A guide to surf clothing: what surfers wear

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The Hollywood cliché might have us believe that surfers are born in boardshorts and live their lives in a constant state of ‘beach-ready.’ Yet contrary to popular belief, surfers do actually wear more than just shorts and a tan. In a shocking twist, some have even been sighted wearing, gasp, shoes!

The surf industry began by creating products and gear to improve the surfing experience. However, they soon realized that even those who can’t distinguish between a surfboard and an ironing board were donning their attire. Amidst this wave of opportunity, they shifted gear and started churning out fashion faster than Filipe Toledo on a J-Bay right.

The modern surf fashion industry

Take a stroll into (or a click around) any surf shop these days, and you’ll quickly realize it’s less about boards and more about boardshorts, t-shirts, caps, hoodies, and even those elusive surf shoes. You’d be forgiven for mistaking these stores for clothing boutiques, with the only hint of the ocean being the surfing posters on the wall, a surf video on the tv, and a maybe faint smell of surf wax.

Despite the drift towards fashion, the industry hasn’t entirely abandoned its origins. Many of the best surf brands, like Rip Curl, O’Neill, and Billabong, still produce great wetsuits, hardcore boardshorts, board bags, and other functional gear. Brands like Patagonia and Outerknown are doing a fantastic job of leading the pack toward sustainability. This shift towards eco-friendly fashion means we surfers can look “surfy” without any guilt of choking our favorite playground, the ocean.

But what defines the surfer’s style when the wetsuit is hung up to dry? Well, it’s all about that laid-back, beach-bum vibe. Think comfy, relaxed, yet tastefully stylish. A combination of boho chic and beach drifter, with an adventurous dash of ‘I might hit the surf any minute now.’ It’s a look that screams, “I just woke up like this, tossed on the nearest clothes, and yet, I still manage to look low-key chill.”

What real surfers don’t wear

There’s one fashion faux pas that real surfers will avoid like a rogue set wave — gigantic brand logos plastered across our apparel. Just as we prefer our waves clean, so too do we like our threads. No neon billboards here, thank you very much.

So there you have it, the secret sartorial life of surfers revealed. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising. After all, why should we expect less from a group that manages to make playing in the ocean look like poetry in motion?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my other flip-flop.

A guide to surfing fashion, by real surfers

Check out our recommended surf fashion for 2023 below. These looks will have you turning heads even if you’re not turning a surfboard.

  1. Florence Marine X F1 Burgee Cordura® Boardshort
  2. Rip Curl Plain Stripe Tee
  3. Florence Marine X Airtex Long Sleeve Shirt
  4. Quiksilver Men’s Keller Hoodie
  5. Billabong All Day Trucker Hat
  6. Reef Mens Oasis Double Up-Black

At Surfd.com, we’re committed to nature stewardship and sustainability. Most surfers have a deep connection to the ocean and its environment, and choosing sustainable clothing can be a way for them to make a positive (or neutral-ish) impact on the planet while also staying comfortable and stylish. The following selection features sustainable threads that look good and respect our planet.

  1. Outerknown Seventyseven Cord Utility Shorts
  2. Outerknown Saltwater Slub Pocket Tee
  3. Patagonia Men’s Long Sleeve Work Pocket T-Shirt
  4. Outerknown California Hoodie
  5. Patagonia Wavefarer™ Bucket Hat
  6. Klly Sandal

Here are some sustainable clothing materials to look out for when making your surf fashion purchasing decisions.

Organic Cotton Clothing

Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals, making it a more environmentally-friendly option compared to conventional cotton. Organic cotton clothing is soft, comfortable, and breathable, making it an ideal choice for casual wear.

Recycled Clothing

We don’t mean turning Grampa’s old trousers into a pair of shorts (boho longboarders, this includes you). Recycled clothing is made from materials that have been repurposed from other garments or items. This can include recycled polyester, which is made from plastic bottles, or recycled cotton, which is made from pre-existing cotton fabric. By choosing recycled clothing, surfers can help reduce the amount of waste in landfills and oceans.

Hemp Clothing

Hemp is a durable and sustainable material that requires fewer resources to grow compared to other crops. Hemp clothing is lightweight, breathable, and strong, making it a great choice for surfers who want to stay comfortable and cool in warm weather.

Sustainable Swimwear

When it comes to swimwear, surfers can choose sustainable options like those made from recycled nylon or other eco-friendly materials. Some swimwear brands even offer swimsuits made from recycled fishing nets, which helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the ocean.

Vitamin A Swimwear

Secondhand Clothing

Buying secondhand clothing can be a sustainable option as it reduces the demand for new clothing and keeps clothing out of landfills. Many thrift stores and online marketplaces offer a wide range of gently-used clothing options, including surf-inspired styles.

Visit Outerworn here

In addition to choosing sustainable clothing options, surfers can also make other environmentally-conscious choices in their wardrobe. This can include choosing clothing made with natural dyes or opting for clothing that is produced locally to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping. Brands like Outerknown are leading the way.