How to Draw the Line Between Laid Back Surf Style and Vagrant Beach Bum
I don’t imagine that too many of you reading this are real surfers. I’d even go as far as to say that absolutely none of you actually know how to surf—because if you did, you probably wouldn’t be so concerned about how to dress like one. But for the rest of us who are more likely to embarrass ourselves out in the open water when equipped with a surfboard, that’s all we really have: To aspire to the kind of laid-back style that surfers tend to have about them.
You know the guys: the Luke Landrigans of the world who look better in a pair of boardshorts than you do in your best suit. This is the guy who can steal your girl and get away in a pair of flip-flops, leaving you panting in the dust as you run after them in your expensive running sneakers. He makes us all feel like pale, lazy, swagless cityfolk, because we probably are—and the best we can do is to try to dress like him whenever we go to the beach. So try we will, while steering clear of the easiest pitfall in styling yourself for a beach getaway: looking like a vagrant beach bum.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUTS
Surf style should be simple (boom, alliteration, bitch). In fact, you could very easily stay at the beach for a week with just a rotation of T-shirts and shorts and still be the most stylish guy there. The difference, though, between cool guy surfer style and seaside hobo is mainly in the cuts. You don’t want to be the guy whose T-shirt is too slim, tapered down to the waist; nor do you want to be Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates, whose wardrobe for the entire movie was so magnificently ill-fit. There’s a happy middle ground for all body types, with enough billow in it for comfort, but with the right proportions.
The bright graphic tees of Saturdays New York are a great example of the right fit
The same goes for beach shorts: Most department store brands have ones that are so straight cut that they flare outward, and are shaped awkwardly. Shorts that are cut well, like the ones we talked about extensively in a previous article, are slightly tapered—just enough so they point straight down and end right around your knees.
RVCA x Birdwell Britches, available in Tenant Manila
THE LOOSE, SHORT-SLEEVED BUTTON DOWN IS YOUR FRIEND
Granted, a T-shirt and boardshorts can look great if you pick out ones in the right cut. But we understand—it isn’t always that easy to find ones that fit you perfectly. In such case, opt for a nice, loose, short-sleeved button-down. If you were anywhere else but the beach, the short-sleeved button-down can be difficult to pull off—but here, it’s an easy way to look just a little more respectable and dressed-up without compromising the laid back look of your outfit. Pick a shirt that’s loose and a little off-shoulder, with a flat collar—not one that’s turned up. It’s the kind of shirt that makes you look like you’re on vacation, but not permanently. You have a job to come home to, after all… right?
If there were ever a time to unleash your repressed love for prints and hats, it’s now.
COOL LIGHTWEIGHT FABRIC ALWAYS
Remember, the goal is relaxed, laid back, and easy going. Some fabrics don’t suit that brief. Avoid oxford cotton, denim, and jersey, for example; and stick to linen, pique, chambray, rayon, and lightweight cotton. If you need an extra layer (perhaps for cooler beaches abroad), try a loose knit cotton sweater. Your beach clothes have to be comfortable, first and foremost: stuff you can throw on and off, fabrics that can get wet and dry easily.
THERE’S MORE THAN JUST THE OUTFIT
Invest in a good beach towel, a beach bag, a nice pair of sunglasses, and maybe a diver’s watch. No matter how cool your outfit is, if you bust out an old yellow-stained towel or a fucking Jansport from college, consider your vibe killed. A nice waxed cotton duffle bag will do great, or maybe a large canvas tote bag with some attitudinal prints. Consider it the icing on the cake: beach accessories that complete the entire I’m-a-cool-guy-at-the-beach look.
This beach bag by Oakland Surf Club shows how graphic totes can go a long way.
TAKE YOUR FLIP-FLOP GAME UP A NOTCH
We’re not saying that people would judge you if you wore Islanders below your otherwise super-cool beach threads, but you might as well get yourself some more respectable footwear options. Perhaps any of the athletic flip flops, like those of Nike and adidas, would be better alternatives. With them, pack closed-toe options that work just as well (if not better) for the beach: slip-on canvas sneakers or espadrilles, perhaps. It’s always best to have something to switch into if you find yourself in a situation that isn’t exactly flip-flop appropriate.
JUST FUCKING WEAR IT
This can be said for just about any occasion, but it’s important to just wear your goddamn clothes. At the beach, it’s obvious when a guy isn’t so comfortable in his clothes—perhaps he’s insecure about his body or just not used to exposing his shins. Whatever it is, it’ll show, and trust us, it will cramp your style. So only care up until a certain point: once you’ve carefully considered your clothes and packed them up before heading out, just stop giving a shit and enjoy the view.