Ama Geta Cruet & Aloha Shirt Origins

wafuku blog aug 12 logo A

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

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Ama Geta Cruet.
I bought this cute cruet set on eBay, from a seller in the USA. How could I possibly resist salt and pepper pots in the shape of ama geta? As you can see, they were a little dusty when they arrived but they have cleaned up nicely.
Geta are Japanese shoes, usually made from wood, and ama geta are ones with toe covers, which are usually removable and held on by tying or with elastic, to keep feet warm and dry during rain or snow. The back of the foot is protected by the kimono, so only the toes need to be covered. There are different types of Japanese geta, all of which you can find information about in my Japanese Footwear post on this blog (you can use the blog’s search to find it).









Hawaiian shirts began with kimono textiles.
Hawaiian shirts, also known as aloha shirts, were originally were shirts worn by children in Hawaii. Sugar cane and pineapple plantation workers, mostly immigrants, made clothing, including kimonos, with imported textiles, in order to supplement their extremely low incomes. The colourful shirts that they made from leftover scraps for their children then became a fad among teenagers on Hawaii in the 1930s and many tourists who saw them wanted to take one of these bright, summery shirts home, as there was nothing like them available anywhere else, so the tourists got the local Hawaiian tailors to make them one.




Ellery J. Chun, after gaining an economics degree at Yale, went to work for his father, Chun Kam Chow, in Honolulu because his father’s dry goods store was not doing well during the depression and, after a short while in Hawaii, Ellery realised that these colourful, short sleeved shirts were ever popular with tourists, so he hired a tailor to make them for the store. There were no authentic, colourful Hawaiian textiles in those days, so he imported the most brightly coloured and boldly patterned textiles he could find from Japan, ones that the Japanese produced to make kimonos. He displayed the shirts in the window of his father’s shop and they sold extremely well.


In time his  sister, Ethel Lum, started designing prints for the shirts with pineapples, palm trees, tropical flowers, exotic birds, ukuleles, and other motifs associated with Hawaii. These shirts with the new designs sold for 95 cents and sold even better than the original ones. The shirts gained interest in other countries when the tourists went home, in turn creating interest in Hawaii and likely adding to its tourism. The Hawaiian shirt was clearly more than just a passing fad.

Many famous figures were to be seen wearing them, both in their films and in their private lives, adding to their popularity.



Tom Sellick, as the character Magnum, revived the popularity of the aloha shirt in the 1980s.



Many designers can’t resist the Hawaiian shirt or its influence and it crops up now and then on the catwalk.



Elvis helped make them high fashion in the 50s.



This is an interesting twist on a Hawaiian shirt, one I bought for a friend, with a great Che Guevara motif. It is a nice mix of Hawaiian style and a motif that was especially popular during my friend’s hippy youth and still is a bit today.



There are some great Hawaiian shirts out there and Hawaiian style shirts. Below you can see a Tommy Hilfiger one with hibiscus flowers, a very typical Hawaiian motif.



A typical island print, with palm trees and hibiscus.



Loud and leafy


Planet Hollywood got in on the act of the Hawaiian style shirt too.



Mambo is a brand that does great, loud, lively and quirky designs like these next two.

mambo 2



Bold and bright with orchids, palms and parrots and a surf board, as it is a shirt popular with surfers too, as is Hawaii, a great place for surfing..



Below, wearing an aloha shirt, is a very young Tony Curtis



Leonardo DiCaprio and others in the stylishly designed production of Romeo & Juliet



Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid


Jared Leto, who seems to greatly favour the Hawaiian shirt and has many of them


and all this started commercially with Japanese kimono fabrics.


One of my kimonos being modelled by the singer Rita Ora



You can also check out my website, providing vintage & antique Japanese kimonos & collectables.



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I am not responsible for whatever product or service is advertised and it being there does not mean that I endorse or recommend it. 


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