Mambo: A History - Mambo Surf De Luxe


Mambo: A History

A Not So Humble Walk Down Memory Lane…

Tooting our own fart(ing dog) so to speak…


Forged through its curious Australian aesthetic and eccentric content, Mambo laughed in the face of PC censorship and became one of (and the first of) Australia’s most irreverent surf wear brands.
Come with us as we rediscover our roots and look back at the culture, people and art that help make a group of troublemaking misfits into one of Australia’s most popular art collectives.


Launching under a Cinzano beach umbrella in the beer garden of the Cauliflower Hotel, in the Sydney suburb of Redfern, Mambo was born in 1984; with a mission statement, a slab of beer, a plate of cheese cubes and savoury Jatz biscuits.



Way back in 1985, Mambo sponsored the Mambo Merimbula Wave-Sailing Classic - Paul Worstead's poster for the event featured a three-legged dog throwing up on a condom-littered beach. In 2003 one of these posters sold on eBay for $700!



In 1986 Reg Mombassa, a founding member of iconic Sydney rock band Mental As Anything joins the ranks at Mambo. ⁠His first graphic, "Deceased Heeler" is not a huge seller, but the company decides that Reg showed potential and invited him to "try again"



1987 was the year a legend was born.
⁠The release of the iconic "Farting Dog" T-Shirt, also known by its 'academic' title, "Call Of The Wind". In 2005-06, total profits from the sale of this tee eclipse the gross domestic product of the former Russian state of Azerbaijan (That's a lot of farting dogs!).



Good ol' 1988, the year Home and Away aired for the first time. ⁠And the year Former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, or John Lydon as he is better known to the British tax department, drops into Mambo during his first visit to Australia with new band, Public Image Limited. ⁠Lydon spends the afternoon drinking, chatting, posing for snaps and signing anything that's placed in front of him including our receptionist, Barbie's breast.



1989, the year Mambo sponsored The Ramones Australasian tour. ⁠The band's meagre selection of concert merchandise includes Mambo-designed drawstring board shorts... An odd choice for a famously non-surfing band, whose members have nightclub tans and mantis-like legs - usually cling-wrapped in faded blue denim.⁠



It's 1990, and thieves break into the Mambo studio and steal eight t-shirts, twenty-four CDs, a pot plant and a bar fridge containing a ham sandwich and a $3 bottle of port.⁠ All while ignoring a framed Reg Mombassa painting, "Starving Wolves", which is insured for $10,000... ⁠



"Freeze Art Lovers", an exhibition of original artwork by Mambo artists opened at the Ray Hughes Gallery in 1991, in Sydney. ⁠Police arrived shortly after the bar opened to control a crowd that is three times the gallery's capacity... Let's just say we were a bit of a rowdy crew back "then"⁠... ⁠


Mambo Recordings was launched in May 1992, the first cab off the rank in the Mambo Masterplan. ⁠The release is part of the company's obsessive determination to introduce music to its existing catalogue of passions: surf, art, football, complimentary tickets, an independent Australia and beer sponsorships.


In 1993 Mambo was invited by the Art Gallery of New South Wales to exhibit original artwork beside the international show of early Surrealist art, "Surrealism Revolution By Night". ⁠
⁠Mambo's reaction to the invitation is "... why?" ⁠
⁠To which Gallery director Edmund Capon replies "Do you people ever look at the backs of your t-shirts?" ⁠



Mambo released its 120 graphic-packed, typo-littered paged self-congratulatory history book, "Art Irritates Life" in 1994.⁠ One reviewer commented that after reading the book he knew even less about the company than he had previously.⁠



In 1995, Mambo releases the "Chirac" t-shirt in response to the resumption of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific by the French government. ⁠Donating $15 from the sale of each shirt sold to Greenpeace, resulting in a $40,000 donation. Doing our bit, 1 shirt at a time. 



1996 was the year Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating released Labour's Youth Policy at the Mambo Studio in the lead-up to the federal election. ⁠The PM was presented with a pair of Paul Worstead-designed, "Magpie" boardies which the company doubts will ever be worn by Mr Keating...⁠



Mambo released the "Hindsight" in 1997, a graphic that establishes a new benchmark in the company's gratuitous use of toilet humour. ⁠A standard that is later lowered even further with the release of the "Mambo Etymology".⁠



In 1998, in true Mambo form, Mambo releases it's "Pauline Hanson Redneck" t-shirt. ⁠Donating $15 from the sale of each tee to the National Aboriginal and Islander State Development Association (NAISDA). Eventually raising $110,000!⁠



It was 1999 when Mambo received a call from the Australian Monarchist League who demanded the withdrawal of the company's recent "Queen of Australia" tee, citing "gross offence to the dignity of our Queen and sovereign". ⁠The caller is left on hold for twenty minutes before they finally hang up. ⁠



The year 2000 was a big year for Mambo, with the companies designing the official Australian team uniforms for the Sydney Olympic Games. ⁠The jacket lining features the Reg Mombassa "Lost Weekend" design, which is subsequently used on a rush order of shirts, when it's discovered the athletes intend to wear their jackets inside out during the closing ceremony.⁠


In 2001, GM Holden invited Mambo to collaborate on the design of a one-off Holden Sandman panel van for the Sydney Motor Show. ⁠As a result of its popularity among visitors, the van is taken to America and featured in the Detroit Motor Show. ⁠


Federal Science Minister, the Liberal Party's Peter McGauran, attacks Mambo in 2002 for joining the Sutherland Shire's fight to stop the construction of a second nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights. ⁠NSW, later debates Mabo's involvement in the campaign on SBS TV's Insight with Reg Mombassa. ⁠



Mambo released the "What, me sorry?" t-shirt in 2003 in response to PM John Howards stubborn refusal to issue an apology to the stolen generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.⁠



In 2004, Mambo launched the Abuse of Power Party.⁠ Its policies included; closing down Australia's detention centres, extending the Australian national anthem to include references to pig shooting, dwarf throwing and jelly wrestling. ⁠The party signed up 5000 members during the annual City to Surf fun run.⁠



2005 saw the creation of Ambo's potentially libellous "Silverbill" and "Quickbong" magazine advertisements.⁠ Instead of the anticipated storm of legal letters from the two companies parodied, Mambo received requests for copies from several senior staff of those companies.⁠



An exhibition of original 3D artwork by Mambo artists, "A Bunch of Kunst", opens its doors at the Monster Children Gallery in 2006. ⁠The artwork is the result of a collaboration between Mambo and Aussie retail giant David Jones. ⁠

 *Our Bosses made us take down this artwork...


In 2007, Mambo sends a letter to the Pope inviting him to become a brand ambassador during his planned visit to Australia to celebrate International Youth Day. ⁠After failing to receive a reply, Mambo assumes the letter has either been ignored or lost by Australia Post.⁠



Mambo joins forces with Australian satirist The Chaser in 2008. ⁠
⁠Their first t-shirt off the printer, "Hat In A Cat" - attributed by The Chaser to 'Dr Sue Us' - was met with big sales... ⁠And an even bigger 'cease and desist letter from Dr Seuss's lawyers.⁠



2009, Mambo loads up the company station wagon and heads off to dress 40,000 concertgoers in cities around Australia after being selected to sponsor Good Vibrations rock and beats festival. ⁠



UK publication Cult Streetwear, names Mambo 'one of the most influential brands" ⁠in 2010.⁠


Next: Presented by T-World features a selected history of Mambo t-shirts during Outpost, which was 2011's biggest street culture exhibition attracting over 86,000 visitors.⁠



In 2012, Mambo provides support for Youth Drug awareness by sponsoring the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, a contest rated by the association of Surfing Professionals at Surfers Point in Western Australia.⁠



2013 was a hard year for Mambos Accounts Manager, when we tipped him upside down and shook enough change out of his deep pockets to launch Coffee & Tees, a Mambo Cafe concept store at Manly's Shelley Beach. ⁠It is still unknown whether he ever recovered from the ordeal.⁠


US graphic-novel giant DC Comics strike a deal with Mambo in 2014, in what is believed to be the world's largest artistic collaboration - ever. ⁠The deal saw Mambo recruiting several new artists, including Meggs and Numskull. ⁠



Last but not least the last stop in our journey through history leaves us in 2015, when Mambo celebrated its illustrious and iconic 30-year history through exhibiting the "30 years of Shelf-Indulgence". ⁠Nostalgia runs through the Australian Community, and even now it brings a tear to our eyes.



In a time where PC culture runs rampant Mambo Surf De Luxe laughs in the face of it’s cordial environment and revels in it’s eccentric content and aesthetics. 2022 is the return of 100% Mambo. This is Surf De Luxe.