What type of clothing says, “I’m relaxed” more than a Hawaiian shirt? The question is rhetorical. While some might argue that the Hawaiian shirt has yet to become accepted as formal attire outside of its birth island, the two founders of Tombolo return to Parasol Projects for their second pop-up shop on Elizabeth Street to change exactly that and spread a new Hawaiian style to trendy New Yorkers.
“We’re trying to liberate the Hawaiian shirt from its kitschy connotation,” says Chris Galasso. Having been friends with his business partner Mike Sard since they were seven, the two are in complete agreement when it comes to the effect of their shirts. “It’s like a portable vacation,” says Sard. “You put it on and you are transported in a different state of mind,” adds Galasso.
When speaking in geographical terms, a tombolo is a bar of sand joining an island to the mainland, not completely an island and not completely land either. This in-between metaphor can also apply to these garments since it’s not a t-shirt but it’s not necessarily a dress shirt either. In other words, it’s a little bit of both.
When asking these founders what the most important element of a Hawaiian shirt is, the answer was unanimous, “it’s a canvas for original artwork” or even storytelling. Just take a look at the details on the ‘Midnight Snack’ shirt that both Sard and Galasso were wearing during our visit to their pop-ups. The shirts unique design depicts a bare-chested man standing in the water while holding a torch and the speared fish he just caught. Sashimi is on the menu tonight. Can you say that your shirt tells such a story?
It’s probably why clothing with such strong narratives can be hard to wear at work outside the office’s Aloha day. While Galasso explains that in Hawaii, businessmen actually wear such shirts during formal occasions, like board meetings, it can still be a challenge to imagine executives at Golmann Sachs wearing depictions of jaguars lurking in the jungle while meeting with their own quarry.
Tombolo is based in Brooklyn and does business mainly online, but their Nolita pop-up allows them to meet their clientele directly. The idea and the quality behind the Tombolo line is bound to attract Hunter S Thompson’s disciples and other originals who want their clothing to say something more than “I’m Normal.”