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The Beat #22: Hawaii Issue! Aloha Shirts, Shave Ice, Pele and King Kamehameha

The Beat Creative Director and illustrator, Greg Chinn of The Local Brand Co.


This week, our collaborator Greg Chinn, head of the Local Brand Co, celebrates his home state of Hawaii. The Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation recently tapped Greg to create a t-shirt design based on the Big Kahuna art he created for our Surf issue, and what better way to celebrate than to explore more of what we love about the Aloha State? Greg chose some of his favorite topics for these illustrations, including a nod to the great King Kamehameha — Greg is a product of Kamehameha Schools — and the enduring goddess Pele.

Aloha Shirt

In 1931, Ellery Chun graduated from Yale with an economics degree, and returned to his home in Hawaii with a plan. Two years later, the Aloha Shirt was all the rage with the surfing crowd, and would spread to the closets of tourists, Hollywood stars and Presidents. While Chun didn’t invent the Aloha Shirt, but he did bring it to the mainstream, and soon brands like Kahala followed. In the late ’50s, Reyn McCullough and Ruth Spooner’s Reyn Spooner brand brought a refined design aesthetic and finer fabrics, lifting the look to the point where it became common business casual wear throughout the state.

Shave Ice

Mainlanders might confuse it for a snow cone, but shave ice is a quintessential Hawaiian treat with a long history. Going back to the 7th Century, kakigori is a traditional shaved ice treat favored in Japan. In the 1800s, Japanese immigrants who worked the sugar and pineapple plantations introduced the treat on the islands, flavoring the ice with sugar or fruit juice. In 1951, Matsumoto’s Shave Ice opened on Oahu’s North Shore and a dessert dynasty was born. Today, the treat can be found in a multitude of amazing shops, and comes in a cornucopia of flavors, from pineapple to green tea, and are topped with anything from mochi to condensed milk.

Madame Pele

Goddess of fire and shaper of sacred land, Pele is one of the most enduring deities in world mythology. She has many origin stories, but everyone acknowledges that she lives in Halemaʻumaʻu, the crater of the very active volcano, Kilauea. From there, she is said to direct the volcano’s lava flow. Although missionaries (of course) banned Hawaii’s old religion in 1819, but Pele has persevered in our imaginations to today, largely because she represents the power of the earth and resistance to colonization.

King Kamehameha

Founder of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was seemingly destined for greatness. Born in 1758 when Halley’s comet appeared in the sky as an omen of auspicious birth, he was named Kamehameha (the lonely one) after being successfully hidden from warring clans. Trained as a warrior, he made a tentative friendship with Captain Cook before going on to unite the islands and establish the Kingdom of Hawaii, which persisted until 1893, when it was overthrown by non-native Hawaiians and Europeans with business interests (the name Dole ring a bell?) King Kamehameha is revered to this day and seen as a symbol of Hawaiian sovereignty and independent spirit. June 11 is Kamehameha Day, and statues of the king are decorated with leis, including the one in the US Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

The Beat Creative Director, Greg Chinn of The Local Brand Co.


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