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Surf Fashion, Lightly Salted

Malibu, 1950. Photo: Joe Quigg
Alan Gomes, 1959, wearing M. Nii trunks
"Sailor white" cutoffs, early '50s
Jacobs Surf Team T-shirts, 1964
Katins in action, 1963. Photo: LeRoy Grannis

Postwar surfers, as a rule, didn’t wear much—prewar surfers didn't either, for that matter—but what they wore had to be distinctive. Furthermore, unlike blanks and wetsuits, clothes didn’t need the help of military research or patented chemical products from Dupont and Dow. Surf fashion was mostly DIY, invented on or near the beach, by actual surfers, using plain old-fashioned wool or cotton.

Before World War II, Palos Verdes Surf Club founder Doc Ball showed his buddies how to hand-sew a thi...

It wasn't fashion, exactly, but surfers enjoyed their little style touches. The drawstring atop their trunks, for example, was often purposely left undone while on the beach to swing freely about the crotch. This was surf culture in its purest form—cheap and simple, homemade, and a bit raunchy.