High Adventures in the Great Outdoors
Surf Culture, Barney Cools and the return of fabrics
Surf culture and the music it is associated with is an interesting genre. Coined by “wet” Fender amplified reverb- and vibrato heavy electric guitars and having first incarnated as an instrumental style of music to replicate the sound of crashing waves, it eventually evolved into a veritable genre, which found mainstream exposure and eventually recognition through spearheads like the smooth polyphonic harmonising and in terms of production envelope pushing Beach Boys and Dick Dale’s hot rod variant to an extent where it became borderline synonymous with the ambience of California.
Surf punk has always been a genre I found immensely enjoyable as a light spirited counterpoint to the message driven hardcore punk I was socialised with. Infused by the original surfing sound, specifically bands like Agent Orange added a much-needed string to the bow of underground music and contributed majorly to what became the alternative Orange County music scene.
Given the prevalence of surf culture in Australia, it did not take long for Sydney bands like the Atlantics, Joy Boys or Denverman to up the ante and infuse and enrich the genre with their idiosyncratic Australian flavour and providing the foundation for newer and current bands to capture their interpretation of the essence of a summer’s day spent on the beach, e.g. the bittersweet melodies of the duo Hockey Dad, the strung out pop sensibility of Beaches and the iconic The Sunnyboys, who introduced a harder sedge and introduced a sense of welcome danger with their distinct twang. Needless to say that the surf-infused tracks of Radio Birdman became the epitome of the rougher edges of beach culture.
With surf culture being an integral part of Australia’s identity, I could not help but being affected as well, as I find the sea to be an element that when immersed in it makes me feel whole.
How does one translate one’s love for surf music, open mindedness, a sense of locale and a rebellious spirit into a tangible vehicle that inspires and goes beyond tangible, worldly manifestations?
Enter Barney Cools, i.e. a group of music loving Australians that were looking for a way to explore how they could convey their style to a worldwide audience – a style that is heavily influenced by surf culture and in terms of casual chic for a lack of a better term they have labelled “poolside”.
I first came across the brand Barney Cools through the mixtape series they launched in support of Australia's music industry affected by the implications of the ongoing COVID-19 malaise.
With their core values firmly rooted in inclusion and pro-actively partnering with local and international charities to tackle oppression of any sorts, they have created an idiosyncratic and sophisticated lifestyle brand, the subtleties and qualities of which I have grown to appreciate for all seasons, as they have also started to branch out into the creation of contemporary gear for the colder months of the year.
Now, it says a lot about a brand if it gets me into wearing fleece, which is of course a synthetic fabric that has a range of awesome properties, however, before experiencing Barney Cools’ comfort capsule, I was struggling to find a stylish option.
A favourite is their cosy hooded sweater and shorts collection, which is constructed from what has become their signature super soft 330g brushed fleece fabrication and is an example par excellence for the fact that function has not come to the expense of style.
My appreciation of their styles and attention to detail lead me to what not too long ago would have been unthinkable as I thought it was reserved for baby boomers, climbers and middle-aged dads: Their Polar fleece Jacket has become a fixture of my wardrobe, as it is not only impenetrably warm, moisture repelling and impossibly comfortable but with its three panelled design and offbeat details is a bit of a looker as well.
Having grown up in it as a kid, another fabric I did not think fathomable to enter my wardrobe was corduroy as I deemed it to belong to years that style forgot.
Enter Barney Cools again as their corduroy selection proved that the fabric is literally “corde du roi”, i.e. cloth of the king, and not merely reserved for roadies of 70ies style stoner rock bands or dandies. Again, an unexpected return to my wardrobe and loved by me more than ever.
Now, another fabric that I mainly appreciate for the cool and soft feeling when used for bedspread is linen. The fact that linen is highly breathable, resilient and due to its high moisture absorbency rate, the ideal fabric for hot and humid climates.
While some might claim that unstructured suits are unsettling with those risking linen being the greatest offenders, Barney Cools’ linen collection keeps growing on me as their gear really starts coming into its own after repetitive wear and gets better with age. I have grown to like the relaxed crumpledness it provides. Staying breezy, yet business casual while beating the heat and still looking smart.
In a world of prefabricated brand identities, it is refreshing to come across one that effortlessly captures the essence of a culture in a credible and laid-back manner.