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The Next Big Trend in Vintage Clothing: 90’s SurfWear

The Thread

Imagine: It’s 2007 and you’re draped in only the finest of PacSun’s offerings, Billabong and Quicksilver. You ride your longboard to the mall on weekends to hang out with friends and sheepishly hit on girls. You’re excited to attend your first Vans Warped Tour, and your favorite band will be playing on the Stage. You have no idea that in 16 years you’ll be spending the majority of your time in a Goodwill warehouse fighting over dirty Carhartt pants and that your favorite surf brands will be hundreds of millions in debt.

Now that we’ve invoked more nostalgia than trauma—hopefully—you should be ready for my vintage market trend forecast: ‘90s surfwear to the moon.

Aloha shirts, Stussy, Ocean Pacific, Hang-Ten and Crazy Shirts have been a mainstay of the vintage clothing market for decades now, but expect brands and styles more familiar to Millenials and Gen-Z kids to find a new demand. Not just the big three of Billabong, Hurley, and Quicksilver either. Think Rip-Curl, Split, O’Neill, Volcom, and Roxy. All of these brands have the context to make a comeback.

The surfwear industry, once a harbor of puka-necklace-and-board-shorts innovation, has faced a significant downturn over the last decade. Two of the big three, Billabong and Quiksilver, are consolidated in a heavily indebted parent company called Boardriders. Nike has offloaded Hurley to another holding company. The bottom line: people just aren’t really buying new surfwear.

And this sets the stage perfectly for a surf style resurgence. As we stop seeing brands in a current context, it gives us space to remember them as they were originally loved. The desirability and value of a vintage item come from a triangle of factors: cultural relevance, age, and availability. Surfwear has hit the critical mass of these factors.

We’ve seen this with other vintage trends emerging as we distance ourselves from the early aughts. Baggy skatewear is flooding the flea markets, Y2K concert tees layer vintage store walls, and next in line is the more carefree look of surf style.

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