Origin of the Aloha Shirt

Americana, History, Traditions
on July 26, 2011
Bryan Kelsen

Aloha shirts began brightening closets during the 1930s when Honolulu merchant Ellery Chun created them from colorful Japanese kimono fabric.

The post-World War II economic boom and Hawaiian statehood in 1959 brought waves of tourists who bought the shirts as souvenirs.

Celebrities boosted the Hawaiian shirts’ appeal, including Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift in the 1954 movie From Here to Eternity, and Elvis Presley, who wore a red aloha shirt on his 1961 Blue Hawaii album cover.

By the 1960s, aloha shirts were acceptable business attire in Hawaii.