How to identify an authentic Hawaiian shirt



2016-04-28 15:56:21

Hawaiian shirts began to be produced in the 1920s and are characterised by their bright colours and vibrant designs.

Depending on age and maker, they can be valuable.

Early specimens, such as those from the 1930s and 1940s, often sell for several thousand dollars in good condition. 

So next time you find yourself in a vintage clothing store, follow these tips to check whether you have an original or a modern remake.


Early Aloha shirts are made from kimono material, brought to Hawaii by the Japanese.

Image: eBay

Image: eBay

Over time companies began to create their own designs, which were sold to tourists and spread around the world.

The very earliest shirts were made from silk and cotton, but by the end of the 1920s Rayon was the material of choice.

Pre-1960s Rayon is of much higher quality than the later kind, meaning that one of the easiest ways to determine a shirt’s age is to give it a feel.

Image: eBay

Image: eBay

Often vintage shirts appear faded and this will extend to the inside of the shirt. Modern specimens may ape the faded effect, but often the inside will appear new.


Buttons are another simple way to determine age.

The earliest buttons used were made from coconut shell. These are the most sought after, although metal also indicates quality.  

Buttonholes are usually horizontal. 


Image: eBay

Image: eBay

Shirts from the 1940s and earlier tend to be short and cut straight across the hem, while the collar is generally longer than on a modern shirt. 


The label offers a wealth of information.

One of the most obvious things to check for is a “made in Hawaii” label. Another is a laundry label – as these were not introduced until the 1960s. 

In terms of brands, some names to keep an eye out for include Kuonakakai, Duke Kahanamoku and Musashiya. 

The best quality examples of all of these shirts regularly sell for around the $1,500-2,000 mark. 

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