Style 1970

Summer 2020 was certainly a summer like no other. In addition to the pandemic and chaos, it was my first summer in Newport. It’s also my 50th summer, and I found myself retracing my steps back to the beginning of my life, like a man reborn and going through a second childhood.

For the past six months everything has been closed, so no museums, concerts, music festivals, or even service at an old gothic church I rather like. And so all I’ve done is bike around the island, hike the nature preserves, snorkel in the sea, and sit outside lost in meditation, observing the animals and trees and sunsets and stars in a perpetual state of boyish wonder as if seeing them all for the first time.

And then there’s the surf, since never before have I lived within walking distance from a beach with ridable waves. I took up surfing at age 32 while living in LA, and did it off and on for about five years. So it was over a decade since I’ve done it, but I’ve probably surfed as much in the past four months as I did during those five years. If you don’t know what classic ’60s-style longboarding looks like, here’s an example below. I improved my trimming a lot, or walking up and down the board to slow down, speed up, and stay “in the curl.” Maybe someday I’ll get my toes on the nose:

Unlike shortboarding, which looks like the surfer is at war with nature, longboarding has a relaxed, go-with-nature’s flow feeling. For me the “stoke” comes from the sensation of floating outside of space-time. You’re moving to the rhythm of the sea, not to the flow of time as mankind measures it. How long does it last? Who knows. But it feels like a taste of eternity.

Speaking of being outside of time and space, here’s me with the body of a Nordic alien and the face of a Neanderthal. According to 23andMe, I’m in the top 3% of humans for Neanderthal DNA. And thanks to a caveman diet of fat and protein with little carbohydrate and sugar, I got my waist down from 34 to 28. Nothing sheds earthly corpulence like awakening to metaphysical reality, and you might consider discovering your soul and spirit for that reason alone.

When I get home from a surf session I’ve been listening to ’70s rock, the kind of stuff that as a kid I would have heard blaring from car radios or in pizza parlors. I’ve settled on T. Rex and Suzi Quatro as my favorites. The ’60s psychedelic stuff didn’t stick, but this was definitely my ultimate “hippie” summer. In the background is the sense of dread and uncertainty we’re all feeling, while in contrast an almost terrifying sense of freedom. I haven’t had a haircut since February, and I had the hippie era in mind when I did a story for San Francisco’s Nob Hill Gazette back in July:

As we consider what life was like before all this happened, certain puzzle pieces don’t seem to fit the big picture anymore. Will we see our technological inventions with cold fresh eyes, as mere tools rather than ends in themselves, as we focus on mindfulness and genuine human connections? Or will the experience of solitary confinement and social distancing hasten our transformation into atomized, emotionless cyborgs who can’t experience a spontaneous life moment unless it’s mediated through a smartphone camera?

It certainly feels like we’ve stepped out of lockdown only to find ourselves at a fork in the road. And like every other crossroads, the right path for another may not be the right path for you. Some will be ready to “turn on, tune in and drop out,” as they said in the ’60s, while others will be even more eager for brain chip implants. It’ll be bot-people versus spiritualists in a showdown of San Francisco’s two great social experiment legacies from the past half-century: hippies and techies.

The piece is called “The Eternal Return,” which brings me around to clothing. The belt buckle I’m wearing in the top photo was made by a craftsman in Ukraine and features the Midgard Serpent, also known as a ouroboros, or a snake eating its own tail and symbol of the eternal cycle of the cosmos. I’ve been wearing it along with jeans, boots, and floral and paisley buttondowns, which smell like nag champa incense. I’ve also got enough bangles and rings to put Nick Foulkes to shame.

It’s invigorating to return to one’s roots. Especially ones you never knew. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

24 Comments on "Style 1970"

  1. C,

    It appears you made wise use of this past “summer like no other.” Well done.

    Cheers, BC

  2. Thanks for sharing, CC.

  3. Far OUT, man! I knew all along you’re totally not a square.

  4. You may know this, but for a great longboarder memoir, I love Alan Weisbecker’s “In Search of Captain Zero.”

  5. Christian,

    If you ever get tired of Newport you should consider moving to Charleston, South Carolina. The people in the South are charming and hospitable.

    King street has some of the best menswear boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants in the country. My favorite stores are Billy Reid and Ben Silver.

    Billy Reid is known for its “lived-in luxury” and its stores feature reclaimed wood and re-used building materials in historic buildings. They also used to offer made to measure shirts and suits with a natural shoulder before the pandemic. I’m sure the program will return.

    With your tall stature, easy grace and charm, you strike me as a Southern gentleman.

  6. Charlottesville and Whiskeydent- You’ve convinced me regarding a new tweed sport coat. Going to shop Press this evening. I didn’t realize Magee is lighter in weight than Harris. My only tweed sport coats are Harris from Ben Silver purchased at their warehouse sale. Thanks for the input.

  7. This post is going to drive the Berkeley Breathes guy over the edge.

  8. Looks and sounds like time well spent. I’m pleased to learn that reducing my waist size from 34″ is at least theoretically possible.

  9. T.Rex and Suzi Quatro are not what most Americans would call 70s rock. Those artistes are what you could call glam-era Britpop. Other bands to check out in that vein: Mud, Sweet, Slade, Alvin Stardust, Wizzard.

    You might want to keep your playlist pedophile-free; be advised that Gary Glitter was not a member of The Glitter Band. The Glitter Band was Gary Glitter’s touring support band. They didn’t play on his records, and he didn’t sing on their records. The Glitter Band is pedophile-free.

  10. Rik Meyer Serrano | September 29, 2020 at 7:47 pm |

    Greetings Christian,
    I’m with you. I’ve been a lifelong surfer since ’62. Cashed out in my 40’s to pursue my own Endless Summer. Still ride a 9’6″ Yater. Still shop at J.Press. Back in So. Calif. now, I wish J.Press would open a store on the West Coast. At least we have Polo. Keep at it, mastering the transcendental nose ride is definitely worth it!

  11. If you want an ethereal experience, listen to “Nights in White Satin- Full Version” and “Late Lament” in order on The Moody Blues’ “This Is The Moody Blues,” preferably in the evening.

  12. Christian
    Though perhaps you’ve already done so, I think a jazz maven like you would enjoy Chicago’s first two albums (technically, the first was in ’69). The third is not bad. After that, sap.

  13. CC, have you been doing a version of the Paleo? Carnivore? Do you include any veggies?

  14. Old School Tie | September 30, 2020 at 10:59 am |

    Christian, the look certainly suits you, somewhere between beatnik and hippie with a dash of black collar thrown in…

  15. Some pucka shells would nicely finish off the 70s surfer look. Oops, now I see this has already been addressed.

  16. Thanks for the kind remarks everyone. Big announcement coming tomorrow.

    Regarding style matters, at this stage I no longer identify with the adopter of forms, but rather the creator of forms. To paraphrase the Upanishads: “Not any article of clothing you can wear, but that by which you CAN wear clothing. Know that to be Brahman, the Spirit, and not what men here adore.”

    On diet, @SE, yes, something along those lines. I think I started by eliminating gluten, which seemed to help, then almost all carbs, processed foods, and added sugars. Still have some red wine at night, dark chocolate, or coconut ice cream for the high fat content.

    Lots of bacon, eggs, sausage, chicken and beef, smoked salmon, cheese, yogurt, nuts and nut butters, avocados. Small amount of fruit and have to choose the right ones for digestion. Fruit juice is like a shot of sugar in the arm and causes shaky blood sugar spikes. I’ve tested and eliminated almost all veggies for the raffinose and other things that the body can’t absorb and which cause discomfort. Leafy greens are the safest, so salads or cooked spinach. For fiber and natural sugars prunes, dates and figs seem to be OK if the other guidelines are followed.

    And much more water than you think you need. I have a tendency to not drink enough and it makes digestion more difficult.

  17. NaturalShoulder | September 30, 2020 at 2:26 pm |

    Christian – congratulations on the weight loss and having the discipline to stick to it. 6 inches off a waist is a remarkable achievement.

  18. Nice boots! What brand / model are they?

  19. Funny– as we’ve observed and listened from a distance, I found myself predicting you would move in one of two directions: a traditionalist, Burke-quoting sage/fogey, roaming the jazz clubs, bars, and streets of Charleston; or a ruddy New England noble, meandering the hills and mountains while quoting Emerson and Thoreau.

    Admittedly I didn’t see the lean, 70s surfer-guy vibe.

    For wha it’s worth, I like the Commander Whitehead look–neater hair, fuller beard. And I do think more traditional clothing suits you. But that’s just one opinion. Follow your bliss.

  20. I’m thinking Thor Heyerdahl.

  21. The Blue Hawaiians “radio station” on Pandora is like a trip to the beach without a wet suit or sand. A 28” waist is the ultimate fashion accessory.

  22. PocketSquare | October 2, 2020 at 10:38 am |

    My dream is to ride my bike aimlessly during the winter off season at a beach town on the east coast. Walk the shore in my gray flannel pants, take cold showers in the backyard and linger in the family owned grocery stores that still have a butcher. Not too far away from that dream.

  23. @ whiskeydent – It is just a matter of time for @ Christian. I wore Hang Ten shirts growing up in the 60s and 70s and still wear them now but then I live a mile away from the ocean in LA. Hang Ten is classic southern California surfware but Ivy is my professional attire (or, was before COVID). Good call on Chicago’s first couple of albums!

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