Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 30, 2022

Picking the right aloha shirt isn't easy

September 4, 2015

BY WILL MARCUS

Ah, the aloha shirt: elegant in design, brazen in pattern and supremely relaxed in attitude. For generations, these testaments to all that is good about the tropics have graced the backs of our country’s greatest leaders — ever since Harry Truman appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine rocking a glorious aloha shirt with a white and blue seagull and sea turtle combination pattern.

The caption read: “The evolution of a wardrobe.”

These garments have been the antithesis to a suit ever since the 1930s, and I’d venture to say that every president since then has stocked at least five of them in their closets for this very reason. After a long day in the Oval Office signing bills, taking pictures with visiting pee-wee hockey teams and shaking at least 100 hands, who wouldn’t want to swap the Brooks Brothers for the birds of paradise?

Not a president? That’s fine! The aloha shirt doesn’t discriminate. Anyone and everyone can rock one and look like an absolute boss. In my opinion, these shirts’ limitless appeal indisputably makes them the most democratic garment out there, so stock up fellow patriots because I’m about to explain how to maximize your aloha experience. Without further ado, I present the four patented pillars of Hawaiian shirt greatness and their associated shirt pattern pairings.

1) Grilling:For our first pillar, my shirt pattern pairing would include Cockatoos, Pineapples, Macaws and/or surfer wagons with the sweet wooden doors. The grillmaster is the maharaja of the meat, and as such, everyone’s favorite person by default. This is precisely why your aloha will thrive on the down-low. The aforementioned patterns will not only look stunning behind a tasteful apron, but will avoid drawing attention away from your famous 360 tomahawk burger flips.

2) Chilling: This pillar is perhaps the most difficult activity to pair with a shirt pattern, but I would say that Leatherback sea turtles, cheeseburgers, Gardenias, Seagulls, sunset beach scenes and large, seemingly elderly aquatic mammals (preferably orcas or walruses) would enhance your chilling experience the most. These patterns are meant to invoke a warm sense of calm in all who gaze upon them. Let your pattern do it all for you, because then, you’ll be free to do less, and that, my friends, is the true essence of chilling. You will be the chieftain of the chill.

3) Swilling: Webster’s dictionary defines “swill” as to drink (something) greedily or in large quantities. Regardless of your beverage of choice (Sunny D is my personal favorite), this pillar was too easy to pair. Hammerhead sharks, type 4 throwable life preservers, coconuts, drink umbrellas, boats of types and tasteful hula girls with the grass skirts will engender a great thirst deep within all who gaze upon them. Now this Pillar often has some overlap with the others, so the shirt decision you make can and will determine the trajectory of your day/night. Thus, your swilling shirts will be the most important and versatile alohas in your quiver. Pick them wisely from your thrift shop of choice. You will be the sultan of the swill.

4) Thrilling:We’ve reached the end of our journey. Thrilling is our fourth, final and tallest pillar. Got a huge public speaking gig coming up? Have you been invited to appear on your local news station? If you find yourself staring down the barrel of the spotlight any time soon, its your time to shine. This is why any of the following pattern pairings will fill you with chutzpah and help you amaze and thrill all who gaze upon them: Bob Marley faces, Ukuleles, Easter Island Heads, tiki anything, plants of all types and totem poles with angry facial expressions. Note to the upperclassmen: These intense alohas will give you the edge you need in job interviews too. Please note that these patterns are big time, and should only be utilized for moments of a comparable caliber.

Remember my friends, the pattern you choose must match the activity. My pairings are very well calculated, make no mistake. If you follow my advice you will wear the aloha shirt, and it will never wear you. Deviate from my pairings and you risk being overshadowed by your shirt, and that is a bad place to be. All of this being said, I am not the ultimate authority on pillar/pattern pairings, just remember to use your head. Each and every one of you can improve your life by embracing the aloha in everything that you do, but for now, start with the four pillars.

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