I guess it should say occasions, since there were two days where it just made sense to wear an aloha. It’s almost like they were calling out to me!
I feel like I’ve become quite notorious for my “anything goes”, “no context” philosophy when it comes to dressing. After all, I still wear an outfit I’m proud of every day, even when I’m fully remote in a pandemic (though I did wear PJs in the early throes of it). When nothing is really happening in life, it’s quite fun to create that context and have it inform your clothing decisions. It’s like cosplay (or cinematic dressing). So it’s not truly no context, it’s just one that you can have power over.
With that being said, I definitely think there are still occasions external from you that help you arrive at clothing choices. It’s fun to have complete power over your contexts and exercise them in a vacuum (like wearing a suit at home just because), but life benefits from a bit of occasion. As I am constantly inspired to make outfits (often resulting in a backlog of combos), I could use external parameters.
That’s why I like the idea of Going Out, as doing things with friends present contextual opportunities to build from. It doesn’t have to be a hardlined rule, like tuxedos for a fancy dinner. For me, it’s loose. Like a jaunty bowtie with a tweed jacket for trivia (to invoke the pseudo-intellectual theme of the night), a severely unbuttoned rayon shirt and jeans for KBBQ, military fatigues to go thrifting, or a yuppie suit combo to celebrate a friend’s new job. Some occasions, big or small, just feel like they call for certain pieces of clothing. The desired aesthetic and the occasion come into play.
I am fully aware that this is a common mindset for outfit creation— I’m just verbalizing how I’ve come to it.
The thing is that I see most of my clothes as quite agnostic, even if they have inherent character. Maybe the word I’m looking for is versatile. Military fatigues and work pants/shirts do work for thrifting and flea markets, but they are also just fine to wear with tailoring. A turtleneck can be sleek or it can be rugged. It’s all in how you style it for the aesthetic and occasion you want, which is the best part of this menswear hobby. However, there are still some things that trip me up when dressing, as they feel like they are best done true to the context they were done with. One of those garments is the aloha shirt.
Now the aloha shirt isn’t something that’s new to me. Old readers may remember when I first got into them, first as a late summer purchase to incorporating them into a summer uniform during my retail days. I have since replaced my old Two Palms ones (I outgrew them so they fit MJ now) with a few new pieces that for a while seldom saw the light of day.
It’s not that my styled had moved on, but its just that funnily enough, the occasions and things I did during the pandemic simply called for other outfits; anything goes just meant that other things felt the call to go! The aloha shirt is beautiful. It’s bold. It’s a joy to wear and see. It’s celebratory, announcing the arrival of warm weather and all the jubilations of summer. An Aloha isn’t something for me to wear around the house for eight hours and take off when it’s time for dinner nor does it seem right for taking hushed work calls in a boba shop. I mean you can wear it that way, but it just makes more sense to play into the sprightly vibe of the aloha. An aloha shirt is something that I still feel is special, not in terms of formality but in aesthetic. Something about the soul of clothes requiring the right “mate” in context and attitude, for outfit pairings and life. To make sure the garment is done justice.
God, how funny is it that I’m talking about this!
Thankfully I’ve had two “occasions” where it simply made sense to wear an aloha shirt. Obviously I could’ve worn an aloha shirt any day of the week, but these just made sense. The situation called for it, where another shirt could have been worn (like a plain rayon sportshirt) but the Aloha shirt was the right choice to make. It was like it was calling out to me from within my closet!
I’m an a extra person (call it theater kid energy), so it’s nice to meld the bold style with an event. And so when Spencer decided to host a party at his new apartment to truly break it in, I was excited. This was going to be the first “occasion” of the summer which meant I got to stretch some of my much rested warm weather sartorial muscles.
It was the perfect opportunity to debut my newly thrifted yellow aloha, a color I’ve always wanted due to its vibrancy; it just feels more retro vacation compared to the darker base alohas we typically see (most of mine are navy blue base) that feel a bit too “cool”. In short, this yellow aloha feels a little cheesy in the best way possible.
A DB was the way to go as I’m always enamored with the “formal” and “closed up” connotations of the jacket style contrasting against the boldness of the aloha. Granted the suit I went with was green and made of cotton, so the combination is much more congruous than a navy worsted wool suit (which would’ve been fine but again, I was feeling extra). My aviators and black sandals were the final touch to give this a dedicated casual feel while still retaining an edge for the party.
Overall, I felt like this was the best way to wear the aloha with my current take on menswear, which honestly still feels rooted in Esquire Man (with a slight 70s lean).
The funny thing is that MJ seemed to also feel the vibe, wearing his newly acquired Marni aloha shirt with a brown cotton suit (that used to belong to me until I outgrew it). It was hot and an aloha adds in the needed comfort (rayon is great) while bringing in a festive seasonal attitude; it’s more interesting than a typical sportshirt.
You’ll see in the photos that the party was not Hawaiian themed. It was just a kick back with some fun people at Spencer’s apartment. Spencer himself did not wear an aloha and instead went for his typical 60s/70s Going Out Look with a DB jacket, spearpoint shirt, gabardine trousers, and cowboy boots. However, the fun aura of the party meant that the aloha shirts felt right. It doesn’t have to be tropical— they can provide joy and amusement simply by being worn. They are an occasion piece not tied to formality but for attitude.
I think they were the right choice to start off the summer.
During our weekly trivia nights, it was decided that the next time we were all free we should go to a tiki bar. Like an aloha, a tiki bar is something special: a tiki bar is a regular bar….just one that has a specific decor and drinks. Going to one is not a fancy occasion, but it provides theme for the evening that inspires you to get dressed up in a way that isn’t tied to formality but in overall aesthetics. It’s fun to ascribe certain outings to attire and to give yourself that challenge.
Now I know that due to my own specific definition I don’t outfit repeat, but I clearly riffed on a template. I wore my other cotton DB, this time in khaki. As a tiki bar is more pointed toward the mid century vacation aesthetic, I felt like the khaki suit was the one to wear; the green suit was bold and party appropriate, but the khaki feels more traditional. The runaway collar returns (I mean how else would you do it) on a purple/yellow aloha shirt that I got in Japan. It’s a Sun Surf number, which has more of a 40s/50s print— a perfect match for the khaki suit as well as the tiki theme. A pair of chunky square sunglasses and tassel loafers played into the traditional yet playful outfit (at least when compared to the previous look).
The funny part is that the attire was oddly appropriate not only for my evening plans but for what I had planned during the day. Before going to the tiki bar, Isabel and I went to the Gene Autry Museum of the American West which actually had an exhibit on “Western American clothing”. It included vintage jeans, pendeltons, and you guessed it: Aloha Shirts. I’m glad that I wore my aloha all day instead of opting for an artsier (and somber) museum fit. I made sure to include some photographs of the vintage alohas for you guys!
What’s even better is that most of my friends (I love when people like to Stand Out and match energy) took the opportunity to wear their own aloha shirts, again adding to the idea that this casual shirt has a sense of occasion to it. Sure, we would wear it during the workweek to make a WFH life a bit more lively, but it’s more fun to wear it to location that calls for it. Spencer wore his Aloha in a totally Spencer Way, with a workjacket, fatigues, and a ball cap. MJ followed my lead with tailoring again, but with separates: a navy jacket and work pants. Isabel wore some fun floral pants with a crop top. Derek, Silvia, and Grace donned their Alohas as their outer layer rather than their base. Annie was the only one who didn’t wear at least a type of floral, but her tonal separates were accented by a necklace which was a great move.
Unfortunately the tiki bar we decided on (Tiki Ti, an LA instituion) was quite small and couldn’t fit everyone at once. So we decided to bar hop around Silverlake, bringing our island attire with us everywhere we went. It was quite funny to be the group of Aloha-ed Asians (and one bearded white guy) while being surrounded by trucker caps, ribbed tanks, workshirts, and cowboy boots: the current zeitgeist of the post-pandemic look. I guess our pal Albert’s advice is really taking off in LA!
Either way, I loved getting dressed up and I’m glad we all did it. that evening. Not in formality, but for the vibes! I can’t imagine a better occasion to wear a bold, floral shirt to celebrate well, friendship. The blog can get cheesy at times, but it’s a great reminder to see how far we’ve all come, from searching for a way to justify these weird menswear tastes to taking command over context by planning a fun night with friends that gives us the perfect opportunity to wear some cool clothes.
I can’t think of a better reason to wear an Aloha shirt.
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