This summer, it’s aloha to the Hawaiian shirt jokingly associated with beer bellies, middle-age male tourists who wear socks with their sandals, and your crazy Uncle Harry.
The temperature has changed on these fashions to make them hot for lots of cool 20- and 30-something guys as well as older men, and suitable for dressing up or down. The most popular new styles are bursting with color or come in always-trendy black and white — and they're being made in a slimmer, more youthful fit than their traditional forebears.
There's even some edginess associated with the trend. The designs and colors of the shirts are being selected by some wearers to match or complement their arms and necks when they're loaded with tattoos, and the Hawaiian shirt-inspired tropical prints are showing up on everything from men's sandals to hats and tuxedo jackets.
It was obvious something was new with these old standbys when they hit the spring/summer 2018 runways of such designers as Louis Vuitton and Paul Smith, where they were worn under dressy suits, added pop to a raincoat and paired with ripstop pants or spandex shorts.
While high-end brands now feature Hawaiian shirts that can cost up to $1,000, the look remains affordable for everyone. Walmart and Forever 21 are among the stores with prices starting around $20.
“The tropical print floral shirt trend has been emerging over the past two years but really peaked this summer,” says Durand Guion, Macy’s group vice president, men’s and children’s fashion director. “They’re soft, comfortable and have a current cool factor. They have a wide appeal across all age ranges, from the fashion-obsessed millennials to the classic guy who wears them on vacation.”
And the must-have designs aren’t just palm trees, flowers and sunsets. Shirts festooned with “conversational prints” such as pink flamingos, bananas and pineapples are also a large part of the trend, and they come in button-down, T-shirt, long-sleeve, sleeveless and camp collar styles. “Men have started to embrace floral prints and color in a confident way and are learning to be a bit more expressive with their fashion choices,” Guion adds.
Just a few of the celebrities seen recently getting their "Hawaii Five-O" on are Harry Styles, Wiz Khalifa, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Gosling, Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, John Legend, Bruno Mars, Jared Leto, Zayn Malik and Pharrell Williams.
“It’s the biggest message of the season — we’re in a tropical print cycle, a print eruption,” says Tim Bess, fashion/trend analyst for the Manhattan-based Doneger Group, a worldwide leader in merchandising and business strategies for the retail and fashion industries.
Bess adds that the tropical print shirt “has definitely become mainstream. Bloomingdale’s carries a lot of them, and they’re out there in a major way.”
The trend is expected to hang around for a while, too, just like your crazy Uncle Harry.
“I think we’re going to see it for next year,” Bess says.
Bess ties the trend to the good vibe it gives, the popularity of nostalgia, designers pushing the envelope, and a look that works for all ages and sizes.
A Hawaiian shirt "makes you smile, and there’s a whole nostalgic movement looking back to the '70s and '80s for inspiration from 'The Brady Bunch' and 'Hawaii Five-O,' ” Bess says. “Also, designers are experimenting and sending really cool prints down the runway.”