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The Half-Century Files: Fashionable Neckwear

Puka mania and Mike Purpus.

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“Mike Purpus, Rocky Rights, 1971. The carve is one thing, but let’s talk about the necklace. By the time a perfectly-sized, threaded, puka shell necklace was put on display at the I. Magnin department store in Waikiki, the beach in front of my house was already filled with puka miners. The going rate was .25 cents per shell at the height of the market. That’s about $1.35 per puka in today’s dollars. Keiki Beach was filled with them. Dollars sprinkled all along the Seven Mile Miracle. Pacific islanders from Tonga and Samoa bundled up with jackets to fend off a cold North Shore winter spent hours picking pukas. I came home to find a whole family doing their laundry in my garage.

The carve is one thing, but let’s talk about the necklace. By the time a perfectly-sized, threaded, puka shell necklace was put on display at the I. Magnin department store in Waikiki, the beach in front of my house was already filled with puka miners.

“Soon thereafter the capitalists started importing drum barrels full of pukas from the Philippines and quickly it wasn’t worth the gas money or time to pick them. That was in 1974, putting Purpus three years ahead of the fashion curve in this shot. But he gets negative points for wearing an Aqualid at Pipeline. Not a wetsuit.” —Jeff Divine

Fifty years ago, TSJ’s photo editor Jeff Divine picked up a Pentax H1a and began shooting the surf landscape and its denizens, creating images that in many cases have now become iconic. In this semi-regular series, we’ll blow the dust off a half-century’s worth of slide-sheets and dig around for the under-seen shots, always with an eye for compositions that offer riffs on time, place, and the backstory to his body of work.

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