With the rare exception of select brands like Warriors of Radness (who perfectly channel the “go F yourself” attitude of South Santa Monica’s skate punks), surfwear has taken a serious turn for the worse over the past two decades. What was once a subtle, authentic style populated by Pendleton shirts and Huarache sandals has evolved over the past half century into a 13 billion-dollar industry defined by obnoxiously fluorescent beachwear.
This summer, O’Neill injected an antidote into surf shops on both coasts with the Jack O’Neill Originals Collection, a 22-piece line celebrating 60 years of innovation from its brand patriarch, a man who invented the first wetsuit and changed cold-water sports forever. Our pick of the litter, the Premier tee, represents everything we look for in a T-shirt – it’s slim-fitting (as if tailored for the days before America’s obesity epidemic), woven from 100 percent cotton, and, best of all, prewashed, so it won’t shrink. The subtle screen-printed logo is a throwback of the perfect variety, displaying the address of O’Neill’s original surf shop – the world’s first, actually – which opened in Santa Cruz, California, in 1952.
Pair the blue option, whose washed out coloring calls to mind the plaid board shirts worn by the Beach Boys, with watermelon, maze, or navy Birdwell baggies and a well-worn pair of slip-on Vans. Trust us, you’ll look like Robert August or Dennis Wilson from the ‘Pacific Ocean Blue‘ era – calm, cool, and authentically Californian. [$26; oneill.com]