Everywhere you go here you see the patterns that we all know from the movies, TV shows and postcards from Hawai’i. What’s sad about it is the mockery of the culture, the hula dance, because you see people all over the world wearing the Aloha shirt as a party thing, as a joke, as a holiday vice, students wear them to go out to a bar – the shirt means you’re partying. while actually, the shirt means so much, and the patterns all have a meaning.
If you’ve seen the Descendants, you would have heard George Clooney’s speech ‘Don’t be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.’
This is true, during my internship I have been to conferences, business meetings and opening nights, and people are wearing them, as a formal thing, as well as a nice piece of clothing to wear in the sun. At the meeting, the Chair of the board wears an aloha shirt, and that is his suit, shirt and tie.
I remember seeing a programme about the aloha shirts and the Hawaiian patterns and learning how the designs reflect the nature, the different plants, flowers, leafs, the ocean, the sun, the wind, the palm trees, and the balance of things, the circle of life. They are beautiful. Personally I love colourful clothes and patterns anyway, so this is heaven to me.
But before I hasted to buy an aloha shirt, I felt like I had to put some thought in to it, and show some respect. I picked the ones that really attracted me, I thought about why they were attractive to me, what they meant, and what flowers and nature I could recognise from the pattern.
The patterns are everywhere, mailboxes, telephone booths, buses, walls, trees, trash bins, towels, curtains, surf-boards, bikini’s, shorts and doormats. And it all means something. It’s all representing something.
The spirit of the Aloha shirts isn’t trying to be exclusive, so visitors are welcome to wear them, which I think is wonderful. Everyone is accepted in to the culture. these shirts express aloha — it’s an attitude of graceful social bearing, a sweetness of personality.
Hawaiian businessmen wear these shirts, even the mayor of Honolulu wears them.
I hope that Hawai’i manages to hold on to it’s culture, which I have the impression that people are striving to do. Because, being called a ‘Paradise’ attracts an enormous amount of tourists and, take for example, the Hula, a sacred ritual, a beautiful poetic thing and how the dance has been corrupted to serve as a tourist attraction, that kind of mocks Hawaiian culture.
While all tourists are different, and celebrate Hawai’i and the Aloha in different ways, I hope that people are mindful, and that the Aloha, stays Aloha. The patterns of Hawaii welcomes you, it shows you the beauty of the nature here, and how that truly has affected the locals. They know the names of the flowers, the birds, the stories of the gods, the myths and the tales of the mountains and volcanoes. And they will teach you, they will tell you, and so will the patterns, if you care to learn.