Sunday, September 29, 2002



Reyn’s ‘modest’ aloha
shirt still wears well

The reverse-print, button-down
collar style hit a local chord

By Crystal Kua

University of Hawaii sociology professor Albert Robillard remembers buying an aloha shirt at the Reyn's store in Ala Moana.

"An executive came over to me and said he had the sense his product played a social role in Hawaii," Robillard recalled.

Can an aloha shirt be a sign of the changing times?

"Social change is the variation in the symbols of dominance," Robillard said. "I came to UH from Michigan, where professors wore tweed sports jackets, broadcloth cotton blue shirts and ties. But here the aloha shirt reigns supreme, and the variety of aloha shirt worn by top UH administrators mirrors those worn in the executive suites of Bishop Street."

That "variety" of aloha shirt Robillard refers to is Reyn's signature -- the reverse-print, button-down collar, Ivy League-style cotton pullover.

California menswear retailer Reyn McCullough came to Hawaii in the early 1950s and partnered with seamstress Ruth Spooner, who sewed his designs. The first Reyn's store opened in 1959 in Ala Moana, and in 1962, Spooner sold her business to McCullough.

Reyn's President and CEO Tim McCullough at the Ala Moana store with some of his merchandise.

"I'd like to say that we're modest, conservative, but we're proud of what we do, extremely proud," said Tim McCullough, president and chief executive officer and son of the founder.

Tim McCullough said modesty for his father translated into a new kind of aloha shirt.

"As far as fashion is concerned, my dad was responsible for essentially introducing traditional, Ivy League styling to the Hawaiian shirt and perhaps making it more business or more boardroom," Tim McCullough said. "His taste was conservative and understated, and that's really what the majority of our product line bespeaks is in good taste and in good style."

Reyn McCullough wanted an aloha shirt that could be worn professionally and casually, but aloha shirts at the time -- with its loud, touristy patterns -- wouldn't do. He liked the look of the sun-bleached prints of shirts worn by surfers, and he soon discovered that turning calico and floral prints inside out led to the look he was after.

Reyn McCullough was a member of the 1966 Hawaii Fashion Guild, which persuaded local businesses in 1966 to wear Hawaiian print garb to work on Fridays -- the birth of Aloha Friday.

In 1992, Robillard wrote a paper that was included in a book called "Social Change in the Pacific Islands."

University of Hawaii professor Albert Robillard, center, was flanked by assistants Sylvia Lee and Richard Salvador. Robillard wrote a paper on Reyn's aloha shirts for a book, "Social Change in the Pacific Islands," aided by Lee and Salvador.

His paper entitled "Where Is Social Change in Hawaii? The Reyn's Aloha Shirt," lays out his arguments for why Reyn's aloha short embodies social change in Hawaii.

"While the Reyn's shirt is sold outside of Hawaii, it is in Hawaii where it has the most clear-cut symbolic function, a signification of social position," Robillard wrote.

"The Reyn's aloha shirt is taken to mean that the wearer occupies or properly aspires to a particular position in the relation to the command of capital and power."

That's especially true when executives newly arrived to the islands don a Reyn's shirt.

"The shirt produces the recognition of awareness of and therein membership in a place. Just as Hawaii pidgin English use produces membership, social solidarity in people living in Hawaii, people who grew up in Hawaii, the Reyn's aloha shirt is the belonging to a social group."

Tim McCullough said the made-in-Hawaii label -- hand in hand with its image -- is important to the company.

"We've always employed Hawaii people. We still maintain our manufacturing and distribution in Hawaii, which is a tremendous commitment when you can have apparel manufactured in many different foreign countries today at significant savings."


Founder: Reyn McCullough. Son Tim McCullough is the current president and chief executive officer.

Founded: 1949, Catalina Island, Calif.

First Hawaii store opened: 1959 at Ala Moana Center. The store is still in its original location.

Affiliated companies: Reyn Spooner Inc. (wholesale) and No Ka Oi Producers Inc. (manufacturing)

Reyn's stores: Oahu -- Ala Moana Center, Downtown Rack, Kahala Mall, Sheraton-Waikiki; Kauai -- Hyatt Regency; Maui -- Kapalua Bay Hotel, Whalers Village, Wailea; Big Island -- Hilton Waikoloa, Kona Village, the Orchid and Parker Ranch

Number of employees: About 250 people based in Hawaii


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