Sartorial is probably not the first word or image that comes to mind for tourists visiting Honolulu or Hawaii. Beaches, swimming and surfing are the more likely associations. Other easy associations would be the savory local island cuisine (poke, plate lunches, shave ice and much more) or the open air shopping at Ala Moana and Royal Hawaiian shopping malls.
Honolulu and Hawaii are not usually considered sartorial hotspots precisely because the tropical locale offers other diversions. But the two are not contradictory. In Honolulu you can find sartorial establishments just a 10-15 minute walk from the beach. It’s not quite bespoke on the beach but probably as close you’ll ever get to it.
In fact, I don’t know of any other place where you can take a swim or surf in the morning and then see your bespoke shirtmaker just minutes away from the beach and your tailor another five minutes away.
So what does sartorial Honolulu mean? Let’s first address sartorialism. For many, it’s simply a way of dressing stylishly. The natural assumption is that this happens mostly in cities. For the more traditionally minded, you can also “dress up” in the country. These rules and norms were put into practice centuries ago and still remain guideposts today for some. But Hawaii defies traditional categories, neither city nor country. For strict traditionalists, sartorialism in a tropical setting is an oxymoron.
This would be the wrong conclusion to draw by a long shot. It’s wrong in two ways.
First, let’s take traditional sartorialism which is usually associated with tailoring, footwear and accessories found in metropoles like London, Paris and New York. Occasionally, there is some allowance made for a dash of mild exoticism such as Alden (a nod to American trad or Ivy style) or Carmina (Spanish!) shoes. But for the most part we are talking about a very familiar stable of brands one can find at Pitti, Mr. Porter and menswear specialty retailers around the world from Boston to Beijing.
In the area of footwear, for instance, it’s not surprising that New York City’s Leffot carries high-end RTW and bespoke brands like Edward Green, Gaziano & Girling and Corthay. But interestingly enough, one of the best high-end men’s shoe stores in the US is Leather Soul located in downtown Waikiki.
In fact, Leather Soul has two locations in Honolulu. They carry Edward Green, John Lobb and Alden. So let’s discard the wrong-headed notion that sartorialism is restricted to mega-cities like New York or London.
In one respect at least, Honolulu is actually quite comparable to New York or London.
Part two of this write-up will feature related subjects – the last remaining bespoke tailor in Honolulu, a bespoke aloha shirt maker and a fabric shop in Honolulu to supply the Hawaiian and tropical print fabrics needed for your shirt.