Category Archives: Cultural Garments

Be-gone Blizzards

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Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Be-gone Blizzardy weather! Let’s bring on the Beach! The current display in our Fashion Resource Centre window at the Newnham Campus of Seneca College was inspired by the coldest February on record.

The thing about Canadian weather is that a) it is a frequent topic of conversation b) it changes rapidly and c) no one can really predict what we are in for – not even Wiarton Willy!

However, the respite of a winter vacation is one thing that Canadians do look forward to and, as a result we chose to present His and Her Hawaiian attire and bathing suits.  If nothing else this colourful window is sure to help alleviate some of the winter blues brought on by sun deprivation.

Hawaiian shirts from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Hawaiian shirts from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

The colourful Hawaiian or Aloha shirt is an easily recognized fashion icon.  Whether it is recognizable for its colourful patterns or the equally colourful personalities who choose to wear it is up to the observer. The history of these fashions can be traced back to missionaries who looked to cover the nakedness of island inhabitants.  As the plantation economy of Hawaii began to emerge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, workers needed a shirt that could weather the physical efforts of sugar, coffee and pineapple farming.

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Image from East Coast Radio, http://www.2ec.com.au/

Ellery Chun is credited with creating the popularity of the Aloha Shirt.  With a degree in economics from Yale University, Mr. Chun returned to Hawaii in 1931 to take over his father’s dry goods store.  The establishment had catered primarily to the local Asian Community but Mr. Chun wanted to expand the scope of his retail enterprise.  He and his sister began selling bright, print short sleeve shirts made of leftover material from Japanese kimonos. (Lisa (da Beanteacher))

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, tourists came and the distinctive shirts became popular souvenirs. However due to the warm climate they are considered by the locals to be the equivalent of a suit and appropriate for business wear.  While we may have Casual Fridays the people of Hawaii have Aloha Fridays.

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Images from Karmakula, http://www.karmakula.co.uk/ and Ragstock, http://ragstock.com/

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Image from Vintage Aloha Shirts, http://vintage-aloha-shirt.com/

While tourists may prefer brightly coloured versions with “hula girls”, pineapples and surfboards, native Hawaiians prefer more subtle patterns.  “Reverse print” shirts have the pattern printed on the inside which creates a more muted effect.  Status can also be perceived in Aloha shirts with border prints.  More fabric must be used in the creation of a border print which makes the shirt more expensive.

hawaiian shirt

Image from Maui Shirts, http://www.mauishirts.com/

The construction of an Aloha shirt is deceptively simple.  It has a left chest pocket sewn in and a good quality shirt must have a pattern that is uninterrupted by that pocket.  The lower hem of the shirt is straight and is never to be worn tucked in.

The beautiful tropical prints in exuberant colors found in Aloha Attire are a perfect choice for either the extrovert or the introvert.  The extrovert expresses loud and clearly their enthusiasm while the introvert can let their attire spark a conversation with a perfect stranger.

Winter will probably linger on for a few more weeks, making the weather a constant topic of conversation and the need to book a winter escape all the more necessary.  Perhaps into that conversation you will now include a tidbit or two about this colourful fashion choice.  Aloha!

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Works Cited:

Lisa (da Beanteacher). “Beanteacher Hawaiian Style Home.” Beanteacher.com, 2011. Web 25 Feb. 2015.