Tourists began flocking to Hawaii in the 1950s as faster airplanes allowed for easier travel and the former U.S. territory became a state in 1959. Tropical Aloha shirts and Hawaiian sundresses became souvenirs for tourists to the area. But it was Alfred Shaheen who raised the quality of the Aloha shirt to an art form. He hired his own artists, made his own prints, had his own factory and raised the bar on quality construction.
Shaheen Surf 'n Sand Aloha 'Angel Fish' Shirt from Kim at FastEddiesRetroRags
Shaheen initially began his business by producing 'Aloha Shirts' but they were different from his competitors in types of styles, and prints. Shaheen's original aloha shirts were crafted with material imported from the mainland US, but he realized this wasn't a viable business structure for the long term. Shaheen soon after launched his own printing plant and created his own fabrics, called Surf 'n Sand Hand Prints. Prints were inspired by the native designs out of the South Pacific, Hawaii and Asia.
Vintage 50s Silk Shaheen Hawaiian shirt from Spit Fire Vintage
Shaheen also began a tradition that remains prevalent in the design of Hawaiian Aloha shirts today: horizontal button holes. Not all of his shirts had horizontal button holes but most did, although there does not seem to be a rhyme or reason why Shaheen deviated from the standard practice of making vertical button holes.
Vintage cotton Shaheen Shirt from chaz-marthabooks
Vintage Shaheen shirts are very collectible these days and getting harder to find. Aloha.