Hawaiian Shirt Kahuna Was Bright, Sharp Man

Alfred Shaheen, who'd retired to Torrance, died last month at the age of 86

Big guys in bright shirts, hang your heads.

Alfred Shaheen has died.

Who?

Just like a guy to not remember who gave them one of the greatest gifts ever.

We're talking about the guy who designed the red aloha shirt pictured on the album front of Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii" soundtrack.

Though Shaheen didn't invent the Hawaiian shirt, he's the man who took that greatest of gaudy attire to a higher level of fashion and launched it off the islands, which made him one of the best friends American males probably never knew they had.

He died last month, but news of his passing wasn't reported until Sunday. He was 86.

Used to be that the only way to get one of those brilliant, colorful shirts was to travel to Hawaii, or to make friends with someone who was going there. (Remember when you used to have to do that to get a pound of Starbucks?) Well, after World War II, Shaheen filled that casual fashion niche and began "Shaheen's of Honolulu."

The rest is Technicolor history.

The Los Angeles Times says "Shaheen raised the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction."

Dale Hope, art director for the Honolulu-based Kahala shirt maker and author of "The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands," told the LA Times that Shaheen was a genius. "He knew more about the inner workings of all of the elements of printing, the garment business and wholesaling and retailing and distribution. He was really a bright, sharp and smart man."

Sharp indeed. Aloha Al, and thank you.

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