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Suave Surfer Stokes New Style : Shane Dorian's Dressy Look Is Making Waves in Sport and Design Circles


Abandon all preconceptions of what constitutes surfer style. Versace lambskin boot-cut pants and an ankle-length Gucci peacoat might fit better on a Manhattan boulevard than a Hawaiian beach. But to pro surfer Shane Dorian, the designer togs are as coveted as his favorite pair of boardshorts.

"I won them in a bet," said the 25-year-old Hawaiian native by telephone Saturday from his ocean-view apartment in the Big Island town of Kona. Dorian, ranked third in the world, arrived home two days earlier from Australia, for a break in an incessant contest schedule that takes him around the world.

He apparently missed the flight connection to Los Angeles, where "In God's Hands"--and his acting career--premiered to a packed Cinerama Dome of peers, pals and fans involved in the surf industry. The Columbia TriStar film, which opened last weekend, is already being touted as a sure-fire cult hit. The surf footage inspires awe even in nonsurfers; as for Dorian's debut performance, he could be the next Keanu Reeves.

Besides an extraordinary talent in the water, Dorian's rep includes his penchant for fashion. He is among a handful of new superstar surfers defining themselves as much by their ability to surf as to dress. They love fashion, and they aren't afraid to flaunt it.


Dorian's ability as a surfer has allowed acceptance among his peers and fans.

"He and a few other guys have helped redefine surf fashion and what a hard-core surfer can look like because they're so good at what they do in the water," said Bob Hurley, owner of Billabong, one of the leading surf-wear labels. "By their ability and taste, they allow us to make fashionable clothes, and the kids pick up on it."

The Costa Mesa-based label has been one of Dorian's sponsors for the last five years with good reason.

"Shane's the leader, and his style speaks for his generation. He's a big influence right now," said Lian Murray, Billabong's merchandising director. "Kids today are not into the old surf look--where it used to look cool to look like you didn't try. What's in right now is to look good. They like pretty dressy clothes. It's really great for us girls. Shane just looks so babe."

Dorian could very well be the next new face if Seventh and Madison avenues get hip. He's got Adonis looks that surfer girls' dreams are made of. And abs that Calvin Klein ads are made of.

During New York's fashion week this spring (one of four trips Dorian made to Gotham in the last year because of his love for the city's style), he volunteered to work the Anna Sui show just to catch a glimpse of one of his favorite designers. Unfortunately, he had to miss the show to surf for a European Levi's commercial.

"I'm definitely going to volunteer at a show next year," he assured.

Attention, modeling scouts: He doesn't have an agency or a portfolio--yet.


Long overcoats, boots, and vintage gloves, hats and scarves stay behind in a friend's closet in New York, where they suit Dorian better than in Hawaii or on tour. He can use the extra wardrobe space anyway, because the three walk-in closets in his apartment are already chockablock full of clothes, hats and shoes. Among the boots are four pairs of Kenneth Coles. Soon to arrive: a gray day suit and a black evening suit, both from Armani through a deal from a friend of a friend who works for the company.

There's the free clothes he gets from Billabong, for which he consults on design and direction. A few seasons ago, the label offered a slinky nylon shirt named "Shane," which, Murray noted, "draped really well on the right body--like Shane's." The collection overall has gone beyond a traditional surf aesthetic, in part due to Dorian, she said.

Then there's a deluge of vintage finery, much of it assembled on his adventures. A good find might run him $300, but he figures the gems he's discovered are a fraction of what the latest designer counterparts cost.

"I really don't care who makes it as long as it's cool," he said.

He's known for a slim ("not tight," he insisted) Rat Pack style--from the skinny-brim straw hats to the white loafers. "But you know what I'm a real sucker for? I can't walk past a good Aloha vintage shirt. The authentic silk kind made in Hawaii, not those fakes from Thailand. They feel so good and they're so fun to wear."

Matt George, friend and movie co-star, calls Dorian's MO "thrift store chic." He noted the way Dorian can go out on a limb and pull off any ensemble. "He's got tremendous personal style and a tremendous physique. He's really upped the interest to dress up at [surf-related] events," said George.


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