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Aloha Shirt Creator Chun Dies at 91

June 7, 2000

HONOLULU (AP) _ Ellery J. Chun, credited as the creator of the original Hawaiian aloha shirt that spawned an industry of colorful copycats, has died at age 91.

Chun died May 16 in Honolulu, his widow, Mildred, said Tuesday.

The Yale University graduate designed the distinctively colorful Hawaiian-theme shirt in 1931 and mass-produced it for sale at his family’s store in downtown Honolulu.

In 1936, Chun registered the ``Aloha″ trade name.

The short-sleeved design was inspired by the checkered shirts worn by sugar plantation workers in the 1800s and the silk tops of schoolchildren sewn from leftover kimono material by their Japanese mothers.

The style caught on with surfers, Waikiki entertainers and Hollywood stars such as Montgomery Cliff, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Countless clothing manufacturers followed suit, often in gaudy fashion.

In the islands, the more tasteful versions have never gone out of style, and men often wear aloha shirts instead of suits and ties in the workplace and at formal occasions.

In 1991, the state Senate honored Chun for his contribution to Hawaii on the 60th anniversary of the shirt’s creation.

Chun came up with the design to help his family generate business during the Depression, his wife said. The first few dozen patterns showed palm trees, hula dancers and pineapples.

``He was very creative,″ Ms. Chun said. ``I’m sure he had a good business instinct.″

Chun’s store, King-Smith Clothiers, also sponsored a radio talent show in the late 1930s, broadcast from Waikiki Beach. It helped launch local musical careers, including that of popular isle singer Emma Veary.

Chun later closed the store and served as a vice president of American Security Bank. He retired in 1966 but continued to serve on the bank’s board until 1980.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, a son and a sister.

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