Even before expanding his brand beyond the water’s surface, world-renowned surfer Laird Hamilton was a multi-tasking multi-hyphenate, credited with popularizing tow-in surfing, hydrofoil boarding and stand-up paddle boarding. Now his name graces movie credits (“The Descendants”), book covers (his lifestyle tome “Force of Nature”), bags of coffee and creamer. And, as of Oct. 22, he has a new line of men’s clothing.
The launch party for Laird Apparel was a starry affair at Ron Robinson’s Santa Monica boutique, where singer Kenny Chesney, media star and mogul Oprah Winfrey, actor Orlando Bloom and pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece (Hamilton’s wife) rubbed elbows and viewed the wares.
Hamilton has dabbled in the rag trade in the past — both as a sponsored athlete and with a short-lived line called Wonderwall. But Laird Apparel marks the first time he has started a full-blown menswear line under his own name, a venture in which he is partnering with William Cawley (who serves as chief creative officer) and Tim Garrett (president of Laird Apparel LLC), backed by a handful of private investors.
There are three collections under the Laird Apparel nameplate: one designed for on-water activities (board shorts, quick-drying tops), one for fitness activities (roomy, yoga-suitable trousers, graphic tees) and an assortment of laid-back lifestyle pieces (think button-front shirts, zip-front sweaters and hoodies). Like Outerknown, the line launched by pro surfer Kelly Slater earlier this year, Laird Apparel dips its toes in surf inspiration while staying away from the bright colors and bold patterns that have defined the surf wear look for the last several decades. Instead, it’s grounded in a color palette of blues, grays, black and white that evoke the colors of waves, sky and the beach. And part of it has to do with the target demographic.
“This line is ultimately for guys like me … the X Generation,” says the 51-year-old Hamilton. “Let’s say 30 to 60. It’s a group that’s active, that has money because they’re already far enough along in their careers, and they’re successful. They’re the biggest group [and] the one everybody is trying to figure out how to talk to. I didn’t come into it because of that, I just came into it because I’m authentically one of those guys and I needed something for me.”
Based on the debut collection, guys like Hamilton need lots of slim-fitting T-shirts and workout-appropriate long-sleeve tops, board shorts, walk shorts and the occasional light layering piece in the form of a sweater or technical hoodie. The collection, priced from $30 to $120, is shot through with technical details (like moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics and welded pockets), and the inaugural offering is full of retro-flavored racing stripes and a couple of understated, nature-inspired patterns including a fun kelp camouflage design that appears on board shorts and jacket linings. Visible on most pieces is the brand’s logo, a stylized version of a green sea turtle.
Key pieces include a sporty-looking zip-front sweater inspired by a traditional cycling jersey ($95), a pair of lace-closed, polyester/cotton blend pants suitable for both paddle boarding and apres-surf activities ($120) and a quick-drying polyester pique polo shirt with contrast overlock stitching detail that similarly does double duty ($75).
Hamilton, who splits his time between Hawaii and Malibu, says a career on the waves has taught him a few lessons about how to approach the apparel business. “Life is a formulaic process, so once you have a certain formula for success — the work, the belief, the perseverance, the ability to get back up when you’re knocked down — once you have all of these elements and you’re used to them, you just implement them in the next activity.” He pauses for a second before adding, “And the thing that’s nice about this one is that I don’t have to worry about drowning.”
That career-long desire to tackle challenges head-on — from waves to wardrobe — gave rise to one of the defining pieces of the launch collection: a blue, retro-style windbreaker with five white racing stripes down the left side and the word “blame” printed in capital letters across the back. Creative director Cawley explains that it’s a reference to the “Blame Laird” campaign started half a dozen years ago by a group of core surfers unhappy with the proliferation of stand-up paddle boarders. Hamilton promptly registered the slogan “Blame Laird” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and, for a while, sold a line of T-shirts and hats through his website emblazoned with the words.
“It’s a nod to that,” Cawley says. “In a way it’s like he’s saying: ‘If you’re out there on the water enjoying yourself, then blame Laird.’”
The collection is available at Ron Robinson, 1327 5th St., Santa Monica, and at lairdapparel.com