Duboce Triangle resident Ryan Mathews recalls a winter trip to buy board shorts in California.
"It was January, and the salespeople [at the mall] looked at me like I was crazy," he said, telling him that shorts weren't in season.
"This is California," he disagreed.
That experience led him to create Over Winter, a men's clothing brand merging the comfort and playfulness of the board shorts worn by surfers with denim jeans.
"The idea for the pants came to me 10 years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles," Mathews explained. A shorts-loving surfer, he dreaded the end of the weekend, when he had to put his regular pants back on.
That led to his first prototype, created by cutting the waistband off of a pair of board shorts and pinning it to a pair of jeans.
"It wasn't until I moved back to San Francisco in 2015 that I thought — hey, where are those old pictures of those pants I made?"
Developing the product turned out to be a challenge, as denim (which Over Winter sources from Italy and Japan) and board short fabric (from Latin America) shrink at different rates.
On top of that, Mathews committed to local manufacturing. The brand's patternmaker is in Oakland, and its sewers are based in a four-floor factory in SoMa.
But Mathews believes Over Winter is an ideal fit for the Bay Area, where surfers abound and many employees have a lot more freedom of self-expression in the way they dress for work.
Like the tech scene in San Francisco, "the surf mindset is one of determination and perseverance — falling and getting up again," he says.
Originally from Vallejo, Mathews has lived in many spots along the California coast, but chose to settle in SF because of its access to surfing beaches.
"From my place in Duboce Triangle, I can be [at] Ocean Beach in 15 minutes, [in] Pacifica in 20, Santa Cruz in an hour," he said. "I actually think San Francisco has great weather — it’s not as foggy and cold as people think."
For now, Over Winter's products are sold exclusively online, with a team of employees working remotely across the country. But Mathews has designs on centralizing his team.
"As we grow, we will likely need to bring everyone together in a centralized studio or office space," Mathews says, adding that he'd love to open a pop-up or brick-and-mortar store.
"Or maybe a studio space, with room for a functioning showroom," he said.
A key component of Mathews' business philosophy is that someone doesn't have to be a professional-level surfer to enjoy a surf brand.
"Most surf brands focus solely on the professional surfer, and it’s all marketed in that very specific way," he says. "I know it’s a living for some people and that’s really cool, but it’s also supposed to be fun."
"There’s room for everyone."
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