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Friday, May 31, 2013
Updated: October 28, 4:35 PM ET
Behind the Brand: Brixton

By Jon Coen
XGames.com

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Brixton Venture

Like anything else, surfwear is going to go through some changes over the course of history. Seems like not that long ago we were all wearing pants that would have been baggy on Shawn Briley. (Actually, I guess it was that long ago ... ) The last decade, we've seen trunks creep back along the lines of Tom Carroll's squid seeing daylight. And this '80s retro movement has now been happening for longer than the actual '80s.

Today, surfing has so many little subsets it's crazy, from the Instagramming alterna-crafters to the urban lumberjack to the track-shoe-and-medicine-ball crew. For one thing, the surf demographic isn't all 18 anymore. There's the 8-year-old longboard stylist and the 55-year-old fitness nut. And that's cool, because let's face it, we all want to have our own style. You don't want to go out dressed like your grandfather -- unless that's the goal.

That wasn't the entire focus of Brixton, but it had something to do with it.

Brxtn gear: Vowels are lame, but the summer 2013 line strives for something different than the average surf and skate wear.

"Jason Young, Mike Chapin and I started Brixton back in 2004. At the time we were into grandpa-style vintage-inspired hats, but we couldn't find them in our market. I had always wanted to start a brand, and we decided headwear was a really cool niche," says co-founder and brand manager David Stoddard. "When we started the company, we always set out to be a full apparel brand, so over the years we slowly began introducing more categories that made sense, like jackets and flannels, and Brixton began growing from there."

And Brixton, named for a culturally historic district of London, has made some inroads into surf, even though it's not surf-specific. It has a certain peripheral surf style leaning toward skate -- not exactly what you'd call beachwear.

"We've always aimed to be a diverse brand and to make products that are different and that don't stereotype people as any one thing," Stoddard adds. "We grew up surfing and it's definitely part of our lifestyle and one of many influences, so I think we've resonated with the surf community very naturally."

Stoddard explains that they don't shoot for trends, like the aforementioned '80s. They aim to make classic apparel, the kind of stuff that looks dated, but not outdated. They understand that they are designing something that a particular culture is going to gravitate toward.

"I think there's an independent and maybe even a little rebellious spirit that's at the core of the brand. We like to do things differently. But culture also refers to our lifestyle, interests and inspirations," explains Stoddard.

The 2013 summer line still includes a lot of what they are known for: hats (and some very cool ones) like the time-honored Fiddler, the Baxter straw fedora, the Brood snap-cap and the Floyd bucket hat. Think turn-of-the-century (yeah, that century) newsie with working-man inspiration and a bit of London rude boy on a character from a Kerouac novel.

They've translated the headwear into woven button-downs, pants (nothing painted on), trunks, shorts, tanks and a women's collection. Some of the new trunks are a little on the shorter side, but nothing as extreme as you're going to see in Brooklyn or North County this summer.

Thom Pringle is a recent addition to the Brixton Union.

The team -- or the "Brixton Union," as it is known -- includes surfers who are a little outside the basic cutout, guys like Taylor Curran, Troy Elmore, Thom Pringle, Oliver Kurtz, Jeff McCallum, Jesse Steelman and Conor Willem. Of course, working with musicians is a huge part of the equation. They've sponsored the Revival Tour and have most recently done work with Jeff Luger, drummer for Nick Waterhouse & The Tarots.

Brixton gear is quality. It certainly makes a statement, but with a subdued style. The overly hip fashion thing can get so played out, working too hard to pull things out of the past. And it's a fine line to walk.

"We just try to make things that we genuinely like and that are timeless. We have such a diverse consumer base and we try to design products that will appeal to a range of different people. Sometimes you can't help who buys your products!" Stoddard laughs about the overly fashion-conscious.

Brixton just did a collab with Krooked Skateboards that's set to drop in July and has a new line of bags for fall. Just don't expect any lime-green sunglasses.