Fashion Features

How surf culture has infested Southern California fashion right under our noses.

Gallery in Vigilante Coffee, Oceanside bathroom - a “good ol’ days” nostalgia and relief break. Photo credit to Isa Darisay

At Point Loma Nazarene University, one can’t take more than a few steps without seeing Converse Chuck 70s, boardshorts, or some sort of jacket from the new Volcom collection along Caf lane. The student body of PLNU shares a similar style among the brands that have infested Southern California– and there are deep roots to the vintage denim overalls we compliment each other on in passing. 

Surf culture quickly made its way from the Hawaiian Islands to the coast of California and brought its loose fitting, pastel-streaked clothing with it– switching from business suits to corduroy shorts and striped T-shirts around the early 1960s. After the creation of classic brands like O’Neill, Billabong and Quiksilver, surf style became a distinct aspect of Coastal California living and still remains a staple of dress wear for the majority of the state’s population. 

With many surf brands based in cities from San Francisco all the way down to the Mexican border, Californians quickly adopted the surf industry into their lives and kept the foundation of the style throughout the generations. Whether it is the quintessential vintage Quiksilver crewneck, baggy jeans and Vans Sk8 Hi’s– as surfing style has meshed with the mid 90s skateboarding culture– or that O’Neill graphic tee your aunt bought you for your birthday as a last resort, the surf industry has become more than a stereotype for Southern Californians, surfers and non surfers alike.

One prime example is Point Loma Nazarene University sophomore and Surf Team Member Andrew Kramer. Having grown up in San Clemente and put on a surfboard before having the choice, Kramer takes on the essence of this timeless surf lifestyle.

“A lot of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my dad and older brother and they both have been in the surf culture their whole lives, so I’ve never had T-shirts that aren’t related to surfing,” Kramer said.

While a large number of PLNU students and SoCal residents have been brought up in the habitual surf life like Kramer, there is a large aspect of localism and identity that is a part of the wear.

“I think it is, in a sense, the same way an athlete wears a jersey,” Kramer said. “Surfers wear things that they are stoked on and appreciate because it stays true to the stuff they grew up in, which for me is surfing. I guess in a way the things I wear are a reflection of who I am and I want to support companies that I love– so my clothes are pretty identity-based.”

Kramer said he sees more surf brands being worn around the PLNU campus as more surf companies have opened up to the public and moved past products specifically for surfers. While a big presence of status can be found beneath the layers of logos and tags, this hierarchy seems to be slowly fading.

Kramer strutting a monochromatic outfit – Pete Townend (Australian Pro Surfer from the 70s) tee, oversized white cargos, and Vans Sk8 Hi’s.
Photo credit to Andrew Kramer

Third-year psychology major Christina Knebel incorporates Southern California surf culture into her wardrobe, but doesn’t consider herself a surfer.

“I bought a hat from a surf shop one time because I wanted to show people that I might pick up a board one time or just to fit in with the cool kids at our school. I don’t know, it’s kind of just something you’re surrounded by and you want to be a part of,” Knebel said.

Places like South Coast Surf Shop fill the strip of Ocean Beach where they welcome people like Knebel. 

Jimmy, who has been a South Coast employee for four years explains the tourism in the summer season full of non-surfers buying their products– from the store merchandise to T-shirts slapped on with the classic “Billabong” or “Vissla” logos along the back. 

“I think a lot of people have a sense of what they’re buying but not what it actually means to wear surf brands,” Jimmy said. “People come in from out of state wanting to bring something back that represents California.” 

South Coast Surf Shop in OB
Photo credit to Isa Darisay

While there is a deeply rooted identity and history some find within the idea of surf couture, others take it on without as much meaning.

“I used to live in Arizona and moved to Orange County in elementary school. They never had anything like Rip Curl or Quiksilver in Arizona. I moved here and saw people wearing these brands at events like the U.S. Open of Surfing competitions in Huntington Beach and always saw them in shops, so that was my first experience thinking to myself ‘Oh, so people wear that here,’” Knebel said.

The industry of surfing has become a part of the beach lifestyle which attracts families like Knebel’s to Southern California. As a result, helping local surf shops with business and schools like PLNU is a dream.

Knebel said the surf brands represent more than just surfers and people who just like the style as surf style clothing naturally fits coastal living. 

Whether a surfer or not, the style of surf brands have shaped the way of life and community of San Diego and PLNU. 

Written By: Isa Darisay