Five Surf Brands You Need To Know
From Mollusk to Matuse, catch the new swell of designers before everyone else
While The Beach Boys may have only had a superficial interest in the surf scene – famously, only one of the band members actually surfed – they were among the first to canonise its characteristic look, singing about “huarache sandals”, “baggies” and “bushy blonde hairdos” in their 1963 surf-rock anthem, “Surfin’ USA”.
It’s this first, golden age of surfing – an era of youthful innocence, wide-eyed optimism and that romantic, pilgrim-like pursuit of the endless summer – that continues to define surfer style even now, more than half a century later. The modern-day practitioners of this look are brands including Remi Relief, Faherty (two brothers from the Jersey Shore), and Mollusk, which all specialise in producing clothes that look as if they could’ve been plucked straight from 1960s and 1970s California. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few brands out there pushing things forward: New York-based Saturdays Surf NYC manages to blend laid-back surfer style with a more contemporary aesthetic, while San Diego’s Matuse is reinventing the wetsuit in a new, technically superior material known as Geoprene. Read on to find out a little bit more about each of these brands.
This New York-based brand was founded by (and named after) twin brothers Messrs Alex and Mike Faherty, who grew up together by the beach in New Jersey. Long-time surfers, they quit their jobs in 2013 to fulfil their dream of founding Faherty, bringing from their previous careers the perfect blend of business and fashion know-how. Alex had been working in investment banking and private equity, while Mike had spent the previous seven years at Ralph Lauren, working primarily as a designer on the vintage-inspired RRL range. His past experience shows: just like RRL, Faherty’s clothes look like the sort of items you’d expect to find at the vintage store of your dreams. Of particular note are its eco-friendly swim shorts, which are made from a blend of cotton with polyester from recycled plastic bottles – but the shirts and polo shirts aren’t to be missed, either.
Try to ignore the fact that the name sounds like a brand of indigestion tablet: Remi Relief, founded in 2007 by Mr Yutaka Goto, is one of Tokyo’s finest and most coveted menswear designers; if you’re looking for the next Visvim, this one has “future cult brand” written all over it. An enthusiastic surfer, Mr Goto employs a series of complex fabric treatments to meticulously recreate the look and feel of vintage surfwear – a process he refers to as the “natural fade”. Speaking to MR PORTER a couple of years ago, he explained why only traditional dyes would do: “Modern dyes are high in durability, but old dyes fade as time passes. This explains why clothes from the 1930s to the 1960s are admired as ‘vintage’ all over the world.” Don’t miss what’s left of MR PORTER’s exclusive capsule collection: a series of broken-in tees, washed-denim shorts and tie-dye pieces.
We all wish we could grab our boards and dive straight into the sea wearing just a pair of swim shorts, but in reality there are only a handful of surf spots in the world where this would be a good idea for more than about five minutes. For everywhere else, a wetsuit is a prerequisite – and they don’t come much better than the ones made by Matuse. It was born in 2005 when its founder, Mr John Campbell, discovered Yamamoto Corporation, a Japanese company that manufactures a material known as Geoprene, a limestone-based rubber that boasts 98 per cent water impermeability compared to the 65 per cent offered by traditional, oil-based neoprene. This means warmer, lighter wetsuits with a reduced reliance on petrochemicals, too. By putting its faith in Geoprene, Matuse set a trend that the bigger surf brands are only now beginning to follow, and in doing so it established itself as one of the world’s most desirable wetsuit brands. Surfers who enjoy the occasional venture out of the water should check out its triathlon suits, too.
If you want to get a feel for what this San Francisco-based surf brand is all about, you could do worse than to spend a morning hanging out at its artfully designed store, just a few blocks away from Ocean Beach. (If you can’t make it to the Bay Area store, there are two additional locations, both in Los Angeles: one on Venice Beach and the other on Sunset Boulevard.) Envisaged by its founder Mr John McCambridge as a true surf store – one that would function as a hub for the surf community – Mollusk San Francisco is part art gallery, part shop, part laid-back meeting place. It reflects both the brand’s broad cultural remit and its Bohemian San Francisco origins. This also comes across in Mollusk’s range of washed-out board shorts and retro tees, a throwback to the early days of Cali surf culture.
Yes, New York City might not be top of everyone’s list when it comes to surfing destinations, but try telling that to Messrs Morgan Collett, Josh Rosen and Colin Tunstall, the co-founders of Saturdays Surf NYC. On any given Saturday, this trio will be up before dawn to go surfing at Rockaway Beach in Queens (MR PORTER spent a Saturday with Mr Collett in 2013, and we can confirm that they weren’t joking about that “before dawn” thing). The brand successfully blends a refined New York style sensibility with a healthy dose of West Coast – the resulting clothes feel just as suitable for the city as they are for the beach. As with Mollusk, a mention has to be made of the brand’s New York headquarters, which can be found on Crosby Street in lower Manhattan: its coffees are a hidden gem.