One of the chillest shirts I own has gotta be the Aloha shirt. Nothing captures the spirit of the islanders’ lifestyle like it does. But just like any classic piece, it holds a special meaning to its founders, Hawaiians.
It’s hard to say who came up with the first Aloha shirt in the 20s. But the print however, has roots in the Japanese kimono. As the novel shirt became popular in the 30s, locals modified them to fit their own vibe and the geography of Hawaii. The Japanese motifs were replaced with elements like tropical flowers, coconut trees, canoe, waves, and hula dancing girls. The print created a sense of pride among locals and wearing these happy designs bonded them as a community.
The Aloha shirt was shared with the rest of America when US servicemen returned from Hawaii after WWII. The real boom happened when air travel gained popularity in the 50s. Tourists couldn’t get enough of the wearable souvenir. A memento that reminded them of good times on the paradise islands. A spotlight was cast on the floral shirt when Elvis Presley wore one in the film, “Blue Hawaii”. Since then, the Aloha shirt has evolved to become part of surf culture, and in Thailand were I’m from, it has become a celebratory uniform for our ‘Songkran’ new year festival.
When it comes to choosing a festive shirt for Songkran, many opt for the more colorful and outrageous floral prints. Not only is it a way to express one’s excitement for the long holiday with loved ones, it’s an open invitation to passerbys that you’re joining the fun! During Songkran we splash water on one another in a country-wide party… and wearing a colourful shirt means that you’re up for getting splashed with water!
While some appreciate the less flashy reverse-print that speaks to slow living, many are drawn by those Aloha shirts with festive colors. It’s an upbeat statement that radiates good vibes, welcoming fun conversation! Regardless of culture, these shirts carry the spirit of friendship, compassion and understanding. Aloha or… sawasdee!