Hawaiian Shirt Friday

(l to r.) Zach Weiner, Matt Lamb, Rory McTear and Tim Kwilos flaunt their Hawaiian tropical pride on the big chair. (Sera Jeong/The Phoenix)

Swat Style Snapshot

Trendsetters and aficionados of fashion, Lamb, McTear, Kwilos and Weiner model Hawaiian shirts every Friday as a ritual of sorts. Their shirts, although sharing a common Hawaiian theme, feature a diverse range of prints, including palm trees, hibiscus flowers and tropical fruit. Weiner and McTear have preferred wearing shirts with vibrant, eye-catching pigments whereas Lamb and Kwilos are partial to subdued hues, bringing the collective aesthetic to a color balance. The students, all baseball players and Delta Upsilon brothers, procured the shirts at Goodwill, an exclusive high-fashion boutique. According to McTear, their shirts were destined to become part of their wardrobe. “You don’t find the Hawaiian shirt. It finds you,” he said.

A Grassroots Wellness Initiative:

Fridays see the students displaying their Hawaiian shirts to transition from a long, stressful week to a relaxing weekend. Through wearing Hawaiian shirts, the students are easily mistaken for simply expressing exceptional style. However, their actions are much more nuanced, as their objective is to exude good vibes in an effort to relax the campus atmosphere. Hawaiian Shirt Friday symbolizes a movement to bring an island lifestyle and the Hawaiian shirt aesthetic to the suburban campus of Swarthmore College. For McTear, the altruistic wearing of Hawaiian shirts on Friday and expressing positivity is akin to serving the school community.

“We really don’t dress for ourselves on Fridays, we dress for others,” he said. The students find a sense of satisfaction in the collective effort to positively impact their peers. Kwilos, an economics major, notes the positive externalities of wearing Hawaiian shirts, which fits with Swarthmore College’s Wellness Initiative. “We just see people’s faces light up,” he said. For Lamb, wearing Hawaiian shirts strengthens students’ social relations by transcending class and social differences. “You can be a high-class individual, or a lowly beach bum but you’re coming together over a Hawaiian shirt and a laid-back atmosphere and attitude,” he said.

The Art of Complementing the Hawaii style:

Although the Hawaiian shirt acts as a symbol of solidarity, it also allows Lamb, McTear, Kwilos and Weiner to express their individuality. In order to keep the Hawaiian shirt as the visual focal point, the students must navigate other elements of their outfits carefully, striking a precarious balance between enhancing but not overshadowing their shirts. Weiner, a self-proclaimed fashionista, accompanies a shirt with his signature look of sweatpants and white undershirt. “I like wearing a shirt underneath so I can have a distinction between where my neck hair ends and chest hair starts,” said Weiner. McTear on the other hand, styles his shoes with a chic pair of sneakers from an up-and-coming brand, Sperry’s, and a pair of jeans from American Eagle, a purveyor of denim which McTear describes as “a really hipster type place.” In a bid to capture the essence of a beach bum, Lamb pairs his shirt with Vans, exuding a laid-back Southern Californian look. Lamb often hankers for a luau on Parrish beach. “Sometimes I wear a swimsuit underneath my jeans so I can have the whole feel of being at the beach,” he said.

Sera Jeong/The Phoenix


The Friday Morning Ritual:

Hawaiian Shirt Friday holds different meanings for each of the students, who each pay homage to the movement each Friday morning through unique dressing rituals. McTear prefers to leave two or three buttons unfastened in order to exhibit his chest hair. “It’s really a turn-on for a lot of people,” he said. For Lamb, dressing on Friday mornings is about “throwing it on” in keeping with the integrity of the laid-back island attitude. On Friday mornings Kwilos will raid through his pile of clothes, either in his drawers or on his floor to find his Hawaiian shirt. Like Lamb, Kwilos throws on his shirt in order to celebrate the end of a school week. For Weiner, participation in this ritual practice acts as a transcendental experience, transporting him to a state of enhanced cerebral performance. “I’m in a better mental state to learn when I’m wearing this shirt,” he said.

Joining the Cultural Movement:

The students are attempting to actively recruit other students to join the dissemination of a relaxed island culture at Swarthmore College. “But not too actively, we’re relying on the vibes,” Kwilos said, who describes the Hawaiian Shirt Friday faction as “all-inclusive.” They perceive the responses to their Hawaiian shirts as somewhat well-received. “[Other students] are definitely smiling with us, not at us,” Lamb said. Lamb, Student Council Co-President, is hopeful that an island culture will catch on at Swarthmore. “This is a call to the student body to don your Hawaiian shirt and embrace the lifestyle, island flavor and love,” he said.

Do you think you (or a professor) have great style? Then submit a photo of you in your best outfit to sjeong1@swarthmore.edu. Please include your name and contact information.

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