Has the surf ‘look' changed? (since the 50s)

From Corky Carroll:

The other day I got a question submitted asking me if Pendleton shirts were actual surf fashion back in the late ’50s and early ’60s. As a matter of fact, they sorta were.

Pendleton Shirts

When I first started surfing in the mid-50s, there was no set “surf look” as far as I know. Surfwear was a long way off.

When the big surf fad started to take place, kicked into gear with the 1959 movie “Gidget,” there became certain pieces of attire that people related to as surfwear. Pendleton shirts were one of those. They were warm and felt good when you got out of the water, and you could use them in place of a jacket at night.

Before there were actual surfwear companies, the only way you could get what were regarded as surf trunks was to have a pair custom made. There were a couple places in Hawaii that did that, and also a few surfers’ moms here in California could make you a pair. I got Kanvas by Katin, formally a boat cover store, into making custom surf trunks in the early a’60s.

Kanvas by Katin

The first real surfwear, in the broader sense of the word, company was Hang Ten. Hang Ten was owned by a lady who lived in Seal Beach named Doris Mooren and the guy responsible for putting it on the map was Duke Boyd. His first sales call was to the Ole Shop in Seal Beach. Mickey Munoz was the manager, and I was the surf team.

Shortly after that, there were a whole slew of things that were the “in” surf look as time went by. For awhile, there were these big wide-striped T-shirts. And, of course, Hawaiian shirts were always hip.

One of the huge fashion things was the Ocean Pacific corduroy walk short. It is said that this was the one item that put OP on the map. Everybody had a pair of those puppies.

In the later ’70s and ’80s, there was a huge boom in the surfwear business. All sorts of surfwear companies hit the market. There was Gotcha, Catchit, Boomers, Sunbreakers, Sundek, Maui and Sons, and a number of others. Most of these are long gone.

Quiksilver came into the market in those years, too, and has survived and become a leader. Today, it is headquartered right here in Huntington Beach. I should also mention that O’Neill was in the business all along making wetsuits and some surfwear, too. They are real survivors.

Then another wave of surf companies came along. The Billabongs and later Bob Hurley jumped in and got supersized.

Through all this, how much did the actual “look” change? Not sure how to answer that. It’s different, but still the same, really. We like casual. Shorts and T-shirts.

The skaters took on the grunge look and that filtered into surfers, too, a bit. Old guys still like Hawaiian shirts. Surf trunks have gotten longer and baggier, and for some bad reason started getting called “board shorts,” thanks to the Aussies.

But all in all, it’s still supercasual, a bit oversized and comfortable.


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