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An Ode to Corduroy Shorts, Your New Summer Staple

Over four decades ago, Ocean Pacific created the quintessential coastal shorts out of an unlikely material.

Henry Phillips

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.

Corduroy. Must mean winter, right? Guess again.

In the early '70s, Ocean Pacific started selling rugged everyday shorts made from the plush, ribbed material. "Nobody was making the kind of clothing suitable for surfers," OP's national sales manager Chuck Buttner told The New York York Times in 1979. “The shorts have to be fuller in the thigh and reinforced at the seams. You also need a good quality fabric to take the salt water, sun and abuse."

Featuring a short inseam to facilitate movement, a wider cut to accommodate athletic legs and easy-access patch pockets, OP shorts were tailored for an active lifestyle, with threads that could take a beating — those velvety rows of close-cropped yarn called wales increase the durability of the fabric.

The company's founder, Jim Jenks, once said his shorts were for the guy who "owns a dirt bike, a sports car or a van, spends most of his time outdoors, is lean and tan." Appropriately, the design became synonymous with coastal, California living — and a favorite of surfers, rock climbers, hikers and skateboarders.

OP has since faded into obscurity, so expect to pay $100 or more for a vintage pair of shorts in good condition on the secondary market. Purists take note: the back pocket was originally on the left side because Jenks was left-handed (OP later moved it to the right). And while modern brands like Birdwell, Battenwear and Outerknown offer dependable homages to the original design, there's nothing quite like the real thing.


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