It was around seven years ago, on a surf trip to the Coffs Harbour region of Australia’s NSW, that I first started noticing TCSS logos. And no wonder. At the time, The Critical Slide Society was a fledgling enterprise started by two local boys, Jim Mitchell and Sam Coombes. In fact, it was more of a movement than a brand. TCSS started as a blog, and slowly grew into a community. But then things started to gain momentum, and suddenly, less than a decade later, TCSS is a multi-million dollar surf brand.
The irony, of course, is that TCSS is sort of an anti-brand as well. The movement started because Jim and Sam recognized that there were others like them out there—people who saw surfing as something much bigger than contests and magazines. These were people who thought surfing was bitchin' in and of itself. They were longboarders, shortboarders, retro riders and body surfers who just sort of wanted to go surf, have a good time, and forget the rest of the hype.
As often happens with counter-culture movements, the hype soon caught up with The Critical Slide Company. Today, its understatedly stylish collection is sold all over the world, with the biggest markets being Australia, Japan and the US. Shorts, shirts and hats have been joined by pants, bags, socks, warm gear and even customized fins. The items are designed with comfort, style and a bit of novelty in mind, and often include lesser-noticed details like printed linings and stash pockets. The prints are done in-house, the designs are simple yet stylish and the workmanship that goes into the collection is as much about feel as it is aesthetic. No wonder the brand is such a hit with the mellow underground of our already fringe sub-culture.