Laid back, casual, bohemian, somewhat grungy: surfing fashion is certainly the most simple style but undoubtedly the most difficult to pull off. You can put on a pair of vans, or wear an old surfing graphic t-shirt, but it’s personality and presence that truly finalizes a surfer vibe. It’s the way someone speaks, how he or she emanates a relaxed, low-maintenance aura, the manner in which someone goes about his or her life. Anyone can pick up on surfing trends, but it’s how this person walks the earth that separates the surfer from the wannabe. Surfing fashion, which has scarcely changed since the seventies, is a refreshing deviation from the straitlaced, overpriced couture.
One of the most intriguing attributes of surfers is that they don’t necessarily try to be fashionable, and often don’t realize the influence of their style. They put on what’s comfortable. Many people, especially those who don’t surf, attempt to emulate their chilled-out façade, but a successful emulation goes much further than the exterior. To look easygoing and free-spirited, you have to feel easygoing and free-spirited. It’s as simple as that. Surfers have a real respect for life, a kind of interdependence with the sea, and this unrefined mentality simply inspires a happy-go-lucky outward appearance.
Surfing fashion hasn’t transformed a great deal since its genesis but it has pervaded the fashion world. If you flip through women’s fashion and glamour magazines, there are always tutorials on how to get beachy, surfer-girl hair or sun-kissed skin. There has been a resurfacing of bohemian and hippie fashion in recent years, but people don’t often realize that surfers have endured this style for decades. But, style wasn’t the point in the seventies. Board shorts, for instance, were about performance, made of quick-drying nylons and polyesters, and their short length allowed for easy maneuvering. In later years, board shorts became more of a fashion statement and surfers began to wear them baggy and long. Nonetheless, people have begun to revert to the past, as there is always this nostalgia for vintage fashion. In 2006, Quiksilver created a new short board short, many of which came in retro prints and neon colors. People are looking to the legends of the seventies for continual inspiration, such as Terry Fitzgerald in the photograph to the right.
Throughout surf shops you can find clothing that is exceedingly reminiscent of the seventies, but it’s the consumer that differs today. Whether one surfs or not, men and women are constantly striving to keep pace with surf trends. In the seventies, however, those who wore board shorts and had bleach blonde hair were surfers. They didn’t care what people thought; they dressed for comfort and performance. But, what these surfers didn’t realize at the time is that their unintentional fashion statements gave rise to a nation-wide fashion craze. The men and women in the photographs of the Lost and Found Collection are essentially the pioneers for that “look.” They dressed relaxed because they were relaxed. Many of the legendary surfers spent each and every day in the water, skipping school and dreaming of the next big wave, such as how Larry Bertlemann and Buttons Kaluhiokalani described their youth in the Lost and Found documentary. Societal pressures have evolved, however, and young surfers in school compensate for their absence in the water with the quintessential surfing clothing, such as that from Quiksilver or Billabong. Many modern stores, such as Aviator Nation in Los Angeles, have begun to remake vintage surf t-shirts evocative of the seventies. They have used Gerry Lopez’s iconic lightning bolt on several of their shirts and sweatshirts, preserving the ethos of the past in the present, as seen below. It’s hard to tell who surfs and who doesn’t, but it’s the real personality, one’s calm spirit that only comes from a genuine connection to the sea, that is the deciding factor.
Photos by Ralph Cipolla & Col Albert Benson