When Mike Hynson and Robert August show up at LAX in Endless Summer, ready to embark on the first leg of their sojourn across the world, wearing suits, ties, and carrying surfboards, it’s largely for dramatic effect. For the film, Bruce Brown would famously orchestrate scenes like the walk over the dunes to Cape St. Francis, and this was likely a similar story. Seeing two surfers wearing suits in a time where surfers were generally understood to, at the very least, possess some sort of adversity to the corporatism to which their parents’ generation was beholden – and the uniforms that came with it – was a curious dichotomy. What Brown was going for having August and Hynson wear suits at the beginning of the film is locked away in his mind alone. But what’s clear is surfers then didn’t wear suits.
It’s kind of crazy when Robert August and Mike Hynson walk into LAX wearing suits, carrying their boards under their arms. Crazy because surfers didn’t wear suits. Back then. Photo: Encyclopedia of Surfing
While surf culture has shifted some, detractors arguing that corporate interests have completely bastardized the counterculture lifestyle surfing once imbued, it remains true that even the corporate arm of surfing has a character of casual – at least by way of attire. It’s not unheard of, for instance, for one of the big wigs at Billabong, Ripcurl, or Quiksilver to cruise their headquarters in shorts and flip flops.
On the other hand, recently, professional surfers have (on occasion) elected to dress up for special events. Remember when Nic Lamb famously said he prefers tailored Armani suits and Ferragamos to dressing “like a surfer”? And anyway, being that surfers intersect a breadth of professions and personalities, it’s not uncommon these days to work a 9-to-5 in a suit and wingtips and shred in your free time.
If I had to guess, that’d be the logic behind the Australian branch of Van Heusen, a men and women’s fashion company, selecting Mick Fanning to be their newest ambassador and mentor (whatever that means).
It’s pretty strange to see the dude wearing a suit so… comfortably?
But, beyond award ceremonies and nice dinners here and there, how often does the lifestyle of a professional surfer require a tailored suit?
The other mentors Van Heusen selected range from professional rugby players to entrepreneurs. Watching the video, to me at least, Mick seems out of place. I feel like I’m watching an SAT question: which doesn’t belong?
And the choice of the word ‘mentor’ is even more strange. What would a guy who hardly wears suits (as far as we know) teach others about their choice of slacks and sport coat? It all feels so awkward.