THE OTHER RALPH

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The closest I could come to anything relevant to this time of the year is these Ralph Steadman illustrations for Nike from 1982, 1984 and 1991. One features a rabbit (actually, maybe it’s a hare, but that’s still relevant to March), so it felt right. Was Nike UK’s decision to use his art to promote their involvement in the London Marathon back in the early 1980s one of the earliest uses of an artist like that on a campaign? I always thought that the 1991 Nike 180 commercials with Industrial Light & Magic, Guido Manuli, David Cronenberg, Caleb Deschanel and other equally offbeat partner picks, plus Ralph on the print ads (as well as French satirist and cartoonist André François, plus graphic design dons like Alfons Holtgreve, Charles S. Anderson and Takenobu Igarashi) were the first time Nike had gone wild with it like that, but it transpires that British running magazines were riddled with unorthodox ads that fitted the irreverent tone of the time for the brand.

The man responsible for Gonzo’s aesthetic evidently liked drawing Nikes a great deal, because, while I’d like to put my frequent Nike fixation down to hip-hop or sports, it’s actually down to the aura of the swoosh back when I was becoming aware of what was on my feet and the shoes on the cover of Ralph Steadman’s 1986 children’s book, That’s My Dad, which I spotted in the school library and lost my mind over. Back when trainers were misrepresented in comics and books, Ralph went in — there were closer looks at dad’s shoes inside as well. Presumably, the recent Nike commissions meant the artist/writer felt comfortable drawing their shoes when the time came to draw trainers. I think this book (which was aimed at an audience half my age back when I first spotted it) might be one of the key reasons I talk about nonsense like this now — 27 years later.

Steadman’s ability to wallow in the mainstream as well as the murkier subcultural waters during his career is always something worth celebrating, but his contribution to fueling my sports footwear preoccupation is something I hadn’t thought about properly until a recent flashback. I mean, Quentin Blake was another personal favourite of the time, but he wasn’t arming his paternal depictions with strong shoes like Ralph was.

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Cheers to Exposure, Protein and Nike for letting me write a foreword for the Air Max Reinvented publication to coincide with the weekend’s exhibition of Max reinterpretations. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Dave Swindells triptych of a tripping man in Infrared Air Max 90s who’s on one at RAGE at Heaven in its proto-jungle 1990 heyday. Here’s two of the three shots they selected. That’s a strong tracksuit going on there in the background. Dave’s website has a great selection of his work, which is as essential as a document of British style as it is as history of club culture. I think this shot from Soul II Soul at Brixton’s Fridge in 1989, with Air Max Lights, Torsions and Coca-Cola clothing is equally tough too. This is the part of Nike Air Max history that hasn’t been fully explored for the current campaign. Maybe it will be in months to come.

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Taken from Dave Swindells’ site.

Reading Nicky Haslam’s Redeeming Features, which namedrops like nothing I’ve ever read before, I noticed that, in his digression regarding the Countess of Kenmare, he trumps the niche nature of the Hermès apple holder, with talk of the Countess’ bespoke Louis Vuitton creations: “…giraffe-shaped cases in which to transport her baby giraffes, regardless of quarantine, to London for her seasonal sojourn at Claridge’s.” Please bear that one on mind next time you feel the urge to write #swag after a picture of your Goyard card holder.

All praises to Tokyo’s Oshman’s store for their work with Champion. It’s undisputedly odd to find yourself begging friends who are Japan-bound to pick up some replicas of American college team tees for you while you’re there, but the new collection of the almost sweatshirt weight thick cotton of the American-made T1011 tee with the binding process that makes it less prone to stretch (though, as a word of warning, they fit pretty boxy) with an official UCLA print, plus AFA and United States Naval Academy editions look great. They’re exclusive to Oshman’s by the look of things and there’s no bad egg in the whole bunch. Converting to around £33, they seem affordable, until you consider the £20+ shipping, £20 import tax and Parcelforce’s £10+ processing fee — the murderers of many a bargain. These arrive at Oshman’s in April and if anyone’s heading there and back with suitcase space, all assistance is appreciated. Theoretically, at this time of year, heavyweight fabrics shouldn’t be too much of a consideration, but because spring has forsaken us, I’m taking no precautions.

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