How The Yin & Yang Logo Stayed Hot At 50
Timeless design, quality product.
“Get rid of everything that is not essential to making a point.” – Christoph Niemann
When Craig Sugihara founded Town & Country Surf Designs in 1971, he was not expecting to see the day his business reached its 50th anniversary.
“There was no grand plan,” he told SES in an interview. “Being young and dumb I just started. I was glassing boards for Greg Noll’s shop. The next step was I learned to shape at Mystic Surf Shop. After that, I felt like wow, I can do this. My dream was always to do it on my own – build quality surfboards, and that hasn’t changed.”
After a visit to the barbershop one day, the man with scissorhands let Craig know the property would soon be up for lease. After much compelling pleading, landlord accepted his request to shave foam, not stubbles.
Craig had got his start.
From its humble beginnings in a Pearl Harbor barbershop, the unmistakable T&C logo would find its way to being glassed under the feet of Hawaii’s surf royalty: Larry Bertlemann, Dane Kealoha, Marvin Foster, Matt Archbold, Christian Fletcher, Sunny Garcia, Ben Aipa, Johnny Boy Gomes, Chris Ward, Bobby Martinez, Andy and Bruce Irons, Shea Lopez, Kahea Hart, Martin Potter, Ross Williams, Billy Kemper, and Brisa Hennessy.
Put it this way: There’s more than a 50% chance that if you’re a male Hawaiian World Champion you’ve been on T&C’s roster at one point or another.
The mid to late 80’s was a golden era for T&C on the north shore, when young team riders Matt Archbold and Christian Fletcher dubbed the “Air Brigade” took progressive surfing to new heights. The excitement created by this new radical surfing attracted many shapers and team riders to Town & Country, and with it new logistical challenges to meet the demands of a new insatiable market thirst.
But rather than capitalising opportunistically on a run of good fortune, Craig flicked on the cruise control.
“Craig has the internal sense of balance both in his surfing and in business,” says T&C executive Adam Borello. “He’s not a Harvard MBA, or some private equity guy. He manages from his passion and heart and internal instinct for balance. He is very measured and purposeful.”
It was the kind of measured balance that prevented them from selling under duress or taking on outside investors as casualties of overexpansion in years to come. A plight that would swallow many other surf labels, who unmoored to a common goal or purpose, with little cross-department synergy, developed appetites so immense they could not distinguish hand from fritter.
After fifty years, renewed demand for T&C products has seen the brand expand again into key markets including Australia, Asia and Europe. It’s been a slow pollination relative to the major endemic labels who expanded worldwide just years after their inception, but T&C is still a brand with roots and values sticking to doing what they know best. They are not in the humiliating camp of being a quasi-department store paying surfers to endorse products that have no place in the household of surfers.
So what’s the story here? Well it’s one about a heritage brand sticking to their values. Not selling out. Not making fucked shit or getting greedy when a little extra runway appears.
In other words it embodies Christoph’s point of “getting rid of everything that is not essential to making a point” quite nicely.
The second and less subtle part, is that we like T&C and they’ve just announced a partnership with Vans (another company we like) in Australia on a range of apparel and footwear. A bundle of which we will be giving away to one of our readers in coming weeks that includes:
- A brand new limited edition T&C surfboard
- A heap of Vans X T&C merchandise
- A session at URBNSURF Melbourne
- 5-star accommodation
- And return flights for 2 people anywhere in Australia
So yeah, T&C has well and truly has landed on our shoreline. And we’re quite happy to see more yin’s & yang’s round’ the joint.
And also, I don’t know, for a 50 year old, they’re kinda hot.
Throw your name in the hat here.VANS X T&C Urban Surf Experience