The Hawaiian Shirt Is Back, With A Vengeance!

Hibiscus flowers, palm trees- the loud colorful shirts sported by Magnum PI are making an unlikely comeback on catwalks and in Europe's most fashionable stores.

Super cool biz (Ty Nigh)
Super cool biz (Ty Nigh)
Clark Parkin

BERLIN - The unlikely revival started last summer. Bright flower prints made a splashy comeback on the catwalk when both Stella McCartney and Givenchy showed exotic patterns featuring birds of paradise and palm leaves. A few months before, Miuccia Prada had already shown wide, short-sleeved shirts with Caribbean motifs in her women's collection.

This does not explain why the most dreaded piece of clothing in a man's wardrobe is fashionable again.

Since its emergence in the 1930s, the Hawaiian shirt has gone through a number of phases. Harry Truman was photographed for the cover of Life wearing one. In 1952, Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift wore Hawaiian shirts in From Here to Eternity, while, in 1961, Elvis Presley donned an orchid-printed model and sang "Can't help falling in love" in Blue Hawaii.

That was the harmless phase. Dialogue from an episode of The Simpsons tells us the kind of image the shirts have today. Homer: "Marge, our son was wearing a Hawaiian shirt today! There's only two kinds of guys who wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys or big fat party animals! And Bart doesn't look like a big fat party animal to me!" Marge: "So if you wore a Hawaiian shirt, it wouldn't be gay?" Homer: "Right! Thank you."

The big fat party animals -- stock figures in the party scenes of American comedies, standing there holding a drink topped off with cocktail umbrellas -- are the ones who gave Hawaiian shirts a bad name.

In Germany in the 1980s, entertainer Jürgen von der Lippe, the last German party animal, looked so tacky in his Hawaiian shirt that nobody else wanted to be caught dead in one. The Hawaiian shirt's lowest point came in 2002 when a mug shot of actor Nick Nolte, high on liquid ecstasy, showed him wearing one after leading police on a chase through the streets of L.A.

Of course the shirt also was also worn by desperado types: Al Pacino wore one in Scarface, and the gang known as the Montague Boys wore them in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet.

In the United States, the gay connotation can be traced back to an icon of the gay community during the last great Hawaiian shirt era in the 1980s: Tom Selleck, who in the TV series Magnum, wore Hawaiian shirts almost exclusively (which actually made sense, since the series is set in Hawaii and the laid-back style suited his character, private detective Thomas Magnum, to a tee).

Super cool biz is just an excuse to wear Hawaiian shirts

No other item of clothing screams "leisure wear!" louder than the Hawaiian shirt. For that reason (and many would say unfortunately) it is unsuited to office wear. Today, a shirt that draws that sharp a line between work and after work is something of an anachronism.

Today, when people are holiday, they don't dress in a way that would make them stand out as tourists – particularly the type known as the "American tourist," with his camera hanging down over his fat stomach (an image eternalized hyper-realistically in 1988 by Pop artist Duane Hanson), now extinct.

So what on earth, in the year 2012, would bring Hawaiian shirts back again? Are they so uncool they're cool? Shirts by the same manufacturer who made the shirts Tom Selleck wore in Magnum are on sale this season at Schwittenberg, a Munich concept store. It took a little getting used to at first, but now as summer is getting into full swing the store can hardly keep enough of the shirts in stock to supply demand.

Let's face it, there's hardly a better shirt to wear for BBQs, and even the issue of their suitability for the office may soon be solved.

In Tokyo last year, the Environment Ministry asked people to show up for work wearing what they called "super cool biz" clothing – please, no suits and ties for men, but Hawaiian shirts instead.

There was actually a serious reason to this. The Japanese want to spend much less energy on air-conditioning, in fact they need to reduce use by 15% during the summer months to avoid electricity shortages.

Armed with an argument like that, maybe the boss would even buy it if we showed up at the office wearing Hawaiian shirts.

Read the article in German in Die Welt.

Photo- Ty Nigh

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.
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