Vans Expands Boardshorts Program

Just like marathon runners replace their shoes every season with the newest models from their favorite trusted brands, surfers have their go-to brands for their big annual boardshort purchases.

Boardshorts are one of the top defining apparel items for many core surf brands. Vans is hoping that its loyal shoe fans will become boardshorts fans too. The company has already staked its claim on the surf market with its “Surf Siders” footwear offerings, its sponsorship of top athletes, key events on the North Shore in Hawaii and, most recently, the addition of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif., this year.

Its next effort is backing up the marketing power with its boardshorts program that’s the most comprehensive yet for Spring 2014. A dedicated designer was hired to launch the season, in comparison to previously, when boardshorts fell under the responsibility of the head designer for men’s apparel.

“As our apparel business continues to grow, we view this classification as an integral part of the line in order to resonate with the surf-minded consumer,” said Daniel Hernandez, men’s apparel product manager for Vans.

“With the importance that the brand is placing on the surf consumer and, specifically, boardshorts, we felt it was impossible to really go after boardshorts in a meaningful way, without a designer solely dedicated to them.”

Like all appendages of Vans, it starts at its footwear story. One of its prolific boardshort fabrications is a cotton/nylon fabric, which is reminiscent of the canvas fabric mood on Vans’ classic shoes. Many surf brands hang their hats on the advanced fabric of boardshorts that’s stretchy, light and quick-drying. Vans’ vision of advancement is melding the vintage boardshorts styles with strategic technological placement.

The two-way stretch fabric features a cotton face and nylon back, so that the outside has the look and durability of cotton, and the inside has “the slickness of the nylon against your skin.”

Hernandez said the sturdier fabric weight eliminates “the ‘Saranwrap’ factor when you get out of the water,” which is when the shorts cling to the skin when wet.

The look is a current interpretation of the first vintage cotton canvas boardshorts back in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Surfing is part of [our] heritage as well. In 1965 you had Paul Van Doren making custom shoes for Duke [Kahanamoku],” regarded as the father of modern surfing in Hawaii, said Hernandez. “It is making something from the past functional in a futuristic way.”