With Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing, it’s no wonder the boardshort has become the unofficial uniform. And there’s a lot more to the popular swim trunks than we see on our beaches today. In fact, the Honolulu Museum of Art explores its evolution from a simple cotton garment to a high-tech piece of activewear.

An art exhibit dedicated to Hawaii’s unofficial uniform – boardshorts.

“Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit” tells the story of boardshorts through the insight of surf world legends and surfshort design pioneers, as well as intense digging in the archives and careful browsing of local thrift stores. Art curators not only met with surf legends, but they borrowed pieces of swimwear and a board from them as well. This particular board-and-swimwear collection comes from both guys and gals of today and yesterday: Eddie Aikau, Lisa Anderson, Gerry Lopez, Carissa Moore, Kelly Slater and Rell Sun.

The first Hawaii surf trunks made their debut in the 1950s as a garment specially tailored to the surfer. According to the museum, popular places to get a pair of trunks back then included H. Miura Store in Haleiwa, Take’s in Waikiki and M. Nii’s in Makaha. At first, it was all about the comfort; hence, earlier shorts were made with cotton twill. Today, however, it’s all about high performance (and quick drying). Shorts are now dictated by a need for speed, comfort, flexibility and durability when it comes to the oftentimes unforgivable surf. Also, let’s not forget what they used to be called: bathing suits, bun-huggers, baggies, boardies and Jams.

(Left) Custom-made palaka boardshorts from the 1950s. (Right) Today’s the modern-day boardshort is a combination of comfort and style that’s meant to last.

In addition to video footage of vintage and contemporary wave riders, the exhibit includes a collection in tribute to women surfers and their contributions to the boardshort industry, as well as a collection saluting lifeguards. The exhibit, of course, dwindles down the history of boardshorts to their finest details – from an early line-up of prints that includes palaka plaids and Hawaiian print florals to coconut buttons and triple-stitched seams.

“ BOARDSHORTS: A PERFECT FIT” EXHIBIT • Ends Jan. 13, 2013 • Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S. Beretania St., Honolulu, HI 96814 • 808-532-8700 • For admission and hours, visit www.honolulumuseum.org

Photo Credit: Honolulu Museum of Art/Courtesy of Joe Welch (second, left) and Hurley (second, right)

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