A Kahala shirt makes you feel good. It’s that simple. Our artwork reflects the lifestyle and vibrancy of Hawai’i. We carry a bit of the Waikiki beach boy spirit in our hearts, surf when the waves are good and never turn down an adventure.
We are family owned, community minded and committed to manufacturing the majority of our collection locally. After all, an aloha shirt made here in Hawai’i means something special.
Kahala was founded in Honolulu, Hawai’i in 1936 by George Brangier and Nat Norfleet. At the time, all aloha shirts were made to order out of Japanese kimono fabric. Kahala was the first company in Honolulu to switch to factory manufacturing with the intent to export and wholesale aloha shirts. Kahala is the oldest operating apparel company in Hawai‘i.
The 1940’s & 1950’S
During World War II, silk was rationed by the military for use in parachutes, and most manufacturers reduced their production substantially. Rayon became a postwar favorite as it was a more economical material that didn’t sacrifice the signature feeling of silk. The term “Silky” was popularized, and island motifs were now featured in the print designs, often including coconut trees, surfers, canoes, fish, flowers and other icons of Hawai‘i.
Kahala shirts made a splash on the silver screen in the 1950’s as legendary actors, and friends of Kahala’s founders, wore our shirts in such movies as 1953’s epic: From Here to Eternity. In the 1950’s, the advent of faster planes made it even easier for visitors to travel to Hawai’i and in August 1959, Hawai’i became the 50th state, boosting the economy significantly.
The late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw the introduction of the “reverse” print. Printing on to the backside of the fabric produced a more subdued effect, which soon became a favorite of local businessmen. In 1960, our most storied print, Duke’s Pareo, was introduced. It was one of the first and most iconic “reverse” prints ever made and was originally sold in just 2 colors. Currently offered in 10 different colorways, the classic print style and simple color combinations have stood the test of time, and Duke’s Pareo is as relevant now as it was nearly 60 years ago.
The 1970’s & 1980’S
Expanding into different product categories, Kahala’s women’s apparel category continued to grow through the 70s, and prints designs favored bold florals, paisleys, and graphic prints.
Neons and pastels were the popular color trends of the 80’s and aloha shirts often showcased simple design motifs in fun contrasting colors. There was also a resurgence in reverse-print cotton broadcloth.
The 1990’s and 2000’s
Conversational prints became popular in the 90’s and the fit of the shirts became much fuller. It was also during this time that a guest artist program gained popularity, as new relationships were forged between Kahala and talented creatives.
The new millennium inspired us to embrace our waterman roots, with new product categories developed for an active life exploring land and sea.
Continuing our tradition of innovation in art and fabrics, we’ve launched exciting new products including our Collector’s Edition – a limited series of aloha shirts featuring iconic 1940s heritage prints, as well as collaborations with guest artists, designers, and community partners, each with a distinct perspective of life in Hawaii.