Pete Surprenant, owner of Laguna’s North Menswear shop, offers a glimpse into the world of men’s fashion.
By Ashley Burnett
North Menswear opened its doors in 2014, filling a void in Laguna Beach when it comes to shops devoted solely to men’s clothing and accessories. In that time, North has gained a following not just in Laguna—several locals are regulars to the shop, stopping by daily—but also throughout California.
“There’s some wonderful surf shops in town and a few select stores that carry men’s and women’s [clothing], but, for the most part, there wasn’t a proper men’s store in town,” explains Pete Surprenant, the shop’s founder, who has called Laguna Beach home for the last 12 years. “So, I think everyone is really responding well to our offerings.”
We met up with Surprenant to discuss the year ahead for menswear, as well as to talk style icons and the shop’s history.
What inspired you to open North Menswear?
We opened the store a little over three years ago. I had been in retail and clothing for a long time, which makes me sound old, but for a little over 20 years I’ve done some kind of clothing or retail [work]. And I always was drawn to this classic menswear [style], and I thought Laguna maybe had a little bit of a hunger for it. So, seeing as we live here and have a family here, I figured, what better place to open a store than here?
How did you come up with the name for the shop?
PS: I had gone through hundreds of names, going through literally an encyclopedia and looking at the definitions of different names, and we came across “north” on the list. … If you look it up, it means the fundamental direction, the direction that defines all other directions. And I thought that was powerful. Everyone’s kind of searching for their true north, what’s their true calling, where are they headed. And, for me, my true north was doing this store.
How do you choose which brands to offer?
I try to source as close to locally as possible. So about 90 percent of it is all made in LA. We make our own line in LA as well, but I do have stuff from everywhere—from Tennessee to Indiana. But the main focus is California brands and it definitely has to pertain to that timeless, classic men’s clothing that will hopefully never be subject to trends.
Who is your typical male customer?
I’d say … the cool dad. He appreciates well-made clothing. But, anyone really. I’ve sold things to teenagers [and] to guys well into their 80s.
Who is your style icon?
To me, Paul Newman is my style icon for sure. And I try to—it sounds kind of silly, but if I’m on the fence as to whether to bring a product in, I think: Would Paul Newman wear this? And if the answer’s yes, then I’ll bring it in.
What trends are you seeing for the upcoming year?
We’re seeing some trench coats we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing kind of an old military [ripstop] fabric … , which is a cotton fabric that has kind of a reinforced stitching to it. We’re seeing a little bit of lighter denim—we usually stick to dark denim. Again, still all kind of classic, but with updated bits and a little bit more modern fabrics.
What are some of your best-selling items?
Wovens, so button-downs. Any guy can fit a new button-down woven into their wardrobe. It’s a versatile piece. You know, you can pair a new woven with your existing jeans, or chinos or shorts or whatever it may be.
How have you seen menswear shift in style over the years?
For a long time, menswear had zero focus. It was all about women’s [fashion]. And rightfully so. But, over the years, men have paid a little bit more attention to how they put themselves out there. For me, my big catalyst to this kind of growing trend of menswear [was that] J. Crew opened a store in Manhattan called the Liquor Store, and they did kind of a proper men’s store, very beautifully curated. … After that, I started kind of figuring it out, like, ‘OK, there’s something going on.’