Monthly Archives: December 2011


Thanks for any comments, kind words, retweets, Likes, links, word-of-mouth, disparaging remarks, allegations of hate and all the other good stuff from throughout the year. It’s appreciated. There’s more nonsense to come next week. Eat, receive, watch ‘Step Brothers’ on repeat and ignore the true meaning of the time off work that you’re getting. You deserve it.


This week I learnt a few things. Some PR people don’t like me any more (and emailed me to tell me that), Tumblr is a more powerful traffic source than big blogs as far as click-throughs go and the people who laughed at me when I told them that there would be some kind of hype Huffington Post method of content syndication were wrong, because my buddies at Hypebeast put my last entry up as an op-ed. Unfortunately I’ve been basking in some kind words and an abundance of snack foods that made me forget to blog yesterday, and this evening I’m hyping up those Concord XIs for sale, so I’m busy again. Christmas is a special time of year when people punch each other in the face in Texan shopping malls for shiny toed basketball shoes. If ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was made now, it would end with Jimmy Stewart shoulder barging a thirteen year old boy out the doorway of the Bedford Falls branch of NikeTown before running home triumphantly with a snow drenched Jordan box under his arm.

I’ve become addicted to sneaker footwear beef via YouTube of late – people doing “show reviews” via video is nothing new, but there’s a whole culture of beef, with disses and response videos regarding allegations of Jordan fakery and other such matters. Dribblez Tha God (“What the hell is the deal YouTube?”) resides in VA and he’s far more gooned-out than most — he’s always calling out his opponents and questioning their sexuality in angry rants. One 17:51 minute long rant involves him waving cheques and exposing alleged infidelity via text message — sports footwear = serious business. Dribblez even has his own clothing range (YOUTUBE’S MOST HATED MAN!!), that includes a t-shirt that embodies everything that the term “sneakerhead” conjures up to me — the font and the ultra literal image is a killer combo.

Seeing as tomorrow is Jordan brawl day, it’s probably an okay time to dump a piece I wrote that got rejected by Sneaker Freaker for the new issue in favour of people holding up shoes and an NB 574 based on Ray Meagher. It was meant to be an exploration of why people are preoccupied with Jordans rather than contemporary basketball shoes, but it turned into a rambling 2000 word waste of energy pretty quickly. But fuck it, here it is and there’s three of my favourite Nike Basketball ads at the bottom to reward anybody who scrolls down. That 1981 Dynasty one stays classic:

(Unpublished draft)


Whatever happened to all the heroes? We see the billboards, the constant stream of Flash videos deifying athletes and the constant updates, pumping jpg after clinically cropped jpg of signature shoe colourways way before release courtesy of those crafty back door factory super villains, but where’s the sense of magic that elevated players to the point of deification? Why aren’t we seeing the new brace of basketball shoes worn as much at street level as Mike, Sir Charles and Patrick’s signature shoes were?

Basketball shoes are evolving at a serious rate — just as 1992’s Olympic rollout pushed classics like the Force 180 and the Beijing festivities gave us the debut of Flywire on a court shoe, London’s summer event has kickstarted some new innovations, whether it’s the ankle reinforcement of the new Kobe design, the Y-3 inspired stretch lace strap of adidas’s D. Rose sequel or the Pro Combat lined LeBron 9, we’re less likely to see them on a foot than the shoes of old. Once, the boldness of the Jordan V, Flight Lite and — for the fortunate few — the towering Command Force were on the street, in an audacious era of neons, tongues hanging out like a dog from a car window and wealth measured in bulk and gimmicks. It wasn’t enough to have performance aiding technologies — people needed to see.

But ahead of all that, there was Michael Jordan, a player who transcended the sport. Whether those Mars ads hit your screens or not, the Jumpman was all-reaching. In an era where shoe-related crimes could hit the headlines and be enough of a zeitgeist to become soap opera drama devices, the price tag and escalating war of technologies had the masses scrambling for the shoes. The name alone conjured up a superhuman spirit, even if you’d never seen the man play.

Bucks exec Bob Zuffalato’s remark,”The man doesn`t live on Earth. He just shows up on Earth for practice and game days” hyped up that desire for a piece of Jordan product, whether it was a shirt or the shoes themselves. Jordan spinoffs of the original, like the (then) rarely seen KO created a blueprint for spinoffs within a signature series. After 1985’s first chapter, the II and III were a tougher find. By 1989’s IV was a more accessible option. Without cameras in the pocket of every attendee and coverage a Google search away, we were told that the offending “banned” Jordan shoe was a Jordan I rather than an Air Ship in black and red. Myths were easier to make back then.

The financial boomtime that fuelled the early days of Jordan allowed for extra risks. Sartorial conservatism was absent, in contrast to the powers that be at the time. There was less fear of strange. For all the informational exposure, the current generation likes to play it relatively safe. Given the moral implications of such a question, it’s tough to determine just how much a crack epidemic popularised bigger and better basketball shoes, but it was undeniably powerful in fuelling those ‘80s icons.

Then things began to look backwards in the early ’90s. Suedes, Campus and Cortez became desirable again beyond the hands of a few deadstock Columbos. Capitalising on the boom 1994’s retro III and early 1995’s retro I might have landed with an indifferent thud, but just as the post XI Jordan releases from 1996 became so admirably offbeat that only a basketball and inner city audience seemed to appreciate the output, Nike had forged a second lane to catch the new breed of nostalgics. Smart move. Creating a full Jordan brand in 1998 was even smarter, signing up athletes from multiple disciplines. All that before Google even went live.

After Jordan’s retirement Penny Hardaway was the logical successor to MJ’s sneaker dynasty, with a run of innovative releases, including the Foamposite — Nike’s next shock-to-the-system, but it never seemed to rock pop culture like the Jordan phenomenon. For regions where basketball isn’t a second language, Chris Webber, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Penny’s status travelled by the shoes on their feet rather than their feats on the court.

Still, despite strong product elsewhere, a wave of sneaker retrospect salted the earth for generations that followed. Nobody else could have a franchise on Mike’s scale, with its mix of talent, innovative marketing and a moneyed time that allowed for expensive output and a demanding audience. You can’t synthesize a moment like that. Not only is Jordan DNA in subsequent shoes, but it’s also embedded in the psyche of multiple generations passing that reverence for Jordan down to sons, grandsons, younger brothers an nephews. That’s a powerful lineage of brand loyalty.

But beyond that, why aren’t people freaking out over the latest basketball releases on a grand scale? The product’s there and Eric Avar and Jason Petrie are putting out work that certainly doesn’t pale alongside Tinker’s best moments. Do people want the “now” or will they hunt it down as a hybrid retro in fifteen years’ time? So why aren’t, say, Kobe and LeBron, creating seismic activity on the same level beyond basketball and inner city audiences when it comes to their footwear?

One theory could be an insatiable thirst for information that tarnishes attempts at mythmaking. All iPhones are on Kobe and LeBron at any given time — mouthing something regrettable becomes something that makes national headlines and it’s there in flash format for repeat viewings, again and again and again. No amount of Sonny Valachi formulated sports marketing can clean that up without a few specks remaining. It limits damage limitation. Google doesn’t forget easily. How would Michael Jordan have fared in the smartphone flashlight? With cameras in every pocket comes great responsibility.

There’s anecdotes and a few headlines, but with the lens readily available in clubs and casinos things could have been different. How many other NBA players with big money shoe contracts would have fizzled out if their behaviour was traced 24-7? It’s tough to place a player on the pedestal and make them seem immortal nowadays. That’s a “what if?” to match the-what-if-Michael-Jordan-signed-to-adidas? query. Would he have had some Forum-alikes that shifted some units because adidas didn’t have Peter Moore (yet) or Bruce Kilgore or Tinker, or would he have shifted the fortunes of adidas’s basketball division? LeBron’s 2010 media circus and oft-parodied aspirations for a league title buffed the shine a little too. With twitter allowing constant contact it’s tougher to remain necessarily aloof. Now, that constant contact and ability to know what to wait for means you’re perennially half-a-year ahead in terms of planning spending. We’ve lost the unexpected sense of shock and awe that opens the wallet.

Less choice in the 1980s than today’s wealth of retro, mashup and contemporary creations allowed the Jordan franchise to build, but there’s something to be said for the Wieden+Kennedy print and TV ads of the time. Now we’re assailed by attempts to monetize the internet, with popups, annoying 30-seconds of videos before videos and desperate attempts to go “viral” whereas a risky but iconic campaign, deliberately paced and the copy-heavy, powerful slogans of the 1980s and early 1990s proved deeply effective. Now the complete campaign seems a little more fragmented and the scope for distraction from the overall message is immense.

Style has changed – the power to say, “fuck you, this is what shoes look like now” has been replaced by an easier mode of consumer research that can be electronically aided. That fuels a certain low-risk style. Jeans were tight when bulky early Jordan shoes dropped and they’re tight again. Do consumers run to the new big shoes? Nope, not when there’s some Jordan Vs readily available. Zack Morris-style denim might be back, but that’s no use to new shoes with show-off features if ‘Saved By The Bell’ era shoes can still be bought.

Take a look at any hip-hop record (remember those big black discs?) sleeve from 1987 to 1993 and Jordan’s present somewhere if there’s a group shot. Even metallers, from the heavier sector like Dave Mustaine, to the weedier hair rockers like Kip Winger were repping the Jumpman. Even God-fearing oldies’ favourite Cliff Richard had been snapped in a pair of IVs. For the most part, the death of the album cover in the MP3 era could have been detrimental to the newer basketball styles.

Who could gawp and aspire any more? When it comes to newer shoes, they’re up against brand Jordan’s seeding savvy — Wale, Khaled, Rick Ross and other Maybach Music affiliates have broken out the ‘Brons as a refreshing alternative, but those Jordans are still the video stars (with flash video being the key visual vessel for hip-hop in 2011). Jay and ‘Ye’s ‘Otis’ is a perfect example. Would a contemporary comedian ever break out Kobes or LeBrons like Jerry Seinfeld in the V, VI and VII or a pre-Simple Larry David behind-the-scenes in VIs? Louis CK in Kobes? Andy Samberg in LeBrons? We haven’t seen that yet.

Each Jordan instalment is about all change. The franchise was powerful enough to allow for risks and as a collaborator Mike was open to madness at a pivotal time for innovations – from innovative colour blocking to Italian-construction during the crack era, visible air and — in latter chapters —interchangable innovations. Those colours, a lack of iD accessibility (you got what you were given) and patterns as integral to the shoes as the technologies were definitive. Now we know there’s more around the corner and sheer wealth of options can water down the offerings and dilute any notion of a definitive shoe.

From the beginning, the Jordan shoes tell a story of sneaker design’s evolution from simplicity to brave, avant-garde silhouettes, regardless of your opinion on the shoes. LeBron’s collection is strong, but there’s certain similarities between key chapters simply because that’s what the athlete favours and needs — Kobe’s adidas to Nike brand switch waters down that shoe legacy (try as you might, that Audi effort makes the Jordan XV look downright sleek by comparison. The stories don’t flow as effortlessly as Jordan’s basic shoe to moonboot narrative. Eric Avar’s work for Kobe for the lower IV and the even lower later instalments is excellent, but Mr. Bryant has an influential formula that works for him and it’s some fine and accessible variations on a theme.

Then there’s good old ability — it’s all in the stats. Numbers don’t lie. 38 points with a stomach bug? 10 NBA scoring titles? Twin that with some of the greatest marketing ever and it’s a hard act to follow. And if those spectacular sneaker design precedents and creation of a retro basketball market weren’t enough to kill your footwear franchise, Mike goes and contributes to the NBA lockout so nobody gets to publicly play in the shoes at all. Now that’s true boss behaviour.


“Oh, it’s just what all that shit represents. The stencil bullshit, the wheat-paste bullshit, the fake skate bullshit. I just can’t believe kids buy into all that. It’s like, “nice Obey hat, bud.” You know?”
Jason Dill, 2011, Vice Interview

In line with Frank Costanza’s Festivus tradition of airing grievances, it’s important to vent to create space for goodwill in time for the Holidays. It’s also the time of the year when everyone’s creating lists of the year’s best lists, so I hopped on the bandwagon as a negativity purge with 10 things I hate at the moment:

1. There’s a Lot of Douchey Bloggers Out There

The GQ ‘Oral History of Menswear Blogging’ was amazing. It read like pitch-perfect satire, with talk of elaborately strapped shoes and a pervading sense of self-congratulatory bro backslapping that was two steps from college dudery (less Take Ivy, more apply Rohypnol), hi fiving over semi-conscious co-ed spitroasts. It was awesome. Menswear blogs might be influential, but there’s still a feeling of an emperor trotting around in Allen Edmonds Double Monkstraps, but sans clothes, resulting in an oral history of something that could’ve just been summarised with, “We got bored of Dunks so we write paragraphs about pants.” Of course, A Continuous Lean is excellent, but from his contributions to the GQ conversation, it’s evident that Michael Williams just started a project based on his personal interests and the rest of the internet took notice. I’m not familiar with many of the other cited sites — maybe it’s an American thing. Recently Scott Schuman made a bit of a cunt out of himself when he wore a fancy scarf and sneered at children who’d built mini fashion empires. An adult mocking a child for their business structure is a bit like swearing at a cat for not knowing how to drive — it’s unnecessary.

My main bugbear is the sheer volume of characters who look like they should be great company are just a walking spending spree with nothing to actually say. I blame the internet. Do people beyond PR folks looking for a quick fix buy into this cliquey bullshit? Judging by the ad spends and traffic, I guess they do. Camo shorts, beards, Dirty Bucks, beards and no fucking depth will get you far in life, but this uniform look masquerading as individuality is a solitary placket detail away from Ed Hardy douchebaggery. There seems to be a lot of mileage in guides on how to wear ties by people who don’t need to wear ties. If you slavishly follow that stuff, then you’re part of the problem. Fuck your blog.

2. You Still Give a Fuck About Blog Mentions?

It’s nice to be recognised, but there’s got to be a bigger aim for your brand, site or “steez” than a mention on a blog that’s got you at page 3 by 6pm. Aim higher. Blogs are hungry for information so they might mention your product — there’s more product out there to counter that increased appetite, so it’s flattering to be featured. Shit, it might even drift through Tumblr for a few weeks too. But you can murmur about longtails all day long, but you’d still probably get more lasting attention if you hired a town crier. Of course, if your product is exciting enough to elicit the holy click through, cool, but if you’ve ever been featured, count those clicks to your page and try to calculate how that can be profitable before you start doing the Carlton on amphetamines dance. There’s at least 20 more things covered extensively that day that will drown out your product and create the equivalent of white noise (beige pixels?) that’s impossible to differentiate between. Step your game up and brands paying for online PR need to be more vigilant of the byproduct of blog mentions. Brands need to be a little more flexible if a leak happens too – that’s better handled if you employ people who know their stuff rather than a legion of jobsworths who are clueless enough to crumble and demand deletions when a smarter solution would suffice.

3. Everyone’s a Social Media Expert and Brand Consultant

I like stuff but it doesn’t make me qualified to consult on things. I drink several glasses of water a day, but I’ll be damned if I understand what water is made up of — I’m guessing it’s atoms or some shit — so why does time spent relentlessly tweeting a prop-hunting list of @ brands or names after everything you do with the same thirst that I approach those pints of H2O make you some kind of social media guru? It makes you look lame. Same goes for hashtag hunger. There’s far more to social media than being a gobshite.

Brands using emoticons, an explosion of exclamation marks and offering incentives (“Help us reach 1000 followers and we’ll suck you off!”) to amass a freeloading army probably isn’t creating the most useful groups of contacts from a commercial perspective. Once you go wack, you never go back. Bringing some person in to tell you that you should do what some other brand did earlier that year is also the fast track to tedium. The internet might seem like the Old West, but that’s no excuse for hiring cowboys. It’s good to hire people who are passionate about the product rather than some dead-eyed buffoon hunting “experience” but sift a little more and you’ll find capable people with an interest too.

4. Do You Still Care About Collaborations?

For some reason, tired, tiered collaboration systems still hold weight. You can collaborate with blogs and they’ll give you more considerable coverage or with a credible brand or store that gives you some cool by proxy, but it’s been the plague of the last decade. Who still pitches in full-scale collaboration projects that water down what adidas did with the early incarnation of Consortium or Nike’s first experiments with AF1 city packs? Some brands still go for it, but it’s more beige pixels on the blogs. Collaboration apathy — collapathy if you’re looking for a twatty buzzword — means the only stuff that grabs attention is the stuff that makes sense and at least feels like a passion product. Forced product with Vimeo videos where every partner looks deeply unenthusiastic are terrible. At their best, collaborations were an interesting way to pay respects, bring in external expertise for fresh perspective or seek outside assistance on what couldn’t be realised internally. At their worst they’re those things you don’t even click “after the jump” for more images.

5. Your Lookbook is Terrible

Skinny dudes with side partings walking around a park in Obey hats, Vans Eras and chinos! Now I hate your store even more. And that Penfield lookbook of the cheery couple? Lame. If you haven’t got an original idea for your showcase of styles, don’t bother. Lay them flat on the ground. Maybe you can put them on a tramp or something if you need a model. Every store seems to hold the same homogenous collection of brands and demand from imagination free dudes who still have the gall to look down on Superdry is at an all time high. Hire a proper photographer while you’re at it, and spare us the behind-the-scenes of the preview of the video of the lookbook too.

Is it a plus point if the people in a lookbook are just dressed like the same old dickheads you’ll see in any chino hotspot? And people still seek stylist credits for that? Amazing. This is what happens when Streetwear Dave consults for a project and brings his fellow Streetwear Daves into the fold. But seeing as taking an Instagram shot, writing a tweet and getting dressed in the morning could be enough for somebody to claim that they’re a multifaceted creative with photography, journalistic and styling experience, nothing should surprise you any more, and at the current rate nothing is liable to ever surprise you again.

6. Why So Serious?

Linking to gripe number one, the solemn faces behind the blogs are extremely amusing. How do people take the topics of shoes, apparel and music so seriously? How do people keep a straight face as they stand in front of stacks of orange boxes despite being of drinking age? I’ll never know. It’s all meant to be fun. It can be profitable and it can build careers, but if you’re being paid to write crap about products at least have fun with it. Engaging in overwritten explorations of how influencing operates? Give it up. Just enjoy the fact that people throw money at people for doing very little compared to anybody that works in the public sector, doing a proper job. In the event of a dirty bomb and the subsequent rebuild of mankind, you’re going to be low down on the pecking order. What we going to do? Painstakingly “blog” a teaser of the crude rebuild of a health centre onto a piece of slate with a rock? Let’s enjoy this nonsense while it lasts.

7. Content, Content, Content

Content is apparently king. It doesn’t matter what content it is. Just as long as there’s content. If you’re skilled at writing crap, then you can declare yourself to be a content creator. At some point in the last couple of years, someone decided that you should bang out as much content as possible. That makes sense — it keeps people coming back, keeps them gawping at the page in an era of low attention, can up your search engine rankings and could get you traffic that you can turn into revenue of some sort. But content for the sake of content is pointless. Why write 100 words when 20 would suffice? Just as we evolve into beings capable of expressing ourselves in 140 characters, we’re cajoled into writing as much as possible. When I started getting paid to write, I’d fill whatever I was writing with pointless asides, cultural references and as much padding as possible in order to keep my job by creating as much text as possible — more words indicated that I knew what I was talking about, but only a handful of sentences were relevant. Now, that might be called content creation, but back then I called it bullshitting. That was the birth of the verbal diarrhea, stream-of-consciousness style you see right here.

Content focus can lead to the dreaded thesaurus blogging, when somebody writing about a baseball cap might drop meta-epistemology into their discussion of snapback knowledge, or start writing in a pseudo-scholarly, ‘Monocle’-lite manner. Good features can go up and be eclipsed almost immediately by another wave of content with the speed that a speed blog is wiped off the screen by the umpteenth piece on Banksy. Your own content can be copy-pasted in its entirety to a new spot without your permission in the quest for content, so nobody ever clicks through to the source, because somebody’s put the link in small letters beneath a couple of images in the unscrupulous manner that blogs seem to feel is appropriate. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the content. Some people still call themselves curators, because once they suggested a shirt, or commentators, because they once said that something wasn’t as good as the last one – but in a cushioned, barely informed manner that would ensure they’d stay on the seeding lists. You aren’t cultural curators. You’re free — or very cheap — publicity that’s easily replaceable. Just blog better.

8. Putting it to the Vote

How do I make this point without looking like a fascist? Sometimes it’s nice to just be told something by an authoritative voice, rather than it becoming some terrible poll or one of those horrible attempts at brand interaction that’s launched because some consultant said that you should engage with the consumer. You say crowd sourcing — I say you’re lazy and out of ideas. It’s great to interact, but there’s a time and a place, and when one of my favourite brands wants to know what I had for breakfast, it’s time to get back to doing your own thing without worrying about my daily routine. Most people are idiots, so asking for their opinion will only steer you down the path of mediocrity. In fact, I blame this daft social media and WordPress democracy for the sheer volume of bland rubbish around these days. Most people will big up whatever their “boy” is working on at the moment, regardless of quality, so their opinion is null.

9. Never, Never People

If you’ve ever emailed anybody asking for advice because you’re “…thinking of starting a blog” then you’re already lost. The tools are out there, yet you’re pondering something you could set up in minutes? What’s that all about? Just go out and do it. Fill it with talk of “fits” and some kind of quest for “fresh.” Call yourself an online lifestyle magazine. Just go and do it. If you feel the urge to amass a team of “content creators” do it, but remember that 70% of them will post two things before giving up, because their real world enthusiasm isn’t matched by their blog work rate. So to speed up the process, just do it yourself. What’s so hard about that? No need to ask advice. Just go and do it.

Emailing people with your entirely reblogged Tumblr as a demonstration of your work ethic isn’t advised though – that’s like rocking up at a job interview with a half-filled scrapbook of other people’s work. And please, please, please don’t be that guy who spends December and early January shouting on twitter about how “2012 IS MINE” and talking nonsense about powermoves in progress before doing absolutely nothing for the next 365 days of the year, or until shouting about your doomed plans on social media season starts again (according to my calendar, doomed plans on social media season runs from late November until the 15th of January the following year).

10. Paper Doesn’t Always Beat Pixels

There’s great magazines and there’s some print projects that should have stayed on-screen. Now it seems that nobody cares for pay walls, the best articles seem to exist on newsagent shelves as well as heavily “Liked” features online. The boundaries are a little more blurred, but those features come with certain expectations with regards to research and quality of writing. For the most part, without amazing designers, writers and a fresh perspective, we don’t need blog-style content that’s redundant before it ever went to press, if we can glimpse it as rolling news online with exactly the same level of journalistic skill.

Curiously, brands still place great emphasis on expensive advertorials in print that are so stylised and riddled with low key, barely branded gear that no message is ever conveyed. Hong Kong and Japan’s print press seems a little more relevant and capable of breaking items before the blogs get there. Now iPad magazines are a buzzword around tables where depressingly big budgets are the norm — for anybody working on these, it’s often fruitless, because iPads still aren’t commonplace in the real world and nobody reads magazines on them, because they’d rather be playing Fruit Ninja. Still, a good time to be an iPad app developer, because where there’s no clue, there’s a lot of cash for the taking.


In a realm where so many magazines have said no más due to lagging ad opportunities and a focus on digital above pulped trees, there’s still some contenders like ‘Victory Journal’ making the most of sprawling pages and the scope to enlighten in a tactile, visually pleasing way that the web can’t match. Theoretically, with its ability to stream, cater to a statistical addiction, constantly update and get a jab in long before print can retaliate, the internet should have the extra reach to make any showdown a mismatch, but they’re too very different beasts. A legacy of great photojournalism, impassioned essays and sprawling profiles of the characters who dedicate their lives to sporting disciplines — from the frequently forgotten characters (especially during the recent NBA deadlock) who make a living serving snacks, attending the car park and cleaning up long after the cheers and traded blows have finished, to the professional athletes — has made for compelling reading and viewing time and time again.

As well as the spectacle of the events and the jot of participation in the crowd and on the field, ‘Sports Illustrated’ and the defunct ‘Sport’ fueled the No Mas team, inspiring a wave of gear rooted in absolute obsession that span off into media content, fighter sponsorship and an agency (Doubleday & Cartwright). As a showcase of their abilities and as another love letter to sports, their ‘Victory Journal’ is a necessary read. I don’t care much for any sport that’s not broken into three or five-minute rounds, but I love sports journalism from the likes of Gay Talese and some more prominent macho intellectuals’ talk of boxing meets a its match next to Dick Schaap’s work or Mark Kram’s incendiary paragraphs (this moderated chat on the topic is tremendous). With an emphasis on design as well as copy (their typeface game is extensive), the ‘Victory Journal’ team evade the obvious with the cover shot — some nautical jousters engaging in an activity that I never knew existed, continuing a bold move that treasures visual clout over familiarity, moving from Brazilian football to this lesser-known pastime by way of Jimmy Snuka.

Issue Three, with its “For Love or money” motto, is the perfect home for Cheryl Dunn‘s 1980s’ boxing photography and frequent No Mas collaborator Mickey Dusyj’s 1986 Mets portraits. Dunn recently got $45,000 funding via Kickstarter to finish her ‘Everybody Street’ documentary on NYC street photography and these portraits of a golden age are a testament to her versatility and knack for access. Just as and provide compelling stories online and ESPN’s ’40 For 40′ series had a strong hit rate, ‘Victory Journal’ taps into the part of sports culture that even the kids who spent two lessons a week with great Nikes on their feet but their hands in their pocket can be caught up in the sheer passion and aptitude for oddball behaviour that professional sports (and let’s not forget the luminaries of sports entertainment either) attracts. Go visit to grab a copy.

I’ve talked No Mas on here before and I’m keen not to repeat myself in my unbridled enthusiasm. There’s some repro brands remaking old Ali shirts for lithe hipsters to wear as well as other notable tee designs, but No Mas is different — it’s not jocked and juiced up, tearing doors from hinges on a testosterone-addled rampage, but it is wild-eyed with obsession and laden with nostalgia. After Staple put out the Ali sweat in the early ’00s, No Mas takes that baton and just fucking runs with it. Actually, given the breadth of their output, maybe they need testing — this is sporting fandom on steroids. Current highlights included a foray into MMA with a licensed UFC 1 ‘The Beginning’ shirt taking it back to November ’93 and a celebration of the defunct but unsurpassed PRIDE Fighting Championships, motivational speaker and Arguello defeater Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor’s “Hawk Time” shirt. The Leon Spinks replica harks back to Leon’s choice of self-promoting attire around the time of the second Ali bout and the ‘Sport’ magazine masthead shirt pays tribute to another lost empire. There’s even an officially licensed Gleason’s Gym shirt.

It comes down to this — the tees and sweats I covet are rooted in sports performance. You can loopwheel it or you can cover it in disruptive patterning, but at the core, it’s about athleticism. No Mas make no attempt to cover up those origins and take it back to the essence. That, in itself, is infectious.

Speaking of Grantland, McSweeney have compiled articles from that site with a basketball texture cover. But beyond sports, their food publication in association with Momofuku’s David Chang , ‘Lucky Peach’ is on its second issue. This looks like a publication to match ‘Swallow’ in terms of content and design. I don’t know what I was smoking over the summer to miss the first issue — a ramen special — but it won’t happen again. An adhesive tribute to fruit stickers? I’m all over that.

On a sporting style note, Edwin Moses doesn’t get his dues for looking slick on the move with that (post-Diadora?) sunglasses and beard steez that made him look like Rick Ross if he kicked the breakfast bisque habit and got athletic. People criticised Ed for looking distance in the shades, but he had eyes susceptible to glare (and I’m not talking about the glares of haters). I’m not sure the beads were for medical benefit, but the overall look is serious.

If Steve Jobs and Kyle from Tenacious D didn’t sell the New Balance 993 to you, it’s also Louis CK’s shoe of choice too. Louis’s Rolex, loose denim, black tee and black 993 combo is no joke. Larry’s love of Simple might be infectious, but the 993 is officially the shoe of geniuses. Louis rocks it during his $5 comedy special (well worth your money — the weed routine, parental revenge and soldiers on planes bits are worth, like, $1.6666667 each alone). Its been a good year for New Balance, and this is a happy finish (insert jizzy punchline here).

Team Gourmet know a lot about shoes. Jon and the Gregs are passionate about footwear – not in that dry skinny chino pinroll, Fuzzyfelt AM1 and Obey five-panel hat way…that by numbers shoe dude stuff is horrible. The minds behind Gourmet know shitloads about every brand and reference all kinds of footwear. Except a lot of people don’t notice that, because they’re too hype on a retro shoe that looks like it came from one of those sites where everything’s $80. I like shoes with a story. Not a story in some superfluous PR muppet kind of way or basing it on a type of fish, but in the naming and execution. You should like a shoe on face value first and the covered, zip up style of the Dignan is appealing. There’s a spot of Moc in there and the brand’s usual high-end cues, but the real inspiration is ‘The Departed.’ Specifically the end scene where Mark Wahlberg’s foul-mouthed Sgt. Dignam shoots rat cop Colin Sullivan in the face with hospital shoe covers to cover his tracks. Gourmet have always maintained a healthy preoccupation with a shady living blend of tracksuit, fancy footwear and pinky rings, but this clinical tracksuited outfit ups the ante of anti-hero outfits. Cross trainers, renegade cops doing the right thing and technical fabrics in one shoe? Salutes to the crew.

If you haven’t bought a copy of ‘The End’ compilation, and you’ve got an interest in the roots of Britain’s adi fandom, you’re slipping. The adidas sponsorship of the book is perfectly pitched and isn’t gratuitous like, say, UK rappers looking glum in PUMA, Salutes to Sabotage Times for putting it together too (it’s available from Selectadisc, Oi Polloi, Garbstore and HMV now too). The adidas ads in there include a great Forest Hills one, but the ad inside for a special made-in-Germany Munchen for February 2012 is the most interesting element, harking back to early ’00s issues of ‘The Face.’ One of adidas’s finest late ’70s moments (and way, way, way better in PU sole form as Munchen or Suisse than the skinnier ’72 version too) is coming back in homegrown form, and even the box looks on point. The casual connection can be horribly mishandled, but adidas and ‘The End’ are great partners.

Shouts to Gabriel and the Origin London team on this i-D feature too — young London talent on the rise, offering something that isn’t steeped in wearying self reference. 17 years old and already running a brand? Salutes.


This blog post is brought to you by BlackBerry and Orange’s failings in giving me a device on insurance that blocked me out of the blog entry I’d written for today. That meant a hasty rewrite on a completely different topic.

I’m excited about the impending rerelease of Akinyele’s ‘Vagina Diner.’ I’ve decried our preoccupation with the old on here before, but one album deserving of a second time in the spotlight is Akinyele’s 1993’s smartly crafted punchline sleaze opus, ‘Vagina Diner’ — I maintain that Spice 1, Too Short and any number of Rap-A-Lot artists (the Complex interview with J Prince the other week was excellent) had the albums I can replay now, and most of the others we get dewy eyed about from the east coast seemed to have excellent singles but many of the ensuing albums are just boasts, horns and bass that outstays its welcome after twenty minutes. Salutes to De La, Jungle Brothers and Tribe for understanding the art of LP structure back then, even if ‘J Beez…’ got fucking slaughtered.

Akinyele’s effort was something different though. Getting Large Professor to produce the whole thing — a privilege of being signed to Atlantic/Interscope — made the whole thing cohesive and a precursor to those one producer and one MC albums that are frequently promised but rarely executed properly. ‘Vagina Diner’s awesome titled could have been justified with some talk of the man being a cunning linguist, but that amazing Ralph Bakshi/REAS/John Kricfalusi-esque cover art indicates that it’s just an album about fucking and some ignorant stuff.

‘Vagina Diner’s playing time doesn’t allow for Akinyele’s hiccup style to drive the listener insane and Extra P goes in. ‘The Bomb’s Carhartt hooded, roomy denim anthemic quality, a couple of twenty-second interludes that could have been stretched to full-length, the smoothed-out keys at ‘Bags Packed’s outro all made this a necessary album. Nobody’s boy hopped on to ruin tracks, and any attempts to get soulful were scuppered with some brutal talk. And that’s where it all went wrong. Ak’s line on ‘I Luh Hur’ about a hypothetical pregnant belly kicking and punching (“I’m fed up, and sorry that I’ve done it /I’m ready to set her up and have my little man kick her in the stomach”) seemed to be taken a little out of proportion — it was an unnecessary and idiotic moment, but Ice Cube touched on a similarly unpleasant matter (“Then I thought deep about giving up the money/What I need to do is kick the bitch in the tummy” from ‘You Can’t Fade Me’) and it seemed to get lost in the midst of other allegations of troublemaking against him. Ghetto Gold Matt reminded me of the December 1993 editorial in ‘The Source’ from Kierna Mayo decrying the lyrics and Akinyele’s letter of response in the February 1994 issue.

Cube was more profitable for his label, but with a lack of commercial success, Atlantic dropping Akinyele seemed like a cost-effective move. For some reason, summer 1993 was a bad time to be dropping an album and getting heard — bald headed rappers with raspy voices, Parliament samples and weed talk took precedence, and while ‘Vagina Diner’ got good reviews, it just got lost in comparison with an equally nihilistic and perfectly produced set like the ‘Intoxicated Demons ‘EP. Perhaps Interscope could have promoted it a little more. Ah, the hard life of the punchline rapper. If Interscope had let ‘Break a Bitch Neck’ (Kierna would have been triply furious about that one and it really undermines the point he makes in his letter too) go on that album as planned, that shit would have gone platinum. RA The Rugged Man’s ‘Cunt Renaissance’ line “Pregnant bitch — you get kicked in the belly/So fuck all them hookers who had beef with Akinyele” references the outcry and subsequent dropping of Ak (his boy  hence the indy release, ‘What The Fuck?’) in Crustified Dibbs’s typically sensitive manner.

Unsurprisingly, RA got dropped by Jive, but surprisingly, Jive picked up Ak later that decade, who’d reinvented himself as a porno rapper with the success of ’96’s ‘Put It In your Mouth’ — taking the sexuality of ‘Vagina Diner’ and making it a little more British postcard lewd rather than the Ike Turner backhand steez of his earlier works. A year earlier, ’95’s ‘Loud Hangover’ appearance with Sadat X had me wanting him to join the Loud roster. After that, Akinyele descended into the nowhere zone of Koch’s terrible early ’00s long players (see also, calamities like KRS One’s ‘Spiritual Minded’ album, Grand Puba’s terrible third LP and Onyx’s ‘Bacdafucup’ sequel). 2004’s ‘Live at the Barbecue: Unreleased Hits’ compilation had a few tracks that seemed to be from a 1994 project that never materialized at the time.

Just as ‘Put It In Your Mouth’ introduced a whole new audience to Ak’s work, the ‘Vagina Diner’ album seemed to vanish from the CD and record racks circa ’96. Other albums have had re-release after re-release, plus tours covering the entire tracklist, yet ‘Vagina Diner’ remains elusive, bar a vinyl bootleg or two. Recently, a promo edition of the LP sold on eBay, with lettering apparently from Ak himself. Compared to the real promo edition, it looked more like a bootleg — maybe Ak took matters into his own hands? But now you don’t need to shell out mad money for the dull single vinyl edition or crazed dough for a second-hand CD on Amazon, because according to their twitter feed Get On Down records, responsible for the recent ODB ‘Return to the 36 Chambers’ reissue, are putting out a remastered Digipak edition of ‘Vagina Diner’ in 2012. Hopefully it’ll restore some lost tracks, make up for years of compressed Mediafire piracy sound and blow up the album artwork to poster size.

Front and back and even on the CD’s diner sign look, the album’s dripping art direction was on point, but unlikely to find friends among the feminist fraternity. I refuse to be that guy on every stack of YouTube comments claiming, “Now that’s hip-hop — not like Drake or Lil Wayne” like a dad blasting Fleetwood Mac on the school run, but there’s a lot of merit in this album. A lot of lost albums need never return, but this is different. A rerelease is unlikely to bring the album a vast new audience (buying a CD or vinyl is considered quaint), but for those of us who care, ‘Vagina Diner’ 2012 is a big, big deal and hopefully that enthusiasm might prove infectious.

For your patience in reading these recollections, and while we’re stuck in 1993, here’s some highlights from the April ’93 ‘The Source’ Style Preview. Zhigge kitted in Armani Exchange, plus PNB, Pervert, Fuct, Not From Concentrate, Conart (the brand with Slash’s younger brother on board in its early days) and many more in the hat and tee collection, plus the Max ’93, Air Traverse, Jordan VIII, Rod Laver, Vans Chukka, Torsion Alegra and Equipment Support on a packed pair of shoe pages, that even the presence of flop post-Ewing shoe brand Aerial Assault can’t sully. Eighteen years later we still seem to be tethered to the aesthetics of the designs on display.


I just finished reading Glenn ‘O Brien’s ‘How to Be a Man.’ A book with a name like that should infuriate me, but it’s all far lighter and more of a general philosophy  than the instructional title indicates. Any arbiter of style offering themselves up as a counsel of cool dressing is usually a sureshot source of bellendery — just think about that wave of websites post ‘Street Etiquette’ or ‘Style Salvage’ run by sartorial tipsters who were in print tees the week before, offering a lightweight imitation of both cited sites’ success by telling you how to wear a suit. Half those dudes do smart very, very badly, and while it’s easy to slum it and look like some kind of secret millionaire, your attempts to do dandyism will inadvertently reveal your bank balance. ‘O Brien however is just very, very well dressed and — looking at old ‘TV Party’ episodes — always has been sharp.

‘TV Party’ is — quite rightly — held up as a pivotal moment in youth TV. Wherever I go, talk of web TV seems to lead to talk of O’ Brien and Chris Stein’s organised chaos. That public access lawlessness offered a fuzzy, wobbly insight into an aspirational world, but it was also pioneering in broadcasting the cool guy (and girl) existence of a cartel aloof characters enjoying varying amounts of fame, but a constant credibility. The angry callers, the weed smoke in the studio, SAMO and Fab 5 Freddy scuffling, live performances that ranged from classic performances to artful tap drip repetition, plus some stoned attempts at situationism might not have been seen by many beyond the transmission range, but as its legend spread by VHS, DVD and flash video, ‘TV Party’ became the thing that many still want to be. Alas, deliberate attempts at that lo-fi feel, plus a lack of O’ Brien style central figure just feels regressive. You can’t recreate a happy accident without looking awkward — like one of those crooked guys who walks in front of cars to get insurance loot.

I always imagined that working life at the Factory would be awesome like ‘TV Party,’ until I read Bob Colacello’s ‘Holy Terror’ and realised that working for Warhol probably wasn’t as much of a laugh as I’d been led to believe.

‘TV Party’s legacy now sits in the web video that’s at your control. Boiler Room’s london broadcasts represent a good use of that televisual democracy. Intolerable hours of USTREAM with some self-centred individual looking bemused and saying “Can you hear me?” to a discordant feedback blast or YouTube videos of guys in their bedrooms talking about the colours of their latest footwear “pickup” are a DIY television evolution that sacrifices the party spirit for solitude. Not everybody gets an invite you see, as those constant queries O’ Brien fielded about getting into the Mudd Club proved. All they could do is wish. Today’s breed of amateur broadcasters prefer to treat their audience as part of the proceedings. Are the new breed of web celebs and “influencers” creating that same sense of envy as Glenn created between 1978 and 1982? I have no idea. The insistence on inciting those viewing to become participants too opened up the velvet rope to anybody who wants to join in.

‘TV Party’s demise coincides with the dawn of ‘The Tube’ on British TV in 1982 which led to a post-acid series of ‘yoof’ classics like Def II’s ‘Dance Energy’ that ran from 1990 to 1993, going from cathode ray party to a strange broad daylight club setting, and a place well worth breaking the Huaraches out for, plus Channel 4’s ‘The Word’ which ran from 1990 to 1995, bringing back that shambolic feel and occasional dazed expressions. Alas, after ‘Passengers’ on Channel 4, compiled some frequently smart documentaries for low attention spans, British youth TV seemed to fizzle in an alcopop addled laddishness and ladette-centric realm of shows that made ‘The Word’ look rather considered by comparison. Reality TV could also be seen as a byproduct of public access egocentricity. Latterly, ‘No Hats, No Trainers’ brought Alchemist and Just Blaze to a weekend afternoon with greater success than Channel 4’s abysmal ‘Whatever’ a few years earlier.

Salutes to MVD for uploading ‘TV Party: the Documentary’, the debut episode of ‘TV Party’ from December 18th, 1978, the Halloween 1979 episode and the ‘Sublimely Intolerable Show’ episode with a technically hindered opening. Watch, be inspired by the attitude (some of it is genuinely intolerable) and endeavour to create something completely different.

This part of a 1992 ‘Dance Energy’ special is a YouTube bonus. Six minutes in, there’s some rare footage of the 1992 ‘1st Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’, as covered in ‘The Source.’ You can see Willie D take down Melle Mel, Freddie Foxxx beat down a shook-looking Spook from True Colors (I checked Discogs and they had an album, but I never heard it. Maybe this was an ill-fated attempt at publicity). What I never knew was that Poet of PHD aka. Blaq Poet fought at the event against some bloke called Big B and won. Unkut had the magazine scan up a few years back, but this footage is gold. There’s a lot of tough talk these days, but if the ‘2nd Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’ took place as a 20th anniversary sequel, I guarantee the majority would pussy out like Tim Dog did or have their weed carrier let off shots for Worldstar to transmit to the ignorance-hungry masses. Simon Woodstock beating Sticky Fingaz was another great moment in hip-hop boxing too.

While I could never pull it off ever, I’m still preoccupied with Phenomenon’s collaboration with luxury good overlords MCM, resulting in these tiger camo garments that have a Dapper Dan does special forces steez about them. Biker jackets, army vests, half trench coats and some strange skinny pants are the second coming of all-over print for the monied and flamboyant. Who wrangled this collaboration? I respect the lunacy of it all. It’s anti-utiliarian, anti-surplus weird that treats those military markings like a monogram. They’re at the Contemporary Fix store now.

Who listens to music journalists any more? Nobody. But there’s always room for good writing on the topic and ‘SUP’ always delivers. In a world where everyone’s gone design-free, Wood Wood are some of the few who bring it on the imagery, innovation and typography. They’re a brilliant bunch of Danish stereotypes in that regard. The ‘SUP’ and Wood Wood t-shirt collection takes some of the best images made for the magazine and commits them to cotton. Jason Nocito and Bea Fremdermann’s work is great, but the Milan Zrnic ‘King of Pop’ image is the best of the bunch.