A couple weekends ago, a few friends planned a trip to Fort Tilden, a public beach that’s a little off the beaten path for New York. Let’s just say that the set of directions provided by the one friend who had been there before came complete with three paragraphs of text and a crayon-drawn map.

To prepare for the trip, I went looking for a pair of swim trunks, an article of dress I haven’t owned in years. I had a particular brand in mind: Birdwell Beach Britches, a made-in-America family-type company that’s retained its classic cuts and solid construction for decades. However, their website is a disaster. It’s such a mess that it’s actually charming in a world of Web 2.0, and you can tell they maintain the site with some amount of irony and self-awareness; however, that doesn’t make locating  a list of retailers any easier. Seriously. Go look at it and tell me if you can do better.

It was when I decided to track down a list of surf shops in New York and Brooklyn that I remembered an old post from Kitsune Noir covering a hip-looking surfer enclave on the Lower East Side that doubled as an espresso bar. I made a call and, sure enough, they carried a range of Birdwell.

After the first visit, I’m in love with the shop: the laidback staff, their house-brand tees, and a makeshift dressing “room” that appears out of nowhere – ask for a place to try on a pair of trunks and the man behind the counter will pull a curtain together around you, creating, as if by magic, a fitting room in the place you had just been standing while browsing the racks. It feels a little like disrobing in public, and maybe that’s the whole idea. It’s an oasis in the city. Be free.

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