Aloha Friday: Ode to the Lava Shirt

Posted on: May 1, 2020

By: Amanda K. Wixon, Curatorial Intern

We bought this shirt at the famous Aloha stadium swap meet in Honolulu several years ago. For my family, this was somewhat unusual as not one of us had ever actually needed a new Aloha shirt. At our respective homes, we each had many Aloha shirts and dresses for all occasions—family parties, dinner parties, birthday parties, anniversary parties, reunions, retirement parties, weddings, and funerals. But in this case, the new Aloha shirt was for my youngest son, who was irresistibly drawn to its volcano and lava theme and very (very) bright colors. That night, we had a family function and he wore the “lava shirt,” although it was a tad too big. He was a big hit, and all our relatives complimented his bold fashion choice.

When we returned to the mainland that June, my son had a promotion at school, and he wanted to be a “fancy gentleman.” Of course, we agreed on the “lava shirt” for the ceremony. He subsequently wore this shirt for every event that called for anything beyond casual dress. Due to his short stature, he has worn this shirt for at least five years. I thought that he would grow out of it, or the shirt would lose some of its magnificent color, but alas, this particular Aloha shirt endures. It has been a part of my happiest memories and it reminds me of school picture days, promotions, birthday dinners, graduations, weddings, and memorial services. If and when he finally grows out of it, the “lava shirt” will be retired to a special box that contains all of my favorite things, including the first blanket that both of my sons were swaddled in—a bright red Aloha print cloth.