Aloha Friday is a tradition in Hawaii that began as an attempt to aid the Islands' garment industry, but it would prove to be so popular that it spread to the mainland United States, where it is called "Casual Friday". What it is, simply is a dress-down workday to celebrate the end of the week.
It had its beginnings back in 1946 when the Chamber of Commerce funded a study about aloha wear and its feasibility as work wear. Subsequently, the City and County of Honolulu passed a resolution allowing its workers to wear aloha-type garments to work in the summer months. This became the norm for Island work apparel and, in 1962, The Hawaiian Fashion Guild, headed up by Malia, Inc. (and Island dressmaker) President Bill Foster Sr. began lobbying for the creation of "Aloha Friday" year round. An early convert was Maui born William Cannon, the President of Bank of Hawaii, who started wearing the shirts to work and his workers would soon follow suit.
As there was a tremendous influx of mainland-made apparel coming to the Islands, local garment makers feared that aloha wear would lose its appeal to the resident population and thus, hurt their sales to their local market. Aloha Week was originally created to spur tourism in the normally slow month of October but the garment people quickly latched onto it as another promotional vehicle for their products and "Holoku Balls" began to be held where participants could show off their finest aloha designs.
But the idea of a casual work day had a strong appeal, to the point that Island companies, originally subscribed to the missionary-influenced suit-and-tie business uniform, gradually began to cast this off totally, in favor of the more comfortable and appropriate for Island climate aloha fashions. Eventually, it came to be that the shirts were suitable for wear year-round any day of the week. Needless to say, the fashion industry appreciated the new style and the effect it had upon their business.
The garment companies reacted to the trend and firms, from the oldest makers, Kamehameha Garment Company, Kahala Fashion, Tori Richard and Reyn Spooner to the later crop of designers like Sig Zane and Amos Kotomori, would respond by orienting their product offerings towards this newly created niche of "business aloha".
Some years ago, Island singer and KCCN DeeJay Kimo Kahoano recorded a song that has stood the test of time and is played by local music stations virtually every "Aloha Friday" "It's Aloha Friday, no work 'till Monday" can be heard on radios or at the many bars serving Friday pau hana ("work's end") mai tais and other Island refreshments to thirsty aloha shirt-clad patrons.
This trend would gravitate to the US mainland in later years, as companies began to permit "Casual Fridays" with employees being allowed to dress down for the last day of the week. Not surprisingly, as the aloha shirt has gained many mainland followers and fans, the shirts began showing up on company casual days, which has sparked renewed interest in the irrepressible aloha shirt.