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.
Right now, the online incarnation of every men’s fashion magazine is putting up some generic streetwear list to get that traffic. Where you might once have memorised that moment Stüssy got a Sunday supplement mention or Supreme got the Vogue treatment early, it’s pretty much everywhere. Unless New York Times affiliated, not much of it seems to tell you much at all (salutes to the folks at Supreme and Palace who generally seem to leave bad rag journos hanging for soundbites, meaning it has to be some friend-of-a-Facebook-friend-of-a-friend who has to contribute some loose insight). Back when Loaded seemed revolutionary, it ran a 1994 four-pager that left an impression on me, talking streetwear with dons like Shawn Stussy, Rick Klotz, Erik Brunetti and Eli Bonerz, that starts with talk of the mystery Beastie Boys Slam City show and incorporates Curtis McCann and James Lavelle as models. Plaid shirts and chinos aplenty.
It goes without saying that a book compilation of the best of/every issue of On The Go is very needed. We’ll just have to keep wishing in the meantime though. Steven “ESPO” Powers and Ari Saal Forman’s graffiti/hip-hop/lifestyle magazine went from ‘zine to glossy between 1989 and 1997 — a Tower Records necessity alongside Ego Trip and Stress in its heyday — before vanishing from shelves and is always in need of a good retrospective. Like any good graffiti publication, they put out some videos too — 1993’s Eyeshocker Express is on YouTube via helio215 and — at time of writing — the follow-up, Repeat Offender has vanished from the internet again after a copy surfaced eight years ago. Some good music, excellent Philly footage and history from local legends like Cornbread makes Eyeshocker a great accompaniment to the magazine. Once upon a time, it would set you back $16.50, plus postage fees and an eight week wait, so it’s good to have it for free.
Books on athletic shoes are done to death. However, there’s always room for exceptions on the shelves and it was good to finally devour the contents of this particular one. A while back, before digital dominated, Nike commissioned some fascinating publications to coincide with campaigns. The world doesn’t need another bluffer’s guide to bestsellers with Q&As with the usual suspects. What it needs is untrodden informational terrain and Le Silver does the job. Written by Lodovico Pignatti Morano — editor of the flawless Ideas From Massimo Osti — the book is a 152 page anecdotal history of the Air Max 97’s role in Italy. I believe it’s culled from around 97 interviews and, curiously, despite its defiantly local nature, it’s published in English. Club kids, DJs, store managers, graffiti writers, rappers, stylists, editors, professional footballers, scooter boys and motorcyclists all break down the core appeal of Christian Tresser’s design between 1997 and 2003. Best of all is how the author retains the contradictions of any good origin story — there’s multiple accounts of different pioneers said to be the first to bring the shoe to Rome or Milan, some participants dismiss it as ugly, there’s tales of the shoe flopping initially before the sudden surge and plenty of corroborating tales regarding the impact that Georgio Armani putting it on the catwalk in early 1998 had locally. Very hardcore, very niche and beautifully designed by Munich’s Bureau Mirko Borsche, channeling that spirit of streamlined futurism that — according to some subjects — may well have driven the core appeal of this ostentatious entry into an already bold franchise. Incidentally, it also operates as a fairly comprehensive book on the popularity of the Air Max Classic/BW in Italy too. Well worth 22 Euros, even though that 16 Euro shipping fee is a little aggressive. Le Silver is the gold standard in shoe-related books. There are plenty more images of it and its contents right here.
The problem (or possible blessing) with being surrounded by something all the time is that you don’t see time flying. Things from the early 2000s seem, rather paradoxically, done to death and recent. But many of today’s consumers of the very things we obsessed over and the ones who’ll succeed us, were toddlers when magazines were a viable thing rather than a thing to lay on the table neatly for social media. Sydney’s Refill was a good publication that ran from 2003 to 2005 and was occasionally stocked at spots like London’s Magma for fifteen quid. Created by Matty Burton and Luca Ionescu, it ran for five issues before coming to a close, managing to document some things lesser spotted on 2017’s digital channels along the way. It evokes an era of chasing this and early adopter of most things Raif Adelberg’s hardback Made Magazine. Issues #3 and #4 of Refill are on issuu to browse in their entirety — I recall that BAPE edition causing a brief mania with 2004-era hype types because it came packaged with an ape head poster and badges of some kind, which makes up for the brevity of the actual interview in that cover feature. Nostalgic for features on Devilock? Step right in. The piece on Will Bankhead’s work, with bonus design work from Bankhead, Ben Drury, Christian Petersen, Fergadelic and Ed Gill, is fucking fantastic — Park Walk (created alongside Emmet Keane) from 1998 was a pretty pioneering Brit brand seemingly solely sold abroad, and the later, more widely distributed Answer line was incredible, making up a solid chapter in UK streetwear history that’s a good link between Silas and what the Slam City residents would sire next.
Seeing as Ralph Lauren’s empire is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, we’re promised at least four books about the brand (including Ralph’s autobiography in 2018) on the horizon. Rizzoli has got a couple planned, including the Ralph Lauren: 50 Years of Fashion retrospective in association with WWD and a third version of the 2007 monograph, which will be expanded with more imagery and coverage of the last ten years. It’s always vaguely disheartening to see slackers getting the opportunity to get the book in a better form as penance to us keen types for buying the book earlier (the slightly bolstered paperback reprint of the Osti book gave me similarly glum feelings), but it makes sense that another big birthday justifies the remix. Now I want to see the clothing step up to bring some statement greatness that supersedes that slew of streetwear homages of those glory days, plus a decent length documentary on the company’s growth over those five decades. Expect these around September/October (when an interesting looking Fiorruci retrospective is set to drop too).