The first real golden age of aloha shirts began. Tourists and servicemen aside, A-list celebrities like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Montgomery Cliff, as well as war veteran presidents Truman and Eisenhower were pictured in aloha shirts. Hawaii became a state in ‘59, further fueling the intrigue as well as air travel becoming faster and more affordable for middle class Americans. It also didn’t hurt that Elvis wore a Shaheen aloha shirt on the 1961 cover for Blue Hawaii.
In 1962, at the height of their artistry, a professional manufacturing association known as the Hawaiian Fashion Guild began promoting aloha shirts for use in the workplace. Despite the tropical climate and lack of A/C, office workers were required to dress in suit and tie. “Operation Liberation” began with the guild distributing two aloha shirts to every member of Hawaii’s House of Reps and Senate. Subsequently, a resolution was passed recommending aloha attire be worn throughout the summer for “the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state’s garment industry.” Thus “Aloha Friday” was born. It proved so popular that by the 70’s it had gained acceptance in Hawaii as business attire all week long and spread to mainland USA as “Casual Friday.”
Unfortunately, due to the aloha shirt’s popularity, mass-manufacturing for US retail chains cheapened the aloha shirts by cutting corners on design and fabrication, making the iconic shirt kitsch at best.
But like all fashion icons with a long enough history, aloha shirts are being revisited by today’s top designers – beginning a second golden age not only for the shirts, but also for the open collared shirting and vivid floral patterning.
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