Aloha mai! I am Lelemia, a Native Hawaiian from the ahupuaa of Waianae and a PhD student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As a budding academic, it is important to attend conferences so one can gain greater insights in their field of study. I had that opportunity this past month at the Hawaii Conservation Alliance 21st conference. The theme: “Live Today, Sustain Tomorrow: Connecting, People, Places and Planet”.
Conferencing: Paikini a Kana Pakipika in the contemporary world. The following is fashion advice for the Pacific Islander male, like myself, and the views expressed represent my humble opinion. I speak from years of experience attending international, national and regional conferences (more than 20).
Going to a conference, first impressions are everything! It was my first time to attend this event, and I knew how I dressed not only represented myself but aslo my ohana and my institution. Because I am a student, I live on a budget but it doesn’t mean I don’t have to sacrifice dressing presentable.
Here are images of what I wore. “I no mo’ much kala (money)” but I know how to live life well on a shoe string, so I went vintage shopping and purchased all these items at Goodwill.
I am not afraid of color because I know what matches my tanned completion. The top is a vintage Billabong “aloha” shirt design (cost $7). The pants are moussini brand of mustard yellow hue. My sister found these pants brand new with tags for only 5 bucks!!
I found the orange works well with my complexion as well as browns. The top is a liberty house Aloha Shirt that I purchased at Goodwill in the continental United States at a discount of $2.50 USD. The corduroy gently-used pants are actually J-Crew and cost me $8.00 from a vintage shop in the continental US. When at a conference in another region, it’s a great opportunity to check out their vintage and other shops on your free time. Mai hilahila! No shame…
The Green Tahitian shirt was found on the rack in the woman’s section of Goodwill in Honolulu. Tip: it’s great to go shopping with girls and help them, as they will have your back too! The shirt only cost $8 bucks and the brand new Levi jeans were about the same.
All these clothes kept me warm but also adapted well in the warm summer days of Honolulu. They easily transitioned from conference clothes to going out and connecting with other people from the conference in the evening.
So here’s a quick 1, 2, 3 that I use to help me. If you have any advice, it will be greatly appreciated.
EKAHI (1): invest in a comfortable, professional men’s shoe. A great resource is to check out GQ’s guide: http://www.gq.com/style/style-manual/201204/dress-shoes-leather-polish#slide=1 On the island, I went to many stores and bought a Bostonian, black leather shoe for about 50 dollars. It has mileage (~6 years old) but looks good—and works for all my clothes. When at the airport, it’s worth paying six buck for someone to shine it back to “boom ka nani” new!
ELUA (2): know your venue! When it comes to selecting shirts: pacific wear (i.e. aloha shirts) are fine if it’s not tacky and touristy. I am not afraid of representing the islands, and I do wear aloha shirts as evidence from the pictures above.
EKOLU (3): Pants are important. Make sure they are comfortable, professional and match your shirt. And make sure your clothes transition well to evening activities. FYI- Walter pointed out the belt is a necessary accessory. Get one that’s double-sided black and brown so it can be used for multiple occasions.
In closing, I write this with the utmost respect and appreciation that it is an honor to go to conferences in the islands or abroad and see other Polynesian men and women wear their clothes representative of their home. At this conference, I saw Samoan men wear the ie lavalava, a few Hawaiian men wearing kihei, and other Pacific brothers representing their beautiful island prints and creations. Take confidence in what you wear because we represent our ancestors, family and people as a whole. E ola mau i ka haloa!