History of Jams World®
In Memory of David Yale Rochlen
Founded in 1964 by Dave Rochlen, Jams World® is anything but basic or ordinary. The Company's credo of "Color, Freedom, Difference, Humor and Love" is indicative of its contemporary fashion philosophy which stresses individually and unique design imagery. In short, Jams World® active-inspired sportswear for men and women is about art.
Jams World® had its origins in the water but has evolved to where it can now truly call itself a contemporary fashion resource. From Jams® and volley swim trunks to tank tops, Jams World® has, over the years, grown into a mature and sophisticated fun collection of casual fashions that now include women's contemporary dresses, men's shorts, pants, shirts, outerwear jackets, caps and ties.
A statement by Jams World® marketing says "We came out of the surf years ago. We're the beach, across the boardwalk and halfway to town. Jams World® customers are whoever gets in front of our arrow. The line is unisex."
Jams World® began life with Jams®. You might think that Jams® might refer to Jamaica, but in fact the term was coined from "pajamas".
Jams World® is a division of Surf Line Hawaii, the creation of Dave Rochlen. No doubt about it, Dave was an incredible guy that led an incredible life. The son of a Russian-born journalist, Rochlen was born and raised in Santa Monica, Calif. His mother, a nurse whom he describes as a strong, independent woman, left Dave's dad. She had six small children to raise on her own, and she allowed each child to choose a color to indicate their belongings. Dave's color was lavender. His mother, who was a "remarkable seamstress," embroidered all his towels, sheets, pillow covers and other belongings with lavender tips. He credits this with a life-long fascination for color. Grounded in an appreciation for color, he grew up surfing and swimming on the California coast.
As a youth, Dave worked as a newspaper delivery boy, a print shop assistant, and a fruit harvester. He became one of the Santa Monica area's best known lifeguards, and even appeared in a Life Magazine special called "A Day at the Beach."
The day Dave graduated from high school, he joined the U.S. Marines in time for World War II. After the war ended, he became a lifeguard once again and worked in Hollywood as a stunt man, appearing in many ocean-related movies at the time, such as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." He later worked as a full-time systems analyst with Rand Corp. and Planning Research Corp.
But Dave always had a love for Hawaii -- its fashions, music and culture -- reinforced by the Hawaiian people he regularly came into contact with in Hollywood, including the late surf legend Duke Kahanamoku.
Dave was a dominant figure in the surfing scene in the 1940's. He was one of the first Californians to hit the Hawaiian surf scene in 1946, following his service with the Marines. Dave, who literally became a surf legend himself, was instrumental in the development of the modern fiberglass surfboard. His love for color and design led him to be the first person to apply colorful graphic designs to surfboards.
Craig Stecyk tells a tale about Tommy Zahn and Dave Rochlen surfing Malibu Point on August 16, 1947. "The point. Evening, full moon. Two surf dogs do a double date in a 1934 Ford Roadster, with boards in the back," wrote Craig Stecyk. "The men: Tom Zahn and Dave Rochlen. The women: Darrylin Zanuck (daughter of 'movie czar' Richard Zanuck) and Norma Jean Baker. Tommy and Darrylin had fixed 'Rocky' up with Norma Jean Baker, later to be better known as Marilyn Monroe."
Another early tale is told of an encounter between Rochlen and Gary Cooper in 1947: "A strikingly beautiful woman approaches Dave Rochlen on the beach," wrote Craig Stecyk, "and inquires as to the maker of his surfboard. He informs her that he builds his own and she responds that she would like to place an order. That evening, the lady shows up at Rochlen's board building area (located in his girl friend "Honey Bear" Warren's garage) with her husband in tow. The man orders up one as well, and is a friendly sort. This fellow finds it interesting that Rochlen is crafting surfboards in the garage of the Governor of the State of California ("Honey Bear" was the daughter of California governor Earl Warren). Dave finds it noteworthy that the fellow is none other than matinee idol, Gary Cooper."
It was in Hawaii, among a sea of surfboards and swimsuits, that his idea for Jams® came to life in 1963. He modeled his first colorful baggy swimsuit line after an assortment of exotic Russian pajamas he'd seen in a Life Magazine article depicting Russian people at the Black Sea resorts wearing their bathrobes and PJ's down to the beach. Dave coined the term "Jams" as the name for his creation. He bought some brightly printed fabric and asked his wife Keanuenue to make him a short pajama. With a few suggestions to modify them (no top, sewn up fly, and legs cut off at the knee), Jams® was born. Soon all his surfing buddies wanted a pair of his Jams®. He quit his job as a systems analyst and began Surf Line Hawaii, Ltd., with his first pair of commercial Jams® hitting the Makaha Beach in Hawaii in December 1964. Their appeal as a surfing lifestyle item landed Dave and a group of his surfing buddies a two-page spread in Life magazine in June 1965, the magazine that inspired this whole phenomena.
Dave's sister Gail recently told me this story: "I can remember the early day when Dave was talking with our father who had emigrated with his family from the Ukraine, and Daddy telling him about the men at the Black Sea wearing their colorful pajamas, cut off above the knee, because nobody had swim suits in those days for the seaside - for wading, you know - and then Dave got the idea to call them Jams - and Daddy dug out that old magazine to show him - the rest is history."
In 1965, Jams made news as the subject of a two-page feature pictorial in Life Magazine. Within no time the line was picked up and sold in exclusive shops that included Bloomingdales, Macys and Lord & Taylor.
About the same time, the Rochlen clan hit the beach for a family portrait, while modeling their company's apparel. From left are Nohea, Nani, Pua, Mark, Kootchie, Keanuenue and Dave Rochlen.
Over the years Dave added some equally loud product lines -- among his trademarked fashions are "Butt-Cuts®" (low waist bathing suits), "Cheeters®" (shorts with slit sides), "Jobbers®" (shorts with utility loops), The Body Surfer®" and "Jams Man®."
Jams® are still popular as swimwear. A very recent swimwear fashion article described Jams® as one of the two most popular styles of swimwear. "Two of this summers most popular styles can generally be heralded as nostalgic throwbacks to the 1950s and 1960s. Surfer Jams®, now called board shorts, come complete with mesh patch pockets and toggle belt closures bringing the distinct surf style a straight-leg drawstring suit that covers the knee smoothly into the twenty-first century."
Jams® has even made it to the dictionary. Webster's Dictionary defines Jams® as: "Trademark, a brand of baggy, brightly patterned, knee-length draw string swim trunks."
Jams World® fashions are released in four lines a year, and production is limited. This makes each Jams World® item essentially a collectable piece of art in addition to being a beautiful piece of clothing. Dave believes that the customers of Jams World® are probably a lot like him.
In an interview with Pacific Business News reporter Malia Zimmerman, Dave said that "We target fun-loving, free-spirited people, who have open minds, who are unafraid, who are confident, who feel good about themselves, and who want to celebrate life with color, freedom, form and imagery."
In 1997, Dave turned the business over to his oldest son, Pua, who is now the president and chief operating officer of Surf Line Hawaii. Pua brings forward Dave's passionate care for not only Jams World®, but for all of the people that enjoy the Jams World® lifestyle.
Dave passed away on April 13, 2003 at age 79 after fighting a long battle with pancreatic cancer. To the end, Dave lived life to its fullest, bringing happiness and cheer to all that knew him, and to countless people whose lives he touched. Heaven must be a much more colorful place since his arrival there.
Mahalo and aloha, Dave.
This web page is presented by Walker Mangum, a private collector of Jams World clothing and accessories. Neither Walker Mangum nor this website is in any way affiliated with Jams World.