Men’s Vintage Hawaiian Shirts Make Yet Another Comeback
Gordon Gray models a vintage Hawaiian shirt from Elisa’s Cottage
Lisa Duncan Photography
The iconic Hawaiian shirt has been popular for decades—it never seems to go out of style. Mostly the purview of men, the trend began with shows like Hawaii Five-O in the 70s and Magnum PI in the 80s.
According to the Buzz Feed, Hawaiian shirts are … “light, colorful, and an easy way for any guy to incorporate fun prints into his wardrobe. Hawaiian shirts are so much more than your dad’s vacation staple.” Wwd.com reports that for 2018, “Ubiquitous Hawaiian shirts are at the epicenter of geeky chic, where boxy suits, cross-body bags and bucket hats are some must-haves.” This is good news for local gents, as there’s a downtown source that’s got the goods.
A fascinating peek into the past, Elisa’s Cottage will change the way you think about vintage stores. It’s light, bright and extremely well organized; with a welcoming mid-century vibe that invites lingering. Though new versions can be purchased at Tommy Bahama and other chain stores, finding quality vintage Hawaiian shirts can be a challenge. Happily, here in Benicia there are a whole lot of them at Elisa’s Cottage. To be more precise, Elisa has over 300 vintage and 700 newer men’s Hawaiian shirts, pretty much ensuring a great find for anyone looking.
Lisa Duncan Photography
Owner Elisa Accurso Anderson originally started Elisa’s Closet in what must be the smallest storefront in the city, a tiny space across the street from her current location at 622 First Street. About her enormous collection of men’s, women’s and children’s Hawaiian shirts, Elisa says, “You just can’t be in a bad mood when you are wearing a Hawaiian shirt—they make you smile.” Her current location, now called Elisa’s Cottage, is much larger, and houses all manner of newer and vintage clothing and accessories for all ages. In addition to Hawaiian shirts, her specialties include cowboy boots, jewelry, hats and other accessories.
Elisa, who lives in Vallejo, has been collecting since she was ten, starting at the San Jose Flea Market. “I was buying half-tables when I was 11, she says,” adding that her favorite collectible is Hawaiian shirts. “And I can’t quit buying jewelry. When I wanted to open the shop, I was super tired from the restaurant business. But my husband Steve always said, ‘Just do it.’ He was super encouraging.” He told her he would give her his social security check for a year to fund the endeavor, but “I never needed it, and he encouraged me to take the leap to the larger location last year,” she says.
Steve died from cancer in May 2017, while she was opening in her current location. When asked what motivates her to keep going, she says, “Steve believed in me. When I moved across the street, he encouraged me to go on as usual. Even when he was under hospice care, he was so supportive, wanting me to keep working. He’s still here at the shop with me now.”