Turning the corner from Olive Street onto Fifth Street in downtown Huntington Beach, we met the warm grin of Mike Butler, founder of Bolsa Clothing. Instead of a handshake, he insisted on a hug, making us feel as though we’d just reconnected with an old friend. Introducing us to his friends and co-workers outside Chuck Dent Surf Center, Butler proudly motioned us toward his beloved white Bolsa van, from which he plucked one of his favorite shirts—The Ashford—named after a friend and well-known HB local. Within the first few minutes of meeting the entrepreneur, we fully understood his company motto: "Fun is fun."
A lifelong dream of the HB native, Bolsa Clothing was born the same day Butler was laid off from his longtime job at Hurley in 2009. "I hopped on the computer and started the process," says the father of three. Naming the company was the least of his worries. Having been "infatuated" with the Orange County-coined term "bolsa" since his early days, Butler knew it was the perfect ode to his Surf City roots.
Working with local artists and legendary screen printer Tommy Tear, Butler's "sushi grade" collection has expanded over the past five years to include not only men's t-shirts, button-ups, hoodies, boardshorts and walkshorts; women's tees; and trucker hats and beanies for all. Think plaid, flannel, corduroy, knits, 100 percent cotton and simple graphics—all capturing the immortal boarding spirit of Southern California. The iconic Bolsa logos, one spelling out the brand with its circled "B" and the other a symbolic anchor, make the apparel impossible to miss.
While the company's website and e-commerce shop remain under construction, a tent housing Bolsa Clothing apparel and accessories can be found in front of Rockin Fig Surf Headquarters every Tuesday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. during Surf City Nights. Chuck Dent occasionally hosts pop-up Bolsa shops, and the International Surfing Museum right around the corner sells select pieces. Further up the coast, Boardwalk Skate & Surf in Venice also carries the line. Through these partnerships Butler sells a few hundred pieces every month.
The newest addition to the Bolsa Clothing line comes in the second "Surf Bolsa" collaboration with Hurley. T-shirts for ladies and gents feature a clean, minimalist design with the Hurley logo hiding beneath it.
Butler welcomes partnerships with bigger, international companies, but "through some hard work and some luck" he aims to land accounts in more local stores and continue the company's constant growth. "I'm just trying to keep it local and core as long as I can," he says. "I'm really trying to hit the locals here in Huntington Beach."