Since the 1990s, creative industries have been promoted as sources of economic growth and investment, and as remedies for urban and regional decline. We focus on creative industries through a global restructuring lens, revisiting Fagan and Webber’s 1994 Global Restructuring: The Australian Experience (Melbourne: Oxford University Press) thesis to critically reflect on subsequent developments. Two analytical themes are extended from Fagan and Webber: (1) demystifying ‘creative industries’ as a ‘new’ sector somehow distinct from material manufacture, state policy or the travails of global restructuring and (2) tracing creative industries and financialised global capital, linked to mergers and acquisitions. To these, we add a third theme, theorising subcultural capitalism, including cultures of work within and beyond the capitalist enterprise. We explore each theme via Australia’s iconic surf brands Rip Curl, Billabong, and Quiksilver. These firms transitioned from local equipment and apparel brands with subcultural origins to global, financialised companies. They offshored and subcontracted physical manufacture, while retaining design and intellectual property control. Meanwhile, debt enabled massive, and ultimately risky, retail expansion. Subsequent financial collapses point to the contemporary relevance of Fagan and Webber’s global restructuring thesis, while evisceration of credibility among surfing consumers highlights the contradictions of subcultural forms of capitalism.