What do Hawaiian Shirts Have to Do with It?

The Hawaiian shirts are just one of many reasons a June 2020 article in Business Insider, calls the Boogaloo Bois, a very confusing bunch. One more reason for this  is because they have only surfaced in the past year or two.  We just do not know much about them.

However, among the things we do know are the following:

  • They are viewed as a far-right extremist group
  • They are made up of white men, often seen wielding rifles at police brutality events across the
  • Hawaiian shirt U.S.
  • The name comes from the 1980s film, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a very forgettable movie that, interestingly, has a cast primarily made up of Blacks and Hispanics; two groups today’s Boogaloo Bois have little time for.
  • Their goal is, apparently, a second civil war in the U.S.
  • The Bois find most of their members in various private and public online forums.
  • They have been tied to at least three killings.
  • Hawaiian shirts have become one of their trademarks.

While all these points could be explored in much greater detail, it is the Hawaiian shirts that tend to raise the most eyebrows.

In one video posted on Twitter of a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, it was found that few people remembered much about the video, other than the Hawaiian shirts worn by the Boogaloo Bois.  So, this begs the question, why the shirts?

There are no easy answers. According to a June 29, 2020 article in the New York Times, it may have started as a joke. “Think of the shirts as a campy kind of uniform…thanks to a string of message board in-jokes.”

But there could be more to the shirts than realized. Along with causing confusion, these Hawaiian shirt uniforms tend to be disarming, precisely what this extremist group is hoping for.  After all, Hawaiian shirts are traditionally worn by middle-aged white men, mostly middle class, either on vacation or golfing.  These middle-aged white men are certainly not eager for another Civil War.  

Because of this, the Times says the shirts serve as a “quizzical moniker,” disguising a movement “focused on inciting high-impact violence on American soil.”

We should note that the Boogaloo Bois are not the first right-wing extremist group to wear some type of uniform.  Members of the Ku Klux Klan have worn uniforms, typically made from white sheets, ever since the last Civil War.  Further, heavy-duty Dr. Martens boots and suspenders are now associated with Neo-Fascist groups.  Even Frank Perry shirts, most of which are very traditional polo-type shirts, have been adopted as a uniform by some alt-right wing groups including racist skinheads.

All these uniforms are designed, in one way or another to “brand” these different groups and help them stand out from other groups, even those that share their philosophies.  This means the shirts are marketing tools.  They designate one group from another and symbolize what a group stands for.  In time, whenever we see someone at a protest march wearing a Hawaiian shirt, we will know they are one of the Boogaloo Bois. 

So, how far is this going to go?  Will the Bois and their Hawaiian shirts really make inroads into American society, causing protests and civil unrest?

Most observers of right-wing groups believe it will take time – if ever – before the Boogaloo Bois and the Hawaiian shirts have much of an impact in the U.S.  At this time, even though they have been tied to at least three murders, they say, the Bois are more a lot of talk “tied together by floral shirts.”  They may disband as quietly as they surfaced. 

Further, according to one men’s fashion columnist, middle-aged men may want their Hawaiian shirts back, saying “it is their God-given right to wear a tacky shirt.”  Let’s hope so.

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Stay safe,


Johnathan Tal

Chief Executive Officer

TAL Global

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