Say Aloha to Alfred Shaheen who passed away on December 22nd, 2008. His desire for fashion wasn’t faux pas since it was stitched in to his DNA. In the late 1930s his parents settled in Oahu, Hawaii and operated a garment manufacturing business while Alfred attended school studying math, physics, and aeronautical engineering. When WWII began Alfred enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew 85 missions during his tenure. Once the war ended he returned to Hawaii where his parents enlisted him in the family business.
Alfred decided to expand the family business to include Hawaiian shirts and other Hawaiian inspired women’s fashions. He took it upon himself to engineer his own machinery to create the fabric and designs in-house rather than importing them. He scoured local junkyards for parts and was able to MacGyver his first machine. Eventually he spearheaded construction of an 8 million dollar factory/showroom which housed 400 employees.
Contrary to other reports, Shaheen didn’t invent the Hawaiian shirt, they existed well before he did. Better yet, think of him as the Henry Ford of Hawaiian fashions. He revolutionized the mass production of it, introduced new manufacturing methods and techniques that changed the garment industry forever.
He’s not the only vintage clothing icon we lost in ’08. We’re pretty sure him and recently diseased vintage western shirt pioneer Papa Jack are up there somewhere shooting the breeze over a fruity cocktail.
If you’re thinking of snapping up a vintage hawaiian shirt, pay homage to a legend and make it a vintage Shaheen.