What to Wear in Hawaii

Hawaiian style is best described as surfer style meets Asian pop. Given the diverse background in Hawaii where many of the locals are hapa (meaning mixed) of various ethnic Asian groups, White (haole), and Native Hawaiian one cannot avoid or help but appreciate the beautiful combination of these cultures pervasive in all things from food to fashion.

Hawaiian surf culture is definitively the mother of surf and water sports of all kinds, which are pervasively popular amongst locals. During a recent trip to Hawaii, I went swimming at one beach and encountered many locals waving hello to each other, the morning swim clearly a shared community ritual. I was most fascinated by what appeared to be ancient Asians, older in the face but incredibly youthful and healthy in their tattooed bodies. Mainland honeymooners come for the romantic sunsets, surfers come in drove, and Japanese tourists with their characteristic idiosyncratic are the foreign influences. Despite seemingly opposing backgrounds everyone in Hawaii seems perfectly happy to get down Hawaiian-style in breezy dresses, tank tops, flowers behind the ear, kukui nut leis, and surfer brands.

Dress for the weather, dress for the adventure! In Hawaii whether your adventure is laying on the beach, going for a hike, suring, deep sea fishing, sailboat-ing dress is certainly dictated by function, not just form. Even the extremely fashion-conscious will feel awkward in heels and unnecessary layers. When I was there, I wanted a wardrobe of a million shirts by Hawaiian surf brands Local Motion and Blue Hawaiian Surf!

Top tips:

Practical: Flip flops; tank tops; a breezy white dress or two for a couple days into your vacation to show off your tan(!); leave-in conditioner for those planning to spend lots of time in the water, keeping those tresses healthy.
Fashion staples: A flower behind your ear, a kukui nut or shell lei, a great tan.
Trends: I have been to Hawaii over the span of a decade and have not seen a single trend or great change in fashion over those years. It’s always a t-shirt and shorts place and always will be!

What to Pack

Casual outfit: Flip flops, tank top, a hoodie for when the sunsets, a flower behind your ear and a lei
Dressier outfit: A flower behind your ear, a lei, a breezy maxi dress in floral patterns or white
Nightlife: Wear whatever you want or feels right but no need to really pull all the stops especially those of you used to doing that in Los Angeles or New York. A sexy, tight tank top dress and dressier jewels is more than enough!

Shopping and Designers

While in Hawaii make sure you check out a lot of the only locally available goods and brands. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, Maui Kookwees Cookies, and a Local Motion shirt are a must!

Ala Moana Mall for a huge selection of couture and local brands
Blue Surf Hawaii
T&C Surf Designs
Local Motion
Hilo Hattie for Hawaiian souvenir essentials
Shirokiya for Japanese goods and clothing. I bought my daughter an adorable traditional summer kimono (yukata) here and traditional hairpins!