Marc Sandvold: paddling into a wave at Tongg's wearing a Canoes Aloha shirt | Photo: Darrell Wong

Can you imagine Hawaii without "The Aloha Shirt"? The famous blouse is showcased in all its splendor in a sublime coffee-table book by Dale Hope.

Some brands are cooler than others, and Patagonia is definitely becoming one of the most important companies in the surfing scene.

Not only because of its eco-friendly DNA but also because Patagonia is leading the way when it comes to surf clothing and apparel.

The company founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 is not new to book publishing.

Patagonia has already released a few surf-related titles, including "Let My People Go Surfing," "Surf is Where You Find It," "Slow Is Fast," "No Bad Waves: Talking Story," "The Plight of the Torpedo People," and "More Stoked!".

But "The Aloha Shirt" is truly magnificent.

The spectacular hardcover edition will certainly become an instant classic in any Hawaiian high school. Because it tells us - Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians - how cultural icons evolve within a society.

The Hawaiian shirt is a portrait of the volcanic archipelago.

The colors and the palm trees, the patterns and the motifs, the hula girls, the outrigger canoe, and the flowers are symbols of a nation, the smiles with which the locals greet millions of tourists, year after year.

"Hawaiian print or aloha shirts have been a long tradition in Hawaii. They were a result of several different influences," explains Gerry Lopez, in the book's introduction.

"The cut and style took after the sturdy garment worn by sugar cane and pineapple plantation workers: a traditional short-sleeve, button-front work shirt of blue-and-white-checkered denim called 'palaka.'"

"The colorful prints came from the earliest shirts being designed for visitors to the islands to take home more than just some memories of their trip to Hawaii."

"Aloha shirts first appeared around 1935. By the late 1940s and through the 1950s, as tourism in Hawaii grew, so did the popularity of the Aloha shirt."

Walter Hoffman: the California big wave surfer and surf industry garmento leader plays the ukulele wearing a Hawaiian shirt | Photo: James Cassimus

A Work of Art

Everything has had an impact on the Hawaiian shirt design.

The II World War, the colors of the Hawaiian Leis, mainland America, cruisers, the 19th-century "pareu," the ukulele, surfing and the surf riders, the waves, and the monarchical tradition, were all featured in the cloth garment for the upper body.

"The Aloha Shirt" is a work of art organized and compiled by Dale Hope. His dad, a textile entrepreneur, bought a small factory and started a brand called Sun Fashions of Hawaii.

Years later, Dale and his father founded HRH - His Royal Highness - and the shirt business bloomed.

In 1986, Hope bought Kahala and gave a new life to the classic brand. By the end of the century, Dale had already sold the company to research and create the 384-page book.

"Different tales have circulated for decades about the origins of the aloha shirt. Did it spring forth late one night from the hand-operated sewing machine of a Japanese tailor? Was it inspired by the tails-out shirts of the Philippines; elegant kimono cloth from Japan; or colorful, bold flower prints from Tahiti?" asks Dale Hope in the publication's prologue.

"What we do know is that aloha shirts were created by a wonderfully inventive and artistic group of people during the time when Hawaii was emerging as an island paradise for tourists - when the building of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the christening of a trio of magnificent cruise ships by Matson Navigation opened this majestic string of islands to the world."

Today, you can buy a Hawaiian shirt for between $15 and $100, and the spirit of Aloha is more en vogue than ever.

Harry Truman and Dwight S. Eisenhower loved to wear it. Time to get your favorite Hawaiian shirt out of the closet.

The Aloha Shirt: 384 pages of colorful Hawaiian blouses

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