Are you planning to open an Aloha shirt manufacturer? Or wondering how to make a Hawaiian shirt? No matter what your intentions are when clicking this link, you have come to the right place. Also, no matter where you are from, I bet you are too familiar with the lively patterns of Aloha apparel.

Today, I want to introduce you to a manufacturing process that produces very trendy clothing items: Hawaiian shirts. You may be familiar with basic pieces like t-shirts or polo shirts, but what we are going to discuss is quite exclusive and intriguing.

So, before getting to know how Hawaiian shirt manufacturers do their job step-by-step, let’s start with understanding how they originated and became popular.

The background

Just like the fashion industry, Hawaiian shirts surely have a very rich history. In the 1920s and 1930s, immigrants to Hawaii brought with them their fashion and textiles, which started the earliest days of clothing manufacturers on this island.

First Hawaiian shirts
Aloha shirt in the making (the 1920s)

Back in those times, Japanese tailors in Honolulu were the ones who created the first versions of Aloha apparel. By collaborating Western-style shirts with Japanese fabrics, the colorful Hawaiian shirts have brought a new vibe to the fashion world. Cotton and silk were the main materials used for these shirts.

A couple of decades later, the late 1950s was regarded as the Golden Age of Hawaiian apparel. This was the time when mainlanders returned home from the island. They carried with them Hawaiian shirts, towels, and drink parasols. Together with the unique prints, Hawaiian wear was also famous for its smooth rayon material.

In the 60s and 70s when new waves of fashion appeared, the Aloha style began to fade. And it hasn’t made an aggressive comeback until the 90s’ movies and recent years. A big thanks to the creative clothing designers and makers at Hyperfavor, Levi’s, Urban Outfitters, etc.

Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a Hawaiian shirt
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Romeo & Juliet” (1996)

While Hawaiian shirt print designs are created differently from the past thanks to computer technology’s development, the strict and precise manufacturing process remains. Let’s see what manufacturers answer how to make a Hawaiian shirt in the next parts.

Steps to make a Hawaiian shirt

There are 5 main steps to making a Hawaiian shirt that you can see anywhere and anytime. While a shirt looks quite simple with all the repeating patterns, every step requires a high level of experience, delicacy, and accuracy.

Creating the designs

This is the first step in making a Hawaiian shirt: designing the patterns that will be featured all over the fabric. The common ones are either scenic landscapes (beaches, mountains, trees, etc.) or repeating patterns of birds, flowers, and any other island signatures.

With their skills and specialization in designing Hawaiian shirts, graphic artists often sketch their designs on the computer first, then refine them following the shirt form. This step is very important since it decides how the patterns will turn out after printing.

Choosing Hawaiian print fabrics

Depending on customers’ preferences, manufacturers have different Hawaiian print material choices. The popular ones are cotton, silk, polyester, and rayon. Often, lighter materials like rayon and silk are used in modern designs. On the other hand, vintage styles are usually made of cotton or polyester.

Hawaiian print fabrics
Hawaiian fabrics in the early days

Preparing the cutouts

Normally, people think that all Hawaiian shirts have the same form. However, each Aloha apparel brand sells its products with unique details. This is why before printing, the size of all collars, sleeves, number of buttons, etc. must be carefully calculated to create the cutouts.

The cutouts often consist of different pieces of a shirt: the main body, a pocket, a collar, and the sleeves.

Printing and cutting

When the designs are finalized, they are printed and handed over to the cutting table. Here, multiple layers of various prints are put on top of each other and a sheet of paper. Depending on the cutouts’ frames just prepared, different sections of the shirt are traced deliberately.

Using a super sharp electric knife, the technicians cut the layers into desirable pieces of the Hawaiian shirts. They have to be really focused and careful since a tiny mistake can result in failure to the whole batch.

Sewing and finalizing

Once all pieces are correctly cut out following the wanted sizes and scales, they are gathered together and delivered to the next destination: sewing companies. After waiting for a few weeks or more, the manufacturers can receive the complete batch of Hawaiian apparel. The time often depends on the number of fabrics sent and machines’ productivity

Besides sewing the sections together, sewing companies also create holes, add buttons, and iron the shirts.  Then, they send the finished products back to the manufacturers.

Delivery to clothing stores

When everything is finished, all freshly-made shirts are sent to clothing stores and ready to serve both their old and new customers. With different materials, details during the manufacturing process, and other external factors, each design is sold at a distinct price.

Hawaiian prints
A Hawaiian shirt store in Bangkok, Thailand

So, above are the origins of typical island apparel together with all steps on how to make a Hawaiian shirt done. It is undeniable that the fashion and printing industry always has a way to intrigue us!

After reading, what do you have in mind right now? To me, getting to know how a familiar piece of clothing is made is both fun and eye-opening. I will have to go buy one Hawaiian item right now, just because why not?