Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
Subject: Tiki
Culture: American, European
Setting: Tiki Cult / Polynesian Pop, America/Europe from 1950s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Tiki art two 2005 p12 (Otto von Stroheim, "The Second Coming of the new art god" p12-13)
"Americans first realized their dream of escaping to an island paradise with the creation of elaborate Tiki bars.  A celebration of the mysterious and exotic, the mainland Tiki bar offered a knowingly faux, yet satisfying retreat from society.  The Tiki bar was a place where guests could completely immerse themselves in lush tropical greenery and gurgling waterfalls, wind through dimly lit paths to a secluded getaway, gorge on exotic potions and food from faraway lands -- all while surrounded by Pagan artifacts and curious images of island life.
    "The creation of elaborate Tiki establishments offered artisans the opportunity to develop their own brand of Folk Art.  Because their audience was naive to the ways of authentic South Seas art (or at least willing to suspend belief while in this obviously faux Polynesian re-creation) the artists were not bound by any guidelines and rules.  The objects they crafted to adorn these Tiki bars were open to artist interpretation.  This freedom from criticism allowed them to go beyond mere mimicry of existing artifacts and allowed them to forge their own genre.  Tiki Style, or Polynesian Pop, was born out of this unwitting and rare opportunity to create art without judgement.
    "But it should be noted that this art was not created in a vacuum.  Each piece of artwork had to stand on its own and compete within the larger body of works on a commercial level.  The curator and critic for these artifacts became the proprietor of the Tiki bar.  True, no professor analyzed the nuances of this new Tiki Style, however it was still held to task to maintain a level of quality acceptable to the buyer.  Prolific Tiki carvers who forged their own style were rewarded with both popularity and higher demand for their products."

* Kirsten 2003 p17-18
"Ever since its fall from grace, humanity has yearned to find its way back to the paradise it was cast out of.  When the first reports of the South Seas Isles reached the Old World, the tales seemingly described this lost haven.  Polynesia became the metaphor for Eden on earth.  But as the distant shores of the South Pacific were out of reach for most mortals, other mythical lands were sought out by the explorers.
    "One such place was 'California,' a mysterious island (it was believed to be a continent on its own) reputed to be endowed with Amazons and pearls.  Even though once this terra incognita was settled and these flights of fancy proved to be an exaggeration, California has retained its status as a golden dream destination.  Generation after generation arrived here, seeking to realize their own version of paradise.  One such interpretation was the tropical garden of South Sea Isles.
    "Thus the first palm tree was planted and tropical flora was propagated.  And since not only the biosphere but also the psychosphere was present in California, a 'Polynesia Americana' soon began to take shape.  Tiki temples were erected, and for a while the people believed.  They came to worship the cult of modern primitivism, naively engaging in such (now taboo) practices as alcoholism, racism, chauvinism, and pig-eating.
    "And as Californians emulated Polynesia, the rest of the nation looked to California for lifestyle guidance.  Soon every major city in America was home to at least one Polynesian palace."

* Kirsten 2003 p39-40
"By the 1950s Americans were ready to reap the rewards of the hard work that had brought them economic independence and affluence.  They had emerged from the Second World War as heroes and were flying high on a cloud of international success and appreciation.  But the same Puritan work ethic that had gotten them thus far also brought with it a whole package of traditional social and moral restrictions that were limiting their freedom to enjoy their prosperity.
    "Polynesian parties provided the outlet that allowed the man in the grey flannel suit to regress to a rule-free primitive naivety: Donning colorful aloha shirts (which did not have to be tucked in!), getting intoxicated by sweet exotic concoctions with names that resembled a lilting infant idiom (Lapu Lapu, Mauna Loa Puki), eating luau pig with bare hands, and engaging in hula and limbo contests provided the opportunity to cut loose and have fun in an otherwise conservative society."

* Hawaii 2002 p117
"The entertainment at one of these modern feasts [lu'aus] is like taking a mini-tour through the island cultures of HawaiiTongaSamoaNew Zealand, and Tahiti.  Hawaii's contribution includes the haunting chants that perpetuate the genealogies and legends of the past, as well as the graceful hula.  Some lu'aus include pageantry with participants dressed like early Hawaiian royalty."




* Hawaii 2002 p110
"Found throughout Polynesia, lei were once nearly sacred symbols.  Today, lei retain some of that aura, but area also used to convey aloha and respect.
    "In ancient times, lei were offered to the gods during sacred dances and chants, taking the form of head wreaths and necklaces, as well as the long, open-ended strands of maile (vines) that are draped around the necks of grooms and prom escorts today.
    "Lei are made of flowers, leaves, shells, and paper, and of anything else that can be fashioned by five basic techniques.  If a lei-maker uses wili paukuku, she is winding roses and begonias in a certain style.  Humuhumu is a lei sewn onto a backing.  Wili is a lei that is wound or twisted, hili is braided with leaves and haku is braided with flowers.  Kui is strung on a thread."

* National Geographic Traveler Hawaii 2003 p78
"A lei can be made of almost anything -- flowers, fruit, leaves, vine.  Permanent leis are crafted from feathers, kukui nuts, shells, seeds, even human hair.  Contemporary innovations include leis of candy and bubble gum, or the ultimate in tropical tackiness, airline-size liquor bottles.  Although every lei is treasured, there is a subtle floral hierarchy: Those made of plumerias (frangipani) are the most common; pansy leis are among the most expensive.  Leis fashioned from flowers picked in the giver's garden are probably the most appreciated.
    "The lei is not above trends; the maunaloa lei and the Micronesian ginger lei, both intricately crafted floral necklaces, were popular in the late 1990s because they complemented the contemporary fashion in their simple, unobtrusive appearance.  A masculine favorite has been the tailored cigar-flower lei in shades of rust and orange, and also the braided ti-leaf lei, which has the advantage of being inexpensive."


* National Geographic Traveler Hawaii 2003 p46
"The first Hawaiian shirt patterns were based on the geometric designs of kapa and colored with natural dyes that quickly mellowed to earth tones.
    "The earliest mass-produced Hawaiian shirts were made for plantation workers. Called palaka, they were usually stylized check prints, worn with 'sailor moku,' denim trousers. In the 1920s, a local firm, Watumull's East India Store, commissioned artist Elsie Das to produce 15 floral designs. These were sent to Japan, printed on raw silk, and sewn into shirts. They sold by the boatload and were snapped up by collectors as far away as London. Designer Ellery Chun is credited by many for coining the term 'aloha shirt' in an ad in the Honolulu Advertiser in 1935. Laser technology has enabled manufacturers to faithfully reproduce vintage shirt patterns."

* Cumming/Cunnington/Cunnington 2010 p102
"Hawaiian shirt  (M)  Period: 1950s onwards. A loose, brightly coloured shirt printed with bold patterns of flowers, birds, etc. found in Hawaii and taken back to mainland America as tourist souvenirs and copied by other shirt-makers."

* Calasibetta/Tortora 2003 p406
"Hawaiian shirt  Man's sport shirt printed with colorful Hawaiian floral or other local designs. Made with a convertible collar and worn outside of trousers. Appears to have been introduced in the late 1930s for local wear, adopted by tourists and military men stationed in Hawaii, and gradually more widely seen on the Mainland after World War II. In 1951, President Harry Truman appeared on the cover of Life magazine in an Hawaiian shirt. Continues to be a staple wardrobe item in Hawaii and is periodically very popular on the Mainland as well. Also called aloha shirt."