Anyone of a certain age will remember being so hyped on getting a shoe with Visible Air, a Pump device or Torsion bar, that they put it by their bed and looked at it before they went to sleep, or — in my case — placed it on a dresser so it was within my peripheral vision during a family dinner. Oddly, people of the same age are the ones complaining that everyone’s into shoes these days. Continue reading CHRISTMAS DAY SHOE HYPE
Nothing new to report, but this BBC documentary on Levi’s 501s is interesting. Part of the Design Classics series from 1987 that also featured entire episodes dedicated to the Volkswagen Beetle and Barcelona Chair, the footage of Peter Blake in a Canadian tux and rare chat with Willie Gertler — Levi’s first British agent — sheds some light on how jeans became popular in the UK. Of course, at the time of the programme’s broadcast, 501s had slipped in terms of detailing, with selvedge scrapped in 1985, but their popularity was escalating, thanks to some smart marketing. Back then, even Pepe were seen as a threat to the company’s market share. Salutes to Emile Durkhelm for that upload.
Shouts to magCulture for putting me onto this Longreads list of links to lengthy pieces on the creation of some of the greatest magazines ever. You could get lost in this collection. The Awl comes through multiple times with superbly researched articles like the recent one on Entertainment Weekly‘s declining fortunes and last year’s Wigwag retrospective.
I’ve written about it here before, but the last outpost of untapped Jordan greatness is the Italian-made Air Jordan II. A comparative commercial failure on its launch, Peter Moore and Bruce Kilgore’s creation is one of the best shoe designs ever. I don’t know if it was production numbers or the fact that Nike — stung after dropping 15+ variations of the first shoe not including the Air Jordan Knock Off edition — kept it a little tighter. Thus, the Air Jordan II has a little more magic to it. And the fact that none are wearable means you never see a pair on anyone’s feet, thanks to Polyurethane’s decay during dormant years in a box. Then there’s the near-mythical tennis shoes and KO edition that I’ve only ever seen pictures of. Apparently former Nike marketing kingpin made an exaggerated guess in 1986 that one in twelve Americans owned a pair of Air Jordans, which makes current hype look a little tame. While I’d seen the print and TV ads with IMAGINATION on for the shoe, I hadn’t seen the one above before and I never knew that the Jordan II was originally called the Imagination, back in the shoe’s early days. There’s little mystery around anything any more, particularly shoes we grew up with, but the Jordan II is a shoe with stories to tell.
I thought Patta’s London store launch was tonight, got back late and this Duran/Sugar Ray No Mas ESPN documentary has completely distracted me from updating this blog with anything substantial. But I’ll point you in the direction of a blog more interesting than mine — way before I was obsessing over old ads and things that nobody seemed to acknowledge the existence of, DeFY. New York was on the case. One of the truest shoe dudes on the internet, his knowledge of shoes is Jedi level and you can get lost in the sheer volume of imagery he’s amassed and uploaded. We chuck the term influencer around a lot, but he’s a huge, huge influence on what I do here. So go visit www.defynewyork.com and look at some stuff. Completely eclipsing my YouTube spotting in this entry, DeFY got hold of some tapes, including a ton of 1987 Foot Locker commercials that, with their Eddie and Rick soundtracked openings, are superb, talking about some classics on their introduction, with a wide-eyed, scripted, infomercial-esque excitement. Here’s a couple of the rare gems this prolific knowledge-sharer has upped on his YouTube channel and they’re a glorious antidote to the current knowing, tech savvy, SEO enabled, social media shared modes of footwear promotion. The Air Max is a big shoe, but those rarely spotted Snake Cortez are next level. Go get educated.
I’m on holiday. That renders this blog unimaginative and hurled together for the time being unless you want a stack of filtered junk food Instagram images. Bar the guy working the airport taxi rank in Goadomes, what happened to any footwear point-of-difference? New York is awash with Jordan XIs, Foamposites and Roshe Runs — like every, single city in the fucking world. Curious to think that as a global fixation with sport footwear seems to escalate, it’s actually weaker than ever in terms of risk taking. More choice than ever but less free willingness to take risk is a strange paradox. The day shoes were designed for non-sporting purposes was the beginning of the end.
Sure, we always knew that, more often than not, they weren’t being worn for athletic purposes, but it was quaint that brands pretend that wasn’t the case. When you specifically target a shoe hoarding audience (several of whom are arguably pretty easily impressed, despite a propensity for getting angry on social media), the byproduct is destined to be mediocrity. When New Yorkers broke out the All Conditions Gear and Terra pieces, designed for tearing around hills, trails and mountains, it was one of the truly great moments of re appropriation. In 2013, nothing happens by accident.
Those swathes of colours and silhouettes are still unparalleled. Grand Puba busting out the OG Air Revaderchi on In Living Color is a classic moment. Alas, he never opted to wear the Nike Poobah cycling shoe (which, as I recall, was ACG affiliated), which is a another gem from the days of gaudy, glorious, rustic tech. But we’ve been through this topic before. Here’s a few low-res, undersized scans from 1987 (pre All Conditions) to 1995 for a quick reminder of why I never shut the fuck up about this line. The 1987 Traverse with the purple laces and the 1992 Air Traverse with the speckle and tribal print are two oft-forgotten moments that should be highlighted time and time again.
Forgot to blog because I thought it was Tuesday, so you get this image-heavy rush-job. I’ve mentioned on this blog just how terrified that Bruce Davidson shot of a man at gunpoint on a train made me when I was younger, reinforcing every rotten apple stereotype that a childhood of obsessing over 1980s VHS sleaze that showed a city overrun by “wallet inspectors” who’d take you for everything you had in front of witnesses (thank you William Lustig, Abel Ferrera, Martin Scorcese and Frank Henenlotter).
That picture turned out to be a member of the New York Transit Police’s “Subway Stars” aka. the Decoy Squad — 24 undercover cops in a variety of disguises; like a crime fighting Village People, to take on the rise in packs of younger muggers hunting prey on the trains. The whole Decoy Squad concept sounds like the plot for a great b-movie and when the team assembled in 1985 in a post Bernie Goetz climate of paranoia, brutality and potential vigilantism (and Davidson’s 1986 Subway book with its glum faces in those tag swarmed surroundings indicates that the trains were no joke back then), it was the subject of plenty of media coverage, presumably for reassurance and political PR.
Bruce Davidson shot plenty of images of the crew at work for a June 1985 New York magazine feature called Hunting the Wolf Packs, with an incredible crew photo of everyone in their disguises, ready to “play the vic” or be a bystander ready to strike. Officer Lyons plays a sleeping Jewish lawyer, Officer Quirke plays a blind man, Officer Doran is a pizza maker returning from his shift and Officer Carter is the undercover man in the satin jacket, Cazals and baseball cap making an arrest in the photo that had me shook. Carter makes plenty more appearances in the images to accompany the article (the black and white images are from 1985 newspaper pieces on the squad), looking cooler than any real world cop has ever looked. It must have been slow, tedious work with quick bursts of intensity.
Entrapment via exposed gold chains and fake Gucci on people pretending to be fake yuppies, dozing Asian tourists, plus gang members looking like they stepped out the Bad video is present in this 1987 footage from a WCBS-TV 60 Minutes episode (scroll down). Allegations of the unit acting illegally with wrongful arrests ended the program in winter that year, but if you were amused by Stallone dressed as an old lady to take down a thief to a Keith Emerson soundtrack in 1981’s Night Hawks or Kramer being saved by a cop posing as a blind violinist on the subway in an early Seinfeld, you’ve got to love the whole Decoy Squad project. Three finger rings and backward hats were an interesting 5-0 uniform for a minute.
“I might have been in my Shazam mode or something and shit. I just wanted some bangles, ‘nah mean?”
Ghostface, from this excellent Juan Epstein interview.
I’ve never known exactly why the brand knockoff tee or sweat seems to be marginally more tolerated than the knock off trainer. Maybe it’s because as kids, we didn’t have access to fake Jordans (unless you counted those godawful Abdul-Jabbar LA Gears), even though there was plenty of access to terrible Nicks and Matchstick releases that feigned fanciness and failed. My first exposure to designer garments was a t-shirt from some sunburned-Brit riddled part of Spain that featured Nike, BOSS, adidas, Cerruti and Lacoste on the same garment in rainbow fade reinterpretations of the recognisable logos. SCAT on Bedford town’s High Street shifted fake swoosh and Futura font pendants a year or so after i-D’s 1987 ‘Bootleg Fashion’ shoot with Barnzley in the fake Hermes tee and the fake Chanel shirt in the mix. Stüssy taught me the power of the linked ‘C’ homage shortly afterwards and Dapper Dan was giving rappers some defiantly fake gear that dared to go where the brands wouldn’t officially go aesthetically and locating itself at a spot where the average high-end consumer would be scared to visit.
Some of the best shirt (Duffer did their ‘Ducci’ and took a bite from Hermes too) designs over the years have been none-too-subtle designer rips and there’s a certain joy in the brazen thefts that don’t even feign legitimacy with phony holograms and bullshit disclaimers on everyday leisurewear. While I want the ’88 era MCM tracksuit that Tyson wore more than anything (which I believe is authentic), the spirit of loungewear with logos lives on in the Marriani sweatsuits with some phony Givenchy, Versace, Hermes and Chanel looks, with multiple branding to evade any semblance of subtlety via the mythical “Marriani Sampelle.” The tank tops and sweats homaging boutiques and fancier department stores (the Neiman Marcus releases are particularly fun) create a garment that never actually was and, in a curious way, they feel more legit than the logo gear the brands bang out specially for the outlet stores. Like Ghostface’s legendary truck jewelry (and as that interview reveals, you can thanks bags of wet for his finest moments) this gear is some Shazam mode apparel.
Elsewhere online, go check out the trailer for ‘We Out Here’ (an annoying phrase when it’s uttered by middle class kids, but hard to knock if it’s the mantra of kids from Brownsville) which looks like the best thing Airwalk have bankrolled since the Jason Lee pro model, this list of Nikes at Complex that will probably anger the kind of people who write more than 100 words in blog talkbacks, this piece on Western European basketball I done did for some obscure sportswear brand and LTD’s quick chat with April Walker of Walker Wear (who also schemed to start a Team Tyson line with Mike). Did April put the Air Pressures and Shirt Kings gear on Audio Two during her styling days? Fair play. This piece on brand authority by multi-brand veteran Bob Sheard that man like Glenn Kitson just sent me looks like the start of a fine series too.