The Hawaiian shirt has a long, sometimes-checkered history wrapped up in cultural interchange, colonial pain, long artistic traditions, and so much more. It’s one of those garments you could write a whole book about, if you were so inclined—there’s just that much to explore. I’d recommend you look into the longer story, because it’s a genuinely fascinating one. But I’d also venture to guess you’re here not for a history lesson but for some shopping advice. That’s fine, too! So let’s focus less on the academics and more on what you want to know about what a Hawaiian shirt—or aloha shirt, depending on your preferred terminology—means for your wardrobe this summer.
First off, because I’ve had so many people ask me this question that I’m now answering it reflexively: Yes, Hawaiian shirts are cool. Yes, they are in style. No, you do not need to look and behave like your drunkest uncle at the family BBQ to wear one. Because despite their “zinc oxide-covered tourist with a camera slung around his neck” connotations from decades past, Hawaiian shirts came roaring back onto the scene with a vengeance a few years ago and they’re still going strong.
The most outlandish designs have been replaced by ones more subtle, more intricate, and more wearable than their predecessors. The fits haven’t been trimmed down to #menswear slimness, but the best Hawaiian shirts on the market right now flutter in the breeze with a certain aplomb instead of billowing out like a parachute. They’re light. They’re interesting. And, yeah, they’re cool. In fact, the right Hawaiian shirt is the answer to at least 53 percent of your summer style queries.
“What should I wear with my 5″ inseam shorts?” A Hawaiian shirt. “What can I layer under my suit jacket for a summer wedding to transform myself into the best-dressed guy on the guest list?” A Hawaiian shirt. “What can I toss on over a white tee?” You know this one. “What should I reach for when it’s scorching out and my mind is frying like an egg and I just want to look good?” Aloha, baby.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what exactly makes a shirt a Hawaiian shirt, well, the answer to that one is a bit more amorphous. There’s a lot of “I’ll know it when I see it” that goes into the calculations. But broadly, it should feature an open—or camp, or Cuban; again with the terminology—collar, plus a pattern or print inspired by the Hawaiian landscape or culture. If you see Japanese motifs arise, that’s fair game too, thanks to that cultural interplay I was talking about earlier. And, of course, flowers and leaves are a pretty sure bet. Still wondering what to look for? Just keep scrolling for 18 examples. Then get shopping.
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Slim-Fit Short-Sleeve Camp Collar Hawaiian Shirt
Big blue flowers? Absolutely.
Airing Easy Camp Collar Shirt Ventlight Mesh
Lululemon ain’t just about sleek stuff for the gym. The brand, as you can clearly see, has a great Hawaiian shirt made for wearing everywhere and anywhere.
Graphic content at its most elegant.
Short-Sleeve Slub Cotton Camp-Collar Shirt
J.Crew may be best known for its preppy, New England style, but here’s proof that the brand can also create good stuff with a tropical tinge.
Short Sleeve Retro Hawaiian Shirt
James Bond fans to the front of the line! This top was inspired by the Hawaiian shirt that 007 wore in Die Another Day.
This Hawaiian shirt is primed for the beach, particularly if you plan on lounging in a cabana. (It’s right there in the name.)
Tiare Garden Camp-Collar Printed Cotton Shirt
Get a little louder with a bunch of flora on an easy-to-wear blue background.
Camp Collar Short-Sleeve Shirt
Wellen never fails to offer up prints that make you want to take a closer look.
Of course surfing great Kelly Slater has a nifty selection of Hawaiian shirts, this one ideal for cookouts, luaus, and, as the name plainly implies, summer BBQs.
A shirt, perfect for the island life, made by Tombolo, a brand that’ll have everyone asking, “Where’d you get that?”
Garden Key Floral Silk Blend Short-Sleeve Shirt
Tommy Bahama doesn’t deserve a lot of the flack it gets, because this Hawaiian shirt is a beauty.
Camp-Collar Embroidered Cotton-Poplin Shirt
Sometimes, simple is best.
Short-Sleeve Rayon Kona Camp Shirt
If there’s anyone that knows how to create breezy, but sophisticated styles, it’s the boys at Faherty.
Classic Fit Floral-Print Camp Shirt
A Hawaiian shirt with big ’90s energy from a brand that dominated the decade.
Floral Seersucker Camp Collar Short Sleeve Shirt
This sweet Hawaiian shirt from Todd Snyder is made of summer-ready seersucker—ideal when the temperatures are sweltering.
AllSaints has emerged as a cult favorite when it comes to aloha shirts. This one is a very good example of why.
Jackson Tropical Tree Print Camp Shirt
Here’s one way to embrace the aloha shirt if you’re not much for loud patterns or colors.
Simply put: you need to cop this Hawaiian shirt from Rag & Bone. It’s fantastic.
Camp Short-Sleeve Collared Shirt
A Hawaiian shirt for those who live the tropical, technicolor life.
Camp-Collar Floral-Print Shirt
Like a piece of art you can wear.
Hawaiian-Style Camp Shirt
Dries Van Noten, master of artful brocades, has a silky, abstract-print Hawaiian shirt that’s truly gallery-worthy.
Blue Tropical Star Camp Shirt
A Hawaiian shirt with star quality. Scoop it up now, because it’s selling out fast.
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