It’s a short-sleeve, button-up shirt with a large print, giving off a casual, laid-back vibe. But call it a Hawaiian shirt at your own peril.
It’s more like New Hawaiian — a fresh take on an old classic, with a wider variety of print than your typical hibiscus. Designers and retailers are betting big on them, and fashion-forward men are scooping them up in droves.
It seems the micro-floral patterns that have been popular in menswear the last few years have given way almost completely to this new trend.
“We aren’t talking about the shirt your dad would wear, with a florid print of a parrot and a tequila bottle,” Kevin Carney, owner of Los Angeles-based menswear boutique Mohawk General Store, told the Wall Street Journal. “Today’s versions have florals that can fit into any guy’s wardrobe.”
Mall stalwarts like J.Crew, pond hoppers like Topman, menswear startups like Bonobos, Parisian fashion houses like Saint Laurent, and even boutique labels like the Swedish Our Legacy have all jumped on the bandwagon in producing a new version of this classic.
“We wanted to do our version of the classic tourist look but tweak it to make the Hawaiian shirt more interesting,” Jockum Hallin, co-founder and CEO of Swedish label Our Legacy, told the New York Times. “We implemented patterns that are more urban-influenced. Our flowers and palm trees are done in a rough graffiti style, and our tropical ‘greeting shirt’ has more the look of a dark farewell than a warm welcome.”
Indeed they are tweaked — tweaked so that they will look more at home in urban environments than at a tiki bar. They come with backgrounds in muted colours that don’t recall the sunny beach they evolved from.
Make no mistake, however: these are bright, attention-getting shirts that won’t let you quite blend into the crowd. They’re for a confident man who is comfortable with observers commenting on what he’s wearing, as these shirts will elicit comments when worn.
If you’d like to try wearing loud prints but don’t know where to start, these shirts are the perfect entry place. A good first patterned shirt would be one on a muted or dark background, which won’t demand as much attention as a brighter colour.
As for styling, there are no hard-and-fast rules. These shirts can be worn with pants or shorts, but they do require contrast to balance out their loudness, so you’re better off keeping your bottom half on the darker side. Your shirt will be the focal point of your outfit, so don’t try to mix in any more patterns, or you’ll start to look garish.
One rule that is hard and fast: These are undeniably casual shirts and should only be worn in the most casual of settings.
Can you wear them to work? For that, only the adventurous need apply.