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First commercial aloha shirt produced
Ellery J. Chun was the first to produce a commercially-made island sport shirt, what he called an "aloha shirt." Chun, working through Wong's Products, had previously manufactured work clothes. The forerunner to the aloha shirt was the palaka, a solid-colored work shirt worn by plantation workers. Aloha shirts featured tropical-print fabrics and a style that was more casual. Some designers produced custom fabrics for kama`aina families or for special occasions, but soon aloha shirt production expanded to meet the demands of tourists seeking exotic souvenirs to take home with them. Kamehameha Garment Company and Branfleet (later Kahala) were two of the first companies to produce sportswear lines targeted to tourists. The fabrics they used were generally designed in Hawai`i then printed in California and sent back to Hawai`i to be sewn into shirts. The finished product was then shipped again to supply mainland markets. A shipping strike in 1936 forced the companies to explore the local island market which brought them renewed success. The years 1936-1939 were big growth years for the garment industry in general and each company typically came out with 15 or more new shirt designs each year. After World War II, Hawaii's greater visibility in the world boosted aloha shirt sales and the advent of local events like Aloha Week (begun in 1948) and Aloha Friday cemented the place of the aloha shirt in local wardrobes.
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