Good as Gold: Iconic Things You Didn’t Know Originated in California
The Golden State got its nickname because of the Gold Rush of 1849. But more than literal gold has come out of California. In its 170 years as a state, California has been producing some of our country’s most famous pop culture icons, from Hollywood to Barbie dolls to West Coast hip-hop. We’ve collected some other iconic things that originated in California that are as good as gold.
One of the greatest answers to the dog days of summer was invented by an eleven-year-old San Francisco resident back in 1905. Frank Epson had mixed a sugary soda powder in a glass of water one day and accidentally left the glass outside overnight, with the wooden stirrer still inside. The night was cold enough that when Epson came back for the drink the next day, he found it frozen solid. After gently easing it out, he found that the treat tasted great and began selling his “Epsicles” to kids in the neighborhood. He later patented the idea but sold the rights to the Joe Lowe Company of New York, where its fame exploded.
Streetwear fashion is such a staple of the way we dress nowadays that it’s easy to forget it had to start somewhere. But the history of streetwear fashion begins on the West Coast with a California surfer named Shawn Stussy. Stussy began his career selling surfboards on which he would write his own name. When he’d go to sell his boards at trade shows, he’d come wearing shirts with his name written on them, and eventually the shirts began to outsell the boards at the shows. Soon, selling surfboards became his way to finance his clothing brand. The style of the brand influenced the subgenre we know today as streetwear fashion.
Streetwear wasn’t the only surfing-inspired icon to originate in California. Skateboards were created as a way for surfers to take the thrill of riding the waves to the streets, hence skateboarding’s original nickname of sidewalk surfing or asphalt surfing. The first commercial skateboards were sold in the 50s, but the sport faded from popularity during the late 60s. It was resurrected in the early 70s when Frank Nasworthy (an alumus of the University of California, San Diego) introduced polyurethane wheels to skateboards.
California doesn’t just produce the kind of waves you can surf on. This fan cheer has about as many origin stories as there are seats in a professional sports stadium, but the first documented wave happened at a playoff game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees on October 15, 1981. It was led by professional cheerleader Krazy George Henderson, who himself is a California legend in his own right. From there, the cheer spread to sports stadiums across the US, and it can now be seen even at events such as the Wimbledon.