The only essential apparel
This is a story about the time I bought a new Brewer for $20.
It’s also, improbably, a column where I offer you, dear readers, unsolicited fashion advice.
Me! Forty-something. Grey. But suave as fuck. You should listen.
Two days ago, Rip Curl was sold to Kathmandu for $350 million. I’m sure you’ve already read about it, but the news extends beyond the business section because Rip Curl were the last of The Big Three companies to go public.
Those industry titans, Rip Curl, Billabong, and Quiksilver, who shaped surf culture for decades, largely because the people who ran the businesses were surfers. They reflected our values, shared our aesthetic, and sold it back to us in one great big symbiotic hook up that we were happy to be a part of.
They were surf companies. We were surfers. We wore surf clothes.
The rot set in when they floated and brought Joe Public into the fold. Billabong and Quiksilver made increasingly bizarre decisions while chasing quarterly dividends for non-surfing investors: they introduced bedsheets and manchester lines, boardshorts for football teams and stadium rock acts, whacked Billabong logos on a Renault Clio - the Euro version of a Ford Fiesta, same goes for badged computers, pool toys, and then came the supermodels, the YouTubers, the Instagram Influencers.
All of a sudden it seemed like everyone was in on the symbiosis. Owning a surfboard was no longer a prerequisite for a seat at the table. Their table. No longer our table.
Once that social compact was lost, surfers had little sympathy when the GFC kicked surf companies to the kerb. Every article about bankruptcy, or sell offs, or write downs, was met with a hail of derision often ending with a rhetorical flourish: who wears surf clothes anyway?
But you see, the fundamentalist rejection of surf clothing is a put on. I know this because I can walk into a room, any room, and spot the surfer. You may reject Quiksilver and Billabong but I can see you. You’re still speaking to the tribe in subtle ways.
So here then is a suggestion. Like a queer eye sashaying in to dress the slovenly straight guy, I’ll show how it’s possible to reject the corporate turncoats while looking as sharp and recognisable as a surfer should, and in a holy triumvirate of righteousness, it even benefits the good guys.
The idea came to me during my last visit to Hawaii. I’ve always coveted Brewers and I had space in my board bag to take one home, however I didn’t have space in my bank account for the price tag. The compromise was simple, and comfortable. Size M if you must know - suave and fit.
I’ve since bolstered my quiver with wearable art from Buttonshaw and Browny, Ryan Burch, Greenough’s spitfire, and Stuart Paterson’s spiral. This summer I’m looking out for Corey Graham’s hand/foot, Maurice’s bear, and Michael Mackie’s tree. I covet much but can afford little. This is aspirational fashion at its finest.
None of it is available at SurfStitch.
Non-surfers will never know the feeling.
Get in on the ground floor, people. Stay there.