There’s a lot of content out there right now that isn’t just garbage reactionary editorials, brand money blown for the sake of it (does anyones actually buy anything because of a group of hastily gathered young “cultural disruptors” leaning against stuff shot in a sub-Tillmans style?) or Google sating SEO padding to get that ranking. I’ve been enjoying episodes of Red Bull TV’s Social Fabric, the micro histories of key garments presented by Brain Dead’s Kyle Ng. Kyle is a charismatic frontman, and the decision to split the 25 minute episodes into roughly three perspectives means it highlights some global scenes, smaller brands and crafts without being bogged down by a need to be encyclopaedic. The camo and plaid ones are particularly interesting. Whatever your opinion of its CEO and his questionable politics (like Vice, it’s a shame knowing that even the most left-wing messaging bankrolls bad-minded billionaires somewhere down the line), RBMA and Red Bull TV seem to be the content kings on niche topics — I knew that this would be decent, but I wasn’t expecting almost 5 hours of footage on tap for series one.
Seeing as the Skepta Sk AIR logo was all over IG during the last few weeks, we should probably pay respects to the man behind the original graphic language for Nike’s AIR family (Tuned, Total, Zoom, Max and Low) in 1998. The creator of the original Tn logo (as well as the Griffey Swingman) is Derek Welch, and the story of his career, illness and recovery is both sobering and life-affirming — the Adventures in Design podcast spoke to him at length for an April episode and I can’t recommend it enough.
British hip-hop journo Andrew Emery of Fat Lace, HHC and plenty of other periodicals had a stab at rapping in his younger days alongside Mr. Dan Greenpeace and friends. He just put out a memoir of his time growing up as a rap fanatic just outside of Nottingham and in Leeds — an experience shared by legions of earnest young pre-Internet folks getting it wrong through their attempts to be down when retail resources and posses are somewhat limited. What a glorious struggle it was to emulate Compton, Philly and Brooklyn using local amenities. Wiggaz With Attitude: My Life as a Failed White Rapper is out now and available here. I’m interesting to see Emery and Greenpeace’s The Book of Hip-Hop Memorabilia if it ever happens. Incidentally, this is liable to be the only autobiography ever include a paragraph on the Hi-Tec Tec basketball shoe.
There are a handful of good books on street, skate or surfwear out there and I gave up on waiting for a Rizzoli Stüssy retrospective a while back. But that brand archive book via Japan was simple, comprehensive and very effective and on Friday, IDEA drop An IDEA Book on T-Shirts by Stüssy in DSM stores (plus some very nice t-shirt collaborations). It’s 240 pages and I think it retails at 45 quid (which isn’t cheap but with 2,000 copies made, when it’s gone it’s probably not going to appear on Amazon Marketplace for 37p plus 2.75 postage and packing). By all accounts, it’s good and it opens with an essay on graphic tees written by me (I’d be plugging it on here regardless). This i-D interview with Ryan Willms and Alastair McKimm sheds some more light on the project.
One collaboration I’ve not mentioned here before in all the proto industry model talk is 1990’s Stüssy i-D magazine tees. Created to commemorate the magazine’s tenth birthday alongside pieces from the likes of Simon Foxton, the shirts were sold for 15 quid via mail order. The Stüssy design was pitched to readers as a Shawn Stussy for i-D project rather than a straight-up brand collaboration and offered in white or grey. Given that the brand would take a slightly different, pared-down look, release some tribe-centric videos and host an event in Tokyo (that’s still considered a pivotal moment) the following year, it was inevitable that this project would make a splash far beyond London.
It wasn’t just the pioneering streetwear line that had a significant 1991 making grander Japanese inroads — i-D’s first Japanese incarnation was launched in September that year, lasting 16 issues. As a result, I’ve seen different versions of the shirt, which originally read “Enjoy yourself stupid amounts” on the front in that familiar hand style and included a dense list of predominantly female names on the back that includes the Queen, Sade, Lisa Stansfield, Sarah Stockbridge, Grace Jones and Wendy James. Continue reading EARLY COLLABORATION
My friends at Being Hunted (whose original site is the reason this blog exists) let me edit a little book for GORE-TEX that’s the result of some conversations with Virgil Abloh, Errolson Hugh, Andrew Bunney, Erman at adidas and some other good folks. Six Stories of GORE-TEX Products Vol. 2 is the follow-up to the GORE-TEX Japan book from a couple of years back. I’m assuming that it’s just a promo ting for partners and staffers, so I have no idea where you can get it from, but there’s more images over at Hypebeast. As a longtime fan of the brand, this was another wish list entry ticked off.
Graffiti backdrops and rap have been coopted by the worst kind of hip-hop conservative — and let’s not get into the live painting festival side of things — but it’s something that’s still interesting when it reaches into other scenes. With a few exceptions, the more rap-centric side of New York hardcore does nothing for me, full of tattooed dudes that would absolutely batter me, stomach rockers and pitbull shots in the videos, plus those clumsy ’92 flows. But there’s a thin wallet chain line between good and terrible when it comes to rock and rap anyway The graffiti and NYHC connection however, is fascinating, from pieces on trains to those hand styles and hooded characters on tape covers. Lately, there have been some strong examinations of the hardcore scene’s aesthetics (this Anthony Pappalardo Youth Crew article on The Hundreds’ site from a couple of weeks back is superb). And last month’s premiere of The New York Hardcore Chronicles, which includes an entire section on hardcore and graffiti with folks like SkamDust, KR. ONE, was tied with a Doc Martens’ project where musician writers reworked the boot that claimed so many teeth on the scene. Building on this classic 2014 feature by veteran Freddy Alva (that SANE Burn piece = mind blown), there’s an entire book on the topic, Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, arriving via DiWulf Publishing at the end of October, that’s at the pre-order stage right now. Freddy spoke to graf/HC pioneers like Mackie, Chaka Malik and Sacha Jenkins (who I’ve long assumed was the reason hardcore featured in Ego Trip every issue). Just as Seen and friends preferred to paint to Sabbath, and a combination of Grand Funk Railroad and psychedelics probably helped evolved style as much as an 808 drum and THC ever did, while hip-hop was integral to altering hardcore attire from cut-offs and DM’s to Champion and Air Revolutions, the assumption that the soundtrack had to fall in line with the parameters of “four elements” to be considered real would be creating a deeply distracted version of history.
A while back I schemed to put something together regarding the relationship between hardcore and athletic shoes, but the task seemed colossal when it came to research and, crucially, I’m not qualified to write it. The connection between hip-hop and shoes has been mined to mediocrity in pursuit of content and, like some cultural fossil fuel, all that seems to be left — bar those untold stories and archives from those who were there — is fumes. In a cynical world, the do it yourself, self-powered earnestness of it all seems like the antithesis of a marketing grand plan. This ad from a 1986 Maximumrocknroll is just one of thousands of moments — the southern Californian band Half Off (rest in peace to Jim Burke) had a cult following and they briefly had a ‘zine-powered war of words with Youth Crew folks as mentioned in this Noisey Billy Rubin interview from a couple of years ago. The hand-drawn Vandal style Nike with the Terminator/Big Nike style lettering is a nice touch and on that topic hardcore connoisseur William Cathalina has put together a sneaker-centric ‘zine called Shoegazer, with issue #2 dedicated to shoes and the scene. The first run of 25 is long gone, but it’s worth giving him a shout via Instagram to see about a second run.
To read old issues of The Source is to be assailed by experiments in big brands targeting an inner-city audience, amazing album promo copywriting, earnest editorials and none-more-1990s moments, but crucially the magazine had an opinion that it was happy to put to work and some of the writing is fantastic. Catching early 1990s for 1.95 in places where the Comag distribution felt the magazine belonged was integral to making me want to write. The sportswear elements of the magazine were an education in themselves, despite clearly being ad-money driven rather than personal picks. A 1992 Rap City segment caught the publication’s staff at the Manhattan offices far ahead of the infamous late 1994 rebellion over those high-mic ratings for The Almighty RSO. Senior editor Chris Wilder sees white folks taking black culture like they did rock and roll — what would follow a couple of decades down the line makes his statements extra prophetical. While it only includes brief footage of the editorial process at work, it’s still a nice little time capsule of a time when a high rating could actually sell units and a rapper shifting around 80k considered a colossal flop. Big up Hias74 for uploading this as well as plenty of other Canadian TV rap-centric gems.
Additionally, that Shawn Stussy Beats 1 show with Mike D is a good primer on the sonic influences behind that pioneering street and surfwear and this uncut SHOWstudio chat with photographer Mark Lebon is some strong background on that original Buffalo era of fashion and streetwear’s union too.