From Cool To Cringe To Cool Again: The Hawaiian Shirt

The Hawaiian shirt may remind you of boys sliding across the floor on their knees at the Year 6 disco, or of retired men on holiday in Florida, but we're here to tell you that it's back and determined to add a tropical flash to your summer attire. The Aloha shirt, with its collar, loud print and short sleeves, originated in Hawaii in 1935. Who made the original piece is still disputed, but some believe a Japanese tailor in Honolulu used kimono-inspired prints, silks and tailoring to create the shirt. Bought en masse by locals and visiting surfers alike, within a few years it was worn by everyone from uniformed workers to servicemen returning to the USA post-WWII.
With the shirt's popularity spreading from the Pacific across America, films like Blue Hawaii – which saw Elvis in a red and white floral number – and From Here To Eternity set the shirt firmly in people's minds as an exotic, romantic item. More recently, the Aloha shirt, despite maintaining its cult status, has fallen in and out of popularity. Among the slicker turns are Alien's Brett wearing a deep-cut pastel number under a khaki jacket, and Tom Selleck baring his chest in Magnum P.I. – and who can forget the beautiful Leo in his electric-blue boxy shirt in Romeo & Juliet? Gimmicky appearances, meanwhile – like Jim Carrey's pet detective in Ace Ventura – placed the shirt firmly in cringe territory.
But this season seems to have ushered in the latest revival of the Hawaiian shirt. Back in spring 2016, Saint Laurent's Surf Sound collection featured classic Aloha shirts and embroidered silk bombers and now womenswear has followed suit. Max Mara's SS17 show displayed palm prints over visors and two-pieces, House of Holland brought out flares and slip dresses adorned with Pacific flowers and birds, while Alexander Wang's homage was more subtle, with Hawaiian sunset-fronted hoodies.
So cast away any notion of the Hawaiian shirt as a novelty garment. We're teaming ours with cut-off kick-flare denim and Birkenstocks for easy summer style. Click through to see our pick of the best.