Alfred Shaheen, Hawaiian shirt pioneer, 1922-2008


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In case you missed it, Sunday’s paper reported the passing of Alfred Shaheen, who writer Claire Noland describes as ‘a textile manufacturer who revolutionized the garment industry in postwar Hawaii by designing, printing and producing aloha shirts and other ready-to-wear items under one roof’ and who helped raise the aloha shirt’s image by using high-grade materials, quality construction and artistic prints.

If you’re unsure whether you’ve ever seen a Shaheen, look no further than the cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Hawaii’ soundtrack album, which features the King sporting a red aloha print number.


Although the aloha shirt is an easy visual pun -- worn on TV and in the movies by tacky tourists and sub-par undercover detectives, Shaheen’s legacy is that it doesn’t need to be.

Shaheen’s passing, and the fact that our incoming president has roots in the 50th state, make me think it might be time to seriously revisit the notion of ‘aloha Fridays’ in the workplace.

And if you want to buy a shirt as an an homage to the late Shaheen, another famous name in aloha wear, Reyn Spooner, sells a stylized lotus flower design of his, which was Reyn’s very first Polynesian design.

--Adam Tschorn

Top photo: Textile pioneer Alfred Shaheen photographed in a Samoan Tapa in 1954, Credit: Bottom photo: Elvis Presley wears one of Shaheen’s aloha shirts on the cover of the ‘Blue Hawaii’ soundtrack in 1961.