Real men wear floral - and look darned good doing so.
They have for decades.Elvis was king, and he wore an Aloha shirt in the 1963 movie "Blue Hawaii." Frank Sinatra sported one in "From Here to Eternity," set in 1941. During their terms in office, Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were known for their off-time tropical shirts.
"I think people today are drawn to Aloha shirts because they suggest another time," said Janet Giese, buyer for the Hawaiian Shop in Scottsdale.
"Young guys like them. Older guys like them. Business guys like them. They reflect an attitude. The guys who wear them seem pretty sure of themselves."
And macho - you bet. Vibrant island prints can be very manly.
Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, flashy floral Aloha shirts - and the more contemporary "motif" sports shirts - are back in fashion for the male of the species this summer.
"The look is not isolated to one particular customer," said John Coumbe, owner of John's & Co., a high-end Phoenix men's shop. "Ralph Lauren's doing it. Armani's doing it. Everybody's got a piece of it in their summer line. It's considered to be in good taste."
As such, designs with obnoxious touristy prints - such as those grounded in Pepto-Bismol pink and sewn of polyester - are not the prevailing trend. The eclectic Aloha garb presented in the new summer movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is a good example of what not to wear. (That terry-cloth Aloha shirt worn by actor Johnny Depp as journalist Raoul Duke is just plain ol' tacky.)
"Some guys love those wild and flashy prints, and they wear them all the time," Giese said. "They've been wearing those for years. But there's also this trend toward classy, tasteful shirts that have some panache to them - some pizazz.
It's true. This summer's crop of casual island-inspired fashion shirts tend toward "artful sophistication" and "retro chic." Rayon, Egyptian cotton and textured silk are the fabrics of choice. Some of the season's best designs are reproductions of patterns dating to the 1940s - when Hawaiian shirts were considered sophisticated sportswear.
"It's kind of like neckwear right now," Coumbe said. "There's no set direction (for Aloha shirts). It's something that just appeals to you."
What appeals to today's fashionable gentlemen, Coumbe said, are patterns that are not too wild. He described the look as "easy."
"It's not so flashy. It's low-key," he said. "It could be orange - as long as the pattern is simple and not overpowering."
If worn appropriately, a vibrant island-scene shirt exudes an aura of confidence. A hibiscus print hanging from broad shoulders reflects a relaxed approach to life. For that matter, a palm tree and pineapple print conveys an overall casual outlook.
The bottom line: These shirts are fun to wear. They are pleasing to the eye. And they can be great conversation pieces at a poolside party.
The Hawaiian shirt came into being after island missionaries encouraged the natives to cover their nakedness, H. Thomas Steele writes in the book "The Hawaiian Shirt."
In the beginning, Hawaiians utilized traditional Polynesian designs and native tapa - or bark cloth - for their shirts. Designs and motifs were hand-painted or stenciled from hand-carved wood cuts. Shirts were often one of a kind.
Overall, the patterns were more geometric and less floral, Steele writes. By the 1920s, small island tailor shops were making custom prints for Hawaiian families for special occasions, such as weddings.
When tourism came to Hawaii in the late 1920s, the Hawaiian shirt literally became a blank canvas for local artists. Designs depicting everything from romantic beaches and erupting volcanoes to tropical flowers and local legend began to appear.
It wasn't until 1936 that a shirtmaker named Ellery J. Chun coined the term "Aloha" shirt.
The expression stuck. Today, Aloha shirts are considered American folk art. The older shirts are collector's items.