• Are Hawaiian Shirts OK For Work?

Are Hawaiian Shirts OK For Work?

Last update: 2024-05-05

Hawaiian shirts, sometimes known as aloha shirts, are a style of shirt originating in Hawaii that feature bold colors and prints. They are casual shirts, typically made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like rayon or cotton. While Hawaiian shirts are a staple of beach and tropical vacations, there is debate around whether they are appropriate to wear in a professional workplace environment. Here is an in-depth look at the arguments for and against wearing Hawaiian shirts to work.

The Case For Wearing Hawaiian Shirts to Work

There are several reasons why Hawaiian shirts may be acceptable professional attire in some workplaces:

They Can Add Personality and Fun

Asian Surfer puts a yellow object on the surfboard, wearing a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt.
  • Hawaiian shirts allow employees to express individual style and personality through their clothing choices. This can boost morale and add an element of fun to workplace attire.
  • The bold prints and colors are energizing and give off a friendly, approachable vibe. This can facilitate better communication and collaboration.
  • Hawaiian shirts show confidence and character. Employees who wear them demonstrate they are comfortable in their own skin.

Hawaiian Shirts Can Be Worn Professionally

  • If styled properly, Hawaiian shirts can look sharp and professional. Pair them with trousers, leather shoes, and classic accessories for a polished business casual look.
  • Stick to Hawaiian shirts in more muted tones and smaller scale prints to maintain a professional appearance. Avoid overly bold, flashy prints.
  • Make sure Hawaiian shirts are clean, wrinkle-free, and well-fitting. Do not wear them overly baggy or tight.
  • Button Hawaiian shirts fully and tuck them in for a neat appearance. Roll sleeves neatly to elbow length if desired.

Increased Flexibility in Office Attire Norms

Businessman next to himself dressed casually
  • Office attire norms have become more relaxed and flexible in many workplaces. Hawaiian shirts may now fall within a company's casual Friday or summer dress code guidelines.
  • Some tech companies and startups encourage employees to wear Hawaiian shirts to reinforce their casual, creative office culture.
  • Hawaiian shirts can be a fun option for team-building events, company picnics, and other informal occasions.

The Case Against Wearing Hawaiian Shirts to Work

However, there are also several reasons Hawaiian shirts may not be appropriate attire for many professional settings:

They Can Appear Too Casual

  • Hawaiian shirts have an innate casualness and recreational vibe that may not align with company dress codes. Some traditional industries still expect formal business attire.
  • Loud Hawaiian prints and designs can seem unprofessional and signal the wearer does not take their job seriously.
  • In client-facing roles, Hawaiian shirts may undermine perceptions of competence and credibility.

Can Be Distracting and Disruptive

Young men relax on a boat while traveling between Thai islands
  • Coworkers and clients may find extremely bold Hawaiian shirt prints distracting and disruptive in conservative office environments.
  • Those offended or put off by the shirts may lodge HR complaints about inappropriate attire.
  • Managers may have to waste time addressing Hawaiian shirt-related grievances and enforcing dress codes.

Cultural Appropriation Concerns

  • Some Hawaiian shirts feature indigenous Polynesian tribal prints and patterns. Wearing these could be viewed as cultural appropriation.
  • Authentic Hawaiian shirts can be expensive. Cheap imitation prints may be seen as disrespectful.
  • Unless employed by a Hawaiian company, wearing these shirts could come across as misguided theming.

Best Practices for Wearing Hawaiian Shirts Professionally

If your workplace dress code does allow Hawaiian shirts, follow these best practices:

A handsome male model posing in Summer Clothes outdoor in front of a plain wooden wall. He wears a white hat, looks easy going and relaxed

  • Seek guidance from management on any print or style restrictions. Adhere to stated guidelines.
  • Start with just one Hawaiian shirt day per week or month. Gauge reactions before increasing frequency.
  • Stick to traditional Hawaiian print designs. Avoid shirts with insensitive themes like alcohol or sexualized imagery.
  • Coordinate with team members so multiple employees don't wear Hawaiian shirts on the same day.
  • Consider more tailored Hawaiian-inspired shirts instead of very loose, casual versions.
  • Make sure your Hawaiian shirts are always clean, pressed, and professional-looking.
  • Wear a blazer or sports jacket over your Hawaiian shirt when meeting with clients or leadership.


The question of whether Hawaiian shirts are appropriate for the workplace does not have a universal answer. Acceptability depends on factors like company culture, industry norms, individual roles, and a shirt's specific style. With a thoughtful approach, Hawaiian shirts can be worked into some business casual dress codes. But they also have the potential to appear unprofessional or insensitive. Workers should carefully consider their office environment before wearing Hawaiian shirts to ensure proper attire. With some adjustments and discretion, aloha shirts can be a fun way to show personality and still look presentable.

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