Ride The Wave: The 15 Coolest Surf Fashion Brands For Men
These are the hottest and most authentic surf labels you can buy right now. Offering practical, stylish clothing that works in and out the ocean.
While surfing has a rich history that literally dates back thousands and thousands (and thousands) of years, it didn’t really hit the mainstream until the 20th century when it started to gain widespread popularity on the shores of California’s legendary Venice Beach. In fact, when streetwear first started gaining steam back in the 80s and 90s, not only was it strongly rooted in New York City’s rich hip-hop culture, it was also heavily inspired by Los Angeles’ surfing scene.
Back in the day, surf clothing brands used to solely make wetsuits, board shorts and surf bikinis (if that’s your sort of thing), but they’ve evolved a lot over the past couple of decades. Now, they play a leading role in every man’s wardrobe, and there’s really no questioning why. It’s an extremely diverse genre that caters to everyone and anyone’s personal sense of style. But, with hundreds of different brands to choose from, riding the wave can be a little overwhelming.
Lucky for you, we’ve hand-selected the 15 coolest surf clothing brands on the planet. So let’s dive straight into it.
There’s absolutely no way you can talk about the greatest surf clothing brands of all time without giving Billabong a very special shoutout.
Established on the beautiful Gold Coast of Queensland five decades ago, founder Gordon Merchant designed and created his own board shorts from home and sold them at surf shops around the local area. It really was a one-man band.
Eventually, hype surrounding the Australian label blew up in the 90s when it introduced its now-iconic ‘I surf because’ campaign. In the early 2000s, the company started sponsoring and signing some of the game’s most prominent surfers, and the rest is history.
Channel Islands Surfboards
Channel Islands Surfboards isn’t as well-known as some of the other names on this list, but it should still be on your radar. Created by Al and Terry Merrick, in 1969, the company has grown from a local grassroots operation into a cutting-edge label that some of the world’s best surfers swear by.
In 2006, Channel Islands Surfboards was bought by Burton. This was a huge blow to the Santa Barbara boarding community as it was one of the last independent companies in the industry. Thankfully, 14 years later, the sportswear conglomerate agreed to sell it back to the original founders – a significant moment for the brand’s legacy.
Deus Ex Machina
While some surfing labels have showrooms and others have cafés, Deux Ex Machina runs both of these, as well as a fully-fledged apparel line that’s extremely sought-after.
Based in Sydney, even though it has only been around for 17 years, it has transcended from being just another brand to an entire lifestyle that people embody day to day.
Deus Ex Machina isn’t just for surfers either. Motorcyclists and skateboarders adore its archaic aesthetic and rebellious vibe. In fact, it has even played a huge role in tattoo culture as well.
Let’s be real for a second. Back in the 80s and 90s, if you were into Hurley, you were probably only interested in two of the company’s pieces: the board shorts and wetsuits. However, when the Costa Mesa-based brand was bought out by Nike in 2002, it quickly became a label that you’d actually wear, even if you were nowhere near the ocean.
Over the years, it has also evolved into the go-to clothing brand for the surfing community’s coolest tastemakers. It also champions inclusivity, positivity and the commitment to individuality, which we will always throw our weight behind.
When you think of Nixon, you probably think of premium accessories and watches. But believe it or not, the Cali company is a surf brand through and through.
Just two years after it was founded, it set up the Nixon Surf Challenge. This started off as an event made exclusively for its team riders, but it has since developed into an invite-only competition that the world’s elite flock to every year, without fail.
Since then, Nixon began designing and developing custom-built watches that were made for surfers and snowboarders. It has now expanded its collections to include everything from leather goods to audio products – because you still need some banging tunes when you’re riding the wave.
Oakley has been the purveyor of some of the greatest sports performance equipment for the past 50 years. It sounds like an overstatement, but it’s really not. Focusing on sunglasses and sports visors, surfers from all four corners of the globe swear by the Foothill Ranch-based company when it comes to protecting their eyes from both the sun and the sea.
Up until the 2010s, Oakley wasn’t particularly cool and was seen as an imprint that only your dad would wear. However, when the 2020s came around, it quickly became a streetwear powerhouse, producing some of the most hyped sneakers and eyewear that the fashion world has ever seen.
In 2022, it even teamed up with Brain Dead to bring back the legendary Chop Saw silhouette, which was massive news for sneakerheads all over the globe.
When Outerknown first arrived on the scene in 2015, many people were left disappointed by its somewhat vanilla debut collection. Considering it was created by world champion surfer Kelly Slater, fans naturally expected a lot more.
However, as time has gone on and the brand began to find its feet, its following has grown exponentially and now it’s regarded as one of the top surf clothing brands that money can buy.
Placing a laser-sharp focus on premium quality and balancing it with ethical production, Outerknown’s pieces are made from some of the most sustainable materials that the oceans have ever seen. So, if you want to look good and do some good at the same time, look no further.
O’Neill is regarded by many as the OG Cali surfer brand. Born in 1952, it was the brainchild of Jack O’Neill and the result of his pure love and passion for the sport.
He wanted to design and develop board riding products that were functional and beautiful at the same time, and thanks to him, we now have neoprene wetsuits and stitchless board shorts.
Throughout his life and career, O’Neill devoted everything to surfing. While he sadly passed away in June of 2017 at the age of 94, his legacy will continue to live on for generations and generations to come.
Not only is Patagonia one of the most popular outdoor fashion brands out there, the surfing community adores the company too. Shifting from the mountains to the oceans, it’s lauded for its high-quality wetsuits that look and feel awesome.
On top of that, Patagonia stands as a beacon of commitment to sustainability and activism within the industry. In fact, in 2022 its founder Yvon Chouinard forfeited his ownership of the company, vowing to donate all of its profits to fight climate change and to support environmental initiatives. It was a bold move, but one that will make a difference to the future of humanity and cement his legacy forever.
In the late 60s, Alan Green and John Law had grand plans to make one of the biggest surf clothing brands in Australia. Little did they know, that just over five decades later, Quiksilver would become one of the biggest surf clothing brands in the entire world.
Specializing in wetsuits, rash vets and board shorts, Quiksilver also has full collections for when you’re finished riding the waves and you’re back on dry land, so you can look comfortable, chilled and laid back, wherever you are.
In an article about the coolest surf clothing brands of all time, not including Rip Curl would be considered blasphemous. Founded in 1969 by Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer in the lovely seaside resort of Torquay, England, the brand initially produced surfboards. However, one year later, during a time when wetsuits were made exclusively for diving, Warbrick and Singer wanted to redesign it for surfing.
This invention was an instant hit, and Rip Curl became one of the largest surfing companies not only in Australia but also in Europe, South America, North America and Africa, This makes it a member of the surfing world’s ‘Big Three’, which also includes Billabong and Quiksilver.
Most people pronounce RVCA phonetically, but for those who know, you’ll understand that it’s actually read as “Rew-Ca”. It’s a little difficult to grasp at first, but after repeating it to yourself a few times, it’ll start to make a whole lotta sense.
Established in 1999 by Pat Tenore and Conan Hayes, over the years, it has transcended surfing and has become something of a subculture in its own right.
Designed for those in their 20s (and those who pretend to be), RVCA was made for individuals who haven’t lost their teenage spirit yet. Combining clothing with art, music, fashion and a desire to disrupt the ordinary, if you’re a little rebellious, this is the brand for you.
The brainchild of Shawn Stussy, he used to handcraft his own surfboards and scribble his now-iconic signature onto each and every one of them. Eventually, he printed this logo on a selection of T-shirts, shorts, and caps and traveled around Los Angeles, selling them from the back of his car.
His friends thought he was a little crazy at first, but fast forward four decades and Stüssy is one of the most hyped fashion labels in the universe. Not only do its core collections sell out within seconds, it has also collaborated with fashion houses and big-name designers like COMME des GARÇONS, Dior, Dries Van Noten and Martine Rose, to name but a few.
We get it. Vans was originally created to be a skate shoe manufacturer, but a lot can change in 57 years. Now, you just can’t talk about the greatest surf clothing brands without bringing it up.
The Anaheim company has a huge collection of sneakers built for the half pipe, but did you know that it also makes stuff for ocean lovers as well?
From pullover hoodies to keep you cosy after hitting the waves, to rubber clogs that you can slip on while chilling by the coast, Vans has got everything you need for the ultimate beach adventure.
The company has dipped its toes into the realm of surfboards too, but these are incredibly rare.
Dreamt up by Richard Woolcott and Tucker Hall during a snowboarding trip to Tahoe in 1991, the gentlemen wanted to create an all-encompassing brand that would cover everything from surfing, snowboarding and everything in between. The result was Volcom.
The journey has been like a movie. Beginning as nothing but a bedroom operation, Volcom is now considered by many to be one of the most respected surf clothing brands in history. Not only does it produce some of the best apparel and accessories that the sport has ever seen, it’s also a multifaceted company that invests heavily in art, music and film. Why? Just because.