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Surfer Style: California's 1960s Beach Fashion

submitted on 30 November 2023 by

A Wave of Style

There once was a time, not too long ago, when the shores of California were a beacon of style, a mecca for the fashionably inclined who sought to emulate the sun-kissed, laidback vibe of the Golden State. A time when the Beach Boys crooned about “California Girls” and the silver screen showcased the sun, surf, and sand of the West Coast. Yes, my friends, I am speaking of the 1960s and the iconic beach fashion that was born during that groovy decade.

Surf's Up, Baby!

When you think of California in the 1960s, you automatically think of surfers. And, why wouldn't you? Images of sun-bleached, salty-haired men effortlessly riding the majestic waves on their trusty surfboards were the epitome of cool. However, one cannot simply be a surfer without dressing the part. So, let's dive into the wardrobe of a 1960s California surfer.

Hang Ten in the Right Threads

Surfing attire in the 1960s was actually quite simple. One-piece swimsuits for women and swim trunks for men were the go-to swimwear options. However, the key to achieving that authentic 1960s surfer style was all in the details. For men, the swim trunks were often brightly colored and featured bold patterns such as stripes, checkerboards, or geometric shapes. The more daring of the bunch may have even opted for some groovy floral prints. Women's swimsuits, on the other hand, featured modest cuts, cinched waists, and structured tops with playful patterns and bright hues that made them stand out on the beach.

Shaggy Hair and Sun-Kissed Skin

While the clothes were an essential part of the surfer style, the hair and skin were just as crucial. A sun-kissed, bronzed complexion was the ultimate sign of a true beach bum, so sunscreen wasn't exactly a priority. All those hours spent in the sun resulted in the perfect tan that seemed to radiate against the ocean backdrop. As for the hair, the saltwater was a natural styling product that created tousled, voluminous locks, which became a trademark look for both male and female surfers alike. Nowadays, we'd call it "beach waves," but back then, it was just the result of a long day spent riding the waves.

Surf's Down, Style's Up

When the surfboards were put away for the day, the style didn't stop there. Beach attire transitioned into casual, yet effortlessly cool, ensembles that could take you from the sand to the boardwalk. For men, this meant donning a pair of Bermuda shorts (aka "Jams") accompanied by a lightweight, short-sleeved button-down shirt, often with a colorful print. Top it off with a pair of leather sandals and a sun-bleached, shaggy haircut, and you've got yourself the quintessential 1960s beach bum.For women, beach fashion leaned towards feminine and flirty, with A-line dresses and skirts, often in floral or paisley prints, being a popular choice. The dresses, much like the swimsuits, featured modest necklines and hemlines, and were often accessorized with a wide-brimmed sun hat, beaded necklaces, and strappy sandals.

Woodies and Boards

No 1960s California beach scene would be complete without the iconic wood-paneled station wagons, affectionately known as "woodies," cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway. These cars were a status symbol for surfers, as they were spacious enough to transport their trusty surfboards to and from the beach. The sight of a woodie with a surfboard strapped to the roof was a clear indication that the occupants were living the California dream.

Beach Party Madness

While the fashion was a significant part of the 1960s California beach culture, the social gatherings were where these trends truly came to life. Beach parties, with their bonfires, dancing, and live music, were the perfect opportunity for surfers and beachgoers to show off their stylish threads and sun-kissed tans. Think "Gidget" and "Beach Blanket Bingo," with their catchy tunes, synchronized dancing, and a hefty dose of teenage romance. It may seem cheesy by today's standards, but at the time, it was the epitome of fun in the sun.

Catching the Wave

There you have it, a journey through the iconic fashion and culture of California's 1960s beach scene. The laidback, sun-soaked style of this decade has left a lasting impression on fashion, and even today, we can see traces of its influence in our swimwear, hairstyles, and, of course, the ever-present surf culture. So, the next time you find yourself longing for the warmth of the sun and the thrill of the waves, channel your inner 1960s California beachcomber and catch that wave!
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