ed. note: Happy Summer! This post originally ran a few years ago, but with the weather like it is, we hope you’ll enjoy it again today.
In the early 1960s, a group called The Pendletones adopted their name in honor of the surf uniform of the day: Pendleton shirts worn over tee shirts with khakis. The original lineup included brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine.
The Pendletones soon changed their name to the Beach Boys . Even though only one member of the group had ever been on a surfboard, they sang about the California surfing scene; waves, sunshine, cars and girls. This might have been simple subject matter, but layered instrumentation and soaring harmonies made these songs anything but simple. Under the unique artistic leadership of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys defined surf music. And though their name changed, their uniform didn’t. The band wore this blue and charcoal plaid shirt on the covers of 45s and LPs throughout the early 1960s.
The Beach Boys’ Pendleton shirts were part an existing trend. When surfing came to California in the late 1950s, surfers devised performance wear: swim trunks and plaid Pendleton shirts over a layer of Vaseline. Surfers wore the same shirts over light pants on the shore, and a fashion trend was born.
This look hit the radio airwaves courtesy of the Majorettes, whose song, “White Levis” became a number one hit in 1963. As the lyrics said, “My boyfriend’s always wearin’ white Levi’s…and his tennis shoes and his surfin’ hat and a big plaid Pendleton shirt.”
That’s a Pendleton shirt cover of that 45, even though they named the song after the pants. You can give it a listen here, and don’t be surprised if you start singing along. But let’s get back to the shirt made so popular by the Beach Boys.
In 2002, Pendleton celebrated eight decades of Pendleton shirts by bringing back iconic shirts from each decade. To celebrate the 1960s, we brought back the Board Shirt in the same plaid seen on all those record covers. We officially named it the Blue Beach Boys Plaid.
The shirt has stayed in the line ever since. We’ve used it in caps, hats, bags and jackets. It’s still made in the original 100% virgin Umatilla wool as it was back then, but we’ve interpreted it in rayon for campshirts and cotton for sleepwear.
We have done a few colorations of the plaid. Whether it’s in blue, coral, rust or olive, the pattern is easily recognizable.
There is a discussion now and then in Pendleton’s Menswear division about which is our most enduring men’s item of all time. Some say it’s the Topster, the shirt jacket that defined collegiate wear in the 1950s and 60s. Some say it’s the Westerley cardigan worn by the Dude in “The Big Lebowski.” Others claim the honor for the Beach Boys Board Shirt.
This shirt is almost as beloved as the band that made it famous! It’s one of our top-sellers each year, regularly chosen by winners of the wool shirt giveaways we have on our Menswear Facebook page, and still worn by surfers, boarders, musicians, sons and fathers. The shirt is still going strong, and so are the Beach Boys. The band is currently out on tour, and they still love Pendleton.