Growing up in Rhode Island, I loved watching Magnum PI. Not sure if it was his Ferrari, mustache or the beautiful scenery of Hawaii. But one thing is for sure – I loved his short-shorts and aloha shirts!

The Aloha shirt is an international symbol of Hawaii and recognized around the world. Over the years it has evolved from its humble beginnings in the 1930’s to become a beloved uniform for the aloha state and those seeking the relaxed island lifestyle.

The modern Aloha shirt was devised by Chinese merchant Ellery Chun. Chun began sewing brightly colored shirts for tourists out of old kimono fabrics he had leftover in stock. The newspaper was quick to coin the term “Aloha shirt” to describe Chun’s fashionable creation. Local residents, especially surfers, and tourists couldn’t get enough. Within years, major designer labels sprung up all over Hawaii and began manufacturing and selling Aloha shirts.

The popularity of the Aloha shirt boomed in the United States after WWII as major celebrities sported the Hawaiian wear. President Harry Truman wore Aloha shirts regularly, as well as John Wayne, Duke Kahanamoku, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffet and Burt Lancaster.

I still smile when I see someone wearing that signature red Aloha shirt made so famous by Tom Selleck. It now lives in the Smithsonian Institute. All would agree that no matter what color or style – the Aloha shirt still represents the feel of the islands and a dream of paradise. The good news is that no matter where you live you can always embrace your Aloha spirit and wear an Aloha shirt. From my experience they look best when accompanied with rubber slippers and a mai tai.


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