Dockers Taps Selema Masekela and Ryan Harris, Advocates for Racial Equality and Sustainability in the Surfing Industry

To celebrate 35 years in the industry, Dockers is spotlighting Selema Masekela and Ryan Harris in its latest ad campaign.

Harris, an artist and surfboard shaper, is the creator of Earth Technologies, an innovative California-based company that manufactures eco-friendly surfboards and promotes a zero-waste approach to production. Alongside fellow surfer Masekela — who wears many hats as a creator, entertainer, TV host and producer — Harris cofounded 1 Planet One People (along with Danielle Black Lyons and Hunter Jones), a collective advocating for sustainable practices, racial and social equality in surfing.

“Both Ryan and I bonded over a lot of the commonalities we had and our challenges of navigating the surfboard industry, because it is a decidedly white space,” said Masekela. “It is a space where, because it is so much fun, people think the ocean is for everybody and that we shouldn’t be discussing things like race, even though there’s not a lot of people that look like us in the water.”

Last year’s racial equality movement with Black Lives Matter has “forced bigger conversations,” including in the surfing community, he continued. “It’s forced subcultures that had long been able to enjoy their blind spots to no longer hide in them and have to address inclusion and exclusion and address the reasons why these things are so monochromatic, like surfing is. It’s also people being unaware within the surfing community of the simple things like the history of the outdoors being segregated in America and redlining and things like that that have created these neighborhoods where everybody looks the same. Places like the ocean were for a very long time white spaces.”

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He’s seen pushback on the cause, he added, particularly in conservative surf regions in the state like Orange County: “The more you explain what’s going on, the louder they want to tell you to be quiet. We’re not going to be quiet, and we’re hoping that inclusivity in the space becomes the norm, but it’s going to take work. We have a long way to go.”

Ryan Harris Courtesy/Justin Chung

“My one word I try to focus on and that we’ve seen in the last eight months to a year is progress,” said Harris. “I’ve seen more progress happen pretty much immediately after the George Floyd killing, rapid change. And it took a long time, but that’s the positive I’m trying to take out of it. We’ve seen a lot of progress action and a lot of change from young people, which is huge.”

The duo have collaborated on past projects, but this marks their first time together in front of the camera for a fashion campaign.

“Being sustainable and eco is more than science and facts, it’s a total lifestyle change and that fits really well with a lifestyle brand like Dockers,” Harris said of the California-based brand, which was launched by Levi Strauss & Co. in 1986.

He’s been “rocking Dockers since middle school,” he added.

Masekela has, too: “For me, I’ve been wearing Dockers, like Ryan said, since my youth. Everybody attempts to make a good khaki, but it always ends up coming back to Dockers making the best one. When I got the call, I was stoked.”

Selema Masekela Courtesy/Justin Chung

For Dockers, the campaign kicks off a new marketing approach that puts real storytelling and sustainability first.

“My vision for the Dockers brand is rooted in California-cool, disruptive casualwear,” said Santiago Cucci, global head of Dockers, in an exclusive statement. “And that’s really just an extension of the brand’s original intention. We’ve been a casual, lifestyle option since the start, and over the past 35 years, our brand journey has been consistent in offering confidence and optimism through our apparel. [This year] will be different though, because we’re identifying fresh ways to share and communicate how we’re leading with values, both people-friendly and planet-friendly. But most importantly, we’re investing in sustainability without sacrificing style, and that is true to the Dockers brand.”

Sustainable efforts for the brand include manufacturing using Repreve, a branded recycled fiber, and cotton hemp, an eco-friendly fabric that uses less water, energy and fewer chemicals to grow than cotton. Dockers also recently announced a three-year philanthropic partnership with former pro surfer Jon Rose’s nonprofit, Waves 4 Water.

“While Dockers’ efforts around production offer solutions focused on the planet, this partnership creates solutions for people affected by the water crisis around the globe,” noted the brand.

When asked about Dockers’ approach to racial equity, both internally and externally, Cucci said: “Knowing that systemic racism is real and that it causes immense harm that reaches across generations, Dockers is committed to using our platforms and business to champion diversity, inclusivity and racial justice. As a [Levi Strauss & Co.] brand, we’re aligned with and contributing to the broader LS&Co. diversity and inclusion initiatives set forth this past summer, including increased recruiting from HBCUs, observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday and publicizing representation data.”

Dockers recently launched its “Recognize: Black Culture in Progress” initiative, “which commemorates Black History Month and celebrates Black culture and Black people through individual stories and distinct perspectives over the course of 12 months,” she added. “Through funding that backs resources and opportunity, working with diverse talent and making space for Black experiences and representation, we’re taking actions that feel authentic to our brand and convey our belief that everyone should be able to pursue their passions, unrestricted.”

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