by Max Gerstenmeyer
Surf culture, much like its terrestrial counterpart - skate culture exploded around the 60s. With their iconic beach-blond hair, perfect tan, and flip flops, the surf culture movement spread across the globe from Southern California to Australia. The 60s were a time of counter-cultures and revolution. And for many, the surfer dudes and dudettes were the epitome of cool - a symbol of rebellion against the stuffy values of the fuddy-duddies of the previous generation.
As the surf subculture picked up among the youth, corporations and brands came along for the ride fuelling this newly formed clique with gear and equipment. Brands like Quiksilver, Rip Curl, and Billabong took off at lightning speed and quickly came to dominate the industry as the “big three.” In 1991, another brand emerged. A brainchild of sports-dudes ‘Wooly’ (Richard Woolcott) and ‘T-Dawg’ (Tucker Hall), Volcom came into being. (source).
The brands rode the wave of popularity but came crashing down just as quickly. Volcom, however, somehow managed to outlast its competitor brands, focussing its energy on building a strong, credible brand for the ages.
So is Volcom populareven today? And how did it manage to stay relevant in the wake of its struggling competitors?
People often wonder, ‘Is Volcom a surf brand?’ - a valid question considering how dynamic the brand is. Instead of choosing one identity, the founders of Volcom built the company based on the three sports that they enjoyed - snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. Is volcom a good Ski brand? With surf and skate culture in their palms, Volcom also emerged as a good ski brand making it one of the first brands to bring all three sports together under one roof.
This flexibility worked in their favor as it allowed them to pull on different categories based on the market demands. They could choose to, in the words of Todd Hymel - a chief operating officer of Kering's sport and lifestyle division, “attack more of the snow or skate.” At the same time, the brand maintained its strong presence in the action sports industry. (source)
A loss of cultural identity played a significant role in the downfall of the “big three” surf brands. Volcom, however, through the years, has always stood for something, representing a philosophy. True to the subculture they catered to, in 1991, Volcom stood for the ‘Youth Against Establishment’ philosophy. A symbol of youth culture, the brand refused to conform to the supposed established way of things.
In 2013, senior design director Jason Bleik talked about how the brand was taking a stance on designing, keeping in mind a clear vision of what they wanted their future to look like and how they wanted their brand image to be perceived.
Having moved past its more revolutionary, anti-establishment ideology, the Volcom has begun a new era with its new ‘True To This’ philosophy. As a lifestyle brand, it focuses more on a state of spiritual intoxication and an idyllic state of being. Despite the change in its vibe, the youth-oriented brand remains true to its original ethos - freedom from the established and unrestricted self-expression. (source)
Volcom has successfully evolved with time and yet remained authentic to its roots - the subculture to which it owes its origin. So to answer the question ‘Is Volcom still cool?’ Well, a random urban dictionary user referred to the brand as ‘hella tite’ - a pretty upstanding review as far as reviews go. Volcom’s popularity lies in the fact that it embraces change with open arms, determined to build something that will survive the ages.
Another brand that represents a surf lifestyle and you shpuld definitely check out is Mäxmellow Apparel, a german alternative clothing brand.
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