Malibu: The California Dreamer’s Dream

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Everybody has a chronic travel daydream, the escape to fantasize about when conference calls drag on or e-mail gluts the in-box. In the grip of a deadline I’m a surf-side California dreamer. I can’t actually surf, but something about the image of wave-riders barefooting it across Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway at dawn, boards tucked under their arms, makes me wish I were Sandra Dee as Gidget frolicking on Surfrider Beach in a polka-dot bikini or Cheryl Ladd hanging out at Kris Munroe’s Malibu beach house in Charlie’s Angels.

Some people will argue that the food and fashion scenes in Malibu are unremarkable. And it’s true that it’s hard to see beyond the Barbie and Baywatch image of the place. But to my mind Malibu—especially its free-spirited barefoot approach to life—is the fountainhead of many of America’s most influential style trends. Most fashion editors will roll their eyes if you suggest that trends in clothes, like so many other elements of American life, move from west to east. As a big-city native, I, too, find the reality of Malibu’s wave of surfer style easier to ride in a daydream than in reality. But when you think about how casual our culture has become, how we dress less for business than for comfort, it’s hard to dispute that American fashion etiquette has been shaped by California’s outdoor-life, laid-back style. The long-skirted bohemian look, hoodies, Vans, those weird Vibram FiveFingers shoes, anything neon, hobo bags, trilbies, and vintage graphic T-shirts are all products of the West Coast’s skate and surf culture. Surfers were early adopters of Ugg boots, slipping them on after they peeled off their wet suits. Even old-school designers on New York’s Seventh Avenue have been known to dip their toes into surf-inspired looks such as neon neoprene or Teva-style sandals.

Read more: Kate Betts, Travel and Leisure

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