirts, shorts, etc. More importantly, you can pretty much wear them anywhere. So, say "thank you" to Alfred Shaheen the man who made the Aloha Shirt popular and revolutionized the garment industry in postwar Hawaii, who died Dec. 22 from complications due to diabetes.

Quite a feat if you think about it. After World War II, servicemen and women returning to the States from Asia and the Pacific Islands brought along the aloha shirts (that had been made in Hawaii since the 1930s.) Soon. the tropical-print shirts and sundresses became a standard and at times a "tacky" souvenir for travelers. By the 50's Tourists had begun flocking to Hawaii as faster airplanes allowed for easier travel and the former U.S. territory became a state in 1959. Although Shaheen did not "create the Hawaiian shirt, according to the LA Times, it was Shaheen who took the brand around the world by raising the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction.
GO BAREFOOT Makau Hawaiian Shirt

According to Mauishirts.com:

The history of the Hawaiian or "Aloha Shirt" can be traced to the early western missionaries in the 19th century. They felt that it would be more appropriate, for the soon to be christianized natives, if they were covered. But the real fact is, that it wasn't until the mid 1930's that the Hawaiian shirt, as we know it today, started to be

Elvis Presley: wore a red Alfred Shaheen shirt on the Blue Hawaii album cover. Photograph: Getty

The Hawaiian shirt is suitable for many occasions. Think about Hawkeye Pierce who wore one in M*A*S*H, or Kramer who wore them in Seinfeld. And most women will never forget Thomas Magnum wore one as a private eye in the Magnum series. Hollywood loves the shirt ... in From Here To Eternity Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine, and Frank Sinatra all wore the appropriate fashion items.

Today darts player Wayne Mardle marches on stage to the Hawaii Five-O theme tune, his fans colourfully dressed and his own Hawaiian shirt tailored for the modern sports world with its own sponsor logos. And lets not leave out Jimmy Buffet and his parrothead followers : )

Hawaiian shirt is suitable for almost all social occasions. White ones are available for the Hawaiian or beach themed wedding, for instance, and even for shaking a martini. So raise a glass in memory of Alfred Shaheen ... he helped dress us all.

LA Times

Alfred Shaheen


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