The Beach Boys: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and David Marks
Malibu, California, Summer 1962
Photographs by Ken Veeder
Part of BAMF Style’s Iconic Photo Series, focusing on style featured in famous photography of classic stars and style icons rather than from specific productions.
Sixty years ago this month, The Beach Boys debuted their first arguable hit single, “Surfin’ Safari” (with “409” on the B side) for Capitol Records in June 1962. The group of southern California youngsters had released their first single (“Surfin'”) with the short-lived Candix Records the previous fall… and the resulting regional success essentially bankrupted the fledgling record company, who could barely afford to pay the group a thousand dollars in royalties for a single that had charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
After signing with Capitol Records, the teens realized they were now in the big leagues. When Brian Wilson turned 20 in June 1962, “Surfin’ Safari”—the simple song he’d written years earlier with his cousin Mike Love—was now rising up the Billboard charts to peak at #14. The lineup now consisted of Wilson and Love with Wilson’s younger brothers Dennis and Carl as well as the 13-year-old David Marks, who had replaced their friend Al Jardine in February, though Jardine—who had left the group to attend dental school—would be back to replace Marks within the year.
On October 1, 1962, Capitol released the first full-length Beach Boys album, named Surfin’ Safari after the hit single that led the album. As their song titles implied, the Beach Boys were heavily influenced by surf music pioneers like Dick Dale, adding harmonies that provided more mainstream pop appeal and popularized what came to be known as the “California sound”.
To visually communicate this West Coast spirit, Capitol photographer joined the Wilsons, Love, and Marks on the seaside sands of Paradise Cove in Malibu for an album cover shoot that would visually communicate the spirit of California with the boys, complete with Dennis’ nine-foot Hermosa surfboard and a palm frond-decorated yellow 1929 Ford Model A pickup truck that Capitol art director Ed Thrasher rented for $50 from a local “beach contractor” known as “Calypso Joe”. In the tradition of all the rising young bands of the day, the Beach Boys dressed identically for that overcast August afternoon in the surf, all clad in woolen board shirts that evoked the band’s original name: the Pendletones.
What’d He Wear?
Had the Beach Boys kept Mike Love’s first suggested name, the “Pendletones” may have been one of the greatest examples of musically endorsed product placement in pop history. Consistent with their music about the southern California surfing scene, the bandmates dressed in what had emerged as the unofficial uniform of SoCal surfers: swim trunks and light-colored pants worn with the tough woolen shirts made by Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland.
In celebration of their role in such an iconic trend, Pendleton continues marketing their Board Shirt today, still made in the original mid-weight 100% virgin wool sourced locally from ranchers in Umatilla County, Oregon. These shirts had originated in 1924, when the innovative fabric and eye-catching colors were quickly embraced by the market. World War II slowed production, but Pendleton shirts became more popular than ever during the postwar sportswear boom as men sought comfortable shirts for leisure, the outdoors, and indeed that emerging intersection between the two: surfing.
These plaid shirts were produced in varying colorways, though the Wilsons, Mike Love, and David Marks drove out to Malibu that August day in matching shirts with a complex blue-and-gray blocked plaid that Pendleton renamed the “Original Surf Plaid” upon its reintroduction in 2002, forty years after the Paradise Cove shoot. The plaid consists of three blue shades (cerulean, teal, and blue melange) and three grays of varying intensity from a pale melange to charcoal.
“Each Pendleton shirt is crafted from 26 to 38 different components,” the company states on its website. “All pieces of a shirt are cut from one bolt of fabric for absolute color and pattern consistency. Meticulous attention is given to matching patterns, balancing collar points, collar linings, labels and buttonholes.
For nearly a century, Pendleton Board Shirts have retained the same tried-and-true design, only recently complementing its Classic Fit with a “Fitted” variety that offers a slimmer cut. Regardless of cut, these long-sleeved shirts follow the same template: a long and sporty camp-style collar with a threaded loop on the left side, six buttons up the plain front (including one tucked under the right collar leaf, corresponding to the loop), button cuffs, and two patch pockets on the chest covered with free flaps. The shirt’s straight hem can be tucked in or left hanging.
The rest of the barefoot band’s attire for the day was as simple as it gets, wearing the shirts unbuttoned over white cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirts, which were in turn untucked over the top of their pale beige trousers. James B. Murphy’s volume Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963 describes their “white T-shirts, blue plaid Pendleton shirts, and khaki chinos,” though the latter appear to be more jeans-like trousers, perhaps made from the durable and faintly ridged “Bedford cord” cotton like the similar trousers that “King of Cool” Steve McQueen had worn during his own famous coastal California photo shoot two years later.
Contemporary shots from dance parties and other venues also show how the Beach Boys dressed their feet when not barefoot on the beach, all sporting white socks with plain black leather Venetian loafers.
During their early appearances, painstakingly chronicled at the Becoming the Beach Boys web companion, the band interestingly dressed up their Pendleton shirts over white short-sleeved shirts, narrow dark ties, and dark trousers, essentially wearing their board shirts like sport jackets.
Not long after the Beach Boys popularized their blue board shirts on the cover of Surfin’ Safari, the band began prominently rotating in red tartan plaid board shirts as well. These red, beige, and black-checked shirts would be their prevailing Pendletons through the next year before the band retooled their image with lighter short-sleeved shirts patterned with wide awning stripes.
You can read more about the Pendleton Board Shirt and its Beach Boys connection in several posts from the Pendleton blog:
- Before they were the Beach Boys, they were the Pendletones. This shirt is why.
- The Board Shirt by Pendleton, for an Endless Summer
- The Wool Plaid Shirt
How to Get the Look
The Beach Boys were originally the “Pendletones” for a reason, having embraced the local après-surf “uniform” of woolen Pendleton shirts—in a blue plaid, evoking the sea and sky—with plain white tees and washed-out khakis. Sixty years later, the outfit still offers as many good vibrations as it did that August 1962 day at Paradise Cove.
- Blue-and-gray plaid wool Pendleton Board Shirt with wide camp collar (with loop), six-button plain front, flapped chest pockets, button cuffs, and straight hem
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt
- Beige Bedford cord cotton flat front casual trousers with jeans-style pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather Venetian loafers
- White cotton crew socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the Beach Boys’ discography including their first full-length album Surfin’ Safari to get a sense of their early sound (and see a photo from this shirt used as the cover) and their ambitious 1966 album Pet Sounds, widely regarded to be their masterpiece with now-iconic tracks like “God Only Knows”, “Sloop John B”, and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.