The year is 1980. Two young brothers, ages 12 and 10, are cajoling their parents for a pair of Birdwell Beach Britches, the swimtrunks made by the eponymous California company.
The trunks cost a bit more than other swimwear, but eventually the brothers’ incessant badgering pays off. Two pair of Birdwell trunks are purchased from the local surf and swim shop, and they are pressed into almost daily service that summer.
Birdwell got its start in 1961 when Carrie Birdwell Mann began sewing the two-ply nylon trunks in her Santa Ana living room. They quickly gained traction among the surfing cognoscenti in Southern California.
In the company’s more than half century of existence, it has never wavered in its commitment to American production; every pair of trunks is still lovingly and expertly produced in Santa Ana, California by seamstresses, many of whom have been with the company for more than 30 years. And for that, it should be well and truly commended.
This Christmas, my mother revisited that page from my youth, buying me a pair of Birdwells (here in Southeast Texas, a pair of swimtrunks is not nearly the kind of outlandish gift idea it would be in our country’s northern latitudes). They’re the original 301 style in the federal blue color (also known as air force or post office blue). And they are everything that I remember: durable, comfortable and enduringly stylish.