Back in the 1950s, surfing was an almost unknown sport. Then, in the 1960s, everything changed. Surfing captured the imagination of a new, post war generation and almost overnight, a whole new fashion crave began. Surf clothing went from being just having a pair of baggy swimming trunks to a fashion statement. What caused the change?
No, it was not the Beach Boys who first popularized surfing. In 1957, a man wrote a short book about his daughter, who was one of the first surfer girls. Called “Gidget”, the book went on to become a hit movie in 1959. That was where it all really began.
James Darren and Sandra Dee starred in the film, supported by another big star of the era, Cliff Robertson. With its stellar cast and bevies of beautiful bikini clad girls and muscle built surfers, it was a sure hit. Not only that, but it captured the imagination of a generation, all of whom wanted to be a part of free and easy surfing life.
Other movies were made and before long, groups like Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys started producing hit singles. Interestingly, real surfers hated those movies and the “surf music, ” because they liked having the waves to themselves. They preferred listening to the guitar music of the Ventures and Dick Dale and the Deltones. They would listen to driving instrumental songs like “Walk, Don’t Run” and “Perfidia” to get themselves psyched before going surfing.
There was nothing that surfers could do to stop the rise of surfing. By the sixties, surfing was on the map and everybody wanted to be a surfer. Those who lived near the beach started surfing, while those who didn’t started dressing like surfers.
Baggy Hawaiian shirts, baggy trunks and Hawaiian print bikinis were the surfing style of that era. It took time for a surfing apparel industry to evolve, but evolve it did. Today, some of the early surf wear companies are multi-million dollar corporations.
Today, you can find surfwear being worn just about anywhere in the world. It runs the gamut from board shorts and bikinis to shoes, shorts, pants, shirts and even socks. Girls styles include tank tops, blouses, skirts, miniskirts and dresses. In fact, many surfers find enough styles to choose from that they wear nothing else but surf wear.
Gidget must be proud of her legacy, but she may be bewildered, as well. How could she have imagined that surfers today enjoy million dollar contracts with surf clothing companies and are counted amongst the world’s sports superstars? Believe it or not, Gidget, that’s what’s happened!