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Hawaiian Shirts Are Still Your Dad’s Version of Couture

Photo credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for The Crown Estate


By Jefferey Spivey

For so long, the Hawaiian shirt has been the top of choice for middle-aged suburban men on vacation cruises.  Think George Clooney in The Descendants or Vince Vaughn in Four Christmases.  Brands like Tommy Bahama have built their reputation on sales of the boxy, floral print woven shirt.  And according to publications like Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and New York Post, Hawaiian shirts are the trend to beat this summer.

Am I missing something here? How did it secretly become acceptable to start rocking your dad’s favorite cruise shirt in everyday life?

If we’re being technical, the new shirt that everyone is raving about is Hawaiian-like, but it’s not exactly the same.  Business Insider describes it as a modern update.  A little brother, if you will.  However, the most popular styles of the season are more like a distant cousin.

Everyone from J. Crew and Topman to Saint Laurent have jumped on the Hawaiian shirt bandwagon.  The 2016 incarnation features flowers and palm trees in rough graffiti.  The shirts are built on black and navy bases instead of bright tropical colors.  The prints are influenced by an urban landscape instead of the Bahamas.  Some options are so toned down that they feature a one-color palm tree print against a black background.

The new Hawaiian shirt is still an extremely casual offering despite its millennial makeover.  It’s not for the office unless you actually work on a cruise ship.

The fashion world really started freaking out about the shirt after style maven Jared Leto was photographed in a blindingly bright red version during Coachella.  But as we all know, Leto could rock a shower curtain and still look good.

So what’s the verdict? Is this misguided fashion advice or should you jump onboard? Go with option one.

The resurgence of the Hawaiian shirt seems like a funded attempt by the industry’s top brands to ensure their summer collections don’t flatline.  Two-thirds of the most prominent articles on the subject highlighted Our Legacy.  Though the brand has some compelling pieces, it’s rare to see it mentioned alongside global brands like J. Crew and Topman.  These fashion articles aren’t just based on stealthy trend forecasting.  The product placement reeks of content marketing.

Furthermore, Business Insider and Wall Street Journal have never been beacons of trend when it comes to fashion.  While both publications are beyond informative regarding performance of fashion stocks, IPOs, and quarterly earnings, fashion fans aren’t looking to their pages to figure out what to wear.  It’s probably best that they leave the styling pieces to the fashion mags and stick to what they do best: business.

Because of this increase in coverage, a ton of blogs and sites have rushed to publish Hawaiian shirt style pieces.  Don’t be fooled. Ignore them.  Follow your gut.  Hawaiian shirts are still cheesy, and they’re still your dad’s version of couture.

If you really want to stay ahead of the pack and rock the next trend, keep your eyes glued to the runway.  London Collections: Men, Pitti Uomo, and Paris Fashion Week have all featured fashion forward, avant garde designs that are sure to inspire the fashion hipsters in a town near you.  You can rest assured that none of the best looks featured a Hawaiian shirt.

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