Hawaiian Flower Hair Traditions

By Angela Neal
a flower in her hair image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com

There a many species of attractive and aromatic flowering plants that grow in the tropical environment of the Hawaiian islands. You can wear these exotic-looking flowers many different ways, including around your neck as a 'lei', and your wrist or ankles, but another popular way of wearing them is in your hair. Different flowers symbolized different meanings and were worn for specific celebrations including religious rites and weddings.

Flower Pick Meanings

In traditional Hawaiian culture, if you are a woman and wore a flower pick of any kind behind your right ear, this means that you are single. Men will sometimes wear a small flower behind their ear, but its only for the fragrance and doesn't have any specific meaning. If you put the flower pick behind your left, it signals that you are in a relationship. While real flowers are traditional, fabric flower picks are worn as well.

Flower Hair Lei

As well as lei, or flower garland, worn around the neck, you can wear a lei on your head like a flower crown for many different special occasions. The 'haku lei' is a flower garland and is the traditional Hawaiian equivalent to the western bridal veil.

Flower Symbolism

These flowering plants that grow on the Hawaiian islands have certain meanings and are worn for specific ceremonies. Ginger is worn at weddings by the bride and symbolizes strength. Tuberose is another native flower and holds the meaning of 'forbidden love' or sensual pleasure. Jasmine also symbolizes sensuality but in a graceful way. The Hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii and also symbolizes fragile beauty.

Functional Fashion

For special occasions women will often get their hair done with a large flower as the centerpiece or focal point of their hair style. The flower helps hold the style in place and should not be removed until the end of the day or whenever you want to take the style out. Sometimes many small flowers all over the style (most likely an up-do) serve the same purpose.

Most Common

The most common flowers worn in the hair or behind the ears of Hawaiian's are Gardenias, Hibiscus or Plumeria. Plumeria is the most common out of these three. In the Hawaiian language, Gardenias are called 'kiele' which is pronounced 'key-eh-lay'. Plumeria are called 'melia' and is pronounced as 'may-lee-ah'. 'Aloalo' is 'Hibiscus' in the native tongue and is pronounced 'ah-low-ah-low'.

About the Author

Angela Neal is a writer for various websites, specializing in published articles ranging from the categories of art and design to beauty and DIY fashion. Neal received her Associate of Arts in administrative assisting from Bohecker College.