Say ‘surfer’ and everyone thinks about a bronzed chap with perfect curls on a sun-drenched beach, surfboard under one arm, wearing a pair of cool board shorts and waiting for the perfect wave. Say ‘surfer girl’ and you’ll picture a blonde-haired beauty with an enviable tan wearing denim shorts and a bikini top.
Surfers can easily be recognized by the way they dress. But are you really identifying a surfer? Looks can be deceiving, and in this case, they are. Surf fashion is more widespread than surfing itself. For one, it is not limited to the beach – board shorts are just as stylish and practical in landlocked Prague as they are on the palm-fringed beaches of Bali. After all, surf clothing is comfy, practical and colorful. What’s there not to like about it?
History of the surf style
Surfing 1960s - Photo credit mpora.com
In the 1950s, surf fashion started out as a cottage industry. As surfing opened to the masses, its popularity grew and so did the industry. In the 1960s, surf media took the world by storm. Surfers were everywhere, from the covers of magazines to movies and advertisements. The 1961 movie Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley played a major role in promoting Hawaii and Aloha-inspired surf clothes. Surfer chic went mainstream in the 1960s when the typical wardrobe of a surfer contained items like white T-shirts, rugged jeans, aloha shirts and trucker hats.
What started out as practical clothing for surfers quickly made its way onto the streets of landlocked cities, transforming the surfing uniform into a multi-billion dollar industry. World-famous brands like Quicksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl, Roxy, O’Neil aren’t just worn by surfers, they are worn by anyone anywhere.
Surf style has become a fashion statement that goes beyond surfing itself. It is about freedom and breaking the norms, being comfortable in your own shoes and not giving a hoot about what society thinks. In fact, chances are you are dressing like a surfer and not even know it.
Surf fashion staples
You don’t have to be Kelly Slater to dress like a surfer. With the help of a nice tan and only a few clothing items, the surfer style is one of the easiest to pick up and re-create. There are certain surf fashion staples found in any surfer’s wardrobe that will never go out of style. Let’s have a peek at what they are:
It all starts with the surfer hairstyle
It’s easy to identify a surfer by the wind-blown, low-maintenance haircut. Nothing spells surfer dude or chic better than sun-bleached hair, a look that has been promoted throughout the media in the last few decades. Spending a whole day surfing in the sun can lighten your hair color, which is why surfers are usually associated with blonde locks.
For surfer guys
Pro surfer Dave Rastovich - Photo credit SurferToday.com
A frazzled, wet and sun-damaged haircut, inspired by the 1950s and 1960s, is a social statement. The trick is to go for a beachy, wavy hair that looks natural and effortless. Nowadays, you don’t have to be blonde to look like a surfer anymore. Dark hair is just as cool.
For surfer girls
Blonde locks are still associated with surfer chicks. But as famous female surfers are now proving, you don’t necessarily need sun-bleached curls to rock the surf style. If you haven’t paid a visit to the ocean, use a sea salt spray on your hair to create a wet look. If you have long hair, you can never go wrong with braids. And when all else fails, just go for the top knot.
Flip flops and sandals
Have you ever seen surfers wearing sneakers on the beach? Well, they might wear boots in cold-water surfing spot, but as far as sun-drenched beaches are concerned, flip-flops and sandals are the way to go. Dudes and chicks can easily pull off the surfer look with a nice pair of sandals or flip-flops, topped with some cool shorts or a sundress. The brighter and more colorful the footwear, the better.
Board shorts have come a long way these past decades. What began as plain and simple swim trunks has evolved into an industry that stretched far beyond the beach and all the way to big landlocked cities. Today, they are not only practical they are stylish as well.
For surfer guys
Colorful, printed, with floral patterns or plain and simple, board shorts and jogger shorts spell summer and freedom, and can be worn just about anywhere as long as the weather allows.
For surfer girls
Surfer girl style is all about looking comfortable, breezy and carefree, all with a sporty edge. More so than the usual board shorts and jogger shorts, denim shorts are a surf fashion staple. You can either make your own from an old pair of jeans or you can buy them ready-made. High-waisted, low-waisted, embroidered, fringed, patched or distressed, you can’t go wrong with a pair of denim shorts.
Photo credit LYNX Expression
Prints, flowers, neon accents, bright colors, stripes and V-neck T-shirts are quintessential elements of the surfcore style. Candy colors like turquoise, pink, lime green or yellow, blended with a neutral fabric like gray marl offer a sporty and surfy look are bound to draw attention.
For surfer guys
The floral shirt was, is and forever will remain the centerpiece of the surf style. But there’s more to the surf look than Hawaii prints. Lightweight T-shirts, simple or with surfing motifs, white or bright colored, V-neck or plain, all say carefree spirit. And you can always go shirtless (just make sure you have the right body for it).
For surfer girls
Pro surfer Sage Erickson – Photo credit @Sageerickson
Wearing a bikini top instead of a shirt may seem unconventional at first, but with the right shorts and a loose button shirt that reveals just about enough, it is a fashion statement that will never grow old.
Anything crochet adds intrigue to an outfit, be it a top or a dress. These are great over bikinis or cut-off denim shorts. For cooler weather or for long evenings at the beach, an oversized knit jumper paired with some cool shorts is always an excellent choice.
And, of course, we can’t forget the strappy dress. A loose fitting, lightweight throw-on dress with a touch of detail to add intrigue (you wouldn’t want it to be boring) will make you the queen of the beach.
Travel bracelets & necklaces
Surfers travel the world and pick up colorful beaded bracelets and necklaces in far-off destinations. This one’s mostly for the girls, although men can easily sport a couple of braided travel bracelets on one arm and look pretty cool. Nothing says carefree spirit better than layers of long necklaces, puka-shell jewelry and beaded and braided bracelets.
The fashion world is constantly changing, and the same goes with the surfing industry. The surf style went from the beach straight to the big city. Huge clothing brands have made surf fashion accessible to all areas of society, and are constantly adapting to the latest trends. If you really wish to stay up-to-date with the latest surf trends, the world’s most popular surfing destinations are also surf fashion hotspot. There’s no better place to find some fashion inspiration than the beaches of Bali, Costa Rica, Portugal, Spain, Morocco and, of course, California.
The surf style is the trend any given summer. If you’d like to sport your latest surf look, there’s no better place to do it than on some popular surf beaches.