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April, 2010:

It’s Not Just a Shirt, It’s Family History.

Hawaiian and Coin Shop, Centralia, Washington by Nerds Eye View

Hawaiian and Coin Shop, Centralia, Washington by Nerd's Eye View

Here at Holoholo Wale HQ, we’re known to scour local second hand stores for aloha wear. We look for clothes that are  Hawaiian made, from heavy cotton or bark cloth, stuff with embroidered labels in swirling fonts. We’ve acquired some real gems for under ten dollars, often with very little wear because, I’m guessing, someone’s wife or sweetheart refused to let the shirt see daylight once it landed in a mainland closet.

It’s hard to find a Hawaiian made aloha shirt anymore, there are a few rare producers, and not many of them exhibit the outrageous styling and attention to detail that earlier designs took for granted. We always look for matching pockets — meaning the pocket has been cut so as not to interrupt the pattern — and coconut buttons. Frog ties are nice too but very rare, as are three quarter sleeve length pullovers. I acquired my favorite shirt for about three dollars from a very messy shop halfway between Tacoma and Seattle, it’s neon pink and olive green on orange,  a real shocker of a color combination, and made from a sturdy textured cotton. The tag reads “Soshima’s Hale Aloha, Honolulu” and a Google search as to its lineage turns up… nothing.

Yesterday, my sidekick rescued an early 70s (we’re guessing) number from a rack of mostly uninteresting wrinkled shirts covered in the usual bird of paradise/ surfboard/ palm tree /hibiscus print pattern. Our latest acquisition is an understated pattern of brown and blue, block print inspired with a feeling of Thailand or Singapore. The label ( which we misread at first as Casual Caire) says Casual Aire, Reef Towers, Outrigger Hotel, Honolulu. I couldn’t find much mention of Casual Aire, though I did find a number of vintage online shops selling some spectacularly colored muumuus.

The Reef Towers property was sold by Outrigger in 2005, but it used to house a Casual Aire store run by Larry Langley, according to a previous retail manager.  The resort wear company was founded by the Langley grandparents, Joan and Nort, then run by Linda and Larry Langley until they closed shop in 1998. This 2001 article in the Honolulu Advertiser says that fashion is still in the family, even though the Casual Aire line is no more. And even though the shops have been shut down, there’s at least one shirt left to promenade the Waikiki strip. Thanks, Langleys, it’s a beauty!

Thanks, Outrigger Hotels and Nancy Daniels, for indulging my obscure queries! Photo by Nerd’s Eye View.

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Changes in Hawaii, Observed

Fresh Paint by love♡janine via Flickr

Fresh Paint by love♡janine via Flickr

Not everything happening in the state of Hawaii has been change for the better. But some things — a revival of local food and a real solution to health care — have put Hawaii out in front on quality of life issues. And there’s Hawaiian culture, still in revival, still growing in strength.

Thirty or so years ago, a Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance got under way as Native Hawaiians, joined by others, made a bid to reclaim their culture and take pride in it. Fruits of this movement are now evident. Once, the number of people who spoke the Hawaiian language was in steady decline and extinction of native speakers was a genuine fear. Now, the number of people who speak Hawaiian is actually growing.

Read more of this Hawaii expat’s thoughts on changes to his former home on Crosscut.