I’ve long been a fan of Ewen Spencer’s work — he’s responsible for documenting plenty of subcultures that few others sought to shoot, possibly because they felt they had little worth. Guess what? Now everybody’s nostalgic for Moschino and Classics right now and Mr. Spencer is sitting on a goldmine. If you read about late 1990s and early 2000s British club culture in The Face, you probably bore witness to what he captured and he’s still out there trying to find the enclaves and little scenes around Europe because, while he doesn’t necessarily like the music, he’s drawn to the energy.
From the overpriced champagne dance days to the scowls, spliffs and clashes to kinds far, far away blasting Flo Rida from crappy phone speakers, you don’t need any audio to visualize the soundtrack to the pictures he’s gathered over the years. As part of some recent self-funded jaunts, Ewen visited Naples and documented a group of teens out there. There’s plenty of alpha activity and apparel that’s of a distinctly Euro look, but there’s some familiarity in there too, but there’s no Camorra recruits holding up knives for the camera — it’s all posing and trying hard to look like you don’t give a shit (being a teenager, basically), with some candid moments in there too.
Ewen asked me to contribute a few paragraphs to the publication that contains the fruits of his Naples trip — Guapa-mente Issue 01. This is just the start of a series of explorations of European youth style and behavior — the parallels and the curious contrasts. With this being a snapshot of mid-summer 2013, if you want to look back a little further (and get a prequel to Open Mic), Ewen’s also finished putting together a book of UK garage imagery which has changed its name from Brandy & Coke to simply UKG, which ran parallel to the sweater, less clobber fixated late 1990s happy hardcore nights that Ewen also visited, resulting in the imagery that accompanies this excellent VICE piece. UKG is going to be an essential acquisition for anyone in the UK who heard those basslines from tackily decorated motors pre and post millennium or made the pilgrimage to the Empire or Colosseum.
With people getting nostalgic for old raving and the boom in bomber jacket popularity, is someone going to retro Dreamscape and Roast merchandise like the MA-1s? Will eight-packs of cassettes be dropping for record store day?
While we’re talking apparel and dance graphics, I don’t think Anarchic Adjustment gets it dues as a seminal British skate brand (even though its popularity seemed to stem from a move to America). A lot of the designs might look naive now, but manga, subverted taglines (Just Do It re appropriated for pill popping) and Miles Davis’ face on tee all had me fiending for the (former RAD art director) Nick Philip and Alisdair Mackenzie’s vision as a youngster (I think Alisdair and Nick split up as business partners early on, leaving Nick to run the brand). A cult brand in Tokyo (an example of Hiroshi Fujiwara’s clout, with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito pushing it too), Anarchic Adjustment is the tie that binds Hiroshi, Spike Jonze and Wired magazine in its earliest incarnation. There’s something in their whole “digital workwear” vision, even if time hasn’t been kind to the graphics. These guys were collaborating with some big names long before the rest were. This 1991 showreel is on YouTube looking 22 years old, but bringing back some memories of RAD ads and aspiration for cotton goods.