General Question

Kardamom's avatar

Does anyone know the specific name for this type of Hawaiian material?

Asked by Kardamom (31818points) May 8th, 2015

In addition to other things that I don’t need, I have a collection of vintage fabric, mostly from the 1960’s. One of my favorite types of material is This Hawaiian Fabric that appears to have gold leaf paint applied as highlights.

This kind of fabric was very popular when I was a kid and my dad had some shirts and my mom had some dresses made out of it. The designs were different than the shirt in the picture, but most of this type of fabric, which is made of cotton, has some type of hula dancers, pineapples, hibiscus flowers, surfers, drums, or tikis on them and the highlights are painted gold.

I have garments and fabric like this in red, blue, Green, orange, fuschia, and yellow. Does anyone know if this type of fabric has a specific name? I’ve tried doing Google searches for gold leaf Hawaiian fabric and similar terms, but I haven’t had any luck.

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4 Answers

David_Achilles's avatar

The type of fabric was originated by a man called Alfred Shaheen. The name of his fabric company was Surf ‘n Sand Handprints. He was born in New Jersey, the son of a Lebanese immigrant but moved to Hawaii where he built his business and trained a staff that continues to maintain the legacy throughout Hawaii’s textile trade.

His story is really interesting. While the motifs he used in his prints were drawn from traditional sources, he was really into historical research and ethnic artistic heritage, it was his hands on entrepreneurial skills and his innovative mind that took it to new levels and made him the collectible label that he is today. The company still has a website where you can read some of the history of the company. There are photos of the printing plant he used to make not only the fabrics, but the garments themselves.

One of his main innovations was the metallic dyes that you are talking about. He made the dyes in over 100 colors but (according to , it was the gold, silver and copper that were the most popular. There are many metallic prints on the market now but he was one of the first and he focused on making a quality product that would hold up to the harsh rays of the sun and not fade or wash off. These prints have really stood the test of time and you can see his items being sold and colliected on Ebay, Etsy and many vintage sites.

I don’t think the fabric has a particular name. Cotton was used and rayon also, but the name you could search under is Alfred Shaheen or Surf ‘n Sand Handprints.

Elvis wore an Alfred Shaheen shirt in Blue Hawaii. Tom Selleck wore a red Shaheen shirt in Magnum, P.I..

The Wikipedia articles on Aloha shirts and on Alfred Shaheen are really interesting and worth a read.
Alred Shaheen-Wikipedia

Aloha shirt

There are some great historical pictures of the printing plant and some garments of hie Bishop Museum site:
The Legacy of Alfred Shaheen

Here is a slideshow on Shaheen by Time magazine:
Time magazine-Alfred Shaheen slideshow,29307,1869924,00.html

And there are books too, about authentic Aloha attire:
Hawai’i Unbuttoned by Craig Calloway

The Art of the Aloha Shirt
Linda Arthur, Ph.D. & Desoto Brown

The Aloha Shirt, Spirit of the Islands
Dale Hope with Gregory Tozian

Aloha Attire
Hawaiian Dress in the 20th Century
Linda Arthur, Ph.D.

Happy hunting!!

marinelife's avatar

I was born in Hawaii, and I have only seen it referred to as vintage aloha shirt fabric.

Kardamom's avatar

Thanks so much @David_Achilles You have been super helpful : ) I had no idea about any of this. I just thought the fabric was really pretty. Yay, now I’m going to go and look for stuff to look at online.

David_Achilles's avatar

You’re welcome Kardamon I learned some interesting things. Sorry for the typos, I was just rereading what I wrote.

By the way, if you do buy something from ebay or another vintage source be wary of the people who make claims of “authentic” merchandise without a label or other proof. There may be people who use the Shaheen name to describe stuff that isn’t authentic or even vintage. I guess if you don’t pay a lot of money for it and you like it that is all that matters.

Also, if you use the word “metallic” instead of “gold leaf” it should target what you’re looking for better.

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