Aug 04, 2016
For more than five decades Jams World has been upholding a promise to design and manufacture their iconic, color-splashed line of apparel right here in Hawaii.
While the rest of the country has shifted away from domestic manufacturing over the past half-century, Jams has remained committed to supporting local workers, quality craftsmanship, and strengthening Honolulu's economy in the process. And while the label could have easily shifted production overseas, cutting down significantly on overhead, they chose to take the moral high ground—equating to dozens upon dozens of workers who are happily employed right here in Honolulu.
We've been in business since 1964 and make everything right here in Hawaii. Doing it all here…it's just a part of who we are.
The history of Jams reads like a real-life adventure novel, with the brand's founder, Dave Rochlen, a true legend in the sense of the word. In the 1940s and '50s, Rochlen fought in the Second World War as a marine, appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in a story about Southern California beach culture, dated Marilyn Monroe, and then appeared on the cover of Life Magazine yet again for his work as a stuntman in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In the early 1960s, he moved to Hawaii, surfed to his heart's content, fell in love with a local girl, and had a business idea that would change surf culture forever.
"In 1963, Dave opened Surf Line Hawaii, one of the first true surfboard shops in Honolulu. It was the place to get surfboards back in the day," says Heather with enthusiasm. "Then one day he read a story about Russian tourists swimming in pajamas. He saw a niche and created surf shorts, or Jams, named after the pajamas the Russians wore in the ocean. His wife, Keanuenue, sewed them all on the family kitchen table."
As Heather alluded, the shorts took off in a big way. In the early to mid 1960s, surfing was entering its heyday in pop culture and Jams was right there setting the tone. Soon, these long colorful shorts were the must-have items across the country. Orders were literally pouring in and a new leader in Hawaiian apparel was cemented.
In the coming decades, Jams would continue their growth and in the 1990s, the brand would transition to resort wear, selling to audiences and merchants all across the world and opening up their own brick-and-mortar stores, including one right here at Ward Village. In 2003, Dave passed away, but his family—led by his son Pua—continues to run the business today out of their new headquarters in Kalihi.
While there are brands from around the world who would love to have a company lineage comparable to Jams, some things truly can't be purchased. As one of the state's premiere apparel brands, Jams has shaped American culture, exporting a little bit of aloha with every garment shipped overseas. Today, as the brand continues its tradition of manufacturing in Hawaii, they look toward the future with an optimistic eye.
We have such a great story to tell and we're so proud of what we do," says Rochlen with a smile. "In the coming years, we're looking forward to evolving the brand, but staying true to our roots at the same time. We're looking at reviving Surf Line Hawaii and doing a lot of fun collaborations with Jams. It's a really exciting time, and of course, we're going to be doing it all right here in Hawaii.
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