Say aloha to a Hawaiian shirt like Leo’s

Twenty years ago I was in love with Leo. Now I just fancy his shirt.

God, I remember the release of Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet film vividly; like it was yesterday. When in fact, it was in 1996, SOME TWENTY YEARS AGO SERIOUSLY HOW?

(Note to self: I must stop getting all shocked and shouty in my 90s nostalgia posts on here – which is approx 90% of my content, and humbly learn to accept the fact that I’M OLD.)

But back to the film. I was at high school – an all girls one at that *eye roll* and we all collectively crushed hard on young Leonardo DiCaprio (as well as having a girl crush on Claire Danes, who we all already adored from My So-Called Life).

We all started stringing fairly lights in our bedrooms and wearing angel wings at house parties.

Not only that, but the soundtrack was epically cool. A dash of disco,the dronings of Des’ree, the cool of The Cardigans (and Garbage) plus the introduction of an upcoming Brit band called Radiohead. My adolescence, in a soundtrack.

Now, some twenty years on, I’m STILL being inspired by the film, but this time it’s by Romeo’s Japanese print Hawaiian shirt. I didn’t pay much attention to it first time round, but lately I’m OBSESSED.


Speaking in 2016, film director Baz Luhrmann said of the shirt:

“The Hawaiian shirt as fashion will wax and wane in its relative cultural coolness at any given moment. But there will always be — if we’re lucky — some lingering symbolic palimpsest of Romeo as that young boy in the Hawaiian shirt, who literally ‘wore’ paradise on his back.”

Perhaps Louis Vuitton’s head of menswear Kim Jones is feeling the vibes too – although his inspiration was more ultimate armchair traveller book, Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will, rather than lovely 90s Leo. He sent models down the catwalk in distinctly tropical floral short-sleeved shirts for men’s fashion week in Paris.

Of the isolated places detailed in the book, Jones said: “I realised I’d been to about all of them. I was also inspired by the idea of an island, and of travel.”


Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2018

There’s something about summer, and the promise of escape and travel, that make it more acceptable to wear a Hawaiian shirt.

However, there’s a very fine line between wearing one in a cool, slightly ironic way, or looking like a dad – especially when you’re on holiday (and particularly if you’re in actual Hawaii).

During my recent stay in Crete, I said aloha to the totally tropical shirt style again. Mine was by Warehouse, although I picked it up for a couple of pounds in my local Mary’s Living & Giving shop.

Natalie Wall Le Blow Hawaiian shirt

I styled mine knotted at the waist worn with a short denim skirt and espadrilles (rather than, say bright shorts and pool slides, for fear of looking like a dad at a BBQ), but I also wore it open, over my bikini as a kaftan update (soz no photos of that).

Back on home shore, I’ve also worn the shirt buttoned all the way up and tucked into high waisted sawn-hem straight-leg Levi’s (fashion tongue-twister there) with my trusty Nike Cortez for a boyish, preppy look. I’ve also switched the kicks for the ‘drilles above to feel slightly less masculine on another occasion too.

Having said that, I’m feeling more inspired by menswear than womenswear lately – take the Louis Vuitton show above (and see also my post on bucket hats being back here), the 70s gangster/pimp vibes of Justin O’Shea’s SSS World Corp, Alessandro Michele at Gucci and a retro Mick Jagger’s wardrobe ALWAYS.

Feeling similarly inspired? Shop my edit of Hawaiian shirts here.

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