My first trip to Hawaii last year was the culmination of a lifetime of dreaming. I read Michener’s Hawaii when I was in middle school, and from that moment on the isolated island chain had permanent residence in my travel imagination. Last year, I finally had the chance to spend some time in the 50th state, and I was surprised at some of the quirks for which no one had prepared me, but I was especially shocked to learn that a simple phrase had changed the way all of us dress for work.
Yes the shooting ranges in malls were odd, and I wasn’t expecting to see a Ferrari store in Waikiki, but what really took me aback was the odd weekly greeting - “Aloha Friday.”
I didn’t even notice it at first, the mentions were so natural and casual. The bellman started my Friday morning with a chipper “Happy Aloha Friday!” then this three-word term started to pop up in emails and phone calls. I thought it was just an isolated phrase, nothing formal really, until I heard the news anchor open his broadcast with a rousing “Happy Aloha Friday!”
What the hell was this? Hawaii is relaxed, true, and it is overly friendly, but I hadn’t expected them to have their own version of TGIF. I decided to do a little digging and was shocked to learn the real significance behind the phrase.
In the 1960s, the trade association for manufacturers of Hawaiian or aloha shirts, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild, started a movement to make aloha shirts accepted in the workplace. This resulted in a gradual loosening of the rules and aloha shirts began to slowly creep into the workplace.
Then in 1965, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild started to lobby for “Aloha Friday”, a day of the week when employers would allow their employees to wear aloha shirts. The idea was an instant success, particularly among younger workers, and by 1970 aloha shirts were fully accepted business attire for any day of the week. It didn’t stop there though; this is where it gets really interesting.
Aloha Friday crossed the Pacific to California, where the idea began to spread and evolve around the country until it became Casual Friday, which in turn changed the entire landscape of work attire for most businesses. Cool, huh?
So whenever you put on those jeans instead of slacks on Fridays, be sure to thank the Hawaiian Fashion Guild and don’t forget to wish your co-workers a very happy Aloha Friday.