Category Archives: Skateboarding

PIXELS

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With every larger-name Supreme collaboration — and the digital division of every once-great magazine hopping on any streetwear moment like it’s having a mid-life crisis — there’s a faction out to declare the brand dead. “It’s not underground any more! It’s mainstream“, they bellow with their Facebook fingers. Then your cousins, kids and friend’s friends all descend on the store and demonstrate that it’s more popular than it ever was, thus contradicting those self-important declarations of obsolescence. One key complaint is that people want to say they were into Supreme when it was “underground”. It was certainly less prominent before (social media’s clout is undeniable), but let’s not act like the logo wasn’t featured in Vogue back when magazines really mattered, glimpsed at primetime on Absolutely Fabulous or on that chunky laptop in the almost-popular and instantly dated Hackers. Those were, of course, fleeting moments, but September 1999’s Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy PlayStation game — a Rockstar production — was absolutely riddled with Supreme.

On playing it late that year I was taken aback that the big in Japan box was on walls and an earned option as board or apparel sponsor alongside other credible brands like Zoo York (also quick to sell out in stores at the time), FTC or Think. Want a pixellated take on the motion logo board? It was yours if you could learn those intricate tricks. You could have a vast D-Wade size Supreme logo on the back of that tee or hoody too (it was nice when athletes weren’t haplessly trying to ride a stylist-assisted streetwear wave and dons like Allen Iverson both defined and reflected how the streets dressed on their own terms).

Skate and Destroy was much more difficult than the quick to pick up Tony Hawk offering, with the Southbank, Brooklyn Banks and Embarcadero locations and risk of a tasering at the hands of cops and moment on the magazine’s cover giving it a certain edge, but those sponsors made a lot of difference too — while the giant Converse shoes of the time have aged poorly and some of the newer big beat songs on the soundtrack were bad from the off (EPMD and Tribe made up for it though), that inclusion of legitimate coast to coast stores and companies was way ahead of its time. All of which begs the question — given the impact that later Tony Hawk instalments had on a generation’s tastes (much of today’s Soundcloud-hosted Percocet emo rap owes a debt to some degree), if Thrasher’s effort had been as much of a hit 18 years ago as Hawk or Rockstar’s more recognisable titles, in an alternate future, what would that have meant for the smaller companies it included?

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HARRY

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Flicking through an old issue of The Face the other day, I spotted Harry Jumonji modelling some Subware, reminding me that he has a habit of appearing in some relatively unlikely places. That had me Googling the recently screened documentary and I hadn’t realised that “OG” the Story of Harry Jumonji and the Birth of NYC Street Skating was online to rent or buy right now. The trailer has been drifting around for three years and the documentary includes footage shot seven years ago, resulting in something that gives a deeper overview of Jumonji’s life, up to his recent Go Fund Me aided return to Brazil courtesy of director Erica Hill. The letters O.G. are thrown about with little justification, but with Jumonji, we’re dealing with a true originator — Brazil’s best surfer turned skater who was forcefully sent to NYC by his dad where he helps father the city’s scene, with Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy’s Law putting him onto the Brooklyn Banks. It’s clear that Harry was a pioneer alongside fellow legend Andy Kessler (R.I.P.), and the film offers a sensitive portrayal of both its subject’s life as well as telling some of Kessler’s story.

Every drug addict has their “coulda been a contender” spiel, but in this case, it’s true — the local celebrity and cult hero could have been a superstar like friend Christian Hosoi who ended up with his fair share of demons, but, as the blunt talk of those relapses and incarceration testifies, Jumonji hasn’t come out the other side like Hosoi quite yet. The no-bullshit talk from associates like Tony Converse, shocking scene of heroin snorting, and situation with his child — echoing a distant relationship with his own dad — don’t give the Harry Jumonji story any easy Hollywood narratives, but his charisma and curious optimism in some doomed surroundings make him a likeable subject. This hustler since childhood lives that shambolic junkie life, but, just as those NYC skaters had to make do with the terrain they were given, he still has a lot of style both on the board and off it (that distinctive handstyle is explained too with some talk of his jail calligraphy classes). It’s both a cautionary tale and it’s a celebration of a character who embodies the worldview every streetwear brand wants to sell. Most of us aren’t built for it, so we’re better off with just the t-shirt. Hopefully between that overseas excursion, this film and the recent Know-Wave and Supreme supported ”OG” book, Harry Jumonji is on the road to greater recognition and some positive steps that, in an ideal world’ will give us the slightly happier follow-up one day. Go rent it.

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IMMORTALITY

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Skate soundtracks were almost as useful in broadening musical horizons for multiple generations as John Peel was (even the sonic soundscape of the video games had its own impact on some big names as well as those racking up legions of Soundcloud plays). For many, the sound evokes the section, a trick and — given the obsessive nature of skaters — the outfits. It’s a perfect example of how complete and self-contained a scene can be. For some, an emotional memory is unleashed through the Proustian means of scent, while for others, it’s a Beatnuts flute loop that sets a 1993 scene of tiny wheels on asphalt. Continue reading IMMORTALITY

NOTTINGHAM 1993/94

Having spent many happy hours circa 1996 browsing the shelves of Rollersnakes as part of a regular retail wander that I could stretch over an entire day, I have some happy memories of that place. Back when the store was situated in Nottingham on the excellently-named Maid Marian Way, it had a solid mail order set up and, in a none-more-1993 move, they released a few VHS “catalogues” that included local footage from sponsored skaters, some sessions at local spots like Market Square, clips from the newest videos on sale and four minutes of staff posing in the latest clothing (plenty of Droors, Raggy and X-Large) and some shots of covetable decks, with a Zoo York Ryan Hickey or Girl Sean Sheffey running you 54 quid (decks might run you little more than a quid or so more 23 years later). Anyone in the market for Bitch slick? Rollersnakes upped the whole 1994 tape on their YouTube channel, but there’s some retail highlights in the video above and the entire 1993 volume one below. Rap with horns and big jeans aplenty.

UNDERWORLD CHAMPION

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Image taken by Cory Slifka for the DECKAID Tumblr

Chris Hall is many things — a director, the skater’s skater, antique dealer and the sports footwear connoisseur to end them all for starters, and his defiantly D.C. aesthetic and East Coast mentality helped drive the look of the region’s skateboard scene. Believe it or not, there was once a time when a tag, some drips and a graffiti character on a deck or tee seemed different and progressive (it’s worth noting that “underground” was genuinely applicable to the scene 24 years ago), and while that look is very much of its era, Chris’s 1993 Underworld Element Champion parody deck was remarkably ahead of its time. Right now, we’re almost at breaking point with homages to the legendary C branding, but this design manages to embody now and then. On that East Coast skate note, without Supreme, I doubt Champion would be enjoying its current renaissance. I noted almost unanimous derision and laughing Emojis by the ton when size? posted some Champion Reverse Weaves on their IG a few years back, but since those doing the mocking shed their Hollister and elasticated chinos for streetwear, a shot of that label is guaranteed likes. Chris has been on that look since day one and images of this board were elusive or particularly pixellated until he was photographed by Cory Slifka with it as a loan to the excellent DECKAID show that benefits youth-based charities. Very rare. Very good. Always early.

THE DUNK DAYS

My contempt for most contemporary shoe-related documentaries is pretty well-documented here, but this Vice Sports documentary on Dunk SBs is good. Fifteen Years of SB Dunk: Stories From the Inside Out feels true to the original spirit of the shoe (which I always felt reached its apex in late 2005) and is a fine companion piece to the Air Force 1 production from 10 years ago. Having been interviewed for it, I was gutted that an appearance from me would mean I could never watch the film, but fortunately, my rambling answers were excised from the final cut. Which meant I can view it, take notes and talk about it right here. Wild that these things went from around 150 at Slam City to NikeTown status, but they were pivotal in creating the blueprint for contemporary hype.

HOLMES

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I still don’t think that there’s enough detail online regarding Russell Waterman and Sofia Prantera’s Holmes brand. The predecessor to the seminal Silas line ran from around 1994 to 1998 before its successor took over. Shifting from intelligent printed pieces to knitwear, fleeces, skirts and outerwear, this British skatewear label with superior men and women’s offerings took influence from an array of American and European staples was the blueprint for what causes some queues in the modern age. Despite this 1997 i-D magazine feature (a perfect example of how far the brand had evolved since its inception), illustrated by regular visual partner James Jarvis, being very much of its time, Holmes (which, according to one old 1994 feature in the equally defunct Select, was allegedly named after legendary cinematic swordsman John Holmes) was far, far, far ahead of its time in experimenting with the perimeters of where Slam City-centric clothing could be taken and sending it in all kinds of directions without losing focus. Rarely discussed, but extremely important.