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!
You might associate dungarees with awkward pictures of yourself as a baby that your mum pulls out to embarrass you, but they are actually a versatile piece you should definitely add to your adult wardrobe. In the summer, easy dressing and outfits you can throw on in a second are the best - especially as we have to make it out of the house and into the sunshine before until it disappears ten minutes later.
After the boiler suit trend of winter, dungarees are the perfect summer alternative to keep comfy, cool and on trend. If you’ve seen your favourite people wearing them on the ‘gram you’re not the only one, they’re everywhere. But if you still feel lost about how to style a pair of vintage dungarees and then let us gently guide you.
Here's 5 Ways To Wear Vintage Dungarees For Summer:
1 - How to wear dungarees to work
Office-appropriate dressing gets even harder in the summer when all you want to do is rock up in shorts and crop top. Dungarees provide a great option between comfortable summer clothing and outfits that won’t get you fired. Try styling a dark blue or black dungaree dress with a white linen shirt with sleeves rolled up and pair it with some Birkenstocks or your favourite low-top trainers. You’ll stay cool and be comfortable but also look totally profesh.
2 - How to wear dungarees for a night out
On long, hot summer nights you want to be comfortable and feel your absolute best - that’s why dungarees are the answer! Underrated by many their versatility knows no bounds. Ideal for when those lazy park afternoons turn into long summer nights out - you don’t need an outfit change. A cami vest with dungarees and a pair of platforms is all you need to see you through. For a classic ‘out out’ vibe opt for black platforms and bag with gold jewellery with some statement earrings.
3 - How to wear dungarees on a date
Date outfit woes be gone! Pair a long pair of dungarees with a cute tee shirt, and matching leather accessories like a vintage camera bag and some mules for a relaxed and totally cute outfit. Whether you’re heading on a picnic, hitting up your favourite bar or strolling around a gallery this is the perfect date look. Now just to find a date…. Better start swiping.
4 - How to wear dungarees to a festival
Dungarees were MADE for festivals. Ideal for when you’re in a crowd, sitting on the grass and quick to get on and off when you’re in the dreaded festival portaloos, they’re the most practical piece you can invest in for the festival season. Practicality is SEXY. Go all out on your festival look with a sparkly bralet or mesh top, matching bumbag and some serious blingy sunglasses. Now you’re ready to go pay £10 for a pint of beer and dance to your heart’s content.
5 - How to wear dungarees to the beach
The perfect holiday outfit is just a pair of vintage dungarees away. If you’re not a beach dress kinda person then opt for the effortless and equally as cool option of some short dungarees. Wear over your swimsuit with a wide-brimmed hat and sandals for a chic beach look that will also take you from the beach to bar.
All the pieces featured in this blog can be found in our Brick Lane store on Cheshire Street, along with a myriad of other vintage gems.
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
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.
As you've probably seen on Instagram, layered sportswear looks are the hottest trend right now. Inspired by catwalk looks at Men's Fashion Week paying homage to the ultimate street style. With collections from brands like Prada and Vetements taking inspiration from the nineties and early Y2K, we figured the best way to achieve this look is by incorporating old school vintage styles into your wardrobe. It's a bold aesthetic, allowing for both peak comfort and rapid movement whilst still turning heads.
The majority of the styles have a strong focus on the colour black and usually includes a strong accent colour for contrast such as white, red, yellow or green. Textures including leather and nylon are combined to create outfits that feel as exciting as they look, creating the ultimate feast for the senses. As well as classic sports brands like Adidas and Reebok making obvious appearances, it's totally fine to be throwing leather trousers, kimonos and blazers into the mix.
Although the trend is primarily menswear based, ladies can fully jump on board too by combining casual sporty styles and clashing textures. Even borrow a couple of pieces from the guys if you have to. Think high necked jumpers and mesh layers under dungarees or tucked into popper tracksuit bottoms, with bandannas and obviously branded sports socks to accessorise. Consider incorporating a leather miniskirt for a feminine edge.
Jackets are a big part of the trend so it's time to dig out your Tommy Hilfiger windbreakers and vintage leather motocross jackets. Reversible puffers and Korean inspired bombers would also be very on point, even a longline leather jacket straight out of the Matrix layered over a sports hoodie would be cool. If you combine obvious branding combined with normcore staples, you're probably somewhere on the right track.
Fancy getting a piece of the action or simply on a sportswear flex? Shop our Sports Focus edit now and be as happy as our models below.
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