Pattern recognition
September 17, 2016 11:01 AM   Subscribe

What subculture of guys wears Hawaiian shirts and combat boots?

They were youngish, athletic or at least large, almost all wearing loud Hawaiian shirts, ordinary looking shorts, and dark-colored combat boots. They were almost (99%) all white and mostly had short hair. A minority (5%) had a more biker look with long hair, flag-colored headwraps, and loudly patriotic shirts. They assembled at a national park, so they didn't display any overt political affiliation. I didn't see any picnic or game equipment. I sensed a drunken (at 11 AM!) fraternity bro vibe so I didn't want to hang out around them or even stop to ask them.

This is in a part of the East Coast where guys normally do not dress this way. I was not the only park-goer noticing this group.

Googling "Hawaiian shirts" and "combat boots" is getting me nowhere, though I do stumble across some alt-right sites, such as advising Hawaiian shirts for casual concealed carry.

Can any of you identify the group/subculture?

I am OK with their being frat boys, sports fans, or military, but I'd be worried about their being MRAs or Trumpists. Hawaiian shirts with concealed guns and combat boots would make a perfect uniform for Trumpist brownshirts getting ready for PARTY TIME in a dystopian very near future. They did have that feeling, not quite "Nazi Brownshirts vacation in Hawaii."

On the other hand, apophenia... paranoia from lack of sleep from reading the Trump and Hillary threads...

Fellow Mefites, if any of you sport Hawaiian shirts with combat boots and regard them as not connected in any way to support for the alt-right, I apologize.
posted by bad grammar to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Art of Manliness is an alt-Right site?
posted by bongo_x at 11:16 AM on September 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

Are you sure they were hawaiian shirts or were they more like this? Because what you've described is more or less like Guy Fieri dresses, and he's just your garden variety douche who thinks he's cool. Did you spot any fedoras? You might have unwittingly stumbled into T̲͈͛͛ͧ̌ͬͅh̜͖̦̞ͣ̆͑e̥̝͇̜̝̩̳̅̀͒̔̏͝ ͎͙̦͕̙́̌ͅͅF͉̤̖̱͍͕̎͗̌̈ͨͭr̬͕͔̜̓̕i̼̙͖͈̻̣͚̽͛ͭ̀e̱̯̠n͈͋̆ͤ̎d̖̠̋́ ̗̫̱̬ͭ͊̈́ͯͧ̐͌͞Z̴̘̲̖̥̲̰̫͗ͧo͇ͫ͐̇̊̄ͨn̚e̢̱̟͖̞̘̯͇. Big clunky boots + loud peacock shirts is textbook how Nice Guys dress.

I would not worry about this.
posted by phunniemee at 11:28 AM on September 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

A frat group?

A bachelor party?
posted by raccoon409 at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Probably a group of military guys out on a Hawaiian themes bachelor party bbq or camping trip or something. Why would you think they are "brownshirts?"
posted by fshgrl at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, just anecdotally: Mr. BlahLaLa is a Hollywood film & TV prop man/set dresser, and he and 90% of his colleagues like to wear a Hawaiian shirt on a Friday, with their totally standard shorts, and then most of them are wearing work boots/combat boots/some sort of other sturdy comfortable working-guy shoe. Going out for a hike with his buddies dressed like this would be right up his alley. YMMV.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:40 AM on September 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

This could be literally a million subcultures, including "people from a lower social class who New Englanders aren't used to seeing in their public spaces."
posted by stoneandstar at 11:49 AM on September 17, 2016 [26 favorites]

Sounds like it could be a work uniform of some kind (service industry, like Trader Joe's employees).
posted by unknowncommand at 11:54 AM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hawaiian shirts on Fridays is a thing in a lot of offices. Can you describe their behavior? How did you know they were "assembled"?

You're describing a bunch of similarly dressed white men in the park during daylight hours. I feel like I'm missing something here.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:55 AM on September 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

(I realize there are plenty of bad endings that start out with a bunch of white guys in a group together, but im missing any details that indicate that this is one of those.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Going out in groups wearing silly stuff is A Thing with frat boys.
posted by brujita at 12:03 PM on September 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds like my dad and his army buddies having a reunion. My dad is retired in his early 60s but when his workplace made a rule that men had to wear collared shirts he went Hawaiian in a big way.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't want to threadsit, but I may have left out a few details. They seemed too similar to one another in physique to be your average office group, and my political suspicions (though they may be totally unfounded) were touched off by the tea party biker types (everyone was also speaking English, so they were not totally out-of-context tourists).
posted by bad grammar at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2016

Googling "Hawaiian shirts" and "combat boots" is getting me nowhere

If it was a large-ish group and looked like an intentional gathering (as opposed to a bunch of friends who dress the same just happening to stop in the park for lunch or whatever) you might have more luck Googling the location, date/time, and various words like "meetup" or "reunion," and/or something more specific to the amenities at that park.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:32 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just a note to say that it always freaks me out when I see a group of young white men all dressed exactly alike, in part because I know that if they were Black they would be assumed to be a gang. You're not crazy.
posted by janey47 at 1:02 PM on September 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Maybe it's a militia? Militias can be a thing people do. Did you see any paracord?
posted by oceanjesse at 1:55 PM on September 17, 2016

I don't know about large groups, or groups of any size, but that's totally an old punk thing. There even used to be a store for that in that here in Toronto, army surplus and and Hawaiian shirts. But this group in particular sounds like a stag party to me (yes, even at 11am. I've been to a couple that started early, usually with something like an amusement park or paintball and segued into bar crawling as the day wore on).
posted by rodlymight at 2:33 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This uniform strikes me as not too different from how young quasi-hipstery people might dress. Were they actually combat boots or just big black leather boots? I have a pair of those and sometimes wear them pretty often. Someone once asked me if I was ex-military, probably because they weren't used to seeing that style and tall athletic-looking dude + boots = military to the untrained eye.
posted by deathpanels at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

IDK man, that sounds like an Ace Ventura sort of aesthetic to me. Maybe they were all Pet Detectives in training?
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

They're just bros, man. Maybe they were having a get together with their cis-white-bro friends who all dress like ironybros. Maybe it was Hawaiian themed. Maybe, given their broness, some of them are MRAs or whatever, but wearing Hawaiian shirts and boots is not any kind of political uniform, and long hair and bandanas don't make anyone bikers, let alone Tea Partiers.
posted by cmoj at 2:59 PM on September 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I also feel like I'm missing something. Aside from the fact that your first impression of them was unfavorable, what about them gave you the impression that they're proto-Brownshirts? They seem like some dudes hanging out in a park. Did they threaten people? Were they aggressive in any way? Those seem like fairly important responsibilities of violent paramilitary groups. The Hawaiian shirts are also a good way to attract attention (e.g., from you), which is something else a violent paramilitary group would not want to do. If I were a dictator forming a deaths squad, and my troops just wore Hawaiian shirts and went hiking, I'd probably want my money back.

You answered your own question: most likely paranoia. Groups of similarly-dressed young white men are literally everywhere in the country. If I had to guess, I'd bet that there was one guy who dresses/once dressed that way who's getting married, and his buddies dressed up in his signature look as part of the pre-wedding festivities. I could see my friends doing that, although none of us have a signature look.

The big question I have is, why were you so concerned if they were just minding their own business?
posted by kevinbelt at 4:13 PM on September 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Zero History, surely.

The similarity of age and clothing, plus a Saturday, suggests wedding party and an in-group joke to me.

In medicine, there's a saying: When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. These guys were probably dressed that way for a prosaic, rather than sinister, reason. (Anyway, a Hawaiian shirt is the farthest thing from grey man gear, so.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:01 PM on September 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am not aware of this being a "uniform" for any a group. My best guess would be a military or police or cross-fit bachelor party of some sort. A group like this would have made me nervous too. Don't feel bad for noticing or being concerned.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:16 PM on September 17, 2016

The US is crawling with private security people, who are often ex or wanna be ex military. Sometimes security services use extremely casually dressed individuals to do guard duty. You wouldn't think. Here is an example, I drove out to Black Rock Beach on Great Salt Lake. One portion of the road, runs very close to the railroad, and under an over pass at the same time. It is open, you would walk on the tracks if you wished. So I looked up and there was a train in motion, and blocking the road any closer to the tracks was a good sized biker party, at 11:00 in the morning. But looking closely for a second, the biker women were as buff as the men, they all looked like marines as far as fitness goes, and I realized I was seeing a well disguised security detail. The train was long and loaded with tanks, guns, vehicles and so forth. I just kept to the right and went to the water's edge. The bikers stayed right by the tracks, and did not disperse, kept on task. There was no visible booze, or party anything, they were posed.
posted by Oyéah at 8:51 PM on September 17, 2016

You stumbled upon some "dudes" who were "hanging out."

If you see something, say something.
posted by univac at 9:05 PM on September 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

this sounds like the daily wear of about half the software developers I work with.
posted by medeine at 9:56 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another data point here. I've noticed ugly printed shirts- hawaiian style but also other types of colourful loud prints- are what younger guys in the indie music/DJ scene are are wearing, often with cut off jean shorts or the traditional tight dark jeans. Mostly they wear desert boots, combat boots or retro style sneakers. So if you were at a park here in Seattle I'd assume it was your run of the mill hipsters going to the park after brunch. That would explain the drunk vibe.

The big question I have is what did their sunglasses look like? Were they wearing wraparound sunglasses or more retro sunglasses, like Ray-Bans? Or neon dollar store sunglasses? That would help you pin point what specific type of white dudes you were seeing.
posted by kittensofthenight at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man, very true. It's in the sunglasses. (Not being sarcastic, this is major.)
posted by stoneandstar at 5:02 PM on September 18, 2016

It would also help if you could describe the bikers (what makes them "tea party" instead of idk regular bikers) and whether they were one integrated group of shirts and bikers or two nearby.

I don't mean to patronize you, by the way. I can see having my brain's pattern recognition center (IANANeurologist obvs) tripped by similarities like this and feel like it's got to mean something, when it could be, like, guys hanging out, or guys waiting for their men-only NA meeting to start, or guys waiting for the van taking them to the bowling alley.

Or a bunch of guys with terrible politics hanging out at the park together for a not very suspicious reason, like they were all going to buy some new gear together for the annual hunting trip.

I think people might be responding to the urgent tone, but that might also be lack of sleep.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2016

(I also feel compelled, somehow, to defend my neighbors around here who look like they might join Bikers Against Ethnic and Religious Minorities at a moment's notice, and who have never been anything other than cordial to my naturally curly, Prius driving, obvious-Jew self.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:06 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The bikers were splendidly healthy, not a beer gut among them. They were just lingering alongside a moving train, but making it impossible to get near the train. RR security or something like that. I took it in in about two seconds passing, it was staged. There were no props. Just beefy women and men blocking the path to an armament train, in civilian gear, traveling on motorcycles, minimal costumes.
posted by Oyéah at 7:18 PM on September 18, 2016

My guess is that they were a bunch of guys who know each other from some kind of military or LEO background (and probably some kind of subgroup that further narrows the demographics- ie, New Hampshire State Troopers who all go to the same Crossfit gym, or the guys in a particular job/role in the National Guard, local police officers who moonlight as bar bouncers through one guy named Rick, etc) doing a themed social thing. That would explain the boots (not all the same model but all from the same cult catalog), the similar physiques, the gender makeup, and depending on the specific military/LEO background the racial composition. The Hawaiian shirts were because this month's Booze-n-BBQ was luau-themed (and possibly because people who don't comply get fined in some way, like extra physical something, paying for something, giving money to charity, but now I'm just spitballin'). The frat bro party vibe was because their particular group has a culture of "Work Hard, Play Hard" that means drinking aggressively and maybe doing some posturing.

I can completely see how the combo of the Hawaiian shirt "uniform" and the uniformity of the dudes plus the loud/boisterous vibe had you on edge, but it sounds innocuous and quite unlikely to be the new uniform of the Brownshirts. Although that would be a great detail in a near-future dystopian novel.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:59 AM on September 19, 2016

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