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Vintage Hawaiian Shirts: How to Find, Maintain, and Store a Piece of Hawaiian History

Updated on September 19, 2012

Beautiful and Authentic Hawaiian Shirts

While many cheap knock-offs are available on today's market, owning a vintage Hawaiian shirt is like owning a piece of island history. Manufactured from 1930-1950, vintage Hawaiian shirts are high quality garments made out of Rayon, cotton, or silk. Brilliant designs and intricate buttons lend quality detail to shirts that are truly works of art.

Authentic Shirts vs. Imposters

Authentic vintage Hawaiian shirts will be made out of Rayon, cotton, or silk. A Hawaiian shirt manufactured with Polyester is not vintage, as Polyester did not come into use until shirts were mass produced in the modern era.

Verify the Hawaiian shirt has a tag stating "Made in Hawaii." While some authentic vintage Hawaiian shirts were manufactured in Japan or California, the highest quality (and highest value) shirts were manufactured in Hawaii. Many vintage Hawaiian shirts will specify "Made in Honolulu."

Vintage Hawaiian shirts will have intricate buttons manufactured from coconut, shell, metal, or wood. Shirts from the later vintage period may also contain buttons made from Bakelite. The buttonholes are almost always horizontal in vintage Hawaiian shirts: modern reproductions often have vertical buttonholes.

Quality vintage Hawaiian shirts will be hemmed with a double seam, and will not have collar stays. The earliest Hawaiian shirts were manufactured from silk or cotton, but Rayon Hawaiian shirts have the most value, since they hold up well over time.

Consult a list of authentic vintage Hawaiian shirt manufacturers prior to investing in an expensive shirt.


  • Made in Hawaii
  • Malihini
  • McGregor
  • McInerny's
  • Musashiya
  • Nani
  • Okolehao
  • Pali
  • Paradise Hawaii
  • Paradise Sportswear
  • Penneys
  • Pilgrim
  • Polynesian Sportswear
  • Ross Sutherland
  • Royal Hawaiian
  • Royal Palm
  • Shaheen's
  • Silver of Hawaii
  • Surfriders Sportswear
  • Waikiki Sports
  • Watumulls

List of Authentic Vintage Hawaiian Shirt Manufacturers

  • Alii Lole
  • Andrade
  • Artvogue
  • Ashfield
  • Campus
  • Catalina
  • Diamondhead SW
  • Duke Kahanamoku
  • Hale Hawaii
  • Hawaiian Surf
  • HoAloha
  • Hookano
  • Iolani
  • Jantzen
  • Kahala
  • Kamehameha
  • Kilohana
  • Kramer's
  • Kuonakakai
  • Lauhala
  • Liberty House
  • Made in California

A Piece of Hawaiian History

How to Care for a Hawaiian Shirt

Vintage Hawaiian shirts must never be machine washed or dried. Dry clean vintage shirts, or wash them by hand with a gentle detergent. Vintage Hawaiian shirts must always be air dried on a hanger, preferably out of direct sunlight.

Shirts made out of rayon are particularly fragile when wet: rayon has a known tendency to tear easily when the fabric is wet. Never try to wring out a wet rayon shirt - hang it on a plastic hanger and allow it to dry.

Always unbutton vintage Hawaiian shirts prior to washing, and never wring the garment. Use padded hangars when setting the shirts out to dry. Do not use wire coat hangers, because they may leave rust spots on the garment!

Store Vintage Hawaiian Shirts with Silica Gel

Use silica gel to prevent moisture from damaging vintage Hawaiian shirts in storage.
Use silica gel to prevent moisture from damaging vintage Hawaiian shirts in storage. | Source

How to Store a Vintage Hawaiian Shirt

Three methods are available for storing vintage Hawaiian shirts.

  1. Wrap the shirt in acid-free paper and store in a box in a cool, dry place. This method is only acceptable if the shirt is in an environment with low humidity.
  2. In arid areas, store the shirt in a dark, dry closet on a padded hangar. If the environment has any humidity or light, do not store the shirt in this manner.
  3. Wrap the shirt in acid-free paper and store in a vacuum sealed bag, with silica gel packets for extra security against moisture. This is the only acceptable storage method in humid environments.

Remember, the worst enemies of a vintage Hawaiian shirt are light and moisture. Protect this piece of island history from both elements, and the Hawaiian shirt will remain in its original glory.

Authentic Hawaiian Shirts

Verify the authenticity of vintage Hawaiian shirts prior to investing.
Verify the authenticity of vintage Hawaiian shirts prior to investing. | Source

Where to Find Vintage Hawaiian Shirts

Authentic vintage Hawaiian shirts may be found on the islands of Hawaii and by stores and collectors throughout the United States. For tourists visiting the islands, this is a wonderful opportunity to bring home a unique and valuable souvenir. The advent of online shopping makes purchasing an authentic vintage Hawaiian shirt possible for anyone on the planet.

The Hana Shirt Company is a well respected seller of vintage Hawaiian shirts. Located in Tucson, Arizona, the company has sold shirts to Jimmy Buffet and Barrack Obama.

Vintage Aloha Shirts is located in Hawaii, and offers vintage Hawaiian shirts from each decade of the vintage era.

Take care when purchasing vintage Hawaiian shirts from eBay or other unknown online sellers: it is difficult to examine the shirt and determine authenticity from online photographs.

Vintage Hawaiian Shirt Poll

What type of vintage Hawaiian shirt do you own?

See results

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    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Your RSS feed is not working. Go back to Princessa's link, right click, and select "copy hyperlink", "copy shortcut" or whatever your system says. Merely selecting "copy" is where the problem lies.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      rmcrayne, thank you for the notification the rss feed wasn't working! I tried using "save link location." Hopefully this will work!

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Yep, looks like you're all set now.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      Thank goodness! I've never included an RSS feed into a hub before: I suppose you learn something new every day!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Great hub, thanks for sharing

      take care

      Eiddwen

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 6 years ago from France

      I like the tips for Determining Authenticity, you can extend some of those to other vintage garments.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Hmm...this was interesting.

      Do you suppose any might be found in thrift shops, where they may not be too high-priced?

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      If you're really lucky, you might run across an authentic shirt at a garage sale or thrift store. The vintage shirts are pretty rare, though - collectors snap them up very quickly!

    • paradigmsearch profile image

      Person of Interest 5 years ago from USA

      Congrats on the 90+ score. You have been facebooked, tweeted, and blogged. And blue-barred mostly across the board. Blog post will show up shortly; as to Tweet-count update, they have been getting better at that). That's the way it is. :-)

    • leahlefler profile image
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      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Wow - thanks, paradigmsearch! I feel (almost) famous! Thanks for the facebook/tweet/blog posts!

    • Dorsi profile image

      Dorsi Diaz 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

      Interesting hub. My dad had a really cool shirt that I wish I had kept now. I'm not sure if it was an authentic Hawaiian shirt but it sure was cool!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      We lived in California for a long time and we used to go down to Main Street in Ventura, where there were a lot of antique and vintage shops - with a lot of authentic Hawaiian shirts! I wish I had bought one back them (live and learn)! Thanks for the comment, Dorsi!

    • profile image

      gkanekoa 5 years ago

      Wow. Liberty House. I remember that store. This reminds me of my dad's closet before we moved house. I should have checked to see if his were "authentic". I think most of his clothes went to charity or was in put in storage. This was an interesting HUB indeed.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I miss Hawaii - I have only been to Hawaii twice (once to Oahu and once to Kauai), but it is my absolute favorite place on the planet. I really want to get back to the islands for another visit, though it is a longer trek from Western New York! Now I have to look for Hawaiian shirts on eBay! Thanks for the comment, gkanekoa!

    • profile image

      Medorikay@aol.com 5 years ago

      I have an authentic Hawaiian Men's Rayon shirt hibisus, Light and dark blue large print, buttons are silver, metal buttons with Hawaiian crest, Aloha Hawaii on bottom of each button, custom made by Margo's of Honolulu, Hawaii...I have many more, my Great Uncle Charlie Harris was the very first? or early on Merriemonarch Grand Marshall, He was very good friend with George Naope? Not sure of the spelling but I have Buttons, fliers and other Hawaiian Memorbelia from the late 50's early 60's.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Medorikay, that is so very cool - I absolutely love vintage Hawaiian shirts. There is something wonderful about owning a piece of history! The name is George Na'ope - the co-founder of the Hula festival, right? It is so important to preserve the culture and the art!

    • profile image

      DD 3 years ago

      Buy a few shirts "You like", {price doesn't have to be high} and put them somewhere you see every morning.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      I'd love to get a few authentic antique Hawaiian shirts and have them on display, DD. It is snowing where I live now, and I would like a little reminder of warmer places!

    • Olive2LOL profile image

      Olive2LOL 3 years ago from Hilo, Hawaii

      Very informative article. Thank you for posting it. I recently came across several vintage aloha shirts that have been in a closet unused for approximately 30 years. Sadly one of them was kept on a wire hanger. Will dry cleaning take out the rust stain or shall I use Wink? I've read Wink works on taking rust out of antique linens. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      The rust stains are such a shame, Olive2LOL! I would be hesitant to use Whink on the fabric, as Whink is only safe for white or colorfast fabric. I have read some reviews indicating that Whink has caused holes to form in some vintage fabrics. If your shirt is a vintage piece and is worth a good amount of money, I would try to contact a specialist in Hawaiian shirts to determine the best way to clean it.

    • profile image

      LisaKeating 3 years ago

      Love this hub! I buy vintage Hawaiian shirts in thrift stores and sell them online. Except for Tommy Bahama, I only buy shirts that say Made in Hawaii. You gave some information here that will help me spot the real thing. I would LOVE to find one of the early vintage shirts. They are getting harder to find. Do you own and from the 1940s? I recently wrote a hub about the popularity of Hawaiiana. Check it out if interested. Thanks for the valuable advice about caring for these collectible treasures.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      I don't have any from the 1940's era! I would love to return to Hawaii on vacation - it is such a beautiful state. I love the fact that you only buy shirts that state "Made in Hawaii," Lisa!

    • profile image

      lourdes4747@att.net 2 years ago

      hi I have a shirt Malikini,(but King if Beer) Sing Trade Mark.Purchese on 1992,in a Goodwill, or Wade Mu Gunsan favorise,red.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      What a great find, lourdes! Sometimes thrift stores have real gems!

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 2 years ago from Hawai'i

      Thanks for such a well-written hub. I love that you consider "aloha shirts" a work of art, because they are. I have pinned your hub onto my "Retro Hawaii" board on pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/hawaiianmania/retro-hawa...

      Aloha, Stephanie

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Thank you, Stephanie. I love Hawaiian shirts!

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