How Hawaiian Shirts Became a Symbol for the Alt-Right

It doesn't stem from a love of floral prints or Don Ho records

An alt-right member wears a Hawaiian shirt
An alt-right member wears a Hawaiian shirt at a protest against stay-at-home measures in Washington state.
Getty Images

Fresh off of claims that Fred Perry and the OK hand gesture are now totems of the alt-right movement, another seemingly pure and good thing is in danger of being ruined: the Hawaiian shirt. 

For certain parts of the alt-right, the appeal of the Hawaiian shirt does not stem from a love of floral prints or Don Ho records. Instead, aloha patterns are a signal that they are ready for a second Civil War, which fringe voices like Alex Jones swear is happening soon. Unsurprisingly, this affinity for colorful palm leaves and breathable fabric is a shibboleth amongst Very Online sects of the alt-right, stemming from a cult  ‘80s movie, spoonerisms and a cache of sad men who don’t have friends in real life.

In 1984, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo was inflicted upon movie goers across the country. Although the movie was a critical and commercial flop, it has gained a second life as a meme on account of the movie being beyond awful and “Boogaloo” being a funny word; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had a 2016 episode called Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo, which is a direct reference to Breakin’ 2. Author Reece Jones broke down how the shirt became a symbol on Twitter


In turn, users on alt-right, pro-gun message boards on Reddit, 4chan and 8chan labeled the upcoming Civil War as “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which was then shortened to “the Boogaloo,” which then evolved into “the big Luau” (and “the big igloo”). As such, aloha shirts have made appearances at recent protests around the country. When paired with combat gear, guns and racism, the Hawaiian shirt is apparently symbol that the wearer is prepared to go to war against America.

We recommend proudly wearing your favorite Tommy Bahama or Reyn Spooner number with literally anything else to reclaim the shirt’s original intention: spreading good vibes.

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