Art & Culture of Rix Island Wear

Rick Ralston, the founder of Crazy Shirts back in the 1960s, went shopping for an aloha shirt shortly after retiring from the T-shirt business. “I searched all around and I really had a hard time finding anything I liked, so I thought, ‘I guess I’ll do them myself,” ” he says.

By way of research, Ralston “walked around downtown and looked at people on Bishop Street at noon time and I thought, ‘There’s an opportunity for me to use my skills and product knowledge to make some (aloha shirts) and get the guys from downtown looking sharp.’ ” Rix Island Wear was born.

Ralston appreciated silk shirts but found them pricey at more than $100, and “I wanted a good value for the customer. There’s nothing like cotton in our humidity and I can sell a nice shirt for half the price of silk,” he says. He wanted the prints to have a “local, masculine look,” so he traveled to Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa to study the art and tattoos of Polynesia, which remain the inspiration for Rix prints. Rix Island Wear shirts are made in Hawai‘i, with allover tribal and island designs on soft cotton.