The Hawaiian shirt is a true vintage classic, an iconic look that has lasted through the decades and is now a staple in the summer style staples. Whether you’re inspired by a retro film or your uncle’s holiday style, there’s no doubt that its influence is everywhere in fashion. So we’ve decided to delve into the history of this iconic shirt, from its origins to the big pop culture moments that have kept the Hawaiian shirt back to the forefront of men’s fashion.
The Origin of the Hawaiian Shirt
Even though Hawaii was self-governed in the 1880s there was still a massive presence of US-run businesses. Seeking cheap labour, American business owners recruited from all corners of the world, from China, Korea and Portugal, but most importantly to the Aloha shirt, Japanese immigrants.
Why was this important?
Aloha shirts have strong Japanese roots as these immigrants often brought with them bright kimono fabrics. Filipino and Chinese immigrants also play a role by bringing barong talongs, a type of traditional untucked shirt, and multicoloured silks.
These foreign influences, paired with Hawaiian native Kapa cloth clothes, were instrumental in creating the Hawaiian shirt.
Fast forward to the 1920s where Gordon Young, a student at the University of Hawaii, worked with his mother’s dressmaker to create a ‘pre-aloha shirt’. Using Japanese Yutaka cloth, known to be used by Japanese women for work kimonos. Patterns included blue or black bamboo and geometric designs on white backgrounds. Soon enough, these became popular with his classmates in Hawaii. Young later attended the University of Washington, bringing his shirts with him, turning heads aplenty and sparking a lot of fashion debate.
It wasn’t until the 30s that the Aloha shirt really started to increase in popularity. The key to this was Ellery Chun, a local businessman who had just graduated from Yale in 1931. He transformed a Chinese dry goods shop into the first mass producer of Hawaiian shirts, coining the term “Aloha-shirts” and making them a must-have of Honolulu.
The Mass production of Hawaiian Shirts
Shortly after, Hawaiian shirts went into mass production. Alfred Shaheen was at the forefront of this, during the 50s his textile company ‘Shaheen’s of Honolulu’ was the largest producing Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii. Aloha shirts for men were his big speciality, but his range also included sarong dresses for women, the first of their kind being made in large-scale. As sales boomed, Shaheen hired teams of artists to design new motifs for fabrics, with artists experimenting with prints and producing non-traditional coconut tree’s, oriental fish and surfers.
Other big names such a Kamehameha and Duke Kahanamoku, as well as Shaheen’s of Honolulu, helped turn the Hawaiian shirt from a novelty tourist item into a commercially traded product.
Our 6 Favourite Hawaiian Shirt Moments In Pop Culture
From Here to Eternity, 1953.
Hollywood in the 50s really embraced the shirt. Shaheen was big on celebrity endorsement, encouraging all the biggest Hollywood stars to wear his pieces, helping them break through to more mainstream fashion in America. They became immortalised on the silver screen with Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, Montgomery Clift, and Burt Lancaster all wearing them in the 1953 movie classic, “From Here to Eternity.” making them a staple in movie fashion history.
Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii, 1961.
Elvis was THE style icon of his time, breaking boundaries in men's fashion throughout his career, capturing the imagination of the world. When the King of Rock n Roll starred in Blue Hawaii, he was the perfect model for Shaheen’s Hawaiian Shirts. Coupled with an iconic soundtrack and set in paradise, Elvis made the Hawaiian shirt the perfect item for a summer holiday on the beach.
Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I., 1980-1988.
This American crime drama set in Hawaiian became an overnight success, ranking in the top 20 TV shows in the US for most of the 80s. As the key character, Tom Selleck’s stardom exploded, and his relaxed summer style featuring multiple Hawaiian shirts in a dazzling array of colours and prints, along with short shorts, baseball caps and accessorised with lots of chest hair and a giant tash, became one of the most recognisable looks of the decade.
Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, 1994.
Just when you thought the Hawaiian shirt’s loud colours had been left in the 80s, the outlandish comedian Jim Carrey somehow brings it back for his bizarre character in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Not the most obvious source of style inspo, Carrey works an open Hawaiian shirt over a white t-shirt and flashy trousers making it modern, fun and wonderfully weird.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Romeo + Juliet, 1996.
This was quite possibly the best film of the 90s, with Baz Luhrmann adapting William Shakespeare’s classic without changing the language, but updating the location, music and style, taking it to dizzying heights of cool. Leonardo DiCaprio cemented his 90s heartthrob status for life in this film, and his beautiful collection of Hawaiian shirts, also worn by his crew The Montagues, showcase how to make this look effortlessly cool.
Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998.
A modern classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a trippy adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s American Dream novel that became a cult hit. Johnny Depp took his wardrobe into his own hands, managing to get a hand on items that really did belong to Thompson himself, including his iconic Hawaiian shirts. This bad boy take on the relaxed summer look was combined with hazy yellow sunglasses, bucket hats and converse, perfect for an endless, potentially trippy, summer.
How to style a Hawaiian shirt
Feeling inspired by our top classic Hawaiian shirt moments? We've chosen 3 easy styles perfect for everyday wear whether your off on holiday, having a weekend at a festival or just hanging out with your mates.
Hit the beach in a classic Hawaiian shirt and add some fresh colours to your holiday wardrobe. Whether you're looking for scenic beach prints, palm leaf patterns or a novelty parrot motif, we have a Hawaiian shirt for every occasion. Style with beach trunks or shorts for an easy breezy look to handle the heat.
Shop bold Hawaiian print perfect for a summer full of festivals. Layer over your favourite vintage t-shirt to put your own style stamp on this classic look. Don’t forget your favourite 90s sunnies to hide tired eyes!
Skater Street Style
This low key look is perfect for a weekend in the city, at the skate park or the pub. Pair with your trusty old pair of Vans and jeans and you’ve got a great look for day to night.
Already got your vintage Hawaiian shirt but it needs some TLC? Check out our vintage care guide to sewing a button to help you keep your item for longer!
Everyone has a favourite pair of jeans, and the right ones will last you a lifetime. But sometimes you just want a change. We've got some simple DIY hacks to refresh your fave denim staples to give them an even longer life in your wardrobe.
How To Make A Raw Hem
Here’s a great trick for when your latest vintage jeans purchase is slightly too long or if you just want to show off your ankles this Summer, fixing your own hem is actually super simple!
First off, you’ll need:
- Your jeans
- Fabric scissors
- A tape measure
Before this, try on your jeans in the mirror and work out exactly how high you’re going to crop them. Measure the ideal length on one leg, making sure to make note of the number for the other side.
Using your trusty pins, attach both sides of the trouser together so that’s easier to trim. Be sure to make this a straight of a line as possible!
Snip, snip! See ya later excess material. A straight line across should be simple enough. The sharper the scissors, the better. After snipping away the ends of your jeans, you can design your own worn effect using sandpaper. This will give you that very trendy raw hem result.
Frayed Hem Jeans
Instead of cutting horizontally across the pinned line, try snipping vertically upwards to create a fringing effect. Wash on a short cycle on the lowest temperature and they’ll naturally create a super cute fray.
And here’s us thinking women's clothes didn’t have enough pockets. Often the colour underneath will be different from the rest of the jean, giving you a cute little statement zone.
A punk and grunge classic. We take no responsibility for any elders making stupid comments like ‘where are half your jeans gone?’ at family events though. It’s called fashion, look it up.
Find out more on making your denim your own with our guide on how to customize your denim!
Denim has been a staple in everyone’s wardrobes since the 60s! This classic workwear textile has been there with us throughout the fashion decades, resulting in the existence of a favourite pair of jeans, statement denim jacket or accessories such as hats or scrunchies (or if you’re brave - all of the above).
As seemingly everyone in the world is a lover of this comfortably cool material, the tried and tested best way to stand out from the crowd is through customisation. Here at Beyond Retro we love to show off a little creativity and rework a look, so here are a few helpful tips on how to transform your old denim from drab to fab.
Before playing around with your vintage denim, find out about it's story with our ultimate denim guide.
Customise Denim With Patches
Whether you’re into bands, cartoons or merely feel the need to make a statement; patches are one of the easiest ways to get custom images onto your clothes. They’re simple to apply, you just have to iron them on!
How to Acid Wash
To achieve this ultimate 90s effect, you’ll need to dilute some bleach in a spray bottle, squirting the areas you’d like to lighten. You’ll see the results almost immediately but remember to wash the jeans before you wear them!
How to do Embroidery
Maybe try practising on some scrap material first, or better yet, find somebody else to do it. All you need is a needle and embroidery thread and a cute design in mind and you're set to get to work customising your denim!
Inspired but have nothing to DIY yet? Discover some true vintage denim treasures online at Beyond Retro.
Words Hatti Rex
From punks to pop icons check, tartan, houndstooth and gingham are eternal favourites. Each type of fabric has a rich history and they continue to be updated every season, their popularity never faltering. We’ve taken inspiration from these fabrics and the likes of Gucci, Kenzo, Versace and Charles Jeffrey for winter, piling up kilts, plaid shirts and scarves.
Whether you choose to go all-out, head-to-toe, full-on with the trend or keep it more low-key by styling up a patterned piece we have some inspiration for you. Check out our Criss-Cross icons.
Probably one of the most iconic and memorable costumes from the film, Cher and Dionne’s plaid two piece looks still have us bugging out. Whilst the idea of wearing a completely tartan outfit might scare you as much as driving down the highway in a car driven by Dionne, style this look with a simple graphic tee underneath and it becomes easily wearable.
Former Sex Pistols manager, artist and musician Malcolm McLaren was an integral part of the London punk scene during the late seventies. His iconic look was truly rebellious, putting two fingers up to the fashion of the time.
A moment of silence for this outfit, please. Rachel was a style icon of the nineties, wearing some of the best outfits to ever grace the small screen and a haircut that many viewers would later regret copying. Possibly the preppiest she ever looked, this outfit is still inspirational today. The knee socks and roll neck perfectly compliment the plaid mini skirt in a kitsch and cute look that is super simple to replicate. You can shop our selection of laid skirts here.
From performing at Glastonbury to a day out with her baby there’s No Doubt that Gwen is a fan of a plaid pant. Suiting her punky, fusion style statement, red and green checks seem to be her go-to. Easily paired with chunky boots and a crop-top you can recreate this look in an instant.
Naomi Campbell is known to make an impression on the catwalk and Vivienne Westwood 1994 was no different, she graced fashion week head to toe in Scottish heritage tartan. The classic Westwood silhouette and the top to toe styling makes a real impact. Go all-out and shop our selection to create your own all-tartan look.
Aunt Viv, Fresh Prince Of Bel Air
Aunt Viv’s costumes were always impeccable, as was her hair and this yellow skirt suit is a perfect example exquisite looks she wore. Shop our selection of blazers here.
The People’s Princess
We all wish we could have raided Princess Diana’s wardrobe as she had such an iconic and versatile style that to this day is #goals. This teal check coat and hat combo is one of her most well-remembered and made an impact whilst also being very simple.
What’s more iconic than the classic Burberry check? Beyoncé in custom Burberry check. When Riccardo Tisci took over from Christopher Bailey he updated the brand’s logo and the check itself, making it more modern. Obviously, Queen Bey can do no wrong when it comes to her outfits but this stage look in particular deserves a round of applause.
A gingham-clad beauty, Judy Garland’s Dorothy is known for her iconic dress. The pale blue and white pattern perfectly suits the sweeter-than-pie character, especially with the matching hair bows. Gingham screams sunshine, summer and picnics in the park but a gingham skirt paired with a knitted jumper and boots can be a perfect transitional look.
Not one to shy away from a bold look, Gaga went all out with this monochrome houndstooth look. The pearls are the perfect finishing touch for this loud but feminine look.
Vans - the iconic skate shoe
The waffle-sole, checkerboard print Vans trainer might be more commonly connected nowadays with the spiked-belt-wearing indie/emo tribes of the early 2000s, but their roots lay firmly in a history of skateboarding. The black and white checkerboard design is a design classic and is still as popular as it ever was. Shop our selection of Vans here.
The late, great Alexander McQueen
One of the biggest designers that Britain has produced and a legend in his own right, McQueen created many collections inspired by his father's’ Scottish heritage that incorporated traditional tartan fabrics. Accompanied by Sarah Jessica Parker to the 2016 MET Gala, the pair looked dreamy in tartan creations, McQueen in a classic kilt and Parker in a tartan-wrapped ball gown extravaganza.
Liv Tyler, Empire Records
The ultimate girl crush, Liv Tyler…. Need we say more?
Audrey Hepburn, 1961
There are not many lists of style icons where Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t appear and this one is no different. Her pairing of colour coordinating green check skirt and polo top clash brilliantly with her opaque red tights, an elegant and fun twist on criss-cross styling.
The laundry bag.
THE biggest criss-cross icon is undoubtedly the humble laundry bag. A true unsung hero, the classic red and blue check has inspired designers and even been incorporated into collections from big brands such as Balenciaga. We stan a criss-cross legend.
Words Eloise Gendry
There's no better way of finding out more about sustainability in Beyond Retro than from our incredible staff! Sustainable Spotlight is a new series of interviews with the staff that make our company tick - from warehouse, store and head office across the globe.
We spoke to Gemma, our Beyond Retro LABEL Designer to find out more about her role, the impact her role has on the environment and what she loves about working within the sustainability lead the Beyond Retro company!
I’m the designer for Beyond Retro’s Label brand. My job is to find a creative solution to the excess amount of clothing which can not be sold within our vintage range and would otherwise be destined for landfill. Inspired by current and future trends I redesign garments either through customising, altering or using the fabric from a garment to create something completely new to give them a new purpose!
Being able to create relevant and trendy designs and know that I am doing something to help the planet at the same time. We get to travel to India to work with the manufacturing team out there and it’s great having lots of interaction with the other teams in the business
Living in the throwaway society we seem to have been accustomed to I think everyone is becoming more and more aware of the impact the fashion industry has on the world and the people on it. We have a great platform here where we can educate customers to make smarter choices when buying clothing and show how you can still dress fashionably affordable and not have to succumb to fast fashion.
Visiting the clothing recycling warehouses has really opened my eyes to the amount of clothing we are throwing away. The fashion industry has become faster and faster with ever changing trend and styles and the high street producing millions and millions of items of clothing which may only ever get worn a handful of times before being discarded and moving onto the next.
Over the last few years, there has definitely been much more media spotlight on the issue of sustainable fashion and lots of big companies are starting to make changes within their business to try and help contribute to finding a solution. Take back schemes are becoming more common and designers are starting to take more action to raise awareness and make a change.
I try and live as consciously as I can - recycling where possible, only driving my car when essential, reduce plastic usage where possible. I buy second-hand clothing and furniture and give to charity when something is no longer suitable for me to use. Small changes can make a big difference.
Finding the time to go to good fresh food grocers where items are not packaged in plastic.
I definitely feel like there are positive changes starting to happen with the government making new laws and trying to ban products which are damaging to the environment. I would like to see more companies who have power and influence setting examples and raising awareness so others will follow suit.
I think encouraging everyone to make smarter choices when buying clothing. If it’s something that will be discarded within a short space of time then is it worth it? Investing in good quality long lasting pieces rather than throw away fashion will make a big difference. I also think that bigger companies need to look at the amount of clothing they are producing and re-evaluate the necessity of what they are manufacturing.
Be more mindful when shopping and don’t just buy things because of a ‘fad’. By taking the time to shop around and investing in better quality and better fitting products its more than likely they will become a staple piece in your wardrobe and you won’t want to throw it away!
For more helpful tips on becoming more sustainable in everyday life, check out our blog for some super helpful tips on how to reduce your environmental impact.
What made you decide to become Nosferatu on the reg?
I've had a long-standing love affair with silent, black and white movies from the 20's for many years. While I was trying to develop my character persona for stage work, my physicality and art deco gothic aesthetic pointed the way to the 1922 Nosferatu by F.W Murnau, and I fell in love with becoming my interpretation of the character.
Your fashion sense is very spooky. Who are your biggest style influences?
I'm very much influenced with whatever I'm "in to" at the moment. Currently, I'm very inspired by looks of the early "Shakespeares Sister" music videos. Androgyny in monochrome.
How many products and how much time does it take to get into character?
I keep the colour pallet very minimal as, they are a black/white character, but I find red really makes him pop on stage, so with the prosthetic ears, teeth and eyes, I keep his skin products minimal, but use around ten to twelve products to get the right effect on the lips and around the eyes. All in all, it will take me as long to get ready as I can. I love the process of transforming, so it can go from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on how long I have, and I'll love every second of it.
What does Nosferatu like to get up to when he’s not on stage?
Well, after being locked away for so long, they are ready to get out and see the world! They can be found in as many theatres, clubs and cabarets as will have them, and always be happy to dance, take pictures, give hugs, with those who aren't too scared to make the first move!
What other characters have you dressed up as?
I'm always attracted to a good monster, I've been a snake person for a hot second, a spider woman is on the slow burner and a semi-real vaudeville woman called Frieda Hollandaise of the "Hollandaise Sisters" all infused with that "Deco Punk", dark comedy, a gothic sensibility that I love.
Does Nosferatu have any Halloween plans?
Well, they are desperate to get out and meet as many people as possible while the opportunity is here so hopefully, cloudy weather permitting, they will be lurking around the Brighton Beyond Retro store for as long as they can, to meet everyone and try on as much as possible. Then, the evening of the 31st, some friends of theirs, Sophie and Megan (Cinebra) are holding a History of Horror seminar at the Brighton Rialto Theatre in which they make a delightful cameo. The show starts at 20:00 so cancel all plans and get yourselves down there, you may even see little Noss Noss in the shadowy corners.
Freshly carved pumpkins are slowly starting to pop up in windows across the world, random kids have started knocking on your door for sweets but you only have a half-empty bottle of wine in the fridge or various types of painkiller and you’ve already been invited to more fancy dress themed events on Facebook than it’s physically possible to attend. Soon it will be Halloween and once again, you haven’t got your outfit sorted.
Here are our spooky ideas to try out last minute so that you don’t have to be that guy who tries to persuade people that they came as “an evil version of myself” or “a psychopath, they could be anyone, you can’t tell by looking” whilst dressed in their ordinary clothes. That ploy wasn’t funny the first hundred times. Trust us, even the slightest bit of effort will go appreciated.
Surely every female identifying human being has a black dress in their wardrobe and even if you don’t, we have you covered. Top it all off with a black wig, and a corpse bride kit from our stores or a deluxe rose headband.
Skeleton costumes take minimal effort and an all-black outfit is deemed the best backdrop. Use Google Images to find some creepy skull references before attempting to draw one onto your own face, or if in doubt just buy a mask in one of our stores. Pick up some Grim Reaper gloves in store or online to save time painting your hands!
There’s a reason that you see so many girls dressed as a cat every Halloween and not just because they can’t think of anything else. It’s pretty much the easiest costume to pull off and would usually take less than a minute to execute. All you really need to do is wear all black, procure some liquid eyeliner or black face paint and carefully dash three lines across each cheek and colour in the end of your nose. We have a super easy cat costume kit that includes some pointy ears available in store.
Becoming a zombie for Halloween is arguably the easiest to pull off, all it takes is a little brains. Dig out your most worn looking outfit from the depths of your bedroom, rough them up a bit more and then do the same to any visible flesh. Darken the bags around your eyes using some makeup, finishing the look off with some fake blood and latex scars from one of our stores.
Here’s one for those who don’t want to be overly gothic this Halloween. Whilst this white rabbit look may be cute to some, it’s terrifying for the most of us! The key to this look is wearing as much faux fur as possible. Hop along to one of our shops for one of our realistic looking masks to complete the transformation.
None of these takes your fancy? Shop our Halloween edit on our website today or head to one of our stores for a huge selection of costume inspiration!
Aside from convincing your neighbours to hand over sweets, dressing up is the absolute best bit of Halloween! For once a year, the majority of fun lovers get dressed up as their favourite character from pop culture or spooky deity and have the greatest time ever.
Sometimes digging out last years Halloween costume just isn’t enough, especially in a world where everyone posts their looks across social media, many of these costumes will lie unused in the back of wardrobes all over.
The easiest way to combat this Halloween tragedy is by planning an outfit that can be incorporated into your everyday style. Here are a handful of ideas the Beyond Retro staff have come up with that can easily be reworked into more casual looks.
Before: A fairly terrifying Teen Wolf recreation featuring our in-store Halloween mask and gloves. It’s enough to send anyone howling!
After: A wholesome menswear look featuring a statement vintage nylon team jacket layered over monochromatic basics.
Before: Jinkies! The mystery of what to wear this Halloween is pretty much solved. This Velma Dinkley looks featuring a vintage orange rollneck jumper and matching midi skirt is a classic. Even better if your friends come dressed as the rest of the Scooby gang.
After: Oh hey, without the wig Velma’s outfit makes a perfect Autumnal look. Just throw on a coat and you’re all set.
Before: The world is your lobster with this curiously accurate Del Boy costume. All you’ll need is flat cap combined with a shearling jacket, clashing jumper and a chain. Oh, and the obligatory beer belly. Lovely Jubbly!
After: Swapping the chain and cap for your own accessories turns the look into yet another stylish Autumnal outfit. Paired with a timeless shearling coat, your look will never date!
Before: There’s a reason you see so many girls dressed as cats on Halloween and that’s because it’s one of the easiest looks to pull off. Simply combine an all black jumpsuit with our scary cat ears and a tail set (available in-store only) and your look will be purr-fect!
After: Stuff those ears and tail into your bag and you’re a human again, with an outfit suitable for most occasions too!
Before: There’s nothing fishy about this glamourous mermaid costume. Simply layer all your sequin dresses to mimic a tail, find the brightest candy coloured wig available and wear a sequin bra as outerwear.
After: Pick your favourite dress out of the tail and ditch the rest, pop your bra back underneath and you’ve got a super chic party look!
For more Halloween inspiration, shop our spooky new edit. It’s to die for.
Have you got something that needs mending? I mean, we aren’t the best at mending a downhill relationships or a dodgy pipe, but we can definitely give you a little helping hand with mending your favourite vintage items! This series will give you a step-by-step guide and little magic hints that we’ve learnt over the past 15 years.
Bust button disaster!
OH NO! Your favourite 70s shirt has just popped a button, and you’re leaving for the disco in 15 minutes! Well, we’ve put together a quick and super easy step-by-step guide to sewing a button onto your vintage garment.
What you will need:
- Pin or toothpick
Start by finding the correct position for the button, if you’re replacing a button you will usually be able to see where it should have been on the garment. If you’re in a sticky situation and have lost the button, haberdasheries are a great point of call, or even better if you’re on a tight budget, your local charity shop from as little as a few pennies!
Thread your needle and tie the two ends together in a knot. Stitch up from inside the garment and do a couple of stitches to secure the button in place, dependent on the fabric, the knot just isn’t enough!
Thread the button onto the needle and start stitching through the buttonholes. If you’re using a two hole button, then easy peasy! Just thread up through one hole and down through the next. A 4 hole button needs to have either two parallel stitches, or two diagonal stitches creating a cross. Stitch through each hole around 4-5 time for a shirt, and 7-8 times for a coat.
Once the last stitch is done, come up underneath the button and wrap the thread around the stitching underneath the button a few times. This will protect the stitches and help hold the button in place. Then take the thread back down to the inside of the garment and do a couple of secure stitches.
Tie a loose knot in the thread and then insert the needle and push the knot down so it is flush with the fabric, tightening it as you go. Remove the needle and cut your threads.
Your trusty peacoat got a button loose? When sewing a button back onto a coat you will need to make sure you have plenty of room underneath to fit the coat fabric once it's done up. This is where the toothpick comes in!
Follow the same method as above but, when you are stitching through the holes, hold a toothpick on top of the button and stitch over it. Remove the toothpick before you wrap the thread around the stitching. When you wrap around the thread, lift the button away from the coat to create a “shank”. This will give you enough room for the fabric to fit comfortably under it.
Now you’re ready to go, enjoy your vintage item and love it as much as it loves you! Stay tuned on our blog for more vintage care hints and tips.
Words: Mary Costello