Typically I am fortunate enough to combine my birthday with the Labor Day holiday, and 2014 was no different. I enjoy having a birthday early in the month so most have not yet flipped over their calendar into September before realizing having “missed” the celebration. Even still, I prefer to add to the holiday weekend on either end with an additional day-off to relish time away from the office.
Eventually the cat got out of the bag and she and I discussed the California transfer opportunity recently presented. It wasn’t an easy conversation and was one that affected each other and our future relations. Before any of this West Coast chatter, we agreed to embark upon a quick, local, weekend getaway to Michigan. It was an escape from home. It was a simple holiday and birthday celebration. It was an opportunity to reflect on what we shared together. It was an occasion to have an adult conversation about what was upcoming.
Excited about the purchase of a new, decked-out, beautiful, black SUV, she volunteered to drive. The trip got off to an ominous start as we skidded to a hard stop to avoid an accident less than 20 miles from home. She controlled the soundtrack for the duration of the trip while I was in charge of navigation and finding a decent meal en route to the hotel. The center console displayed various inbound text message alerts, including a handful from her next boyfriend. I looked the other way while anxiously awaiting the rest of the weekend, my tummy rumbling… For a greasy burger or from uneasy feelings, I’m not sure.
We did find a perfect fast food burger and milkshake at Schoop’s before making the rest of the trek to Holland and checking into our hotel. Rather than succumbing to a food coma, we decided to soak in the scenery and walk off the calories at magnificent Mt. Pisgah. We viewed the lake at sea-level and from much higher upon the dunes and rewarded ourselves after descending with frosty sno-cones. We quietly enjoyed each others’ company rather than speak about what was looming over our weekend together.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip, or at least my primary request when writing the itinerary was beers at New Holland Brewing Company. We were seated in the beautiful outdoor patio area off College Avenue. We struggled through the menu, having eaten a late lunch and spoiling our limited appetite with syrupy frozen treat. I ate something childish called Pepperoni Pinwheels and washed them down with a pint of Sundog. We left the bar having turned the wrong way down a one-way street. Blue and red lights illuminated her rear view mirror but the sympathetic officer let her off easy, with tears in her eyes explaining that she was overwhelmed with the news I was leaving her for California in two months.
Sunday morning we went our separate ways (temporarily) when she dropped me off at The Ravines Golf Course while she spent the day shopping and strolling downtown Saugatuck. I was paired up with other young-ish friendly players who were vacationing in Western Michigan. She picked me up at the end of the day and we headed to the famous Windmill Island Gardens. We toured the amazing engineering of the 250-year old structure and hit the gift shop for kitschy collectibles and baked Dutch treats.
Dinner Sunday night was somewhat of a special occasion, and not only because we elected to skip Sunday pizza. We dined on the rooftop at Cityvu Bistro for its fantastic cuisine and exceptional views of Holland and Lake Macatawa. The food out-classed the service as it was seemingly the entire staff’s first day ever working at a restaurant, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the experience. We enjoyed the emotional, sentimental meal and watched the sunset. The setting was a perfect metaphor for the countdown we would experience as our time together disappears below the horizon.
The Aloha Shirt and the Origin of #CasualFriday
Today, Casual Friday is a day when the conventional dress codes of most offices are cast aside in favor of denim jeans, comfortable t-shirts with movie slogans on them and shirts with the sleeves rolled up. But few people realize that this time-honored tradition of “sticking it to the man” forcing you to wear a noose around your neck four days a week has its origins in a Hawaiian garment company who were simply trying to find a way to sell more of their shirts.
In 1962, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild began pushing to make the iconic Aloha shirt (better known in the mainland States and abroad as a Hawaiian shirt) an acceptable piece of business attire. The Hawaiian Fashion Guild’s main argument was that the hot, temperate climate of Hawaii made conventional business attire uncomfortable for most workers, also adding that encouraging the wearing of Aloha shirts would bolster the Hawaiian garment industry.
The Hawaiian Fashion Guild were inspired, in part, by a similar campaign in Honolulu in 1946 which eventually resulted in the creation of Aloha Week- a week-long celebration of Hawaiian culture that included the wearing of Aloha shirts. This celebration not only helped forge a sense of national identity for post-war Hawaiians, but also helped kick-start the burgeoning Hawaiian garment industry who were quickly inundated with many thousands of orders for these Aloha shirts.
Back tot he 1960s, as part of what they dubbed “Operation Liberation”, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild sent Aloha shirts to every member of the Hawaiian Senate and House of Representatives, and lobbied for them to encourage Hawaiians to wear the shirts. After months of this, the Hawaiian government issued an edict recommending that “the male populace return to ‘aloha attire’ during the summer months for the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state’s garment industry.”
But this wasn’t enough for the Hawaiian Fashion Guild, led by Bill Foster, who began a new campaign targeting the workplace. In 1965, they once again began lobbying the government to allow its employees to wear Aloha shirts every week on Fridays. Within a year, people working at businesses across the state were donning their favourite Aloha shirts before heading to work every Friday- “Aloha Friday” was born.
After the introduction of Aloha Friday in 1966, the manufacturers of Aloha shirts quickly began producing designs with more muted colors that were less distracting and more suitable for a day at the office. This, in turn, saw Aloha shirts become more and more accepted as a regular every day shirt, boosting sales even further. It’s noted that by the early 1970s, most businesses in the region allowed their workers to wear Aloha shirts whenever they felt like it, not just on Fridays. As a result, Aloha Friday became the day on which some workers would choose to wear more flamboyant shirts sporting brighter, more elaborate designs than typically worn the rest of the week.
Although Aloha shirts were already a thing in mainland America at this point, and had been since the 1940s when American GI’s serving in the Pacific theatre brought them back after WW2, the idea of Aloha Friday didn’t make its way to the mainland until around the early 1990s, when cash-strapped businesses affected by a brief recession began looking for a way to raise employee morale without spending any money. The result- “Casual Friday”.
In 1992, Levi’s began a guerrilla marketing campaign to try to define the idea of “Business Casual” as they saw fit. The impetus for this campaign was that, as companies began introducing “Casual Friday” and otherwise relaxing their dress codes, a problem arose. PR guru Rick Miller, who worked on the Levi’s campaign, outlined the issue- “We found when guys shed their coats and ties they really didn’t know what to wear… People were showing up in Hawaiian print shirts or sandals and shorts. Frankly, there were concerns on the part of management that work might become too much fun.”
As such, Levi’s created a brochure called “A Guide to Casual Businesswear” and sent it to approximately 25,000 businesses across the United States. The brochure was not only helpful to companies trying to figure out how to define acceptable casual wear at the work place, but also a thinly veiled advertisement for Levi’s Dockers- khaki pants formerly generally only seen on the golf course. It worked. Many businesses used elements from this guide for their own guidelines for business casual wear for their employees. Within a year, men across the country began turning up for work en masse wearing Dockers.
As happened with Aloha Friday in Hawaii, the idea of Casual Friday disseminated throughout the world of business and the idea of “business casual” being suitable for every day of the week eventually became the accepted norm at many companies. So, in some sense, you could say the reason many of us reading this can go to work wearing something other than a suit is, in large part, because in the 1960s a company in Hawaii really wanted to boost sales of Aloha shirts.