Traditional Hawaiian Men's Clothing

Written by raene kaleinani
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Traditional Hawaiian Men's Clothing
Traditional Hawaiian-style clothing for men is a canvas for Hawaiian images. (Hawaii image by K.C. from Fotolia.com)

Men's traditional Hawaiian clothing during pre-contact of western customs consisted of a loincloth-style Hawaiian malo, made of wauke bark (Broussonetia papyrifera) and sometimes stamped with cultural motif prints. The early missionaries introduced the unadorned shirt and trousers to the native men of Hawaii. Men accessorised their new style of clothing with fresh flower and foliage lei (garlands) or capes.

Fast forwarding to present day Hawaii, men's clothing has evolved into a modern traditional Hawaiian-style theme. The once unadorned shirt has become a canvas for vivid island images and motif prints, now famously known as the "Aloha Shirt." Other men's traditional Hawaiian-style clothing includes the cotton T-shirt, board shorts and footwear, all favourites among Hawaii locals and visitors.

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Aloha Shirt

The "Aloha Shirt" is a button-down, collared dress shirt and it is the favoured semi-formal wear for men in Hawaii. Prints have evolved over time when Elvis Presley wore them, from image copying of original island scene paintings to authentic depictions of Hawaiian cultural and natural Hawaiian characteristics. Some depictions are of natural flora, scenery and wildlife to Hawaiian motif images that simulate ancient Hawaiian stamping on bark clothing.

Men wear aloha shirts to work, dinner, banquets, parties, funerals, church and formal meetings. Slacks, jeans or walking shorts are worn with aloha shirts.

Cotton T-shirt

Cotton T-shirts are regarded as modern traditional casual wear for men in Hawaii. The T-shirt business in Hawaii has boomed over the last 20 years with more emphasis on tasteful cultural imagery and Hawaiian sayings than that of the dominant surf scene. Selecting a T-shirt for oneself or for someone else is a thoughtful process. Locals wear T-shirts that reflect their inner self, identity or cause, and are worn like a stately tattoo.

Board Shorts

Board shorts are called surf shorts but have a much greater wear than for surfing. Surf shorts have also made their way into the arena of modern traditional Hawaiian-style men's clothing and regarded as everyday casual wear. Unlike T-shirts, surf shorts have evolved from plain coloured and scenic imagery to vivid multicoloured patterns and motif designs also worn like a stately tattoo.

Footwear

Rubber slippers are the preferred modern traditional Hawaiian-style footwear for men. Slippers haven't gone quite out of the box just yet, but there are slippers available with imprinted Hawaiian motif on the ribbon foot straps and rubber soles. Hawaiian print canvas shoes resurfaced from their popular era in the 1960s but are slow to become a Hawaiian-style trend for men. Slippers are regarded as casual wear but the canvas shoe is regarded as casual or semi-casual wear depending on the upper body clothing coordinates.

Tip: Coordination

An old Hawaiian T-shirt saying, "Hang Loose!," does not apply to clothing. Coordinate modern traditional Hawaiian-style men's clothing as you would other clothing. When wearing an aloha shirt, use a solid colour walking shorts or pant with solid colour footwear. When wearing a cotton T-shirt, use neutral surf shorts with minimal multicoloured patterns and motifs. The reason is the T-shirt makes the primary statement about the man wearing the shirt. If deciding to wear Hawaiian print canvas shoes, use a solid colour shirt and pant or shorts because of the prominent look of the canvas print.

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