Tag Archives: 1980s

GOALS

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During a recent European excursion (all will be revealed at some point in the next few weeks), I got to learn a little more regarding the cultural history of ultra-comfortable French and Portuguese made casual footwear. Mephisto has become a source of fascination for me — the antidote to over marketed obviousness — and showcased alongside several other archive images, including some German and French league shirts and Mephisto branded hoardings at pitches, this (according to my source) lower league club’s late 1980s kit included this incredible Hummel goalie shirt with Mephisto sponsorship and an image of the brand’s trademark Rainbow silhouette. It’s a thing of wonder. If you know, you know. Those demonic M’s on the collar are a magnificent touch too.

JEWELL IS A GEM

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skins

Dick Jewell is a gem in the pantheon of legendary British photographers and filmmakers. Resolutely uncommercial (even his commercial work maintains a sense of subversion), Jewell prefers to create work on his own terms — a vast archive that spans found photo booth shots and club scenes that are long extinct. He’s still as fascinated by the literal movements within movements, clusters of outsiders, tribes and the barely documented. Finally grabbing Hysteric Glamour’s compilation of his work from 2001 sent me to his website, with a great little archive of his video work — Notting Hill Carnival 83 > 86 and Skins are incredible. I’d love to see the Spats film in its entirety too. Before everyone had a camera in their pocket (and I’m sure we’re missing something regardless), Dick was there capturing this superior Super 8 footage for posterity.



DUFFER

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Nearly everywhere I go, the folks in charge who know what they’re talking about seem to have Duffer affiliations of some sort. If your perception of the Duffer of St George brand is from the Debenhams and JD affiliations that put it on the high street, that’s just part of the story.

This is a store than seems to have involved a slew of characters over the years, launched a lot of brands and for Duffer alumni, there seems to have been quite a success rate through talent and the sheer volume of connections made on the job. Inspired by the title of a Richard Lyne story called The Duffer of St George’s in The Champion Book for Boys — the kind of story compendium depicting an instantly dated, otherworldly view of Britain — it’s the brainchild of Marco Cairns, Eddie Prendergast, Barrie Sharpe (an early adopter in reappropriating a 1950s look) and Clifford Bowen who started the company 1984 as a market stall shifting vintage army surplus, baker boy hats and workwear (which had undergone a resurgence via magazines like The Face), leading to further acquisitions and custom footwear creations.

In 1985, the Portabello Street store opened and in September of that year, Duffer and Barry Sharpe’s pioneering rare groove Cat in the Hat night started at the Comedy Club in Leicester Square with Sharpe and friends DJing before it moved to the Limelight on Shaftesbury Avenue with guests like Norman Jay, then shifted to Mayfair with an emphasis on house, garage and disco. Resurrecting and introducing brands at the Portabello store, their own mix of luxury, tradition and flamboyance would spawn a look based on their own perception of cool at street level — streetwear in its truest form. One example was the ‘Yardie Cardie’ look (check it out here in the V&A archives) that merged dancehall, casual and Italian style — Sharpe’s own Sharpeye line periodically puts out makes a great version of that cardigan.

In 1987, the Soho Duffer store opened on D’Arblay Street and pushed a smooth but psychedelic 1970s look that made them responsible for a full-on revival that would connect to the acid jazz (which Sharpe would be integral to) boom’s look at the end of the decade. During the Soho years the fixation with deadstock old school trainers, a preoccupation with selvedge lines on denim and aspirations to own some Schott can all be blamed on Duffer and four stripe tracksuits and Barnzley’s oft-imitated smiley face shirts shifted from the shelves. They fueled the baseball cap boom around 1990 and would create their own hats as well as bringing New Era to London and doing parodies of high-end lines like Gucci long before it was played-out. Duffer would be sold in NYC via James Jebbia and Mary Ann Fusco’s Union store and Japan seemed smitten with their offerings too. Not content with creating its own products and setting up their own stores to cater to and create an audience, Duffer would help set up shows for the new breed of maverick menswear designers.

After the opening of the Covent Garden store in 1993 and with Duffer still creating trends and being some of the original resellers with their knack for picking up products like the Nike Air Rift and selling them for wild markups, investors entered the picture and Sharpe left to set up the aforementioned Sharpeye line (another of the great British brands), complete with a series of stores. By the late 1990s, the heavily branded Duffer zip hoody was a status symbol with a certain mass appeal about it as well as taking their footwear rollout more seriously to coincide with that popularity, resulting in their strange Spanish and Italian made asymmetric, centre seamed and driving shoe styles – with a hint of Clarks – under the Yogi name.

Duffer would expand to several stores before almost going under in 2008, but after the Duffer by St George pieces for Debenhams were borne from a 2007 deal, JD Sports got involved and made it theirs — now the puffa and retro trainer realm that Duffer helped forge is a norm and JD push that look, so, while it’s a long way from the detail orientated one-upmanship of the Duffer brand of old, it makes a certain sense. Eddie Prendergast and Steve Davies went on to found Present in east London, which keeps the old Duffer store spirit (the ability to edit and preempt) alive and Marco Cairns is still with Duffer, whose Japanese license pieces feel closer to the mid 1990s Duffer approach.

But that’s just my own rambling and it misses a lot of key moments and other pieces of the timeline (I’m open to all corrections) — the Duffer story deserves to be told by those who were there, because its influence on how southerners dress and how British menswear stores are stocked is colossal. The people that made clothes based on how the sharper man on the street was dressing ended up influencing how the man on the street dresses as well as the cool kids too.

With that in mind, this Kickstarter campaign to fund a short Duffer documentary, Style Brokers: the story of Duffer of St George makes a lot of sense. Go visit Strike Pictures’ page there and help make this happen. I always wanted to see a good retrospective article on Duffer’s history and legacy, but a film is a far better proposition — I hope they manage to speak to all involved.

DUCK

carhartthunting1980s

Hold up — is it okay to post workwear related stuff again? Are Primark ditching 60/40 jacket knockoffs for Damir Doma imitations? Looking at glimpses of the impending Supreme drop,it looks like arty all-over prints are back again – after the L’Origine du Mond reproduction put a pussy on the chest of kids with expendable income (and the owner of the aforementioned pussy has apparently been located to give one lucky person the ultimate resell action), is that flower print a Power, Corruption & Lies Peter Saville homage, or is it a tribute to the source material by Henri Fantin-Latour? I get confused by all the tributes myself, but the prospect of gear that uses that imagery is cool with me. Just wait until the Supreme-alikes unleash the Chelsea Flower Show on fleece in response. I’m in the middle of two copywriting assignments this weekend, despite pledging to put writing on the backburner, so I can only offer you a by-numbers blog post. I still read long form copy from before the #hashtag era for inspiration whenever I’m working on a project and I’m a huge fan of Carhartt’s 1980s ads. Much has been printed and reproduced regarding Hamilton’s company and their no-nonsense Depression-era ads, with their emphasis on value and longevity, but I like looking at their 1985-1993 campaigns for that smart move not to address a growing trend-led audience. I believe some of these were published in those brand books that contained an excellent set of brand histories, but I’m feeling lazy and duck canvas is still one of the beautifullest things in the world.

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WATERPROOFED

Apologies for turning this blog into one of those stone-faced, wordless, image blogs for one night only. That wasn’t my avowed intention. This imagery was way too nostalgic and olde world to leave alone without spotlighting some newness down below. But it fell by the wayside because I got waylaid watching the Crufts 2011 finals (that boxer was robbed, yo) and reading about The Idler magazine’s new Idler Academy in west London. I lost concentration entirely.

All I can offer this evening is what was on my hard drive after I pillaged the ‘Backpacker’ archive for imagery pertaining to outdoor performance between 1973 and 1996. The project never amounted to anything, but I know a few like minds who might get a kick out of it. Hell, there’s plenty of right-clickers who might want to stick ‘em on their Tumblrs and claim them as their own. I don’t care, seeing as I borrowed them from a magazine in the first place.

The Columbia, Du Pont, Vasque, Marmot, Universal and Pivetta ads are particularly strong. In the current climate of outdoorsy one-upmanship (a trend that seems to have stuck), I’ll take this copy-heavy, utilitarian focus over the fey drivel that’s inappropriately applied to rugged gear throughout the blog world. I’ve been fixating on the Thinsulate labelling lately as one of my favourite pieces of branding. It’s democratic too compared to the steep price tags on steep incline wear that bears another personal favourite — the GORE-TEX tab.

Beyond the official North Face hookups, I loved Supreme’s woolly hat homage to the Thinsulate branding (not to be mistaken for the Thinsulate Supreme technology) in the vein of their Patagonia tributes.

Normal windy, wordy and pretentious service should resume next week.