Hawai‘i’s tropical climate and its vibrant colors, from crystalline blue waters to bright red hibiscus, influence not only the local culture, but its aloha wear for women and men. You’ll rarely see kama‘aina (Hawai‘i residents) wearing long sleeves unless it’s a “chilly” 70 degrees. Men like loose t-shirts paired with board shorts and many women prefer light, flowing sundresses. Close-toed shoes are also a rarity. Most people prefer slippers, or flip-flops, even at fine dining establishments.
The clothing, akin to the aloha spirit, tends to be more relaxed than the mainland. Take advantage of this laid-back atmosphere and keep your swimwear on all day or find your own unique style during your stay.
Aloha Wear for Men
An essential part of the style comes from the bright patterns and intricate designs found on aloha shirts. In Hawai‘i, nobody wears a “Hawaiian shirt.” Instead, these button-down classic tops are called aloha shirts, and they’re Island favorites.
Some of the patterns you may find adorning an aloha shirt are flowers, palm trees, tikis and maps of the Islands. The original aloha shirts were all silk with wooden buttons. But modern tops use rayon and cotton renditions, as well as plastic buttons and contemporary designs.
Aloha shirts are so significant to the culture in Hawai‘i that the business community instituted “Aloha Fridays” in 1966, designating the last day of the work week for wearing casual attire. You’ll likely see business men in Hawai‘i, however, sporting aloha shirts most days of the week.
Aloha Wear for Women
Like the aloha shirt, the mu‘umu‘u (often pronounced “moomoo”) is a classic. While once known for being excessively loose and formless, the mu‘umu‘u now comes in many form-fitting styles and flattering patterns. The original mu‘umu‘u dates back to the 1820s, when wives of New England missionaries arrived in Hawai‘i wearing long-sleeved, floor-lengthed dresses. Hawaiians adopted the style as a way to cover their bodies, per the Christian influence. The mu‘umu‘u—meaning “cut off” or “shortened”—was also designed like the aloha shirt using brilliant colors and patterns that, while not as popular, are still worn on special occasions.
Other Aloha Prints
Aloha prints aren’t always “loud” and come in a variety of patterns, many with modern accents. In other words, you can find clothing that subtly suggests Hawai‘i without being over the top. Additionally, if you’re looking for Hawaiian prints that you don’t have to wear, you can acquire other items like Hawaiian quilts, seat covers or handbags.
Photos from top to bottom: Courtesy Sam Lee of samsstuffkauai; Shannon Hiramoto; Keith Ketchum