How to Wear a Hawaiian Shirt

man wearing hawaiian shirt

The Aloha shirt is back just in time for the new season of “Hawaii Five-0.” But before you begin rummaging through your closet for your dad’s “Magnum PI” line of fine menswear, you should know that Hawaiian shirts have undergone a major image makeover.

According to Honolulu-based designer Amos Kotomori, who launched his exclusive Aloha shirt collection at Neiman Marcus last fall, Hawaiian shirts are no longer considered tacky attire for summer slackers or Jimmy Buffet backers. They’re now available in muted colors and refined designs. So the dress code that was once reserved for the beach or the backyard barbeque has made its way into business meetings, night clubs and even romantic dinners.

“The time and occasion for an Aloha shirt is really all about the confidence of the wearer,” says Kotomori, whose unique designs each tell a story. “These days, Aloha shirts are often worn tucked in, especially by professionals and those who want a more upscale look.”

Beyond the monumental tucking development, the distinctive Hawaiian apparel can also be made over by pairing it with solid ties and sports coats. “Aloha shirts can be part of a very sophisticated ensemble,” adds Kotomori. “It’s a place where Hawaiian culture meets the rest of the world.”

Aloha Chic Sheet
If you’re fortunate enough to live in the American paradise known as Hawaii, where everything -- including fashion -- is a little more relaxed, you may want to model your look after Alex O’Loughlin’s wardrobe as the new Detective Steve McGarrett in “Hawaii Five-0 .” But if you’re landlocked in one of the 48 contiguous states, you can bring a little luau into the mainland look as well. Kotomori has you covered -- with the right shirt for the right time.

Company Picnic
Mixing business with pleasure can be a challenge, but Kotomori feels you can pull off this relaxed -- but put-together -- look by wearing a fitted, long-sleeve white T-shirt (for extra sun protection) underneath a pressed, pale-blue and white Aloha shirt. Once you add khaki walking shorts and brown sandals to the ensemble, you’ll be ready to flip burgers with your friends and colleagues at the company cookout.

Business Casual
“At the office or in another professional environment, try a monochromatic silk or linen shirt (Tommy Bahama , $110) with a simple motif,” advises Kotomori. “Wear it tucked into black slacks, together with a black belt and dress shoes.” It’s the same cut, but with a more restrained color presentation.

Vintage Hawaiian shirts  are hot -- and club-goers have taken notice. “Try wearing one tucked into a pair of beltless, dark weathered Levis,” says Kotomori. “The retro look is really in, and they look great.”

Romantic Summer Dinner
If you’re springing for a nice gourmet meal with the girl of your dreams, you’ll want to stand out from the crowd. Kotomori recommends updating the typical men’s summer uniform of navy-blue sports coat, pale-blue oxford shirt, and yellow tie. Try wearing the same navy jacket paired with a muted yellow Aloha shirt and khaki slacks to catch a wave of admiring looks.

Formal Event
Don’t be surprised if a little more Hawaiian color might be making a splash at weddings and red-carpet events in the not-too-distant future. “I’m designing a long-sleeve, pleated tuxedo shirt right now,” says Kotomori. “I’d have someone wear it in black silk with a purple and navy blue print.”

Mother-in-Law’s Birthday Party
So if your wife’s mom thinks your Luau look is just another symbol that you are an underachieving Margaritaville mook, let her know that Aloha shirts continue to be a major economic player in the men’s market. Today, 30 percent of shirts produced in Hawaii are shipped out of state with a return of $160 million.

So now when she calls you a useless slacker … at least you can say you’re a stylish one!