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Men’s Surf Apparel S/S 2024 Retail Buyer‘s Guide

Nothing too fancy, nothing too dull, the SS24 Men’s Surf Apparel brings a fine balance in the game, between heritage conservatism and today’s aspirations. Well done folks. By David Bianic

In this very issue, you may have encountered a recurring theme among the hardware Retail Buyer’s Guides: overstocks. Well, you will be pleased to know we give you a break with this piece dedicated to Men’s Surf Apparel. Unlike many (any?) categories in the boardsports market, clothing seems to be relatively spared. Blessed even for some players. Let’s indulge ourselves with a little ASMR session: “In 2022, the Men’s Surf Apparel market grew due to the increasing interest in outdoor activities, as well as a growing focus on sustainable and eco-friendly choices”, reports Claire Perry, Marketing Director for Brakeburn. Her fellow European Marketing Manager at Florence X Marine, Edd Seater, is on the same page, stating that the sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives are shaping the market each season. A very surprising positive situation “despite all odds and the economic factors around the world”, admits the Brand Manager at Lightning Bolt. Best result ever for Spring 24 here (TCSS), increase on sales there (Oxbow, …Lost, Captain Fin Co.).


Not that we would like to interrupt this feelgood streak, but we had something in mind that bugged us for some time. As many brands are relying on their past for their collection stories – the so called “heritage”, we wondered when the “past” would stop to be an asset and become a lack of creativity. If we are to look in the past, Katin surely stands as an heritage brand. According to Pierre Saint-Mleux, EMEA Brand Manager at French Albion (Euro distro), “the quest for authenticity and legitimacy is very important”. To him, the brand heritage is definitely a marker of the strength of the surf culture, “in particular its Californian heritage”.

Lightning Bolt shares a very deep insight on the matter, as they emphasize the balance between honoring their heritage and staying relevant in the present. To reach that balance, they keep updating classic designs, “embracing sustainability and eco-friendly practices more deeply, continuously innovating, and engaging with surf enthusiasts to meet the changing needs and tastes”.

While he acknowledges this trend is great for the surf market, as surf brands were BIG (yes, caps lock) in the 90’s, Jacob Byrne, Global Brand Manager at Rhythm, regrets it feels like a “copy-paste trend”, and warns that “young customers are moving through fashion trends so quickly that this hype will not last without evolution”.

As part of the “old school is the new school” trend, polos are making a comeback. Though quite polarizing among surf fashionistas, polos will be found in Ligthning Bolt’s offer (a knitted polo shirt, made of 100% cotton, with retro-colored stripes on the chest and placket with wooden buttons) or in a unique variation from TCSS (viscose nylon button down woven shirt). Not exactly a polo but same vibe with the Paisley Cuban Shirt at Rhythm, in a line/rayon fabrication. Wear it open with a white tank top for a full look!


We see a sub-trend in the themes invented by the brands, that is Super Specific Stories. We are not talking of just broad stories as “Southern Cali”, or “Tropical Vibes”, but rather ad hoc narratives. Look at Oxbow’s 3 main stories: Surf in Peru (adventurous surfers Ludo Dulou, Kepa Acero and Mathieu Crepel discovering the Peruvian surf community), Children of Teahupo’o (Local surfers Gilbert Teave and his “brother” Tahurai Henry facing massive waves but also the numerous dangers denaturing the place) and Collector Australia (French surfer Arnaud Mestelan in the footsteps of his “aboriginal walkabout” with legend Robbie Page). Films and media features are pushing the message in a very coherent fashion.

As per the heritage thingy, Lightning Bolt does it smart as their men’s collection is divided into 3 main segments: Contemporary Styles, Urban Styles and Beach Time Styles, “all of them inspired by the 70s and concepts derived from Lightning Bolt’s surf culture”. Strong roots, but not stuck in the past.

Obviously, the young brands cannot rely on their past and Florence X Marine explores a different path. The goal for SS24 is to build Utilitarian Equipment for Modern Sport Conditions. “Our assortment follows a ‘equipment, not apparel’ mentality”, sums up Edd Seater. Although …Lost has a direct line of descent with the heritage family, the brand would rather see itself as “new and exciting”, insist Freddie Sipowicz (President) and Jonathan Gilbert (CEO Europe) banking on its surfboard brand image to pair with the apparel.


The past years were marked by a toned-down vibe, “earthy” colors all the way. The low-key palette will still be used on some collections, a safe bet we shall say. But the boldish approach of SS24 conveys a fresh message. “There is a resurgence of vibrant, bright and bold colours which aligns perfectly with our laid-back coastal lifestyle, one that embraces colour and pattern as a defining characteristic”, says Claire at Brakeburn. Bright does not necessarily translate into “neon”, as mentioned by Jason Acuna, Senior Designer for Captain Fin Co. apparel: “Bright and bold doesn’t have to be crazy colors. It can just be contrasting colors and the way you use them together.” Across the color spectrum, we found some Papaya and Mystic Lilac at Lightning Bolt, where vibrant rhymes with natural. Even their earthy tones are still quite vivid with mustard yellows, burnt oranges and deep rusts. Same move at Oxbow, where bright red and orange are attenuated with some kaki and beige in the Peru collection, while they keep it very fresh for the Teahupo’o range. Lost has never been shy when it comes to bold colors and graphics, but keeps the options open with a range “between sun faded brights and saturated brights”.


Consumers know their stuff in 2023 and they look at the tags firsthand. They want to know the nature of the fabrics, their origin, if the kit has been made with a sustainable approach, etc. The basic cotton tee that made the surf industry so rich in the 90’s has been widely replaced by organic cotton and other natural fibres were brought out from the closet, such as linen.

You will find some in Lightning Bolt pieces, as well as viscose (rayon), a plant-based fibre, which represents “a more sustainable alternative to polyester”. Cotton weights also beefed up, bringing more durability and a different feel. “We’ve shifted all our tees into a 230gsm 100% cotton singles. This is around 50gsm or 30% heavier than most brands on the market”, says the Co-founder and Creative Director of TCSS. Merino wool can also be implemented on Spring-Summer apparel, for its temperature regulation properties, and you will find some on Oxbow’s 85 collection, together with Tencel, a fibre made of wood pulp, on the Caillauas sweater or Carlit t-shirt.

For the more technical products within the surf apparel, the recycled poly still is the go-to choice, even if Florence X Marine brings something new with a Cordura blend: “Cordura has been a real breakthrough for us”, says Edd Seater, “that resulted in shorts with all the durability expected of Cordura, but with none of the rash or harshness of a traditional durability-based product. There’s literally no break in period.”


The French people have a way with this, they call it “supplement d’âme”, literally “a soul supplement”. The surf apparel isn’t just a piece of fabric anymore, the added value now consists of a variety of actions done by the brands to enhance its ethical credit: durability campaigns, NGO partnerships, support to the local community, you name it. Let’s start with Florence X Marine, which partners with 4ocean: “For every Florence membership sign up, we’re working with 4ocean to pull a pound of trash out of our aquatic playgrounds.” TCSS campaigns with Greenfleet, which replants deforested areas of Australia, and maintains its long-standing partnership with ‘Take 3 for the Sea’, which promote the message ‘pick up 3 pieces of rubbish every time you visit a waterway’.

Oxbow multiplies the actions as well. Among other things, they work with the Water Family association, “which aims to educate and raise awareness of the importance of preserving water, our health and all living things” (the profits from certain products go to this association), and have opened an eco-responsible surf-shop, Stay Alive, which “has for mission to allow our customers to : repairs their boards, wetsuits, clothes ; re-use, thanks to the second-hand market in the shop, and recycle and give a second life to their gear”.

There is absolutely no denying the brands go a long way to meet and anticipate the consumers needs. Ponder on this when looking at all that makes a pricepoint what it is.


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108 Oneill Men Surf Apparel
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