In 1973, Gordon Merchant founded Billabong in Queensland, Australia. The company started small, and Merchant manufactured board shorts in his home before selling them to local surf shops. His products soon caught on among surfers, however, and Billabong quickly grew. By the mid-'80s, the brand was prevalent across Australia, and it began to export its apparel and sporting goods to other countries. Professional surfing grew and gained a new level of respectability in the 1990s, and Billabong grew with it. The brand also started branching out into other board sports, and it introduced snow and skate divisions.
Billabong went public on the Australian stock market in 2000, and it began acquiring other brands like Von Zipper, Element, and Kustom. The company also opened up a large chain of retail stores in major markets across the globe. Growth continued until 2012, when the company announced plans to go private once again. First, it had to reduce its mountain of debt by restructuring and closing several stores. Rather than being fully acquired, the company ended up attracting several investment firms and hedge funds, which bought up large numbers of shares. In recent years, Billabong has sold of several of its smaller divisions in an effort to revitalize growth and profitability. Today, the brand's products are sold in more than 100 countries around the world.
Though its focus has expanded through the years, Billabong continues to be best known for its selection of swimwear and apparel for board sports like surfing and snowboarding. You can find an assortment of swimsuits in both the girls' and women's collections. Options include bikinis, one-piece swimsuits, cover-ups, board shorts, rashguards, and wetsuits. Boys' options include swim trunks, board shorts, and more. The brand also makes handcrafted surfboards and longboards. Clothes for snowboarding include the full range of outerwear options, such as heavy jackets, hats, scarves, and gloves.
Beyond sports apparel, Billabong also offers casual clothing and beachwear for both kids and adults. Clothes for boys include graphic tees, tanks, polos, and button-down shirts, as well as shorts and jeans. For girls, you'll find day dresses, t-shirts, tanks, croptops, shorts, skirts, and leggings. Women's clothing runs the gamut from purely casual to a little more style-driven. Options include maxi dresses, night out dresses, tunics, halters, peplum tops, sweaters, cardigans, wraps, ponchos, pullovers, and hoodies. You can also choose among loungepants, sweatpants, palazzo pants, jeans, denim shorts, rompers, and jumpsuits. Sandals, sneakers, and slip-ons make up the footwear selection, and accessories include sunglasses, intimates, handbags, and wallets.
When it comes to beachwear--and especially surfing apparel--many of the best manufacturers hail from Australia because it's so well known for its gorgeous coasts. Billabong was instrumental in helping to introduce this casual clothing niche to the rest of the world, and it continues to play a major role today. Though money matters have plagued the company over the last several years, the finances haven't negatively impacted its products at all. Instead, the brand continues to be a favorite among both sports enthusiasts and casualwear aficionados because of its commitment to quality. We give Billabong 4.5 stars out of 5.