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The workweek is officially over. The tender buzz from the two Pacificos you had with your lunch tacos wore off hours ago, you just drove home like a madman blaring beerbongs & bentleys, and you’re ripping off your tie before you’ve even unlocked the front door. You and your crew already have plans to meet at a local watering hole to start your weekend.
Once you’ve eaten, snagged a quick pump on your doorframe pull-up bar, and finished your shower beer, you stand nude in front of your open closet as you contemplate what outfit to rock for the evening. You throw on a pair of indigo jeans and slip into your trusty high-top Vans, but you’re still trying to decide on a shirt to complete your ensemble.
If you want my advice, don’t choose a plaid button down or an earth tone t-shirt underneath a polyester bomber jacket. The only shirt fitting for this sacred day of the week is the choice of great men like Elvis, Duke Kahanamoku, and Hunter S. Thompson: an Aloha shirt. You may ask, “But Uncle Goose, why an Aloha shirt?” Because, dear reader, it’s motherfuckin’ Aloha Friday.
While Aloha Friday (or to the laymen, “Casual Friday”) is a well-known concept in mainland corporate America, it originates from the youngest state in our union: Hawaii. In 1962 the Hawaiian Fashion Guild launched a campaign called “Operation Liberation” where they gifted Aloha shirts to members of the Hawaiian government in a successful effort to loosen the dress code in professional culture and allow for more comfortable “Aloha attire” to be worn during the steamy summer months.
Once word of this trend trend got back to California, all the surfers-turned-titans-of-industry running businesses on the western seaboard began to implement Casual Friday in their own offices. The permeation of this tradition into SoCal culture is how I was first introduced to the concept of Aloha Friday.
Students at my high school would wear Aloha Shirts on Fridays as a way to celebrate the end of the week while still remaining compliant with the school’s collared shirt dress code requirements. The trend was so popular that our school even sold Aloha shirts spattered with tropical prints and our logo. We’re chill as hell, I know.
When I moved to the Midwest for college I was disappointed that I rarely if ever saw another soul in an Aloha shirt. It just didn’t feel natural, and I knew it was my duty to continue celebrating Aloha Friday and spread the good word of this sacred tradition to Middle America. I would bust out my loudest Aloha shirts every Friday when students would gather on the patio of an iconic campus bar for the sacred tradition of “Beat the Clock”. Will’s alma mater has a cute version of BtC too, ask him about it.
Needless to say, people began to take notice. I almost needed rotator cuff surgery after all the high fives I got for my shirts. Week by week more sloppy frat dudes on that patio opted for Alohas instead of retro jerseys, and I couldn’t have been more proud. To this day, when you drive by that Friday afternoon madhouse, Aloha shirt aficionados are still showing out in droves. I’m not going to take 100% of the credit for resurrecting Alohas on campus, but I know in my bones I was the main catalyst. Let’s call it 70/30. Don’t let anyone from my school tell you otherwise.
There’s just something about a tropical pattern that makes your heart smile, which is why wearing Aloha shirts in the dead of winter is a great survival tactic. It warms your soul and makes you almost feel like you’re crisping in the sun on a beach instead of trudging through snow to wait in line for a bar. It’s the same psychological strategy as drinking Mexican import beers when the weather sucks: you’re simply trying to trick yourself in to thinking that you’re somewhere warmer, and that shit works.
By now you’re probably chomping at the bit to start living the Aloha Friday life if you aren’t already. If you don’t have an Aloha shirt hanging in your closet, take my advice before you run out and buy one. While some modern day companies are making good looking Aloha shirts, prioritize buying retro shirts with unique patterns and higher quality materials. Buying an off-the-rack or mass-produced shirt just doesn’t have quite the same feel as finding a retro pattern that truly speaks to you. I recommend searching consignment shops or looking on eBay. Keep your eye out for old Reyn Spooner shirts; I got some great ones from my grandfather that he bought on Oahu back in the day and they’re bitchin’.
When broken down to it’s linguistic roots, the word “Aloha” can be roughly interpreted as “the joyful sharing of life energy in the present,” and that’s the best way to sum up the mentality of wearing an Aloha shirt. You’re putting out the vibe that you’re up for anything Friday throws at you. You’re showing the world that you’d be equally as comfortable at a beachfront BBQ crushing a 24oz Pacifico as you would be in a smoky, subterranean deep house club getting down to some funky beats.
Wearing an Aloha gives you a confident mental edge and separates you from the crowd, and it helps set the tone for your Friday. That pattern on your shirt is a unique expression of your personality and flair; it’s a beacon of carefree positivity and exuberance to the universe.
While you’re out on the town, people will look at you and wonder if you’re going to sit on a patio and sip beers for the rest of the evening or if you’re going to shoot a flight of tequila and paint the town red, because who knows what you’re up to? You don’t even know, because that beautiful hunk of Egyptian cotton draped over your shoulders shows the universe that you’re down for absolutely anything. So throw on your loudest Aloha shirt, walk out the door, and see where the Friday flow takes you. It’s impossible to have a boring night when you’re wearing an Aloha shirt..