western aloha makes everywhereable
clothing and gear inspired by
the spirit of Aloha and our home
on the Big Island of Hawaii.
From beach to bar, sea to snow, and Waimea to Waikiki,
you can happily wear Western Aloha.
The Big Island: Where this story starts
Western Aloha celebrates the Aloha Lifestyle. There is no better place for this celebration than on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Small World, Big Island.
Drive from a warm, sandy beach to the top of a nearly 14,000 foot high, snow-capped volcano in under two hours. Hawaii is a unique, unexpected, and often surreal gathering of incredibly diverse populations, cultures, and physical environments.
Western Aloha is honored and fortunate to call the Big Island our home.
The fun, confident, and extraordinary Aloha Lifestyle is personified in the paniolo -- the Hawaiian cowboy.
The paniolo’s everyday life consists of activities normally associated with Hawaii, such as surfing and enjoying the beach, but paniolos also participate in activities such as cattle ranching, rodeos, and spending time in the snow-capped mountains.
While these latter activities are associated with the American West, they also are an integral part of the Aloha Lifestyle as it has existed in Hawaii for centuries.
Paniolo were wrangling cattle (and surfing) in Hawaii before there were cowboys in Texas.
Our Spirit: Take It Easy. But Take It.
Relaxing while pushing the edge. Succeeding with style and grace. Achieving collective goals. Being a good sport. Staying true to the spirit of Aloha while living your dreams.
The Western Aloha Boar
The boar (pua’a) carries strong cultural value in Hawaii. Resilient and aggressive when hunted, the Hawaiian boar also can be very friendly and intelligent. They are hardworking and adaptable. And they are delicious.
The Western Aloha boar is confident enough to wear a lei and even ride on a surfboard. He takes it easy as he goes about his day.
The Western Aloha Shirt
There were cowboys (the Paniolo) in Hawaii before Texas was even a State. So we made our Western Aloha shirts to combine the performance and style of western shirts with prints inspired by the spirit of Aloha. Western Aloha Shirts are designed to be lightweight, durable, versatile, functional, and comfortable. We use a special fabric blend that gets softer and more broken in as it is worn, until the shirt becomes the most comfortable and easy-going shirt in your closet.
WESTERN SHIRT CONSTRUCTION
Our Western Aloha shirt is inspired by classic western shirts. With origins in traditional work wear, western shirts developed their own distinct style suitable for town or ranch. Although we mix things up a bit to create our own style, our Western Aloha Shirts have some or all of the following features:
Like the Big Island, our textile designs marry elements of different cultures and styles from around the world with the spirit of Aloha found only in Hawaii. Working within the tradition of Hawaiian designers and guided by the knowledge of our Art Director, Dale Hope, Western Aloha's prints tell stories about the amazing culture, history, and nature of the Islands.
Entire books have been written about the origins of the distinctive, playful textile prints featured on Aloha shirts. In brief, the shirt first came into existence sometime in the 1920s in Honolulu, although the identity of its first designer is obscured by the mists of time. One thing that seems clear enough is that some of the first Aloha shirts were made out of colorful, printed cloth imported from Japan and China that typically was used for women's kimonos. Tailors of Japanese heritage who had set up shop in Honolulu discovered a new market for this colorful kimono fabric among Hawaiian locals and tourists alike, who found that the bright, playful textile designs matched the Aloha lifestyle.
According to Dale Hope --legendary Hawaiian shirtmaker, Aloha shirt historian, and Western Aloha Art Director -- in his incredible book, "The Aloha Shirt," by the 1950s the design of Hawaiian prints had grown into a distinctly Hawaiian art form:
"Artists and designers began to interpret their island surroundings. [Hawaiian designers] started to create their own designs substituting what had traditionally been Japanese styled motifs and prints on the imported fabrics. Diamond Head was substituted for Mt. Fuji, Japanese pine trees changed to coconut trees, and thatched huts with ocean scenes and surfers, canoes on waves, canoes sailing, fish and flowers replaced bamboo, cranes, tigers and shrines that characterized the first prints from the Orient. Romantic island motifs and tropical imagery adorned these new casual shirts that reflected one’s encounters with this new dreamy and spirited tropical Paradise."
Working within this tradition, Western Aloha doesn’t buy seasonal, off-the-shelf prints inspired by current trends. Rather, we work with incredibly talented graphic and textile artists to create original prints that are uniquely Western Aloha. With the talents and knowledge of our Art Director, Dale Hope, we also curate the most amazing vintage prints, bringing these beautiful but often forgotten works of art back to life in wearable fashions.
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:"
"The 1932 Trade, Commercial, and Industrial Development Committee of the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce reported that '[f]or years the laborer has worn a palaka to work, it has been part of the cowboy's picturesque costume, and stevedores have worn them on the docks. In recent years the smart set of Hawaii have annexed the palaka . . . to their wardrobes. Boys and girls wear them to school, to play, to football games, to parties; the younger set wear them to house parties, to cocktail parties, and beach parties.'"
The palaka is the true Hawaiian work-party fabric (perfect for pau hana). Our palaka fabric is inspired by an old pineapple worker's jacket owned by Dale Hope. But rather than using a stiff and heavy fabric, our palaka is made of our lightweight and versatile Cowboy Cloth, while retaining the original’s colors and twill weave. Our Palaka "Nui" (meaning large/many/great) doubles the size of the plaid and combines white with at least two other colors -- often a combination of other traditional palaka colors.
“Pareu” is the Tahitian word for a lightweight printed cotton fabric that was first imported into Polynesia by the French during the early 1800s. Mostly English made, the pareu began to replace the traditional tapa, which was made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree. Unlike tapa, pareu was easy to manufacture in bulk, dried relatively quickly, and was hard to tear. Like the tapa, pareu fabric was wrapped around the body and decorated with striking textile designs.
Tahitians wore pareu fabric casually, knotted in different styles for men and women. The fabric was printed with large floral motifs, often of beautiful flowing designs of hibiscus and breadfruit. The fabric usually was white with one additional bright color, often a deep blue, red, or green.
During the 1930s, the motifs and colors of the pareu began to influence the prints begin used in Hawaii for Aloha shirts. By the 1950s, the pareu print had become a distinct and very popular design style for the Aloha shirt.
While many traditional pareu-printed Aloha shirts are made of a thick cotton fabric, our pareus are printed on our lightweight Cowboy Cloth and on our lightweight dress fabric. Rather than just using large motifs printed in two colors, our printing technique allows for endless sizes and colors.
Cowboys have never been shy about decorating their clothing. (Ever seen pair of fancy cowboy boots?) Rhinestones, piping, leather tassels, and, of course, embroidery have all played a part in the evolution of the western shirt. It could be said that these fabric decorations are like the colorful prints found on Aloha shirts -- adding an element of style to a garment borne of practicality.
Rather than roses, six shooters, and cacti adorning both shoulders, Western Aloha's embroidery is a bit more subtle in color and size. And our original motifs are inspired by our natural surroundings, including the koa and ohia lehua trees native to the Big Island. Working with western chain-stitch embroidery artists, we use our embroidery as an alternative to printed fabric in telling our Western Aloha stories.
Western Aloha is based in one of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth. Rising from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Big Island is also one of the most geographically isolated places. Where and how we manufacture our products are part of this story.
When searching for a responsible textile manufacturer and the perfect fabric, we realized our ideal fabric didn’t exist. So we went to work with a woven fabric maker in Taiwan that shares our commitment to the environment, with a long history of demonstrating sustainable textile production and resource management. In the end, we created "Cowboy Cloth" -- a special dual fiber blend that feels as soft as cotton but with the performance characteristics of a synthetic.
Aside from being ridiculously comfortable, Cowboy Cloth is:
- easy care;
- quick to dry;
- breathable and durable;
- able to perform in environments as varied as those found on the Big Island.
With care, Cowboy Cloth will last a long time and only improve with wear. If you're anything like us, you'll live in it.
Cut and Sew
Most of our shirt styles -- and all of our printed shirts and dresses -- are cut and sewn in El Paso, Texas by a family-owned factory run by two brothers who are third-generation western shirt makers.
Our plaids and solids currently are cut and sewn in Taiwan at the same factory that weaves our fabric. For us, and at this time, this is the best manufacturing option. We'd love to keep all our cut and sew in the US and will do so where we can.
Our Printing Method
We print our fabrics using a small batch, artisanal printing process. Sometimes we use the reverse side of the fabric as the face, giving a softer effect to the artwork.
Our reverse prints trap happiness inside, while our front prints radiate happiness to the world.
We don’t carry excess inventory, so if a print sells out it may be gone forever, or it may come back in different colors, or even a different scale. One thing is for certain: Our prints and colors may vary but they are always one-of-a-kind.