Aloha Shirt Manufacturing

Cutting a stack of yolks for mens Hawaiian Aloha shirts with a straight knife cutting machineSorry, but our cutting and sewing facilities are not open for walk-ins or any type of tours. But we can still give you a glimpse into the wonderful world of manufacturing Hawaiian apparel. Manufacturing Hawaiian shirts is hard work, but happy customers and creative freedom are what we are all about. Its all starts out with diligent research and product development, it really is the place where all of our fine Hawaiian shirts start out.

When we are not producing our own designs, we will purchase Hawaiian fabrics from around the world, including Hawaii, and from select suppliers on the mainland in the USA. Whenever possible we ask for strike-offs or final samples so we can hand select the fabrics & prints, this ensures quality.

People also often ask us "how do you test the quality of your Hawaiian fabrics"?

One step in our quality control process is to wash fabric swatches prior to purchase and again prior to production, if it is not to standards, it does not go into production. There is a lot of variance in the dye lots as well as the amount of treatments that textiles receive. Our production fabrics created in-house also go through the same ridged quality control (QC) mythologies during cutting, sewing and again at packaging.

The next step is pretty straight forward, we setup the fabric and patterns for cutting. The fabrics are layered on top of each other, just like in the picture above, and each layer is inspected for nicks / blemishes that may have passed QC at printing. How we set the patterns really depends on the repeat in the design as well as the type of design (popular Hawaiian shirt designs listed below). Please note that many designs have to be setup and cut by themselves, you cant set patterns and marker templates for a engineered shirt, and at the same time set up for a border print, at least not in a single setup.

After the fabrics have been cut they are labeled and bundled by size and sent off to sewing. Sewing does all of the assembling of the cut materials, picture having to put a jigsaw puzzle together without ever having seen the original image. Sewing also inspects each piece during the assembly process. Once the garments are fully sewn, they are sent for pressing and bundled and then sent to packaging.

Packaging and order fulfilment are one in the same around here. The pressed garments are fully buttoned and inspected prior to being placed in the packaging, which is then inventoried and ready for purchase! We do the inventory last because every once in a while a garment wont pass our QC and has to be pulled and destroyed.

Popular Hawaiian Shirt Designs:

Basic all-over Hawaiian print shirt – Probably the most common among all Hawaiian shirts. All over prints are distinguished by the repeating of the prints that appears throughout the fabric. Anything goes with this style of the print, although a common basic all-over print Hawaiian shirt does have to have some conformity in the repeat and pattern. Among all Hawaiian shirts, this type can be worn either tucked in or free. We recommend that you wear your Aloha Hawaii shirt un-tucked.

Scenic print Hawaiian shirt – This may be the second most popular Hawaiian shirt design. Some people find the scenic print appealing for it characterizes the Hawaiian vacation experience. The scenic print is distinguishable by the repeating images, usually a scene depicting Hawaiian culture and local activities rather than the typical basic repeating images of montserra leafs or hibiscus flower.

Border print shirt – This style is intended to be worn un-tucked and renowned for its design which typically runs across the shirt. Unlike the basic all-over and scenic print, the border Hawaiian shirts have large and full images towards the bottom of the shirt. A great example would be a panoramic beach scene with palm trees and or old Woodie cars with surfboards.

Matched print Hawaiian shirt – The print is continuous and runs from one part of the shirt to the other. The design is almost the same with the border print shirt with its large print starting at the bottom and going up; the only difference is that the aloha Hawaii shirts maintain a seamless image from the left panel to the right, uninterrupted by the buttons. Since it is the character of the design, this type of Hawaiian shirt with a matched print is more difficult to assemble and requires skillful cutters.

Panel shirt – This kind of design is identified with vertical panels. Like the basic all-over and scenic print, this type of Hawaiian shirt has repeating vertical patterns, usually that of leaves, pineapples, flowers etc. Outside yolks may or may not match up with the overall schema of the print. Wave Shoppe leans toward matching the outside yolks whenever appropriate.

Engineered Hawaiian shirt – This type of Hawaiian shirt design is usually depicted with larger images, repeats can be every 18 inches. It is like the matched print and border print with seamless design, even if it crosses the buttons. This is the most expensive among all Hawaiian shirt designs because of the fabric and manufacturing costs associated with high-quality fabric design.

Matched shirt pocket – Like the matched print, the matched pocket has a seamless design, this time at the pockets. Most fine Hawaiian shirts have a matched pocket design that is traditionally matched by hand. Unless otherwise specified, all of Wave Shoppe's Hawaiian shirts for men have hand matched pockets. Remember, not all Hawaiian shirts are created equal.

We pretty much go through life just doing our own thing, which is primarily making Hawaiian shirts, but having fielded a fair amount of questions from our customers, we decided we would write an additional article about the differences in Hawaiian shirt patterns and construction.

Lets start out by saying that with proper care, the average life expectancy of a Hawaiian shirt (or similar textile) that is worn and washed at least once a week is conservatively around 5 - 6 years, though we have shirts that are daily wearers and they are over 14 years old and still look decent.

Now let us be the first to say that it’s not our place to police the Hawaiian shirt industry, but consumers really do need to know that Hawaiian shirts are not created equal. Lets use some feedback from a first time customer as a talking point.

Actual Customer Feedback:

"Hi. I received the shirts last night. They washed up great, and the fabric is fabulous. Thanks a lot!!

(P.S. these are a million times better -- fabric, cut AND sizing) than the ones I recently ordered from Honolulu which look like "old lady" shirts.

Thanks again!!"

The first thing you must know is that an authentic Hawaiian shirt will have a printed or woven Hawaiian design with a button up, or loop collar, and short sleeves. Ones Hawaiian shirt should also fit very loosely, its all about comfort. If the Hawaiian shirt doesn’t have a button up collar or a loop collar and doesn't have a flowery design, then the garment really needs to be classified as a tropical shirt a.k.a. resort apparel or camp shirts. A good example of those collar styles without floral designs would be the camp shirts offered by Tommy Bahama (don't get up in arms, we really like some of the designs in Tommy Bahama shirts, but not the prices).

Loop collar's with button closures were most popular in the 1940's & 50's. Famous labels from that era are Duke Kahanamoku; Kahala; Kihi Kihi; Surf N Sand and so on. The Hawaiian shirt patterns utilized in the manufacture of Wave Shoppe Hawaiian shirts follow in the same footsteps of what we consider to quite possibly be one of the greatest Hawaiian shirt companies ever, Kahala.

Once in a while you may hear someone say palaka shirt. Tropical shirts and Hawaiian shirts (Aloha shirts Hawai'i) are not the same as palaka shirts. The palaka apparel was primarily made from a woven, heavy-duty cotton twill fabric referred to as tapa cloth, not cotton, rayon or silk as used in the production of today's tropical shirts.

Palaka shirts were worn by Japanese migrant field workers in Hawaii had little more than a simple checkerboard design. It is not a print, but is a plaid with a particular texture. The palaka was originally a jacket and somewhere in the 30s it became a shirt (probably with long sleeves) - the palaka shirt was in steady production by Arakawa's until about 15 years ago.

Currently we do not cut or sew palaka style shirts, but one day we may do so. Wave Shoppe brand womens Hawaiian shirts are constructed of 9 pieces and our mens Hawaiian shirts are constructed of 11 pieces (12 pieces if you count the shirt pocket). Compared to a tropical shirt that has 7 pieces in its makeup (8 if it has a pocket). Obviously with less components its much cheaper to produce a tropical shirt vs. a true Hawaiian shirt (Aloha shirt).

While a tropical shirt may have some practical application, its not a style that we would recommend for wearing in a casual office, especially if you have a hairy chest. Not to mention that your shirt will look like everyone else's. There are just a few actual tropical shirt manufactures, in fact most of the Hawaiian shirt stores online re-sell the exact same tropical shirts that their competitors do. We wont even comment on the flood of cheaply made tropical shirts from China, Taiwan, and of course Vietnam.

We want our customers Hawaiian shirt to look good for years to come. we manufacture in the USA and we even take construction one step further by adding interfacing to all of our shirts. Interfacing is a fabric that has heat activated glue on one side that is applied to the collar, the under collar, and shirt openings with a heat press. This process guarantees that the key components of the shirt will retain their original look and feel even after 100s of laundry cycles.

So the next time you are shopping for a new Aloha shirt, stop and think for a moment, do you really want to sacrifice individualism and quality just to save a couple of dollars?