What Kind of Clothing Do Hawaiians Wear?

Written by rebecca jenkins
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What Kind of Clothing Do Hawaiians Wear?
Hawaii's clothing often features the local flowers. (Hawaii orchid image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com)

Hawaii is a melting pot of Polynesian, American and Native Hawaiian influences and their clothing reflects this fact. The island archipelago is hot and sunny all year round, so the clothing has to be light. Typical Hawaiian patterns include tropical flowers and suns. But not all clothing worn in Hawaii is traditional. Most locals have adopted comfortable California-style board shorts and other sportswear to their lifestyles.

Aloha Shirts

The typical Hawaiian print, a series of tropical flowers on a bright background, adorns everything from sheets to tablecloths. It is most prominent on short-sleeved, button-up, collared shirts known as "aloha" shirts. These are mostly worn by men.

Malo and Pa'u

The traditional Hawaiian clothing for indigenous people was well-suited to the hot climate. Men wore the "malo," or loincloth, and women wore the "pa'u" or skirt. Both wore a rectangular shawl made of plant fibres called a "kihei." In some indigenous communities, people still wear these clothes (usually for the benefit of tourists).


Surfing is a part of daily life in Hawaii and the popular surf-style clothing from California is worn here. Men especially wear the knee-length waterproof shorts in and out of the water, although the number of female surfers is on the rise.

Hula Skirts

The popular image of a Hawaiian woman dressed in coconut shells and a hula skirt has some basis in reality, although the coconut shells would not have been used. Crafted from the fibres of trees, natural hula skirts can help keep a woman cool and catch the breeze.


Upon entering the Honolulu Airport, someone may be quick to drape a lei around your neck. These traditional necklaces used to be made from strings of tropical flowers. Now they are just as likely to be silk flowers. These are worn at all parties and festive events.

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