Maybe it's time to give others a chance to fuck it up too?
The surf industry has been in a dizzying fall for the past… what… ten years? At least ten years. An utter collapse. We’ve seen giant Quiksilver declare bankruptcy only to come out, shepherded by distressed asset management firm Oaktree Capital, and buy Billabong for pennies on the dollar. Rip Curl has floated the idea of a sale for years now with nothing materializing. Brands rolling over. Brands disappearing forever. Shrinking bottom lines. Vanishing jobs
It is bleak with no real end in sight and as I have pondered the whys and wherefores have come to the conclusion that the surf industry is dying because it has lost its center. I have, in fact, written a whole book on the subject called Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story!
But maybe the failure to embrace the love story with cocaine is not the problem. Bobby Kim, co-founder of streetwear’s very successful The Hundreds gave a speech at the recent Surf Industry Manufacturers Association titled Can Surf Learn From Streetwear? The entire thing is worth a read but let’s read a passage together.
I had breakfast with Bob McKnight, founder of Quiksilver, a few years ago, and he told me to exit the industry because the kids didn’t care about clothing anymore. “They just want to buy apps.”
But Bob, with all due respect, was wrong. Since our breakfast together, my sector of men’s fashion-STREETWEAR-exploded. There’s Supreme, of course. The New York skate brand’s valuation topped a billion dollars, thanks to global line-ups for limited items and high-profile celebrity endorsements. Kanye’s adidas Yeezies are this generation’s Air Jordan. Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and his sneaker collaborations arguably put Nike back on the map. It’s not unusual for me to look down at one of our customer’s receipts and see that he’s spent hundreds of dollars on T-shirts and pants. Kids aren’t spending hundreds of dollars in an afternoon on apps, but they are tossing that kind of money on streetwear brands like Anti Social Social Club, Pleasures, and Vetements.
I can also give 10 speeches to outline why and how streetwear has gotten so popular.
– It’s the limited edition thing.
– It’s the collaborations and the high fashion crossover.
– It’s the meticulous attention to brand integrity.
Yet, today, I’m going to zero in on just one theory as to streetwear’s resounding success in 2018. And, this hypothesis also intersects with an obvious void that I see and feel in surf.
It’s the presence and power of racial diversity.
The case that Mr. Kim goes on to make is compelling because it is about the bottom line more than moral integrity though I think he should also speak to gender diversity. White men get blamed for lots and lots but they deserve every ounce of blame for fucking the surf industry up so badly. Maybe it’s time to give others a chance to fuck it up too?
What do you think about that?