The Rise Of Jams Shorts

The 80s was a magical time, full of rainbows and bright patterns that would knock your socks off. So, it’s not surprising that Jams shorts were all the rage back then. 

The Rise Of Jams Shorts

These shorts were covered in a tropical flower design of all colors, and people were willing to pay lots of money for a pair.

They typically retailed back then for $30 in stores such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Marshall’s. 

Considering how expensive they were at the time, Jams shorts weren’t considered to be sexy. Instead, they were unisex and loose-fitting. 

Imagine a man wearing loose multicolored shorts – it doesn’t give off many Bad Boy vibes, does it?

Still, many people were proud to wear their Jams. But when did they first come out? 

Jams Shorts Initial Release

The first release of Jams shorts was on December 25th, 1964. They were created by a surfer and surfboard store owner, Dave Rochlen.

He was inspired by a group of Russians who had visited the beach in their pajamas. 

Dave went straight home to his wife, Keanuenue Ka’eo, and asked her to make him a pair of shorts cut out of Hawaiian pajamas.

Dave then used these shorts for surfing, which would then be considered the first pair of Jams. 

He noticed the comfort factor and the looseness that allowed him to straddle his surfboard easily while still protecting his legs. 

Dave then began selling Jams out of his surfboard shop. He introduced colorful patterns, sizes for kids and adults, and other fun products. 

The Rise Of Jams In The 80s

The turn of the century into the 80s saw a love of color and pattern spread like wildfire among the fashion community. This was especially true for younger men who hung out at the beaches around LA. 

These men would often wear their Jams with loose-fitting white T-shirts and large sunglasses. 

Jams manufacturers couldn’t even keep up with the demand that young people were putting on them throughout the 80s! 

These shorts would retail for $30 each, which was super expensive at the time! But anything in fashion is expensive, right? 

Still, there were plenty of knock-off brands that took the look of Jams and ran with it. 

However, to these brands’ credit, Jams had become a household name by this point and the term was actually used for any baggy shorts with a drawstring tie. 

Just like Kleenex is a common term for all brands of tissue, Jams was often used to refer to any make of similar shorts.

The Many Designs Of Jams

While Jams were first introduced in colorful Hawaiian patterns, this wasn’t the only design that you could purchase. 

As popularity grew and interest expanded from the Midwest to the east coast, Jams came out with a range of geometric designs and graphic patterns. 

Jams also made other pieces of attire, such as hats and shirts, in these same patterns so that you could buy a matching set. 

Imagine walking on the beach with a pair of bold Jams and a matching shirt unbuttoned! You’d look super cool. 

Fashion Brands That Copied Jams

There were plenty of fashion brands that tried to copy the success that Jams had created for itself, making their own versions of the loose-fitting shorts. The main difference was with the length of these dupes. 

Here are the names of the different lengths of Jams: 

  • Basic Jams: cut off at the knee
  • Cheater Jams: shorter, similar to boxer short length
  • Judo Jams: cut off below the knee, resemblant of clam diggers
  • Super Jams: cut off below the knee, longer than Judo Jams

Life’s a Beach is a popular fashion brand that created dupes of Jams.

The company was first started by three Chicago men based in California, and they released their own line of surfer shorts in all of the four lengths we’ve just looked at above. 

However, Life’s a Beach created more edgy patterns that fit into the Bad Boy persona that women were most attracted to. These included things like skulls and crossbones to 50s cars.

There was even a pattern that depicted a terrorist! 

Imagine walking around with that on your shorts! 

Life’s a Beach had the aim to create Jams that were sexy, rather than fun and flamboyant like the originals. 

The company founders said that they got tired of seeing everyone in floral shorts in bright colors, and they wanted to see something more masculine.

They began making their shorts out of tablecloths and other wacky fabric that they could find with these prints on. 

While Life’s a Beach Jams are still popular today, they never reached the level that the original Jams did.

Modern-Day Jams

You might be wondering why we’re not all walking around in bright and bold Jams right now, and we have the same question! Jams are still around today, so you can certainly still snag yourself a pair. 

Modern-Day Jams

However, they’re not as popular as they were in the 80s.

If you’re looking for some today, the retail price will be at least $98. Yep, you read that right.

These are expensive shorts, but some of the proceeds are donated to a number of charities such as the Hawaii Food Bank, Make a Wish Hawaii, Hawaii Humane Society, Akala Collection, and more. 

The Jams collection has also expanded much more since their initial release, and even the 80s. 

They now offer art collections so that you can mix and match any style with another, or go all out and match your entire outfit together. 

Jams sizing ranges from XXS to XXL, so it is inclusive of anyone who wants to wear this great clothing. 

There is even a section on their website for vintage clothing called Collector’s Closet.

This is a curated collection of vintage clothing, such as 90s Sample Dresses and unique inspiration pieces. Dave Rochlen is said to have done this sourcing himself. 

You can now pick up a Jams kimono, skirt, face mask, shirt (Check out How To Make A Shirt Look Vintage), t-shirt, board shorts, and more. They even offer jewelry! Get decked out on Jams apparel and look the coolest surfer at the beach. 

Jams World

Jams, once made incredibly successful by Dave Rochlen, has continued to grow and thrive throughout the seven decades since its initial creation. 

The Jams World brand still creates its apparel out of their Oahu factory, with the same practices being used as they have always been. Art is hand painted then screen painted onto fabric. 

Dave’s son, who was originally brought into the business as a young boy when Dave released kids collections under his son and daughter’s name, is now running the business.

Pua retells the stories of his father to a new generation of Jams lovers. 


Jams were first introduced into the market in 1964 in a small Hawaiin surf shop run by Dave Rochlen.

First inspired by a group of Russians wearing pajamas to the beach, Jams opened the door for a new level of comfort while surfing. 

Jams are perhaps known for their bold and exciting colors, which is why their popularity peaked in the 80s. 

You might not look like a Bad Boy in these Jams, but you certainly looked awesome! 

Competitors have tried (and failed) to beat the popularity that Jams has grown for themselves, with edgier designs or different lengths. But you can’t beat the original! 

Jams have now expanded their business and offer all sorts of apparel like t-shirts, jewellry, and kimonos.

Don’t worry though, their shorts are still being created and continue to be their most popular item. 

While Jams are expensive, they are awesome. You’ll have all eyes on you if you wear your Jams to the beach!

Willa Price