The “aloha shirt” is everything it has ever been accused of being. Some are kitsch, some are cool. They can be festive, or distinctively fashionable. They’re for dads to wear while mixing vodka tonics, and hipsters attempting to be ironic. Some say culturally significant, others say cultural appropriation. Ultimately, it’s what you make it out to be. And aside from a few boogaloo militia morons, they are always worn in good fun. That’s why you’re in search for one while visiting Oahu. That said, you’re not looking for 100% polyester tropical button-ups that hang on the racks of ABC Stores and the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. Even Hilo Hattie isn’t your cup of tea. Instead, you’re in search of quality attire that you could easily wear to an island wedding or an Aloha Friday board meeting back on the mainland. Below is a breakdown of the top shops on Oahu to find classic and/or contemporary aloha shirts.
Top 5 Shops to Buy Authentic Hawaiian Aloha Shirts on Oahu
Depending on who you talk to, the aloha shirt can either be traced to the 1920s, or the early 1930s. And while there is debate about who designed the very first, Kahala has pretty much been around since the beginning. Established back in 1936, Kahala’s name is now synonymous with aloha wear. Their shirts appeal to those who prefer a classic fit, but they also have designs tailor-made (so to speak) for those who prefer to showcase their slimmer profile. If you’re on the North Shore, visit Kahala in Haleiwa. If on the South Shore, head on over to Kahala in Waikiki.
Bailey’s Aloha Shirts
Their storefront sign on Kapahulu claims “World’s Largest Selection of Aloha Shirts” at a grand total of 15,000 and counting. Whether or not that remains to be the case, there is no denying the impressive inventory in this small antique and curio shop in Honolulu near Waikiki. The old store has photos on the wall to celebrate a celebrity clientele that includes (but is not exclusive to) Nicholas Cage, Tommy Lee Jones, Jimmy Buffett, and long time advocate of the attire, Magnum P.I. (aka Tom Selleck). For true fans of the aloha shirt, a visit to Bailey’s is a must. View location and hours here.
Roberta Oaks, Hawaii
This ain’t your kapuna’s aloha attire. Roberta Oaks in the Honolulu Arts District is a modern boutique store that sells exclusive, limited edition aloha shirts. The contemporary designs boast unique patterns and a fashionable cut that sets them apart from the other retailers on Oahu. Roberta Oaks is for the young, and young at heart. View hours, location, and photos right here.
Since 1959, Reyn Spooner has been selling vibrant and authentic aloha shirts to locals and malihini alike. They are known for hand-painted patterns that have been designed by local Hawaiian artists, while their modern innovations in stitching and material ensure that you’ll have something to wear to that next island-themed shindig for years to come, even if you spill some rum on it along the way. There is a Reyn Spooner in Ala Moana Center, in addition to Hawaii Pacific University, Kapolei, and Kahala Mall.
Macy’s, Ala Moana Center
We know it may sound blasphemous to send someone to Hawaii’s largest shopping center to buy an authentic aloha shirt, but when you step off of the escalator to Ala Moana Macy’s Men’s department on the bottom floor you’ll see why. They carry Kahala, Reyn Spooner, and Tori Richard, in addition to watered-down (but still fun) brands such as Tommy Bahama, Jack O’Neill Collection, Quiksilver Waterman, and more. View hours and location for Ala Moana Center.