The Rise Of Surf Fashion

by Amy in Fashion

Surfing used to be just about the beach, the waves, the sport itself, but it has evolved into a lifestyle that includes everything from movies to music and fashion.

Over the years, individuals and companies have carved out a place for clothes and accessories that complement surf culture. And in Australia – home to some of the best surfers and beaches the world has ever seen – a strong relationship between surfing and fashion began to emerge in the late 60s and early 70s.

Image: Encyclopedia of Surfing

This was a time when Australia was at the centre of the surfing world and surfers saw a need and a want for more ways to connect with the culture. Quicksilver founders Alan Green and John Law, for example, started making boardshorts in their home garage in 1969 when they saw “a market opportunity” for them. As surfers, they appreciated the need for clothes that balanced functionality with form.

“Alan and John’s personal commitment to surfing ensured that they produced the best boardshorts available,” the company says.

Not long after that, in 1973, another iconic company was born: Billabong. Founder Gordon Merchant and his then-partner started in a similar way to Green and Law: “designing boardshorts at home, cutting them out on the kitchen table and then carting the finished product around to the local surf shop to sell.”

But the ties between surfing and fashion became even stronger as these companies – and the others that followed – began to work with prominent surfers to promote their brands.

Different surfers, both Australian and international, began wearing a particular brand of wetsuit or boardshorts and logos quickly started to set apart which people preferred which brands.

Then came sponsored events and individual surf sponsor contracts that have helped make surfing what it is today.


As popularity and passion for surfing has grown, brands like Billabong, Quicksilver, Rip Curl and Mambo have helped it carve out a unique place in the fashion world. While every surfing brand has it’s own unique style and look, all of them embody the kind of laid back attitude that has become synonymous with early mornings and long days on the beach.

Quicksilver, for example, describes its aesthetic as representing a “casual lifestyle for young-minded people that connect with its boardriding culture and heritage”, a description that fits for most surf brands.

So appealing is this style that it is now a key part of the multi-billion dollar surf industry, with surfers and non-surfers alike buying up boardies, bikini’s, t-shirts and other clothes.

These days anyone could wear surf fashion without a second glance, but telling the surfers from the fans or followers will always come down to what happens on the beach.