Is it hiding, covering or both?

Jason brought up a great observation/question a few days ago:

What is up with 40-50 year old men wearing Hawaiian shirts? Seriously, everywhere I turn nowadays, a guy is decked out in one, with the top button unbuttoned just enough to expose his graying chest hair. Is this the latest fad for middle-age men?

Sure, the shirt looks comfortable and loose and casual, but I can think of several other types of shirts that exhibit those qualities. Why Hawaiian?

As someone who has known people that exactly fit this persona, let me share a few things.

First things first: I like loose and open button-down shirts. What I'm not a huge fan is the kind of design that features really hot colors (ie, pink, yellow) with surfboards and/or classic cars lined up all over the shirt. I can tolerate plants and flowers to an extent, but the flashier the stuff is, the less I like it. I have no problem with a black bowling shirt with blue and red flames with bowling balls and pins, but that's about as flashy as I can take it.

I think my taste in these kinds of shirts is a sort of reaction against what I've seen before. I don't like hot colors in the first place, but these shirts tend to hide girth. With an untucked Hawaiian button-down shirt, a big belly is less visible. The attention is more on the flashy colors and designs than anything else. It's a much different story when the man is wearing a solid colored dress shirt that is tucked in.

Some popular Hawaiian stereotypes are clear skies, classic cars, endless waves and beautiful scenery. There is a draw of escapism to this world, especially in the world of stuffy industrialism. In other words, you're not seeing all the beautiful Hawaiian stuff when you're working in an industrial city everyday.

Also, I see these kinds of shirts are a way of saying: "I'm laid back." Instead of wearing a tight t-shirt or dress shirt, here's a one-size-fits-all with a lot of room. Plus, with the shirt being worn untucked, you might get the sense that this guy is not an uptight fuddy-duddy.

Now with the chest hair situation, this is where it gets gross. Yes, all men have chest hair but that doesn't mean they have the right to show it sticking out of their shirts. The average top button is at the mid-point of the chest, a space where some men have a lot of chest hair. For the men who have a lot of this showing, it's rarely flattering. I could be wrong, but I have yet to meet someone who has thought this was sexy.

Middle-aged men have a right to let loose when they're at play, so I don't blame them for being attracted to a shirt design that is all about play. That said, they have a ways to go if they don't want the fashion police critiquing them.


Rj said…
A bunch of guys at my office wear them on fridays, in ode to the movie office space. i don't think everyone is in on the joke, though.

I laughed my ass off when we went to a group lunch one day and there were like 15 guys in an elevator, all with these horrible shirts on.

There is an ongoing competition to see who can find the loudest, most obnoxious one.

What else do older men have to wear. Most go to Kohls or JC Penney, and all that is available in the mens section is hawaiian shirts, polos, dress shirts, and blank t-shirts. I've found myself in this fashion limbo as well.

I have a really lax dress code at work. Most days I'll be in shorts and flip-flops, so I can work barefoot. But when I go to buy clothing, and want something casual, it's hard not to find the same old shit in every store.