HISTORY OF RETRO NEOPRENE WETSUIT
The norm for the past ten years has been black neoprene and white board, but it has not always been that way and things are happily changing.
Currently, we can easily say that the neoprene style is not that diversified at the line up.
Try to spot from the beach one of your friend waiting for a wave… Quite impossible because of this black uniformity. However, we already lived years where singularity and taking stylistic risks were mandatory.
The 70’s were dedicated to psychedelic prints.
80’s were 100% fluorescent.
90’s pround of technical progresses, and also the beginning of branding with the corporation name in capital letters printed on chests, as a sign of belonging to the tribe. 90’s were pround of technical innovations together with brands displayed in capital letters on wetsuits to belong to the tribe.
And since fifteen years we slide to brand homogenisation.
WHAT IS A RETRO NEOPRENE WETSUIT?
Neoprene retro wetsuit can be describe with 3 distinctive aspects:
A generous cut with flashy panels, wide side stripes, shade or bi-tone colors. That is typically the fluo trend from the 70-80’s.
Smooth skin neoprenes, as retro wetsuits with shiny appearence worn in the 60-70’s by the famous Cousteau team or James Bond in his mythical movies. Then more sporty neoprenes add a strech surface jersey.
Retro shapes with surprising proportions like Long John (spaghetti shirt with long pant) as «Dady’s wetsuit». And also shorties, «Marcel» spaghetti tops or half leg pants that are parts of the retro spirit.
When a wetsuit benefits from one of these three distinctive values, it could be consider as vintage or retro. Current market consists in integral wetsuits of different neoprene thicknesses that is far from oldie’s crazy trends.
Main brands are focused on hyper stretch or hyper thermal materials for technologic tops.
DO A RETRO NEOPRENE WETSUIT CAN BE TECHNICAL?
Nowadays, material progress with an endless availability of colors, new printing processes as sublimation, allow to theoretically all the madnesses.
Nevertheless, oldschool neoprene wetsuit stay as a minority on the market. To reach the mass segment, majors race for the best performance and look for novelty.
However it is so easy to couple vintage design with current efficiency mixing oldschool models with new cuts and technologic materials (4 way stretch / non irritating).
WHO IS USING THESE RETRO WETSUITS?
When we think about users, we rightly think about longboarders or purist surfers in single fin. Indeed, this segment is found of vintage wetsuit that perfectly match with their boards, vintage reissues or even original ones. But more and more paddle or shortboard free surfers, travelers or aesthetes do not recognize themselves in the market offer.
There is no water activity where retro neoprene wetsuit could not fit. Some adjustments are just needed according to the practice, the collar aperture, the type of zip or also the surface of covered body.
Stand Up Paddlers for example, don’t need to duck dive, thus, they can benefit of a more open collar.
WHY SAINT JACQUES LOVES THAT MUCH RETRO SPIRIT?
Close your eyes and just think about this old school spirit, some mythical surf spots as Malibu or Biarritz in the 60’s with old cars and girls in bikini…
For sure that we feel nostalgic! Just notice that performance and technic are the unique criterias provided in every surf shop man shelfs.
Real cool is dying.
90% of neoprene wetsuits are black chest zip with a pseudo detail on the wrist or on the thigh.
The stark winter 5/4 and the all-purpose 3/2 are the only wetsuits used by sportspeople, whatever their levels, origines or characters.
Line up became totally impersonal.
WHERE CAN WE FIND VINTAGE WETSUITS?
Saint Jacques Wetsuits obviously, but not only, also some Californian, Japanese, Brasilian or even English micro brands are improving the vintage wetsuit market. And that’s great !