I was on the big island of Hawaii last week and I happened across this very interesting looking hat in a tiny souvenir shop within the Kona Inn Shopping Village in Kailua-Kona. What I found so interesting is that it shouted “Made in Hawaii”, even though I didn’t see any labels. The print of the hat was a flora pattern, so typical of Hawaii (and Aloha shirts), but even more Hawaiian was the brim. The brim was made of WOOD – which is unique in itself, but the wood is made of Koa wood. Koa, scientific name: Acacia koa, is endemic to Hawaii, and it has a very unique look.
Because Hawaii is entirely made up of volcanic rock and wood, without minerals to make metal, historically, everything has been made of koa wood such as canoes, surfboards, spears, paddles, ukeleles, guitars, sculptures and furniture. With the advent of logging, koa wood has become scarce. Because of this, koa wood can no longer be logged, it can only be collected from branches that have fallen or trees that have died (and collected by people that need a license/permission to collect the koa wood). So, koa wood is a treasured Hawaiian resource and it is quite expensive.
The Hardwood Hat Company
This hat is made by The Hardwood Hat Company. The hats and visors are made only on the Big Island. The styles are limited to just a few patterns that change every few years.
The Big Island
When one is shopping on the Big Island for clothing “made in the USA”, one is essentially looking for clothing “made in Hawaii”. Hawaiian or Aloha shirts are abundant and many are made in the United States. Even at the Wal-Mart in Kailua-Kona, many of their Hawaiian shirts (About 50%) are made in the United States, look for the labels Bishop St. and Hawaiian Reserve Collection. Hilo Hatties, the number one seller of Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii, is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is another great place to find Hawaiian shirts made in Hawaii. Some bad news though, almost all T-shirts on the Big Island are imported, and it doesn’t matter which store you go to. Preserve the Hawaiian tradition and Buy Hawaiian.