*** short pants: jams swimwear

Types of Short Pants: Jams Swimwear

Figure 1.--This advertisement appeared in May 1988 and referred to the boy's swim trunks as 'Jams'.

Dude! Like, throw on your Jams and letís go catch a gnarly wave. Originally marketed for the Hawaian and Calofirnian surf set from Surfline Hawaii, these loud, crazy print "board shorts" became all the rage in the explosion of color known as the 1980s.


A dictionary defines Jams as, "Trademark, a brand of baggy, brightly patterned, knee-length draw string swim trunks.". Coordinated Jam outfits appear to have developed from Jams swimwear. HBC had thoughthat Jams might refer to Jamica, but in fact the term was derived from "pajamas". They eventually also became referred to as "board shorts".


Jams were created by Dave Rochlen in Hawaii in 1963. Rochlen has an interesting background, including seving in the Marine Corps during World War II. The son of a Russian-born journalist, Rochlen was born and raised in Santa Monica, Calif. His mother, a nurse whom he describes as a strong, independent woman, left Rochlen's dad. She had six small children to raise on her own, and she allowed each child to choose a color to indicate their belongings. Rochlen's color was lavender. His mother, who was a "remarkable seamstress," embroidered all his towels, sheets, pillow covers and other belongings with lavender tips. He credits this with a life-long fascination for color. Grounded in an appreciation for color, he grew up surfing and swimming on the California coast. It was in Hawaii, among a sea of surfboards and swimsuits, that his idea for Jams came to life 36 years ago. He modeled his first colorful baggy swimsuit line after an assortment of exotic Russian pajamas he'd seen in a magazine--and he marketed them around the world. Jams World is a division of Surf Line Hawaii.


These long-leffed swim trunks were for years linited to Hawaii and the Calofornia surfer world. Only by the 1980s did they become more widely worn by American boys. The popularity of Californias Venice beach scene and of the television drama of Floridaís Miami Vice spawned a national obsession with the carefree surf life. A HBC reader reports that Jams became popular in the late-1980s were originally swimwear. Some early ads for long-leg swimwear in bright colors were called "Jams. A HBC reader reports that these Jams soon came to used as shorts as well as swimwear, displacing the OP cord shorts that had been so popular in the 1980s. HBC is not sure, however, if Jams coordinated outfits did not appear first and that Jams swimwear followed. This chronlogy needs additonal investigation.

The 1988 ad copy read, "Jams! Boys want them and we have them--at savings! From Modz@ in asorted prints and patterns. Machine-washable polyester cotton. Boys' sizes 8-20. Imported."

Jams are still popuar as swimwear. A 2001 swimwear fashiion article describes Jams as one of the two most popular style of swimwear. "Two of this summerís most popular styles can generally be heralded as nostalgic throwbacks to the 1950s and 1960s. Surfer jams now called board shorts come complete with mesh patch pockets and toggle belt closures bringing the distinct surf style a straight-leg drawstring suit that covers the knee smoothly into the twenty-first century."

Short Pants

Sufer Jams swimwear and coordinated shorts and shirt outfits eventually became worn as short pants. Oversized board shorts splashed with crazy colors and patterns, Jams came to be seen as "cool" both on and off the beach. More than shorts, less than pants, the name Jams (a registered trademark) caught a wave and became the tag for any wacky print shorts of length. Boys and girls alike competed to find the most outrageous patterns, as makers like Op, Gotcha and JimmyíZ went absolutely nutty with color. Labels still mattered, of course, but with a pair of JAMS, anyone could ride out in fashion.


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Created: April 11, 2001
Last updated: April 11, 2001