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Customized Katin board shorts at American Rag

June 15, 2009 | 10:22 am

Katin board shorts American Rag If your dad came of age in the 1960s or '70s and appreciates (as you do) the classic style of those decades, he might also appreciate the retro appeal of custom board shorts. Especially if he still catches the waves at Trancas in Malibu or the Strand in Newport Beach.

Katin is a local (East Rancho Dominguez) action-sport brand that also operates a surf shop in Surfside and has been making custom board shorts for decades. Founders Walter and Nancy Katin started stitching durable swimming trunks from remnant sailcloth canvas in 1959 as an alternative to cutoffs for local surfers. Katin was primed to ride the wave when Southern California surf culture went mainstream in the subsequent decade thanks to Beach Boys music and movies such as "Gidget" and "The Endless Summer" (Katin trunks made a cameo in "The Endless Summer II").

When Nancy Katin died in 1986 (Walter had died nearly 20 years earlier), she willed the business to Sato Hughes, who has been sewing board shorts for the company for 48 years. Sato's son Glenn and partner Robert Schmidt now run the company after buying the trademark back about six years ago from a licensee who had let the brand fade into near-obscurity.

The Katin brand still maintains credence with the surf community, and now that heritage brands and classic styles are in demand, it is resurging. Apolis Activism, a fashion-forward men's line based in downtown L.A., enlisted Katin last year to make a colorful version of its classic nylon board short. And its Kanvas by Katin trunks appeared in a New York pop-up shop at Billy Reid last month called One Trip Pass, featuring vintage West Coast brands selected by former Men's Vogue editor Ned Martel.

On Thursday, meet Sato Hughes at American Rag while she does board short fittings as she did back in the day. Shoppers can customize their shorts by color, fabric, pattern and in-seam length for $120. There will also be a selection of Katin trunks, such as a striped one from Apolis Activism ($107), you can buy off the rack for Father's Day gifting.

You can also drop by the original shop in Surfside, which stocks Katin's entire lineup, from T-shirts to canvas casual shorts ($15 to $62).

Schmidt, president and chief executive, has worn Katin since he was 12. "It's one of the oldest-youngest companies around," he says with a laugh.

150 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 935-3154. 6 to 8 p.m.

-- Max Padilla,

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Photo: Katin