I bought this reasonably cool pair of board shorts for surfing this summer.


They cost me a whopping $80. Which is what I call ‘insult pricing’. It’s a pretty simple equation actually. The key players in the surfwear industry (Billabong, Quiksilver and Ripcurl) charge these prices because they can. They don’t have any ‘credible competitors’ in this board short subsegment of clothing.

In recent years surf brands have been hit by many competitors in other areas of the market which they used to ‘own’. Especially in t-shirts, from the myriad of streetwear companies, to the uber cool on-line players like Neighborhoodies and Threadless. Interestingly the shorts in this photo would cost >$5 to make. There is significant margin in the product. Such high margins often begets competitive entry into the market place.

The arrogance of said surf brands has invented an opportunity for a nimble entrepreneur to steal part of this market. And the way to do it is exactly the way Threadless have. Go online and build a community to design the uber cool boardshorts / shorts and sell them globally at a fair price. In fact, surf wear is so clichéd and over branded these days that I avoid wearing it. Most of the designs are very rank and have really lost their edge. I only use surf brands for surf equipment. The only reason I bought the pair in the photo is ‘lack of options’.

If anyone knows some one already doing it – let me know
If anyone wants to do it – let me know as well. I think it’s worth ‘investing in’.



  1. Whilst I have no idea on someone doing something cool with shorts, I bought my first t-shirt from 200nipples.com last month and it arrived a few days ago. I paid $6 for it. Check out their site and you will see how they have taken a completely different route on online sales to Threadless and come up with something equally unique.

  2. You may be onto something here Steve.

    Of course, there fundamental cost and scale difference between t-shirts and boardshorts (and for that matter between tees and dresses, shirts etc). T-shirts are really just a standard item (the blank shirt of a variety of colours) plus a tailored aspect (the print on the front). This means sites like Threadless and Neighbourhoodies can buy the main input in bulk at very low cost and then “wait and see” on the tailored dimensions (i.e. print very small runs and make tess limited addition – or alternatively only print them on demand).

    This model would be much harder to run for baordies which rely on printed fabrics to begin with. You would have to be very, very confident about order volumes before offering them for sale, or alternatively ask your buyers to wait an unacceptable time for the product to get to them. Having them made almost individually might well push your costs up towards that $80 mark!!

    Does someone else have more insights into this? Have I got the logistics/business model wrong? Can fabrics be printed more quickly/cheaply?

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