24 April, 2012
I’ve been asked a few times in the past to explain how the tiki influence fits in to kustom kulture and I’ve been meaning to get around to it for a while now but with a tiki party looming ahead for the weekend I thought what better time than now!
The whole tiki culture started out in The States in 1934 with the opening of iconic Hollywood bar and restaurant Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed venue created by an ex-sailor of the South Pacific. Featuring Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum-based punches, the bar was decorated with rattan furniture, flower leis, flaming torches and brightly coloured fabrics reminiscent of the islands.
|Don The Beachcomber|
Three years later, Victor Bergeron, known as Trader Vic re-vamped his Oakland restaurant with a tiki theme and grew to not only become a worldwide chain but also inspired architecture and décor concepts throughout the United States. California’s 1939 World Fair also helped to reinforce tiki culture in the collective American mind with the Golden Gate International Exposition themed ‘Pageant of the Pacific’ showcasing goods of Pacific nations.
The 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific (which later became a movie) was based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories titled Tales of the South Pacific and helped to fortify tiki culture in mainstream media by the time American soldiers were returning home from WWII, their stories and souvenirs from the South Pacific helped the tiki movement gain momentum and popularity.
|South Pacific - © 1958 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.|
Come the 60s, tiki culture was in full swing and the rich iconography portrayed in the CBS TV series Gilligan’s Island helped to continue the trend of tiki culture. However by the 80s, progress had wiped away much of the tiki aesthetic that had been present and has only enjoyed a resurgence in the last 20 or so years.
|The LuWow - Melbourne|
So how does all this tie into kustom kulture? Well, as not only an influencing factor on the fashions of the 50s, the collectible kitsch that resulted from the loose and stylistic representations of tiki carvings and mythology of the Pacific have become a large and very enjoyable part of the styles adopted by the rockabilly culture.