Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Where does it come from?


Vincent Tesoriero, doing what he does best and wearing a great vintage Russ Howell World Championships Skateboarding tee. Circa 1976

Where does it come from?

Many of your are familiar with the back story of Papa Nui and how my father and his WWII service played into the creation myth of the brand. This is only half the story however. Introduce then my eldest brother Vincent.

Vincent inherited my fathers passion and in his late teens was already making an impact on his chosen field in advertising and marketing. His mid twenties and early thirties coincided with the 1970’s, a time when youth culture was coming into its own. With his company Forcefield Promotions and clients that included RayBan, Pepsi Cola, Golden Breed and Levi Strauss, he began to envision events that grew to be institutions in alternative sports. The Castrol 6 hour race, the Superbike series, Mr Motocross, the Pro Junior Surfing Series and the new crazy of skateboarding were all fruits of his imagination. One only needs to understand each of these events to realize which stars in those sports began their careers as contestants. He was also the instrument behind Golden Breed, which arguably was Australias first authentic youth brand and later the mastermind behind Rat Racing, the 80’s phenomena in motorcycle racing.

To contextualise there was nothing else before it and afterwards some of the largest brands just lifted his entire schtick to create empires. He was the first of the great collaborators, seeking out a talent pool and bringing them together on projects aimed specifically at his target audience. He married art and youth culture, enlisted such luminaries as Peter Ledger to create posters that today are collectors pieces and inspired the trend of graphic t-shirts as a vehicle for more than marketing messaging. Think of the giants in the industry today and at their core somewhere and perhaps unwittingly they’ve tapped into what Vincent started.

As a humble individual, even today, Vincent does not talk up his achievements, rather he channels his energy into the many other interests and hobbies that he has, and so it’s my gig then to spruik his influence.

As a very young teenager, perhaps 13 years old I sat transfixed at the end of the table when Vincent came to Monday night dinners. He had already moved out of home and I was seeing my brother for the first time through the eyes of my emerging consciousness. Every word resonated in  my mind and I subconsciously absorbed the minutiae of stories set in the glory days of Advertising agencies. Fundamentally though this was like sitting through a 101 class in how to do things and although I’ve grown to take my own path and perhaps disappointment my eldest brother at times with poor behaviour and choices, I still retain those things that he talked about deep down and although our successes can’t be measured against each other I like to think that what makes my outlook so different in the current marketplace of doing things and creating product is in a large part down to the influence of my eldest brother who was my mentor long before I was old enough to realise.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Papa turns a new corner: The Tarawa Shirt.

From caps to garments? Not such a stretch, it was only a matter of time till my resources had accumulated enough to be able to embark on new projects. It is very difficult at times to think of caps in isolation when often they're part of a bigger story or a more precise look. Id always created my own rational anyway. In wartime it was not uncommon for a garment factory to get instructions from the War Board Authority to supply whatever was needed, so it stands to reason that my production facilities should also be that flexible.

We begin then with the Tarawa shirt. The prerequisite here being that it should look like it has come from Papa HQ. I started with my original WWII sample of the US Navy N-3 work shirt which had proven to be a favourite of mine for its versatility in all weather conditions, perfect as a based layer shirt in colder climes and then on its own, a sensational warm weather item for the tropics. Taking my idea to John Lofgren in March this year we did a pretty intensive search to turn up a beautiful 4 oz cotton poplin that matched the original concept perfectly, tightly woven for sun and wind protection and yet light enough to become a truly comfortable favourite. Available in both the original Olive colour and also a Navy blue I then focused on those intricacies of detailing that I so love about vintage shirting, adding a tab collar, enlarging the chest pockets to be more practical, adding vented eyelets under the armpits, and anti-tear side gussets and then using the very best of Japanese production facilities to have this idea realised. There's only 75 in each colour and are sized from Small through to XX-large so basically a 38"- 46". 

Obviously your patronage is greatly appreciated and so on the eve of the release of the Tarawa shirt I just wanted to share some of this process and background with you to help you understand the insight of the product.  It's a big step in the development of my brand which remains still a one man operation that's completely capital funded, hence the delay in releasing product because as they say, 'No bucks? No buck rogers!'
Hopefully once the Tarawa shirt hits the market, the window of opportunity will allow me to fully explore other projects currently waiting in the wings, including a custom milled chambray Sea Bees work shirt and matching cap, PT boat crew indigo jacket and trousers, Frogskin beach shorts and much more.

Tarawa shirt will be available through my online web store as well as through Self Edge stores throughout the USA, Iron Heart in the United Kingdom as well as Pickings and Parry in Melbourne and the Big Trouble Store in Sydney Australia.

In the meantime enjoy my product story and some of the photos of the Tarawa shirt on location in the Coral Sea.

Here’s what Leatherneck Magazine has to say:

Battle tested on the coral Atolls of the South Pacific by the toughest Sea Bees in the Navy, the new Papa Nui Tarawa shirt is a hit! 

The Papa’s inspired version of the US Navy N-3 work shirt takes shape with utility and function in a wonderful interpretation of military work wear realized in 4oz cotton poplin: collar tab, Underarm eyelets, side gussets with thread runoff, internal chain stitched felled seams throughout and made in Japan’s finest facilities, the Tarawa shirt meets the demand. Whether youre building a jungle airstrip or a forward PT base, the Papa now has you covered head and shoulders above the rest.

  • 4oz Japanese milled 100% cotton poplin.
  • Prewashed for comfort and accurate sizing.
  • Collar tab.
  • Underarm vented eyelets.
  • Anti tear side gussets with thread run off.
  • Internal chain stitched Felled seams.
  • All Japan manufacture.
  • Available in S, M, L, XL, XXL.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Black Ops Birdwells.

Birdwell's are quite simply the best surf trunks on the beach, hands down, no argument and I won't even debate it, there is no point, you either know it or you don't.
But now there's a new attitude in Santa Ana and Birdies are taking their brand to the world. Social media posts, a blog page and a positive engagement with their customers means that the Birdwell family are taking their first tentative steps into the 21 century. There's even a new styling afoot with some of their trunks, narrower cuts, shorter rises and button flys, subtle additions that make their offering broader and dare I say groovier.
But for me it's their special projects that are catching my attention, especially so the new woodland camouflage release. The Papa has always been an advocate for custom Birdies in camo patterns but the Santa Ana crew have really outdone themselves with this addition to their product line, two ply nylon, button fly, tab closure for minor adjustments and best of all total black ops hardware. Black woven Birdies label, Black laces, black grommets and black buttons, its clandestine surfing at its best!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

All Hands APRIL 1944.

The 44TH Beach Battalion surfs ashore. Papa Nui and Okinawan charger Aki-san.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dazzle 'em!

It's taken me years to write this post as I've long been fascinated by US Navy dazzle camouflage and how I could interpret it into a project.

Widely used by the allies in the First World War and then again sparingly in the Second, it's distinct erratic line work was designed to confuse the enemy as to the size, speed, direction and angle of the travelling vessel, thus making it difficult to get an accurate bearing to launch an attack.

Inspired by the work of Carrie Schneider 2008 Dazzle Canoe, I had the idea of applying the pattern to a surfboard, but then realised that there would not be a 'glasser' anywhere in the world who would touch a project like this and so the idea got shelved.

A couple of months back on Instagram Jon of @mosquito_boat posted a photo of a chest of drawers that he had Dazzled and that photo made me think of wood instead of fibreglass and this revelation drew me to the Alaia, a finless wooden surfboard favoured by the Ancient Hawaiians. Choosing this medium made the whole concept possible and so I contacted Jon and and we worked on several ideas to arrive at a pattern to suit the profile of the Alaia board.

From here I teamed up with life-long friend @Charcoal_Smith, a talented sign writer, artist, ladder climber and hero and got down to the business end of applying paint and loads of masking tape. The final touches was the marking of the 'ships numbers', 44, the numerals of the Papa Nui Combat Beach Battalion.

Original sketches. Bottom and top.

Taping begins.

Marking out the block colour seemed the best way.

Layering on the darker shades of grey. The pattern was basically two shades of grey, sporadic white and then overlayed on top with the black stripes.

It amazes me how dramatic an effect can be had with the simplicity of line.

Taking ownership.

Battle flag and numbers.

44 numerals of the Combat Beach Battalion.

Top deck.

Cole 'Charcoal' Smith, artist and sign writer.

Papa Nui with finished Alaia.

Having finally finished this project and seeing the ideas come to life, it reminds me of the importance of inspiration and that adage that says, 'It's not where you take things from, it's where you take them to'. 
All of us need to be inspired but we need to interpret things in our own way, we need to find a connection and draw our own parallels, we need to personalise and individualise and ultimately take ownship of an idea because this is what gives substance and authenticity. There is only one true way and that is in the words of Chris Issacs, "Be yourself because everyone else is already taken".

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Summer of caps. Papa Nui's 2015 line up.

Avenger Cap

The Papa's latest update of his original Corsairs Cap is the new Avenger Cap.
Following recommendations made by Com Air Pac directives the Avenger is built tough in 9oz herringbone twill and utilises a revised custom visor pattern. It's a cap that is as good looking as it is rugged. The under visor is lined in billiard green twill to tame the savage sun and is soft and pliable and ready to be flipped up and swaggered in. So whether you're strutting your stuff down Hotel Street to Wo Fats or making an entrance at the Gooney Bird Hilton its Bravo Zulu Papa all the way!


Catalina Cap

Those Navy Boys are a jealous lot! On the decks of the Bird Farm the Flyboys have been crying out for a cap of their own. 'Forget them god'damn Leathernecks Papa, give us a cap for service at sea". And so the Papa delivers a cap born of the South Pacific, designed for maximum protection from the sun but with a visor suited to cramped cockpits and gun turrets. A stubby mid weight indigo denim makes for substance while a under visor of USN life raft yellow provides a marker of safety and a signal of hope in stormy seas. The Catalina is the much favoured choice of Cat Crews and Plywood Canoes.

The Original Corsairs Cap

The Papa knows caps. A lifetime spent under the Pacific sun has taught him a thing or two about a visor of substance to hunker under when the sun would shrivel you to a New England hag, and so with a generous interpretation of the WWII A-1 sun visor the Papa introduces the Original Corsairs cap. A true aviators cap inspired by all things 'field made' and featuring a customised brim built around a period 4 panel crown. The Corsair launches onto the decks in a beautiful USMC Frog Skin camouflage perfect for the Papa's famous fighting Battalions.

Beachmaster Herringbone Twill.

A hat designed for service on land and sea. Part Daisy and part Dixie and all utility this new adaptation is taking beach heads by storm, prompting Admiral Halsey to decry, "Damn you Papa and those fancy sunbonnets of yours, there's not a man in regulation on the entire Atoll, you Huckster! You drygoods salesman!".

Beach master Italian Camouflage.

Flamboyant 'sprezzatura' M-29 Italian campaign camouflage liberated from a Salerno warehouse when the Papa's uncle, Roldolpho Russo landed there with the US 15th as part of Operation Avalanche.

So its all ahead full this summer with Papa Nui's 2015 line up made by exclusive arrangement with the John Lofgren Clothing Factory in Japan where quality is an absolute! 
The Papa is available in the Northern Hemisphere through the Iron Heart Denim Webstore, log on and check them out or ask Giles for the scuttlebutt!

Down under you'll find the Papa at RHD Righthand Distribution in Adelaide South Australia, or a select grouping through Pickings and Parry Fitzroy Melbourne Victoria. 
If all else fails email the Papa direct and let him sort you out with what you need.

Semper Papa.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Papa Nui studies cap styling in the South West Pacific.

Cap Styling.
When I conceived the idea for Papa Nui I was not looking to create a re-enactors brand or a replica product. Nothing could be further from the truth. Granted all my inspiration is drawn from original product but as I've discussed many times before the true goal in my projects was to create what we don't see. What I mean here is to encapsulate the individuality of the general issue serviceman. There's a misplaced belief that the world of war was a regimented and controlled environment when in fact it was as unique and chaotic as any other facet in human life. What I wanted to take note of was the idiosyncrasies of the average soldier and the way he carried himself and his personal style on the campaign trail, in the field of combat and in the forward bases.
This wonderful collection of photos below are screen shots from a short Smithsonian clip about aircraft Nose art and despite the interesting subject matter what really caught my eye was how each of the men featured here validated my point of view with their head gear. If they are wearing GI issues then its customised, bent, twisted or worn at a jaunt and adorned with personalised insignia, if its not issue then its private purchase or 'field' made. This is a really great lesson in authenticity as we must look deeper into our research for the finer details instead of skimming the surface and believing we have things right at a mere glance. At Papa Nui there is a solid belief that you don't completely own something until you customise it and that's why the Papa encourages all to wear his caps hard, to wash, and beat and trash and bend and then to resew or to decorate because at the end of the day as we can see in the images below, 'A man is the hat that he wears'.
Semper Papa!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

An absence of months but new tees to show for it.

Sometimes we just get caught up in things and for the Papa its been a busy period of development and networking to ensure a brighter 2015. Add this to the convenience of papanuisays on Instagram and its easy to see how the blog can be neglected. For now then a glimpse of current projects, two new tees.

The Papa Fuckin Nui tee is the all time I don't give a shit print. Developed from a chance posting on facebook by Matt Stickland of  Warpath Leather regarding one's introduction to the Devil, the Papa was quick to capitalise on the quip. The quote more potent when considering the plight of independent makers globally competing in a market controlled by giants financed to the hilt. Papa Nui's punk rock ethos is underpinned by a killer skull graphic taken from a WWII Royal Navy battle flag and is printed on recycled tees from Dead Union Vintage. The art was recklessly compiled by young Adelaide artist Tobias Zwarthout whose brush stroke lettering makes these tees a defining statement of expression, "Im Papa Fuckin' Nui! who the hell are you?" a slogan spat eloquently at 'Inspiration' or the Devils doorstep, which ever comes first!

Number 2 on the hit parade is another longtime coming collaboration, this time with vintage aficionado, collector, artist and blogger supreme, Patrick Segui of Riveted. The Segui x Nui tee celebrates a mutual friendship built over the years via the net and based on an shared aesthetic of all things military, do it yourself and handmade. These are the very principles that Papa Nui was built on, a fascination of the resourcefulness of the soldier in the field, the can do attitude and the desire to make an old idea even better. Its a salute to the Seebees, the Riggers, the ground crews, the wheelers and dealers and a nod to Luther Billis and Milo Minderbinder.
The collaboration tee takes the form of the squadron mascot for VF-3 and bares the image of Felix the Cat. VF-3 was a aviation unit that flew Grumman F4F Wildcats off the decks of the USS Yorktown at the time of the battle of Midway and Patrick Segui's interpretation has Felix strumming on a banjo in a graphic style that enhances the feeling of a print done aboard ship whilst on active duty or 'field made'. The print is screened in water based inks and then hand painted by the Papa in an olive green acrylic wash, a technique passed onto the Papa by Patrick. The 'wash' gives the print depth and a sense of authenticity. Again the base tees are sourced via Canada by Dead Union Vintage so each one is completely unique and equally fucked up and used, yellowed and aged to perfection and resembling the personal tee of each Naval Aviator that grabbed theirs out of their kit to take down to some resourceful sailor who printed them up as unofficial totems for the squadron.

These tees are exclusive to the Papa and can be purchased for $45 USD. Email the Papa at for ordering and sizing info. All tees are limited to 30 pieces so to secure yours do not hesitate a moment longer alternately go to my store at