While the variety of Hawaiian shirts is as diverse as the colors of a rainbow, most of them can be easily categorized into a few broad styles. These styles and determined by the design of the print and how they are manufactured.
The most common type of Hawaiian shirt is generally referred to as the all-over print. The typical all-over print is full of flowers or leaves (or both) that repeat all over the shirt in a seemingly random pattern. If an all-over print contains bits of scenery instead of just flowers it is usually referred to as a scenic print.
basic all-over print shirt on the left and scenic print shirt on the right
Another common type of shirt is the panel shirt. The panel shirt has a design that flows vertically from top to bottom.
panel print Hawaiian shirt
The next major category is called the border shirt. Unlike the all-over prints, the border designs are characterized by a large design that is usually about 12 inches wide. The print repeats horizontally presenting a design that goes across the shirt. Some border prints are as simple as some flowers or surfboards going across the chest.
Others appear more complex such as a large scene that goes across the bottom of the shirt. Border shirts with prints that go across the bottom of the shirt are sometimes called bottom designs. Shirt designers prefer that you do not tuck in bottom design shirts because doing so hides part of the design. It’s like hiding their artwork.
The higher quality border shirts are matched in the middle so that the image on the front of the shirt is seamless rather than being broken where the right and left sides meet. These matched shirts take both more skill and more fabric to manufacture than an unmatched all-over shirt. Therefore these shirts cost more.
Both shirts are border print shirts but the one on the right is also known as a bottom design shirt
The last major category is the engineered shirt. They are very similar to the border design except rather than repeating every 12 inches, they repeat every 18 inches. This means that the design spans the entire front of the shirt even more than the border designs do. These shirts require even more fabric than the border shirts and thus cost even more. And like the bottom designs, you would normally wear an engineered shirt untucked.
engineered print shirt design spans entire shirt without repeating
There is also a shirt type that can fall under any category. Vintage-inspired retro designs are shirts that are either replicas of Aloha shirts from the 1930s or are at least inspired by those designs. Just as someone wearing clothes from the 1930s would stand out in modern society, so does the vintage Aloha shirt. It’s is typically characterized by artwork done in the style the was common in the 30s and 40s. Many hardcore Aloha shirt people prefer the vintage style shirts. A actual vintage shirt from the 1930s in mint condition can be easily worth a couple thousand dollars.
vintage-inspired retro Hawaiian shirts based on designs from the 1930s and 1940s
So there you have it. In a nutshell, the main styles of Hawaiian shirt are the all-over print, scenic print, border print, bottom design, or engineered shirt. Now when you have a discussion about what kind of shirt you're interested in, you'll know what these terms mean.