The Story Of The Tiki Bar
The image of the care-free tropical island has been with us since long before the 1930’s. During most of the early 20th century, American kids actually read books, and grew up on 18th and 19th century adventure stories by the likes of Jules Verne, many of which featured tropical islands as their settings. Even Robinson Crusoe used to be considered a children’s book, not fodder for college courses.
So, when those kids grew up, the sight of a drinking establishment with actual props such as you would theoretically find in a real-life “tropical paradise” (“tiki masks” and wall-mounted tropical fish) sparked their imaginations. It was the perfect blend of “reality” and fancy. Presumably, the Tiki bars were related to actual Polynesian culture and named after the Maori mythological figure of Tiki, although the connection was pretty tenuous. Add alcohol to the mix, especially fruity “tropical” rum-based drinks with very high alcohol content, such as the Zombie Cocktail, and you have an unbeatable recipe for the ultimate leisure destination.
Post-Modern Tiki Bars
After the 1970’s, tiki bars fell out of fashion. They were inauthentic, no longer “cool” or “cosmopolitan.” What was once alluring because it was new and faintly exotic became hopelessly domestic and outdated. It became gauche to build a tiki hut or build a tiki bar.
However, gradually, as the 20th century merged into the 21st, the common opprobrium heaped upon the tiki bar lifted. Post-modernity looks with skepticism at any attempt to create an “objective” point of view. It revels in images and ideas that once were fashionable but that now appear “cheesy” and “outdated,” in part because these conform its thesis that the meaning of all images is subjective and relative to its time period.
Thus, delightful tiki bar, with its thatch roofs, woven mats, fanciful “tiki god” mugs and fake palm trees, has had something of a renaissance.