Frugal Fashionista: ZJ Boarding House

The atmosphere within the surf community worldwide was wounded this past week with the passing of surf icon Andy Irons. Being that Venice Beach and Santa Monica are two of California's coastal cities known for their surf culture, strong surf and skate community, and its casual beachy/skate clothing, I find it only appropriate to pay respects to one of the men who has been instrumental in the growth of the surf community. According to Todd Roberts, owner of ZJ Boarding House, Irons, literally was the face for companies like Billabong, who continue to bring this culture to us in new and innovative ways.

ZJ Boarding House is a staple clothing store that has kept true to the surf fashion but also shows where that same community meets higher fashion.

At the beginning of the store's inception, all the shop carried was basic surf gear such as boards, wetsuits, and some men's clothing, like basic board shorts. Today ZJ Boarding House, with its three storefronts, carries not only the basics but a full array of mainstream, fashionable surf and skate style clothing for men and woman both. Roberts said, "The surf industry is a global business now going on beyond the real participants in the lifestyle."

The first store front, "The Corner Store" as Kristy Dinsmoor, manager at ZJ's refers to it, sits on the corner of Ocean Park Blvd. and Main Street. It carries all their hard goods like skate, surf, and snowboards plus clothing from a variety of smaller clothing companies such as Freedom Artists and HippyTree.

The larger surf clothing companies such as O'Neil and Volcom also have their own spaces within the clothing mecca of this store. Cute girl's dresses are just a shelf away from men's board shorts and pairs of sidewalk surfers, Sanuk shoes, which claim to have a aegis microbe (anti-microbial) shield allowing it's wearer to not have to wear socks while still avoiding horrifically stinky feet and shoes later.

According to Dinsmoor, surf fashion is still behind mainstream fashion but quickly catching up to the consumer market. "They are a couple years behind but now they are catching up," said Dinsmoor. "It seems that it used to be surfers and skaters that used to buy here but now it is others."

The second store, immediately next door, carries both men's and women's Billabong plus all of their umbrella companies such as Element, Dakine, Honolua, and Von Zipper.

When looking around it became very apparent that surf fashion isn't just a t-shirt and a pair of shorts anymore. It is flannels, jeans, faux leather/fur jackets, and knit sweaters accompanied by clutch handbags or fashionable sweatshirts with built in ear buds. Even kid's clothes has a section in the back. Dinsmoor comments that the male customer looks at girls and says "She [is] hot and she can surf."

The industry has become much deeper than that. Senior designer of Billabong, Alison Roberts says, "It is about making clothing but it is so much more…. it's about giving back to the surf community." Billabong, according to Roberts,

"The line has an all-encompassing surf lifestyle and very competitive fashion brand and we look to high fashion, vintage, and retro to create the lines today." So when you walk in, expect to find a wider variety of choices.

The third store carries Hurley, another large designer within the surf world, but who also has become very competitive for the mainstream market. On the wall sits purple, yellow, red, and black adorable double breasted women's jackets, polka dotted v-neck sweaters, and pinstripe button down shirts with rolled-up sleeves.

They carry cute tanks and faux leather purses. Though I wouldn't have considered myself the type to get into surf clothing, it wouldn't have been hard to walk out the door with a few large bags full of clothes.

Sale items, too, are not unheard of at the store. As the buyers bring in more clothes, filling the customers needs the faster other cool items end up on the sales rack giving them more room and giving us a decent selection to choose from. Better yet, on Dec 4 and 5, they have a massive all-store- sale where the whole store goes on sale. They have a BBQ, a raffle, and even music. This is something they actually do 4 times a year.

There are too many prices for too many items to mention but you can go in and get an item of clothing that starts $20 and gets as expensive as $200.

Todd Roberts reminds me, "Surf brands have global teams of surfers like Irons that support the brand." And those brands give back by supporting the culture and the communities involved that means they support Venice and Santa Monica too.

ZJ Boarding House 2619 Main St. Santa Monica ,CA 90405