In the Beginning There Was Wool

Wool sweaters are great for sundown beach parties, ski trips, visiting the grandparents and Sunday go to meeting clothes.

But surfing in wool? Yuck! Be glad you live in the early 21st Century and not the early 20th, when wool-covered fashion was always the passion at the Moana Hotel.

The first hotel on Waikiki Beach had its Grand Opening in 1901, the same year Queen Victoria died. Victoria was queen when England was the dominant world power, with an economy powered by the sale of wool. Itchy and scratchy was big business for Britain. Queen Victoria was modest at best, prudish at worst and that is why female visitors to Waikiki at the turn of the century wore ankle-to-wrist-to-neck wool bathing garments, and men wore wool tanksuits with “modesty skirts” below, and the chest covered above.

The Moana hotel opened in 1901, and offered 75 rooms for $1.50 a night. The Moana had modern marvels like telephones, en suite bathrooms and Hawaii’s first electric-powered elevator, but the real attraction to the Moana was right there in the name: Moana means “ocean” in Hawaiian, and the surf beckoned.

The ocean and the surf were dangerous to the malahini who weren’t accustomed to the secrets of the sea, and that inspired the Beach Boy service: local guys who had an intimate knowledge of the ocean and the waves and the winds and the ways of nature, and they protected the tourists who wanted to ride the surf. The Moana provided surfboards, Beach Boys, modesty changing rooms and also bathing costumes for men and women – made of wool.

M. Nii are not in the business of torturing their valued customers, so they are not bringing back wool bathing suits.

But this Moana sweater is styled after the wool, hotel-issued tanksuits of the early 20th Century. Warm and comfortable and perfect for beach parties, ski trips, visiting the grandparents and going to meetings on Sundays.

Just take it off before going surfing.