For most of us, the name “Pendleton” immediately conjures images of warm, cozy blankets adorned with colorful Native American prints. If you grew up on the West Coast in the 1960s, however, you probably still associate Pendleton with a specific item: namely, the brand’s iconic plaid Board Shirt, almost as essential to the era’s surfers as their actual boards. Before the arrival of wetsuits, surfers layered their Pendleton shirts and trunks over petroleum jelly to stay warm. (If you live in Southern California, you know how useful a wool shirt can be at the beach, especially in the evening and early morning, when a dense marine layer can cause involuntary teeth chattering.) Back on land, surfers paired their wool shirts with khakis and a style icon was born.
The Beach Boys — originally called The Pendletones — contributed to the cause when they wore their blue Pendleton Board Shirts on the cover of several albums, including Surfer Girl and Surfin’ Safari. The boys showed off their plaid shirts untucked, as intended by the designers at Pendleton. The casual appeal of the boxy cut and straight hem was complemented by a durable machine washable wool, sourced from ranchers in Umatilla County, Oregon, near the Pendleton mill.
Today, the Pendleton Board Shirt remains one of the brand’s top sellers each year, and it’s made from the same 100% virgin Umatilla wool as it was back then. It’s still a no-frills affair, featuring a camp collar and two flap pockets on the chest. It’s even available in the same plaid seen on all those record covers, now officially called Blue Beach Boys Plaid.