A Brief History of Andy Reid’s Iconic Devotion to Hawaiian Shirts

The Chiefs’ head coach is known for sporting the floral, short-sleeved button-downs among his NFL peers. So what better place to celebrate his devotion to the Hawaiian shirt (formally known as an Aloha shirt) than a Miami Super Bowl?
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People don’t wear Hawaiian shirts; Hawaiian shirts wear people. When the average human puts on a brightly colored, floral, short-sleeved button-down—the correct term for which is actually an Aloha shirt—the article of clothing almost always speaks louder than the wearer. Few middle-aged men can pull them off (except noted Kansas City fan Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, who was so good at wearing that yellow shirt it was almost offensive). But most end up looking like an extra in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is the rare guy who can pull off this look. In fact, Reid looks out of place wearing anything but an Aloha shirt. The man was built for big, bold prints that match his big, bold frame, and they’ve become his calling card. Elton John has his yellow glasses, Prince had his purple, Guy Fieri has his ... well, everything ... and Andy Reid has his Aloha shirts.

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Reid’s favorite upper layer originated in Hawaii, when a tailor in Honolulu named Musa-Shiya Shoten ran the first ad for Aloha Shirts priced starting at 95 cents. A year later, he placed another that said, “Specials For Tourists! Aloha Shirts made to order or ready-made.” The shirts were made out of Japanese cotton called yukata cloth, usually used for women’s kimonos.

It’s hard to pin down the exact date when Reid started wearing Aloha shirts, mostly because I just assume he was born in one. But the earliest photo that seems to exist on the internet is from 2003 at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Before the NFL moved the annual game to Orlando, the league used to give Aloha shirts to coaches to wear while on the sidelines of Aloha Stadium. Reid looks quite confident in the garment, with his radio clipped to a wrap-around waist band. He accessorized with a lei, naturally.   

Sports publications have been chronicling Reid’s devotion to the Aloha shirt since 2008 (at least, that’s the first post I can find commenting on Reid’s Hawaiian attire). In the years since, the media and fans have become somewhat obsessed. His Aloha vibes are A Thing, like a better version of “Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard.” There are hundreds of posts—even on this very website!—about Reid’s flowery shirt of choice. And not necessarily anything specific about them. No, it’s news whenever the head coach simply puts one on. Every time he appears in public dressed as if on his way to sling some margs at a Jimmy Buffet concert, people care deeply.

Reid made headlines in 2011 for wearing an Aloha shirt to a Kenny Chesney concert (which is, honestly, the perfect place to wear one). The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the momentous occasion: “Reid, wearing his usual Hawaiian shirt, headed on stage before Chesney performed "Boys of Fall" to loud cheers and presented Chesney with an autographed Eagles helmet. Reid then pointed as if he wanted to swap the helmet for Chensey's cowboy hat. Cheney obliged and the two stood arm in arm for a moment and saluted the crowd, with Chesney ins an Eagles helmet and Reid in a cowboy hat.”

Reid has since become known for wearing his favorite type of shirt to the annual owners meeting in March. The earliest photo evidence online appears to be from 2013, which—as far as I can tell—was the first year the NFL made coaches take a group photo (shoutout to Jeff Fisher in a sport coat!). In the years following, it’s become somewhat of a game online to see what pattern Reid wears to pose among the more mundanely dressed head coaches. 

Aloha shirts have become such a big part of who Reid is that some of his players surprised him by wearing Chiefs-themed florals to travel to the Super Bowl.

“Big Red!” Travis Kelce exclaimed, using Reid’s nickname, from his podium at Opening Night when I asked him how the plan to match his coach came about. “Everybody knows he loves the Hawaiian shirts. So Gehrig Dieter, a wide receiver for us, brought it to everyone’s attention that we should all grab one for him, knowing we’re going back for Big Red and trying to win one for him.”

Reid didn’t wear an Aloha shirt on the plane, but he wore a red one with a Chiefs logo on it to Opening Night. As his players strutted onto the stage in slick white sweatsuits for their first public appearance of the Chief’s biggest week in fifty years, Reid stood there with his arms by his side, resplendent in his tropical glory. He fit in perfectly with the palm tree-themed Super Bowl banners. It’s almost like this year’s location was scripted for this man’s closet. Perhaps it’s a coincidence or perhaps it’s fate. Either way, Miamdy Reid has a nice ring to it.

Reid made the decision to dress this way for Opening Night after seeing his players honor him with their shirts on Sunday. “I wore this in tribute to them,” Reid said, clearly touched that his players had chosen to publicly honor him by eschewing the fancy suits and beautiful coats they usually put on to travel to games.

Reid’s sartorial choice makes sense. His personality is the human equivalent of an Aloha shirt: jovial, positive, and historically—when it comes to his management of the clock—on island time. Reid has leaned into the shirt, which he wears to owners meetings every winter. It’s become somewhat of a game to find his floral self among the other, more somberly dressed coaches in the annual coaches photo. When I asked Reid at the Super Bowl’s opening night how it all started, he had a fairly simple answer.

“They’re good for big guys,” Reid said. “Tommy Bahama must’ve had a big grandfather.”

I’m not quite sure where Mr. Bahama Sr. came from in Reid’s response, but that is Reid’s preferred brand. “Yeah,” he said. “I love Tommy Bahama. They’re comfortable.”

Not everyone has always loved Reid’s shirts. In 2010, a writer for Fansided published this sentence: “While trying to avert my eyes from Andy Reid‘s awful Hawaiian shirt during his post-pick interview on pe.com, I managed to catch a hint regarding the Eagles second-round draft strategy.”

Public opinion is no longer on the wrong side of history, thank goodness. In fact, fans are so into Reid’s wardrobe that they’ve even started a Change.org petition encouraging him to wear an Aloha shirt to coach the Super Bowl. Only 14 people have signed, but hey! That’s a start. There’s even a Bovada prop bet on whether or not Reid will actually do it. I’m not a betting woman (as I’ve written before, I’m bad at math, and I don’t know how to do gamble online), but if I were? I might take the risk and put down some money. Maybe a cool four dollars and twenty cents.

What is it about Reid’s shirts that capture the imagination? My theory is simple: a fun shirt is just so pleasant. It’s a fun little quirk in the fire hose of bad and troubling news that seems fires at us every day from the internet. Reid looks like a dad on vacation, which is the energy that I, for one, always try to project. The shirts say, “Hey, don’t sweat it. Everything will be fine.” They’re the cotton equivalent of a pina colada; refreshing, a little exciting, and containing the perfect amount of buzz. Now, let’s see if Reid gives the people what they want and shows up on the sidelines Sunday in the sports world’s favorite garment. Perhaps it would be the lucky charm that would allow Kansas City to say—puts sunglasses on—“aloha” to the Lombardi.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com

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