Paniolo Palaka Shirt Origins

paniolo and palaka shirts_western aloha

 Before we explore the origins of the Paniolo Palaka Shirt, let's answer one of the most frequently asked questions around this topic : what is a paniolo?

What is a Paniolo?

hawaiian paniolo wearing palaka shirt_western aloha

Paniolo David Kuloloia and his horse, 1930's (Hawaii State Archives, PP-13-6.010)

A Paniolo is an Hawaiian Cowboy.

"The first cattle were gifted to Hawaiʻi in 1793. Uncontrolled, they eventually plundered villages, gardens and farms. By invitation from King Kamehameha III, vaquero arrived as mentors of the native Hawaiians. Thus began the unique story of the Hawaiian Paniolo."

Paniolo Preservation Society

When did Paniolo's Begin Wearing Palaka Shirts?

The palaka is a traditional Hawaiian shirt that finds its origins in the shirts worn by English and American sailors landing in Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands) in the early 1800s. These sailor's shirts had a loose fit, long sleeves, and were worn untucked. (Sounds like the palaka might also have inspired the style of the Aloha shirt, doesn’t it?)

Unlike the light, colorful kimono fabric used for the Aloha shirt, the palaka was woven of heavy duty, cotton twill fabric, yarn-dyed in a plaid design. This sturdy fabric was soon traded between sailors and local Hawaiians, and the palaka eventually became the standard work shirt for plantation workers and paniolos. As detailed in Dale Hope's book, "The Aloha Shirt:" 

Read more about the history of Palaka Shirts