dimanche 24 juin 2012

The Aloha Shirt

You don’t have to be Hawaiian to love Hawaiian shirts. You don’t even have to wear one to enjoy THE ALOHA SHIRT: Spirit of the Islands (Beyond Words, $45). Dale Hope and Gregory Tozian write, ”Aloha puts into one word the warm sense of greeting, love and playfulness for which Hawaii is well known,” a spirit evoked through the tropical colors and Polynesian patterns emblazoned on the classic Hawaiian or Aloha shirt. It began as a novelty souvenir, selling for 95 cents during the early 1930′s, when Hawaii was emerging as a tourist paradise. Soon the shirt grew into a major industry with its own master textile designers and printmakers. Profusely illustrated with photographs, drawings, advertisements, tags and labels, the book is a history of the shirt’s designers and manufacturers. The illustrations are delightful. Film posters and record covers feature celebrity poster boys like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby (who lent his name to a shirt label) and Montgomery Clift, who in the 1953 movie ”From Here to Eternity” takes a fatal bullet in his lovely Aloha. There is also a section on the varieties of coconut buttons sewn onto vintage garments. But the real treat is reproductions of the shirts themselves, more than 100 of them, spread out like wallpaper swatches, with lyrical, weird or kitschy designs like palm trees, sailboats, flying fish, surfboards, exploding volcanoes, hula girls and night-blooming cereus patterns. One favorite, from 1959, is the ”Okole Maluna” or ”Bottoms Up.” Steven Heller

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