The origin of the T-shirt can be traced back to the late 19th century, when one-piece undergarments called “union suits” were cut in half. I’m not sure how effective the bottom half would become, but the top half was proclaimed the T-shirt, named after its distinctive shape. Generally worn by miners and dockworkers the T-shirt had humble beginnings as a low-cost garment which could be easily cleaned when soiled, thus saving your proper shirts from the toil of every day life.
The cotton tee remained strictly in the realms of workwear, gaining popularity amongst the US military for the versatility and comfort it provided. But it took a certain Mr Marlon Brando to transform the garment from working man’s rags to fashion-industry riches, when he wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. The craze stuck and by the sixties T-shirts were everywhere, definitely printed, often tie-dyed.
And the rest is history. T-shirts are deeply embedded in the surf fashion psyche. For non-surfers wanting a piece of the beach, a tee with ugly branding and garish colours is exactly what will make you look cool in the suburbs. Tees are without a doubt the mainstay of the surf fashion industry.
But not all surf t-shirts are made equal, which is why we chose 19 that caught our wandering eyes. The new season is muted and earthy, almost bordering on grunge. Take a look at what we found…
Understated and as comfortable on the body as they are on the eye, RVCA tees are made of quality fibres and refined cuts. The current range will keep the wearer looking good whether in a mine or out to dine.
Von Zipper are not afraid to be bold. Skulls make an appearance but with a decidedly floral edge, like, “here’s a bouquet of death!” The singlets are not tees, but they are evolutions of the tee and we’re cool with that. Now what will singlets evolve into? Boob tubes? You read that here first.
No more KS tees 🙁 A sad season for Quik, but they’ve still done ok. Sticking with the tried and tested front-left pocket their range boasts browns and greys and even a semi-Indian number, which will look great with blue denim. Their black rectangle shirt is a good one, even if the print of Kelly getting shacked had to get pulled at the last second.
Minimalist and baggy, Long Lost have an understated attitude that says, “Yep, maybe I’m wearing a surf tee, but you’ll never know unless you get it off me.”
This season Spare are all about the slanty lines. Colour is sliced over the shoulder and fabric shaved off your waist. Asymmetric is cool and you can be too, if you like.
Rip Curl have unveiled an eclectic range that will make surfers of all fashion persuasions happy. From the left-side pocket to an ornate pattern, from the classic single-fin print to a dip-dyed piece of art. We like the dip dye, it’s earthy and organic without being pretentious. But you can be pretentious if you like. You do surf, after all.
We hope you get some ideas for your next fashion garment. It’s a crazy world out there. Choose safely, buy for your size and wash well.