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To Feel 2000’s Again

Fashion trends typically have a wave period of 20 years.

“Historically, pop culture trends come and go every 20 years – in what’s known as ‘the 20 year rule’,” writes Vice fashion columnist Hannah Ewens. “It needs to be that long: Any shorter and a trend would just be naff, corny or passé, rather than retro, inherently nostalgic and cool.” Science says trends from our childhood tend to be remembered positively than trends of the ‘now’ – consequently, they’re more likely to be revived at a later date.

From North Face to Chuck Taylor, Converse, Wrangler, Levis, Ray Ban and so on, there are countless examples of brands that resurface periodically in vogue. Sketchers — a footwear company with a non-trivial number of geriatric customers — recently unlocked a new market of edgy Melbourne teens. The formula for how odd a product, idea, or message suddenly becomes popular in an open, contemporary society is often random.

Consider the case study: Hush Puppies — a shoe popular in the 1950s that briefly became “hip” again in the mid-1990s. “Sales of the classic American brushed-suede shoes with the lightweight crepe sole were down to 30,000 pairs a year, mostly to backwoods outlets and small-town family stores,” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. “But then something strange happened. At a fashion shoot, two Hush Puppies executives — Owen Baxter and Geoffrey Lewis — ran into a stylist from New York, who told them that the classic Hush Puppies had suddenly become hip in the clubs and bars of downtown Manhattan. After featuring in a number of fashion shows, the company went from selling 30,000 pairs a year to 430,000 pairs in 1995. The next year it sold four times that, and the year after that still more, until Hush Puppies were once again a staple of the wardrobe of the young American male. In 1996, Hush Puppies won the prize for best accessory at the Council of Fashion Designers awards dinner, and the president of the firm stood up on the stage with Calvin Klein and Donna Karan and accepted an award for an achievement that — as he would be the first to admit — his company had almost nothing to do with.”

Point being: it’s near impossible to see around corners in the fashion world.

Hush Puppies are like the nerdy chick in high-school you didn’t realize was a smoke machine until your graduation formal.

From Creed’s 90’s-grunge-inspired Collection to Globe’s Chunky mid-2000’s — there’s a number of products on the market that have revisited fashion periods with contemporary twists – taking modern influence from street fashion to classic, era-defining timepieces. Assuming there’s a kernel of truth to the 20 year rule – isn’t it time for a mainstream noughties resurgence that legacy surf brands can cash in on?

Well, they’re certainly trying.

Quiksilver’s Saturn Collection is a modern response to a time period shapers like Ben Webb and surfers like Creed McTaggart and Noa Deane have tapped into for years – if the 00’s most iconic and defining traits were narrow, longer outlines and below the knee boardies – Noz, Creed and Ben are some of its great revivalists. @surfcore2001 – surfing’s ultimate Y2K connoisseur should also be credited for spearheading the appetite for this time period within the surf scene.

The trend of observing Oz’s top freesurfers hunt down original pieces from the 00’s era on Ebay and op-shops is what brought about revisiting a time period collection. Fun fact: Eithan Osborne purchased his AI rising sun boardies of e-bay, and both Kael Walsh and Joel Paxton have a budget allowance to buy Quik vintage product in their contracts. The success of Saturn showed a readiness from the market to hop on the 00’s bus too – but that was surprising.

“The samples looked naughty – for me as a designer I just want to make products the surfers are stoked on – because that creates energy as opposed to throwing capsule products at athletes based on sales metrics and market trends,” says Quik’s Global Design Director Tom Purbrick. “With Saturn the goal was never sales – but ultimately we didn’t have nearly enough product to keep up with demand. We could’ve done three times the volume. Typically, the Australian market leads the trends in surf fashion – the US is almost always a year behind. Interestingly, after we signed Griffin he was all over the product, and rode the Saturn boardies almost exclusively over the Hawaii season. We actually had one of the designers who works for Supreme email us asking if the boardies were selling – which is funny because surf normally follows street – that’s kind of the ultimate validation.”

A surprising field note from our Hawaii staff was the significant number of females getting around the Haleiwa food trucks in Saturn boardies.

“Companies release new products all the time,” says Stab cinematographer Dylan Roberts. “With Saturn, I noticed a really clear link between the film and product.” Perhaps it doesn’t go without saying: that’s rare. “I think because we had a hand in the design we actually believed in it and liked the clothes,” says surfer Joel Paxton who contributed ideas to the collection. Even Stab’s Art Director, Shinya Dalby got around the vision – one of surfing’s best brains who 1.) absolutely rips, 2.) has immaculate fashion/music taste, 3.) has been an early adopter to the surf fashion trends of the past 10 years.

If you haven’t already giggled over Clay Marzo’s scathing opinion of his signature boardshorts in Jamie Tierney’s 2010 film, Just Add Water, you can do so in the clip above (at 11:23). It strikes at the heart of the problem product teams face — surfers don’t necessarily like the product they’re expected to push.

This time Quik troubleshot that problem in advance. “About a year ago, we asked the younger guys: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montez, Noah Collins, Wade Carroll, Miles Falcon and Joel Paxton what they thought was about to ‘trend’ in surf,” explains Tom. “The guys had been buying old Quik tees from op shops and ebay because they liked it more than the new stuff. The lads set up a group chat for dumping ideas in — which our design team took and used as inspiration. From there, they went into the archives and pulled prints, boardies and color palettes from that time and developed leads.”

“Yeah the clothes are sick. Would have been mental if I actually got to see some… pretty sure they sold out before I got a chance,” laughs Joel.

Voila, you have a product surfers actually like. 

Surf fashion is notoriously cannibalistic – something we covered in detail in HSGP – and when one brand sees success, competitors will be quick to try and cash-in on the same theme. One industry insider – who chose to remain anonymous told us – “In October this season, the major brands from Quik to Rip, will announce their new run of product. It’ll look like you’ve got a crystal ball if you make a prediction that the legacy brands will be going hard at the vintage resurgence thing”. 

Is the Y2K renaissance the key to surfing’s North Face moment?

Shinya’s approval + freesurfers’ increasingly long boardshorts tell me maybe.