Keep it casual
Don't be fooled by appearances ... In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.
~ Matt King, The Descendants
I think the general consensus in the US is that the farther west you go, the more laid back the lifestyle. By that logic, Hawaii is about as laid back as it gets. You sort of expect that when you're on vacation, since choosing a tropical island for a holiday destation means you're looking to unwind, but Hawaii takes casual to a whole other level when it comes to everyday living.
When G was going through interviews in Hawaii, the search firm briefed him on what to wear. They told him it would be appropriate to wear an aloha shirt, nice pants, a belt and shoes. If you think wearing a Hawaiian shirt on a job interview is casual, consider the need to specify "shoes" as part of the attire. You spend more than a minute brainstorming what that might mean, since the fact that it's not implied seems to indicate something tricky. You think - there is some level of skill involved in deciphering this code. "Shoes" ... it's a thinker.
Of course, you have to dress for the job. Despite it being casual, I can't ever imagine a situation where I'm going on a job interview and not wearing shoes unless the job is to be a lifeguard (which is really not in the cards for me). Still, apparently it's so casual here that there's a need to specify when shoes are a good idea. There is a possibility that someone would show up to this interview straight off the beach. I worked in radio for a while, and I remember that interview being a wardrobe challenge. Radio is far too cool for business suits, but I knew enough not to show up in a Doors t-shirt and ripped jeans. There's still a level of formality. Nobody had to tell me to wear shoes.
With hindsight you know that in Hawaii shoes are optional. It's a bit that way in Australia, but not quite as extreme. You go to the local shops and there are always a few lads running about in bare feet. They're the same ones who have been wearing ugg boots outside in winter since the 60's, before Ugg was a brand and before they were fashionable. Actually, in Australia, if you wear your uggs outside you still look like you couldn't be bothered getting out of your slippers - even if they cost $200.
Speaking of slippers, in Hawaii that's what they call flip flops and what we, in Australia, call thongs.
At GL's school, closed in shoes aren't required. You can wear your slippers and in the classroom it's fine to take them off as long as you don't leave them laying about. This is partly Hawaiian culture as influenced by Japanese culture, I think. In Japan everyone removes their shoes in the house. We went to a pool party in Honolulu and the front porch was like a pop-up Havaianas store. Dozens of pairs of thongs laying about. There is no sign asking people to remove their slippers. It's just understood.
In a recent newsletter from GL's school a note stated that school swimming would soon be ending and PE would be starting again. The notice was "a reminder to wear shoes". I'm sure it would probably be fine if you didn't ... it's a suggestion. Look, we're playing soccer. That's easier in shoes ... or not ... your call.
At the same school I quickly realised that teachers and parents were on a first-name basis. When GL started kindergarten in Maryland, I felt like a dinosaur when school protocol had teachers call us by title and last name. Nothing ages you like a Mrs slapped in front of your last name. It's really the first time I ever felt old. When I asked GL's new teacher about this she reassured me that first names were fine and that casual was the Hawaiian way.
The casual vibe permeates all aspects of life. G wears aloha shirts to work every day, GL's private school has no uniform, and local kids play baseball in a field that sits adjacent to the yard of the women's correctional facility. Every time I drive by I think I'm on set at Orange is the New Black. It is Litchfield, only with an open playing field so close that it's hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins ... kids and prisoners coexisting. Nobody seems uptight about anything.
It's really okay to wear swimsuits anywhere and there aren't many restaurants that are too fancy for whatever you are (or are not) wearing. The best part is that super casual Hawaii still has casual Friday. I haven't figured out what that means yet, but I'm going to guess it doesn't involve shoes.