Give that manly man flowers Vibrant: Splashy prints of hibiscus and palm trees, birds and pineapples adorn men's Hawaiian shirts this summer



PHOENIX -- Real men wear floral -- and look darned good doing so.

They have for decades.

Elvis was king, and he wore an Aloha shirt in the 1963 movie "Blue Hawaii." Frank Sinatra sported one in "From Here to Eternity," set in 1941. During their terms in office, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower were known for their off-time tropical shirts.

Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, flashy floral Aloha shirts -- and the more contemporary "motif" sports shirts -- are back in fashion for the male of the species this summer.

"I think people today are drawn to Aloha shirts because they suggest another time," said Janet Giese, buyer for the Hawaiian Shop in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"Young guys like them. Older guys like them. Business guys like them. They reflect an attitude. The guys who wear them seem pretty sure of themselves."

And macho -- you bet. Vibrant island prints can be very manly.

Catch the coming floral-shirted performance of actor Nicolas Cage. He plays a buff police detective in the flick "Snake Eyes," scheduled for release later this summer.

The "Jungle Bird" Hawaiian shirt that hunk actor Tom Selleck made popular in the television series "Magnum P.I." is an icon of Americana. It hangs in the Smithsonian Institution, for heaven's sake.

"The look is not isolated to one particular customer," said John Coumbe, owner of John's & Co., a high-end Phoenix men's shop. "Ralph Lauren's doing it. Armani's doing it. Everybody's got a piece of it in their summer line. It's considered to be in good taste."

As such, designs with obnoxious touristy prints -- such as those grounded in Pepto-Bismol pink and sewn of polyester -- are not the prevailing trend.

"Some guys love those wild and flashy prints, and they wear them all the time," Giese said. "They've been wearing those for years. But there's also this trend toward classy, tasteful shirts that have some panache to them -- some pizazz."

It's true. This summer's crop of casual island-inspired fashion shirts tend toward "artful sophistication" and "retro chic." Rayon, Egyptian cotton and textured silk are the fabrics of choice. Some of the season's best designs are reproductions of patterns dating to the 1940s -- when Hawaiian shirts were considered sophisticated sportswear.

What appeals to today's fashionable gentlemen, Coumbe said, are patterns that are not too wild. He described the look as "easy."

"It's not so flashy. It's low-key," he said. "It could be orange -- as long as the pattern is simple and not overpowering."

If worn appropriately, a vibrant island-scene shirt exudes an aura of confidence. A hibiscus print hanging from broad shoulders reflects a relaxed approach to life. For that matter, a palm tree and pineapple print conveys an overall casual outlook.

The bottom line: These shirts are fun to wear. They are pleasing to the eye. And they can be great conversation pieces at a poolside party.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.