On the Prowl for Hawaiian shirts
Recently I realized that my wardrobe had dwindled to a lot of t-shirts but almost no actual shirts. My extremely pretty wife Raquel takes care of me by tossing out anything that she thinks looks funky or old, always without me knowing about it because I hang onto stuff I like no matter the look or condition. So, I went on a mission to find myself a couple of new Hawaiian shirts for my closet. I feel good in those kinds of shirts and am a fan of the vintage silky types that we used to get in the 60’s.
The mission was long and hard. After going to pretty much every store and surf shop that you might think would carry this kind of thing I had no luck at all. Either they had nothing that I consider “cool” or they didn’t have anything that fit me. I wear 2xl or 3xl in most shirts (shut up, I have wide shoulders from a lifetime of paddling). Then I tried to google to find something. Low and behold there was a listing for a store called “Dirt Cheap Plants and Hawaiian Shirts,” in Costa Mesa. How could a store with a name like that NOT have what I sought?
So, along with my son Tanner, we set out to check it out. We almost missed it because the store is in the back and not visible from the street. Thankfully Tanner map quested it and we went around and found it. WOW. This was EXACTLY the store I needed. Outside were racks of the kinds of shirts I like and inside there was far more. This place is like the promised land for Aloha shirts and other of “da kind” stuff.
Upon quickly finding 4 wonderful shirts, and grabbing one for Tanner too, I struck up a conversation with the owner, Nik Wassiliew (who goes by Mr. Dirt Cheap). Turns out we used to surf together back in the 60’s at Doheny and share a lot of surf history. I was so stoked at having found Nik and his store that I asked him to write down some background on “Dirt Cheap” and email it to me. The following is the short version of his story.
“I was born when I was very young to Russian immigrants that settled in Orange during the early 50's. Went to Orange High and in my senior year we had double sessions. My afternoons were free and spent mostly at Doheny learning to surf. Started my retail life at 16 working for Montgomery Ward's warehouse in Anaheim and later their 17th St. Santa Ana store. After High School started in Traditional Clothing working for Guy Livingston's Fashion Square store in Santa Ana. That's where I had my first exposure to Reyn Spooner shirts. As Life moves on...we experience changes in outlooks and attitudes. Having a bit of an agricultural background from my father I started into the plant and flower business. All the while I still surfed and kept the 'Spirit of Aloha' in my persona. Along my road of life I kept collecting unique Aloha and Surf Shirts. I put a small rack outside my plant shop. Making a long story short, plant sales went down, thankfully Aloha Shirts sales increased. Aloha shirts to me just give-off amazing positive energy, how could you not feel good around those 'Rainbow hued tropical' fabrics..right? Have spent a great deal of time researching Hawaiian culture and Aloha shirt history while building my shirt inventory. Guessing that I have over 5000 pieces of vintage clothing, surf shirts, trunks, jeans, shorts, jackets, shoes and God knows what else stored in large plastic bins. I truly try to provide a huge selection of Aloha shirts fairly priced considering condition and how rare some are...in sizes ranging from Small to 3X. My outside racks have over 400 shirts displayed, and I always have at least 100 more on my value 2 for 20 rack. I have one of the finest inventories of vintage Reyn Spooners in California and lots of vintage Tommy Bahamas as well as tons of classic Hawaiian Aloha-labels. Inside the store is a special room full of an almost 50 year collection of unique and rare Spooners, vintage Surf shirts and eclectic clothing. As an example, considering the season.. I have Spooner's FIRST Christmas shirt from 1983...its undated because I think they never realized how popular it would become..! 70-80% of my shirts are in pristine to like-new condition and some still have original tags. Am always happy to answer Aloha/Spooner shirt questions, since there is so much mis-information out in the marketplace these days. Additionally if people are interested in vintage surf-clothing they can make an appointment to look through the bins. So all things considered, it’s the Best Vintage Aloha in town...at the lowest prices around..! “
I love this guy and this store, and on top of that he was World Bodysurfing Champion in 2001. Looking for the PERFECT Christmas present for anybody in your life that is into the Aloha vibe? This is your place.
The Dirt Cheap Hawaiian Shirt store is located at 440 E 17th St. Ste A Costa Mesa, CA 92627 · (949) 331-2803 · Dogs Allowed.