It is broadly agreed that the first Hawaiian shirt appeared in the 1920s, but it is still widely disputed who exactly
was responsible. Instead, a few names were brandished around, but more through anecdotal folklore. One source
believes that a Hawaiian University student, named Gordon Young created the pre-cursor to the aloha shirt in early
1920s. He reportedly worked with his mother’s dressmaker to tailor shirts for him out of cotton yukata cloth, used
by Japanese women for work kimonos. They were made with a narrow width fabric and usually sported traditional
geometric patterns and bright bamboo prints and became popular with fellow university students.
Another story goes that in the early 1930s, Hollywood actor John Barrymore walked into a shirtmaker’s shop in
downtown Honolulu, run by a Japanese tailor named Musa-Shiya and requested a shirt made from gaudy kimono material.
He had never made a bright print shirt, but was so captivated by his new creation that he ran the first newspaper
advertisment for the “Aloha shirt”. Other small outlets like Ellery Chun, Linn’s and Yat Loy have all been called
out for supplying aloha shirts to both locals and tourists. Another tale tells of a man named Rube Houseman, who was
friends with many of the legendary beach boys; guys like Panama Dave, Colgate and William “Chick” Daniels. Rube
reckons he too was making aloha shirts in the early ‘30s and recalls how after surfing, he and the boys would head
to a bar called the Rathskeller in downtown Honolulu which was popular among locals and visiting celebrities,
sporting their wildest most vividly coloured examples.
Printed shirts of various types have regularly bounced up and down the spectrum of popularity and have always divided
opinion. Rightly so, in some cases they can be perceived as a sort of temporary souvenir purchase – a whimsical
garment worn as a sign you’re on holiday or as a token buy to remember you went to an exotic island. As with most
garments there’s a big disparity in the differentiation of quality and style and so it’s important to stick to
brands who capture the authentic spirit of the shirt and who use the appropriate fabrics. In order for you to
succeed in looking cool there’s also few critical rules to follow, with what you pair it with and how you wear
The shirt should induce this laid-back spirit. Worn on its own, it should be untucked and falls best when paired with
a wide-leg pleated trousers. Pleated trousers create more volume below the waist which accentuates a more relaxed
look where the equilibrium of silhouette between shirt and trouser looks more natural. Frank Sinatra and Montgomery
Clift embodied this look perfectly in 1953 American drama romance war film, From Here to Eternity. They
both wore prints that were not overly kitsch and paired them with grey trousers that discreetly lets the shirt
standout. Fralbo’s brown palm Hawaiian shirt, although a little darker than the shirts worn in the film is a
beautiful example of an understated Hawaiian shirt. Its shade of print gives you a wider variety of colour options
for your trouser. In Fralbo you will also be buying into a Neapolitan shirtmaking dynasty that has been in existence
since 1933. Trousers, cut like they were in Hollywood’s golden age are a fading phenomenon from our streets, but
fortunately there is a burgeoning firm called Kit Blake. Their navy linen slim Aleks and khaki cotton slim Aleks
trousers, both feature a beautiful high-waistband and double pleats and although they’re named slim Aleks, they’re
only tapered a touch more than their original models and feature a fine silhouette. They come un-finished and so we
would suggest installing turn-ups.
To the trained eye a shirt can be originated to its source by the style of its print, sometimes right down to the
artist who designed it. This deep-rooted artistic craft is the nucleus of the preservation of the spiritual and
cultural heritage that has been in existence in certain communities for generations. The Rake has recently welcomed
into its e-commerce fold Singaporean tailor Kevin Seah, whose six hand-block print shirts epitomize these rare and
scared printing traditions. This particular cluster of artistic textile brilliance stems from parts of Rajasthan in
India, where textile artisans have been keeping the art of Rajasthani block printing alive for hundreds of years.
The shirts are made from 100% cotton, originating from India, but the shirts themselves are attentively made in
Singapore. Where some patterned shirts fall short is that they have more plain areas than print. This is certainly
not the case with Kevin Seah's printed shirts. As they’re not typical Hawaiian shirts, they allow more scope when
uniting an outfit. Their black block print shirt which comes in short and long-sleeve is a particularly stylish and
versatile model. Elvis Presley “The King of Rock and Roll” used to don a very similar version; not is famed red one,
but a long-sleeve black printed shirt.
All of the Kevin Seah shirts feature an expertly crafted camp-collar, which allows you to wear it neatly underneath a
jacket, where the collar overlaps beautifully on the lapels percolating this cool appearance. The shirts are cut for
a looser fit, but with this particular type of style it is slightly more tailored which gives you the option to
either have it untucked or tucked into trousers when worn on its own, but if paired with a pale tailored jacket, it
looks more elegant to have the shirt tucked neatly, into a pair of trousers. Indigo, mustard and red block prints
make up the rest of Kevin’s selection and are all patterns that work well with trousers and jackets that come in a
variety of hues. As it’s the height of summer in Europe it instructs us to wear more deconstructed tailoring for a
more relaxed look and to cope with the heat, which is where L.B.M 1911's selection of unlined jackets come into the
frame - particularly their off-white model which works tremendously as the overlayer to one of these shirts.
In keeping with the Italian theme, Milanese-based brand, Luca Larenza have designed four stylish shirts. They're
lessed with a strong sense of colour and creative facet that draws from 20th-century art and literature.
He manages to fuse this bohemian ambience with island spirit with a touch of attitude, which is what you want when
sporting a printed shirt. Round Hill Hotel in Jamaica has accommodated the stylish elite for decades. The faded
glamour of the old-bar which plays host to a daily pianist is the type of place you would see one of these types of
shirts. Known for the experience of tremendous sunsets, sipping on a rum punch at the seaside bar, you would
certainly embody the charm of the place when wearing either one of Luca Larenza's or fellow Italian printed shirt
specialists, Tintoria Mattei. Prince Charles was actually photographed in a printed shirt similar to one of Luca
Larenza's once, and looked cool – albeit grazing on a pineapple. Anderson & Sheppard who have been looking after
Prince Charles for many years design the perfect trouser accompaniments for this trip with their classically cut
trousers in cotton and linen.
Printed shirts, regardless of having the ability to transform your persona into a state of laid-back charm, actually
encompass a tremendous history and its many examples have an inveterate connection to the rich artistic brilliance
that has existed in small communities around the world which is something to saviour and cherish. Steve McQueen,
Leonardo DiCaprio and John Travolta have all donned these shirts with confidence which means it’s not a risk to