To celebrate its 100 years of ukulele legacy, Kamaka Ukulele asked us to collaboratively design limited edition aloha shirts to commemorate its historic milestone. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to be part of it. This week, we are proud to introduce the results of our collaboration: two limited release designs that translate 100 years of Kamaka Ukulele heritage into wearable art that pays careful attention to historical details. In addition to men’s short sleeve and long sleeve shirts, the Kamaka Centennial Collection also includes shirts for boys, eco bags, little girl dresses and aprons.
DESIGN DETAIL #1: KAMAKA UKULELE 100 YEARS:
The first print, rendered in Spooner Kloth, is: Kamaka Ukulele 100 Years. Its background is infused with line art depicting Kamaka’s first retail store and its current factory on South Street that first opened in 1959, the same year our company Founder, Reyn McCallough opened Reyn’s Men’s Wear at the Ala Moana Center. On top of this textured background, we bring together images of Kamaka’s logos, inside sound hole labels and headstock decals used through its 100-year history along with iconic ukulele cases. One such case is Kamaka’s famous pineapple ukulele. The men’s shirt comes in 3 colorways – Red, Navy and Charcoal. Tailored in Classic Relaxed Fit. Wrinkle free Spooner Kloth. Pullover and button front styles.
DESIGN DETAIL #2: KAMAKA CONTOUR:
The second print, developed in Tahitian Cotton, is: Kamaka Contours. With bold graphical outlines of iconic Kamaka ukuleles, this print delivers a contemporary punch that seems lyrical in nature. Its background has a screened textured look that emulates traditional Spooner Kloth’s reverse print finish, but its preached 100% cotton fabrication provides even better breathability and lightweight comfort. It’s also designed with trending rounded shirt tails and trimmer shoulder and body as compared to our Classic Fit. Think of these as comparable to standard fit oxford shirts. Still comfortable and more tailored to fit. Men’s shirt also comes in 3 colorways – Black, Blue and Maroon. Tailored in trimmer Standard Fit. Button font style only.
HOW DID THE UKULELE GET ITS NAME?
Did you know that Ukulele literally means jumping fleas in Hawaiian? Perhaps because of the movement of the player’s fingers. Actually, there is no definitive answer as to how the name was derived or it’s exact meaning. According to Queen Lili’uokalani, the name means “the gift that came here”, made from “uku” (gift or reward) and “lele” (to come). It also may be derived from “ukeke lele” or “dancing ukeke” (the ukeke is a Hawaiian musical bow).
It is clear, however, that the Hawaiian ukulele is a local adaptation of similar Portuguese instruments called machete. Machetes were brought over by early Portuguese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work the sugar cane fields. In 1879, the Portuguese master craftsman and instrument maker Manuel Nunes arrived in the Hawaiian Islands with Joao Fernandes and Augustine Dias, two other instrument makers. Together they are credited with the development of the ukulele.
THE KAMAKA LEGACY
In 1916, a young apprentice to Manuel Nunes decided to start his own ukulele business in the basement of his house in Kaimuki. This young man was Samuel Kamaka. He began with making a few ukuleles per week and selling them for $5 apiece. But it was not long before his quality workmanship and the beauty of the Kamaka sound spread his reputation far and wide, and a brand synonymous with beauty and craftsmanship was born. Later the Company gained fame for employing hearing impaired workers whose heightened sense of touch can accurately determine the thickness of wood through vibrations. The company also invented and patented the pineapple ukulele.
Today, Kamaka remains a family business. Sam Jr.’s son, Chris, is the production manager; his other son, Casey, crafts the custom orders; and Fred Jr. is the business manager. Other young family members are also helping with the business, carrying the Kamaka tradition into the fourth generation helping to continuously refine and improve their instruments.
Why are Kamaka ukuleles special? They are not flashy. Just the opposite, they are very traditional looking, mostly with just a satin finish with straight wood grain. But they are made of stunningly beautiful solid koa wood; and each instrument is handcrafted with precision fit and finish to amplify the best sound. This attention to quality is what gives Kamaka its famously lush and rich tune and the reputation for being the “granddaddy” of Hawaiian ukuleles. As we like to say at Reyn Spooner, “Mai iloko mai” – That which is within matters.
Famous Kamaka players include George Harrison and Jake Shimabukuro. To learn more, watch Heart Strings, a PBS documentary chronicling the story of Kamaka. And if you have not heard of Jake Shimabukuro before, you just might enjoy a few minute watching Jake playing a piece called Dragon on a Kamaka uke, of course.
KAMAKA CENTENNIAL COLLECTION
This collection and all the events surrounding Kamaka’s centennial celebration is really a celebration of 100 years of family, musical history and quality craftsmanship. In this spirit, our Reyn Spooner Kamaka Centennial Collection also includes limited release products that can be enjoyed by the whole family, including shirts for boys, dresses for girls, eco bags and aprons.