My buddy Shawn over at Branded posted an article talking about his “skate” phase where he discussed the fashion and the gear he coveted during his early days of embracing “skate culture”. It’s interesting how similar that was to many of our own experiences at that age. But there was another phase that was very similar to the “skater” phase that included some of the same clothes, but the philosophies were vastly different. I’m talking about the “surfer culture”. Which is what I wholeheartedly embraced from late elementary school through high school (and even a little bit now).
How did I come about embracing surfer culture while living my formative years in landlocked Birmingham, AL? Well, starting in 2nd grade, I became a competitive swimmer. So I loved being in the water. Also, my family, throughout the 80s, would travel every summer to Sunset Beach, just outside of Myrtle Beach, SC. So I would constantly have my surfer tendencies refreshed in a beach town filled with surf shops festooned with giant shark heads and neon ocean waves with names like Wings, Bargain Beachwear and Eagles.
For me, it wasn’t just the look, which was a big part of it, but the entire philosophy of surfing which suited me well. Even in elementary school, I was very laid back and took life as it came. I grew my hair a little longer than everyone else. It was this lifestyle that spoke to me in many ways. So I embraced the fashion and culture in a hardcore way for many years.
Shawn mentioned T&C skate shirts. This is where there is some overlap. I also wore T&C shirts, but I wore the ones with the surf designs. This was, hands down, my favorite shirt brand. They had cool and interesting characters and a huge variety of designs. I had several group shirts like Da Boys, but the one I remember most is the “Hard Core Detective Stories” shirt with the “usual suspects” type lineup. And I had it on a BRIGHT yellow shirt, of course. I coveted a few of the T&C solo character tees as well. Especially any of the shirts with the tiki guys like “Shark Repellent” and “Surf Sacrifice”.
There were other shirts besides T&C that I wore as well. Two other brands I really liked were Panama Jack and Ocean Pacific. I realize now looking at all these pictures that my favorite type of shirt was clearly the character picture on the back of the shirt with the small logo on the front left breast. T&C was that style too. For some reason, I just LOVED having a cool surf image on the back of my shirt with a small brand logo on the front. My brother and I had matching purple Panama Jack shirts. I really need to find a picture of that.
What would I wear with my surf shirts? I would accept nothing less than Sun Britches board shorts. In my eyes there was no other swimsuit worthy of covering my delicates. These were true surf shorts and they were pretty popular even at our community pool in Birmingham, AL. The bright colors with the colorful rainbow stripes on the thighs, button snap, velcro fly and the blue/white sun and water label on the outside back so everyone can see how cool you are. I LOVED THESE SHORTS. Still do. I think some of the shorts used a shoe string tie instead of the button snap, which was also kind of cool. The only drawback I can think of was that the velcro fly tended to be very dangerous if you were not careful. If you know what I mean (and I think that you do).
So while I couldn’t really get a surfboard and showcase that around the neighborhood, the next best thing, for me, was a BMX bike. Like Shawn, I liked skate boards, but I was terrible at them. Plus, it felt like if you rode a skateboard, you HAD to know how to do tricks. But if you rode a BMX bike, it didn’t feel like it was also necessary that you know how to hop up and down on one wheel or ride around on your seat backwards. You could just ride. And look awesomely cool. And my ride was an early 80s Huffy Pro Thunder.
This is almost exactly what my bike looked like (photo via BMXMuseum.com). Silver with the red highlights. Obviously the first thing I did was to remove the chain guard (chain guards are for cowards). Next I removed all of the pads and reflectors making the bike as dangerous to ride as possible. Eventually I would get a BMX number attached to the handle crossbar. I loved that bike and rode it EVERYWHERE. Unlike Shawn’s ride, this one didn’t come with the awesome mag wheels. It had spokes, which I didn’t mind. But some of my friends had mag wheels and I really loved them. I eventually wanted to put them on my Huffy, but it never happened.
I’m not entirely sure what happened to my bike. I assume it was sold away in a garage sale for a price not even half its actual worth. I do still have some of my surf shirts squirreled away somewhere. I’ll have to find them. Speaking of, I couldn’t find any specific personal pictures of myself with any of these items. I’m still ransacking my house to see where they are. When I find them, I’ll post some stuff up. I’m pretty sure I have pics of my shirts and/or shorts, but I’m not sure a picture of my actual bike exists. But I hope it does.
Thanks, Shawn for sending me down nostalgia lane to find a picture of my old bike which sent me spiraling into memories of Sun Britches and Ocean Pacific. It was a lot of fun.