The Hawaiian Shirt: Its Art and History

Overview

In this beautiful little book—illustrated with dozens of shirts—Thomas Steele tells the story of this remarkable art form, details its different varieties, discusses the materials, designers, and manufacturers, and presents the fine points that make a shirt collectible.

Unknown in the Islands until missionaries introduced a drab forerunner to cover "heathen nakedness"—which the irrepressible Hawaiians soon decorated with hand-printed geometric motifs from the traditional tapa ...

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1984 Hard cover First edition. New. 96 p. Color illustrations

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Overview

In this beautiful little book—illustrated with dozens of shirts—Thomas Steele tells the story of this remarkable art form, details its different varieties, discusses the materials, designers, and manufacturers, and presents the fine points that make a shirt collectible.

Unknown in the Islands until missionaries introduced a drab forerunner to cover "heathen nakedness"—which the irrepressible Hawaiians soon decorated with hand-printed geometric motifs from the traditional tapa cloth—the genuine Hawaiian shirt is now regarded as a work of art and avidly sought out by collectors. When tourism came to Hawaii in the late 1920s, these unusual shirts were among the first things that visitors had to have. Local designers and tailors worked quickly to meet the demand and began to expand the range of decoration to include palm trees and romantic beaches, tropical jungles and volcanoes, exotic flowers and scenes from Polynesian legend. The Hawaiian shirt had been born.

Other Details: 175 full-color illustrations 9 x 9" Published 1984

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896594197
  • Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1984
  • Series: Recollectibles Series
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 9.33 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

As someone active in the graphic arts, I have always appreciated the fabric design of the Hawaiian shirt and have been cataloging its variety for more than ten years. The functional use of creative colors and the amazing artistic renderings in these shirts certainly capture the simplicity and spirit of Hawaii. Although the Hawaiian language contains only 12 letters in its alphabet, the Islands' visual vocabulary has been virtually unlimited. Furthermore, the innocence with which Hawaiians formerly translated their life and heritage onto fabric ranks these shirts with the finest of American folk art. Their old-guard designers considered integrity toward their work a factor as essential as technique, and this most certainly is a lost art form. Technology and mass-production have rendered obsolete the artistry and individuality there once was.

This book is not merely an encyclopedia of Hawaiian design. It is a portrait of a special time and place, both real and imagined, of the place's history and geography, and of the spirit of its people as seen in its wearable art. Hawaii is still an alluring paradise. Today, the local shops carry plenty of tropical garments, but the original silk, rayon, or cotton shirts are not to be found. Most of what is offered now shares the identical, mass-produced, synthetic prints made for every member of the family. You know you are in Hawaii when her muu-muu matches his shirt!

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Prints of Paradise

Hollywood Hawaiian

Patterned Shirts

Shirt Labels

Duke Kahanamoku

Border Shirts

Picture Shirts

The Designers

Women's Clothing

Made in Japan

Hawaiiana

Aloha!

Acknowledgments

Author Biography: H. Thomas Steele runs his own Los Angeles-based graphic design studio specializing in entertainment graphics, illustration, film graphics, and book design. He has designed album covers and advertising for CBS, MCA, Elektra/Asylum, and Warner Brothers records. In the spirit of the true collector, he has shot more than 10,000 color slides cataloging Hawaiian shirts, clothes, and fabric samples from the 1920s to the present. Steele is also the author of the prize-wining Bowl-O-Rama: The Visual Arts of Bowling (Silver Award, Art Directors Annual; AIGA Book Show, et al.), Lick 'Em, Stick 'Em: The Lost Art of Poster Stamps, and co-author (with Jim Heimann and Rod Dyer) of Close Cover Before Striking: The Golden Age of Matchbook Art.

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