"What are you doing down here?" the 20-something with the shaved head who's minding the Quiksilver booth pointedly asked me, implying that last weekend's Action Sports Retailer expo in San Diego is too far from OC for me—so why don't I just fly the hell back there?
As it turns out, I don't have to answer him. A smiling Quiksilver sales rep is jawing with a tableful of female buyers, right before Mr. Shaved Head hustles me back outside their packed booth.
"Western shirts are still really popular, and they have that classic American silhouette," the salesman is saying, his tone just south of chirpy. He makes it abundantly clear that this little action sports corner of Cool is totally conquered, dominated, and spun by the likes of Quiksilver, Stussy, and the gang.
Artificial anti-corporate angst enveloped me all day at ASR, the semi-annual sellfest for surf, skate and snowboard haberdashers. What's new for summer is really more of the same: from San Diego County's Nixon, the reinvention of once-cool items like Billy Zoom's leather wrist-gauntlet watch (see the back of X's Los Angeles); from Quiksilver, Western shirts like Paul Newman wore in Hud, albeit with turned-up colors; and from Stussy, droopy '70s sunglasses, just like the spare set in my dad's glove box.
Retro is back. Again. Seventies rip-offs are all over the San Diego Convention Center—perhaps second only to label reps who claim they're not selling out. I barely have my feet inside the door before I stumble over Anaheim-based Fivecrown's booth, chock fulla hot babydoll T-shirts with vintage-y soul brother, sunset and Hakuna Matata-type sayings.
There's nothing wrong with this stuff. The Generation Y kids will eat it up, and if I couldn't get my hands on good vintage, I'd probably join 'em at the trough.
It takes a pogo stick maker to show me the way.
He is Flybar's David Jargowsky, and he's from Ellenville, New York. Maybe that's a sign, too, but I like the man and his booth immediately. It's empty, save a Flybar—the adult-sized pogo stick, he says—and Jargowsky, a sensible accountant-type who wears his circa-'81 wire-framed glasses in a non-ironic manner.
After the usual pre-emptive spiel about which surfer dude thinks Flybar is the ginchiest, Jargowsky starts talking the talk. Don't look for Flybar at your local Wal-Mart any time soon, he says.
"The idea of working really hard and your product lying on a pallet somewhere is kind of sad, just so Wal-Mart can sell it for $179," Jargowsky said pleasantly, sounding a lot like the guys at RUCA. Then he starts sounding like a man with a plan.
The Flybar will ring up at just under $200, he said firmly, taking an anti-corporate stance that will cost you about $30 earnest money.
"If people will pay $178 for a pogo stick, they'll pay $200 for a pogo stick."