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How To Wear A Tropical Shirt Without Looking Like A Daggy Dad

Yes, Hawaiian shirts are back. And you might even want one.

Anna Saunders

There are some fashion trends that are so regrettable, you can be confident they will never surface again.

Hammer pants, for example. Or Hypercolour t-shirts. Or the ‘90s-era butterfly obsession that manifested in everything from hair clips to t-shirts and ankle tattoos.

And yet in the pantheon of lamentable fashion trends, Hawaiian shirts are surely up there. Originally worn by off-duty American sailors, but eventually co-opted by entire drunken bucks’ parties, Hawaiian shirts seemed destined to remain fashion outliers – worn only by Bondi hipsters who were ironic enough to pull them off.

Instead, here we are in 2021 and brightly coloured shirts are not only cool and covetable, but they make a weird kind of sense.

After all, there’s nothing happier, more carefree or more nostalgically summery than a brightly coloured tropical shirt or bold, floral button-down. All of which helps explain why they are everywhere – from Zimmermann and Ephemera to Gucci – and worn by everyone from Zoe Foster Blake to Justin Bieber.

Ephemera founder Nicole Banning introduced tropical shirts during the first Covid-19 lockdown. “Knowing that events and parties would be out of the question for a while, I was trying to think of fun iterations of resortwear that one could wear at home. Dresses for garden parties etc were put on the back burner and I was thinking of easy pieces one could wear for at home entertaining or just around the house.”

“The optimism of these pieces seems to resonate with women at the moment,” she adds.

Stylist Lucy Wood, who compiled this edit, admits that tropical shirts can seem daunting, but notes that the trend is broader simply Hawaiian shirts. “There are a lot of long-sleeved, bold shirting in stripes and abstract prints.”

“Personally,” she adds, “they remind me of summer holidays and long days at the beach… and they’re an easy way to add a pop of colour to an otherwise neutral outfit.”

And the secret to avoiding dressing like a daggy dad? “I’d recommend pairing them with modern accents – so perhaps some straight-leg, white, tailored pants and black sandals. Or add feminine or sophisticated touches like chunky metal jewellery or pulled-back hair. They also look great worn open over a white tank and shorts.

“For the long-sleeved shirts, I love them oversized and loosely rolled up to sit just underneath the elbow.”


BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER. She remembers Hawaiian shirts from the Leonardo Di Caprio in Romeo and Juliet days. And it has not stopped her from buying one this summer.

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