Its Ivy League-educated creators hope to deconstruct the summer fashion staple’s clichés.
What began as kimono fragments has evolved into a global cultural revolution. Hawaiian prints used to be hilarious fodder among dads at Polynesian nights. They’ve been the wacky fashion statement of males like Justin Bieber, Miguel, Wiz Khalifa, and Harry Styles in recent years.
Tombolo, a Unisex Brand, Is Changing the Way Hawaiian Shirts Are Made.
Resort wear for men and women has long been associated with good times. Tombolo, a Unisex brand, is all about having a good time. Both founders are Princeton alums with additional degrees from the University of London and Harvard Business School. Their enthusiasm for Hawaiian shirts far exceeds industry standards. They want to create a panache for everyone, not just another trend shirt. The hottest shirt of the summer. Wonderfully ironic, once-kitsch, and now the hottest shirt of the summer.
What was the driving force for the redesign of the Aloha shirts?
We’ve been closest friends since we were six years old, and we’ve always had an odd love with Hawaiian shirts, especially the vintage styles. They used to be a creative force; they were the closest thing to wearable, unique artwork available. As a result, seeing creativity and uniqueness shrink and vanish has been quite discouraging. Many of today’s prints are merely pilfered from past patterns or are made up of a few flashy, peacocky components that have lost their luster. The high, yet freewheeling look has been vanishing. So we set out to recreate that retro attitude, using all-original artwork and always pushing the edge with new combinations and finishes.
They’re considered formal clothing in Hawaii’s business and government. Do you share my sentiments?
The adaptability of Hawaiian shirts, even “off island,” is what makes them so appealing. They can definitely be dressed up with a sports jacket (we recommend letting the collar stretch out over the lapels). When it comes down to it, however, Hawaiian shirts are the ultimate expression of relaxed confidence for us.
Hawaiian print shirts are said to have originated from Japanese kimonos, according to one source. Is that correct?
That is correct! By the early 1900s, Hawaii had attracted a large number of Japanese immigrants, who were initially enticed to work on the pineapple and sugar plantations. They dominated the local tailoring industry by bringing traditional clothes such as the Kimono. They began cutting the kimono fabric into casual collared shirts for the plantation laborers over time. Eventually, themes from the indigenous Hawaiians’ ‘tapa’ cloth were also included. The Hawaiian shirt had its beginnings here.
The Hawaiian shirt’s most appealing feature is its wildly varied combination. It’s the ultimate culture blender, and everything that comes out of it is the greatest! It doesn’t end there; influences from French Polynesia, China, and California have all influenced the Hawaiian shirt we know today.
What’s your favorite way to wear a Tombolo?
When it comes to wearing a Hawaiian, our unwritten rule is that there are no rules. It all comes down to having a good time and not taking yourself too seriously. If you’re just getting started with Hawaiian shirts, a decent beginning point for guys is to combine the shirt with plain, solid shorts or pants. Allow the print to speak for itself! Go up a size and let it swing off your shoulders with the sleeves dusting your elbows if you want to seem like an incredibly laid-back, retro loaf.
As a brand created by males, we are constantly amazed by the creative ways women wear our shirts. It’s exciting to see ladies incorporate print colors into their accessories, such as earrings and sunglasses, to create a wildly colorful yet coherent ensemble. Vintage jeans or a short skirt are a tried and true classic.
Honolulu’s fashion crowd organized “Operation Liberation” in the 1960s, a push to replace heavy suits with lighter clothing and Aloha shirts at work. As a result, “casual Fridays” were instituted in government buildings and workplaces. With the wave of athleisure and Aloha shirts, are we in the second phase of “Operation Liberation”?
We concur that a second phase of “Operation Liberation” is underway… This time, however, it isn’t about saving men from too formal dress. This time, it’s about shattering prejudices about Hawaiian shirts so that they can be worn by anybody, everywhere. Why can’t you wear a shirt like this on a night out or at your new job instead of only at the beach? Why can’t women put these on in the same way as males can? Our shirts, with creative artwork that conveys a story, are the ultimate wearable form of self-expression; they should be free of tacky irrelevance. That is an operation in which we are attempting to assist.