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Hawaiian Shirts & Dresses and the Aloha Friday Tradition

Hawaiian shirts, or Aloha shirts as they are called in Hawaii, have been a part of Hawaii’s culture since they were invented back in the 1930s. Because of Hawaii’s warm weather and casual lifestyle, the formal business suit is not used as the day-to-day business attire. In 1947 city of Honolulu began encouraging people to wear Hawaiian shirts to work from June through August to beat the summer heat. Since then, aloha wear as work attire has grown from summer wear to Friday wear to everyday wear.

The aloha wear of Hawaii’s workers are not as bright or colorful as the Hawaiian shirts commonly shown by Hollywood. In the movies, people usually wear them while sipping mai tais on the beach or while pounding alcohol at a wild college party. The Aloha shirts worn by most of Hawaii’s workers are more subdued because after all, people can't go to work everyday looking like they're on vacation.  

During lunch hour in heart of Honolulu’s business district on Wednesdays and Fridays, Hawaiian bands entertain lunch goers at Bishop Square. The food and music create a fun and relaxing atmosphere as people wind down the week and get ready for the weekend.   

Some Hawaii companies take Aloha Friday one step further and will allow or even co-sponsor a “Pau Hana Friday”, which is usually the last Friday of the month. At these offices, the company will contribute some money to buy pupus (Hawaiian appetizers) like poke and pipikaula, chips, soda, and in some cases beer. For the very lucky, the boss may even let the Pau Hana party start an hour before the normal end of the work day, as long as the work that needs to get done is taken care off. It’s a great time for co-workers to interact with each other on a social basis, which can be good for morale, unless you harbor hatred for your peers.  

Many companies on the mainland have taken up a Casual Friday or Dress Down Friday policy, allowing people to dress a little more casually on Fridays. If such an office happens to have one or two people from Hawaii , those people will probably wear an Aloha shirt or dress to work on Friday. Next, their office mates or cubicle neighbors might go out and buy their own Hawaiian shirt for Fridays. Slowly, it spreads until eventually the entire office has transformed Casual Friday to Aloha Friday.  

It is remarkable what the little act of wearing a Hawaiian shirt to the office can do to one’s mindset. Putting on an Aloha shirt is a little bit like putting on a different attitude that lets one take a big picture perspective and appreciate some of the simpler things in life. Afterall, if you’re not happy, then what’s the point, right?

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