No definitive answer exists, and opinions on the matter vary greatly. Some believe that Hawaiian shirts can be worn by anyone, regardless of cultural background. Others believe that only those of Hawaiian descent should wear them, as they are a symbol of the culture.
And still others believe that anyone can wear a Hawaiian shirt, but only if done so respectfully and with an understanding of the culture. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what they believe is appropriate.
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history of the “Hawaiian” shirt
The “Hawaiian” shirt is a type of clothing that originated in the islands of Hawaii. It is typically made from brightly colored fabric and features patterns or images that are associated with the Hawaiian culture, such as flowers, surfboards, and palm trees. The shirt is worn by both men and women, although it is more commonly seen on men.
The history of the Hawaiian shirt is unclear, some believe that the first shirts were made in the early 1900s when local Japanese women were able to adapt the kimono fabric for men’s shirts. Another source states that the modern Aloha Hawaiian shirt was was created by Ellery Chun, a Chinese merchant in a store in Waikiki. It wasn’t until the 1930s – 1940s that the shirts became popular with tourists.
As mentioned, many believe the Hawaiian shirt was adapted from the Kimono, which is of Japanese background. Other say that it was from a Chinese Merchant. So if someone claims that the Hawaiian shirt is cultural appropriation to the Native Hawaiians, one can provide these counter points.
One thing for sure, is that the Hawaiian shirts we see today are a result of mass production and marketing.
So raising the argument that Hawaiian shirts are culturally appropriating is a tough one to make and to counter against because there are a lot of “it depends.”
It depends on if you are talking about the original Hawaiian shirts made, the Hawaiian “Aloha Shirts” of today, the occasion in which the shirt is being worn, and the intentions behind the wearer.
what people think
If we take a quick look at some forums on Quora and Reddit, we can see that many people believe that it is not cultural appropriation to wear Hawaiian shirts.
Common statement made by others include:
- “anyone can wear a Hawaiian shirt”
- “the shirt isn’t truly a part of Hawaiian culture”
- “it does not risk offense”
It appears most people don’t see wearing the Aloha “Hawaiian” shirt as cultural appropriation.
But again, I think it boils down to the intentions behind the wearer. If they are just wearing it because they love the shirt then more power to them!
If the person is wearing it with the intentions of mocking Hawaiian culture, then that’s a problem — see the difference?
Let us know, do you think wearing a Hawaiian shirt is an example of cultural appropriation?
Nate Torres is the founder of no clout. With an interest in streetwear, he decided to start this blog and share his love of streetwear with the rest of the world. Outside of running this blog, he also has interests in photography, music, and gaming.