The tropical design, which was traditionally only worn by dads on vacation, has resurfaced in LGBT culture and among women in the office.
Hawaiian Shirts Have Moved On From Their Daddy Problems
On vacation, everyone wants to be a parent, but without the cargo shorts. Nothing says opulence and indulgence like a middle-aged man taking time off work to disgrace himself in a foreign country, fully unconcerned about the consequences of his cultural gaffe. His demeanor betrays a lack of pretense and a commitment to self-care; as his wife and kids pore over tour schedules and activities to pass the time, the father lounges by the pool, nourishing an equally exuberant sunburn. The Hawaiian shirt, a short-sleeve button-down with a variety of bright-colored botanical motifs, is essential for the father on vacation. The Hawaiian shirt, once considered a fashion no-no, has found fresh life this summer, far beyond the shore.
The tropical print was prominent in Palm Angels’ Men’s Spring 2020 collection, representing a cross between a millionaire playboy and a bohemian traveler. The trend spread from short-sleeve button-downs to bomber jackets and blazers, giving a sophisticated edge to a trend that could have easily crossed the line into cheesiness. The muted color scheme also transitions from the coconut-studded beach to the streets of a small Mediterranean village.
Some, on the other hand, have fully embraced the unashamed camp of the Hawaiian shirt. Shia LaBeouf, a passionate fan of the gorpcore, hiking trail-meets-runway attitude, wears the design in his now cult-famous streetwear style. His Disney Channel days as the titular character in Even Stevens are also referenced on the shirt. Disney adolescent fashion isn’t known for being subtle, and the Hawaiian shirt is just one example of how the trend has shifted to the louder and bolder. Stranger Things’ latest season also pays homage to 1985 fashion by clothing its characters in vibrant patterns and prints. Police Chief Hopper is particularly fond of a peach-colored button-down, which he describes as “something fresh.” El also foregoes the pale babydoll dress and huge hand-me-downs in favor of a Keith Haring-inspired jumpsuit and scrunchie, as well as a canary-yellow Aztec design that pops against the Upside-Down.
The most ardent supporters of the Hawaiian shirt, on the other hand, hail from an unlikely subculture. Dad wear has been co-opted by lesbians and gay men equally in a new branch of androgynous style, coupled with everything from boyfriend jeans to board shorts. A Britney-style tie at the front provides a whimsical, feminine touch to an otherwise boring ensemble, while others may want to button the collar all the way up for a more formal edge. The Hawaiian shirt has become a summer staple to replace the lesbian’s warmer flannel and to lend a tropical spin to the traditional H&M printed shirt, whether buttoned up, down, or gaping open with a white tank underneath.
They, like other subculture trends, found their way into the mainstream. The young professional woman (lesbian or otherwise) who has embraced the Hawaiian shirt for business casual is the polar opposite of the father on vacation. A parrot-studded design tucked into a wide-leg pant or midi skirt may make an office girl feel like she’s on a much-needed vacation, even if she’s on her third cup of coffee of the day.
The redemption story of the Hawaiian shirt is part of a larger trend of younger millennials and Gen Z going to thrift stores to dress like their fathers, which is known as normcore, gorpcore, or dadcore. Bucket hats, chunky sneakers, and the famed Croc have all seen a resurgence, as have athletic sandals, chunky sneakers, and the infamous Croc. Unlike these other items, the Hawaiian shirt is versatile enough to take on a new personality depending on how you style it, always speaking for itself. Try a Hawaiian shirt if you want to make a summery statement or if you just want to feel like a salaried executive having a week off in Cabo.