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.
Sorry, I couldn’t help it. I had to make a fourth return to SHOP TOUR CANAL OFICIAL and their abundance of 1990s’ retail wanders. You can’t fake this era of sport shops and those shelves are ripe with masterpieces that everyone took for granted at the time. Even the budget takedown crap has turned to gold. This is the kind of thing that makes YouTube better than any terrestrial or cable channel. It’s 1992 and 1994 embodied in a few minutes of grainy camerawork and excitable chat, but alas, A Sports USA of 148 E Flagler St, Miami is apparently a luggage shop nowadays. Continue reading MORE STORE
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.
I remember reaching the age where I was overthinking things by 2003, pondering whether we’d ever be nostalgic for what seemed like a really trashy, overexposed time for popular culture. Besides D-Block, Hov, 50, Kanye, State Property, DavidBannerDavidBannerDavidBanner and Dipset, plus expectations for the likes of Saigon, I don’t recall sensing that I’d ever look back at that era’s heavily marketed output with any real fondness. Continue reading SOURCE AWARDS
I have no idea how this went under the radar for me, but StryjekeL upped this obscurity onto YouTube a few months back. It’s a Polish documentary on Bad Brains that aired in early 1995 — apparently it was upped from a flea market find VHS tape. You can murmur about the lineup from this period not being a real Bad Brains all you like, with a lack of H.R. but even footage of the Rise era is a great document of an era. Plus, Chuck Treece is the man. Later that year, the original lineup would return for about five minutes before breaking up again.
It’s good to be busy this early in the year, but it’s also a problem when it comes to giving this blog an update with any weight to it. I’m distracted by Oscar screeners too. Still, there’s a few things worth calling out here — Kickstarter has a couple of interesting book projects coming to a close, and the Jay Adams book could be good. That’s because it’s a expanded version of a fairly sought-after, decent publication I’ve thumbed through, but never owned, created in association with Osiris a year or so after Dogtown and Z-Boys was released. Whatever your opinion of Mr. Adams’ antics during his earlier life (and if you’re inclined to dismiss the darker points of your other anti-heroes, it’s best to pipe down), Adams is an undeniable legend whose influence on several subcultures was substantial (try saying that after a meth binge) and few skaters deserve a substantial documentation to the extent that he does, and this promises to be definitive, so it’s worth getting involved in this campaign to get it published. David Hackett and the team’s tribute to the patron saint of all things gnarly is definitely something to look forward to this year.
The painstaking creation of Robert Alva and Robert Reiling’s (aka WISK and RELAX) The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art Volume 1, 1983-1988, which came with accompanying DVDs, was something to admire. That book was released almost a decade ago, and now part two is being put together — The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art Volume 2, 1989-1994 brings the history lesson to nearly 1,000 pages. This edition is a 458-page follow-up with a more sober, stylish looking cover. With so much emphasis on the east coast’s writers, it’s good to see this kind of labour-of-love taking making an appearance. Freeway pieces and blockbusters truly take shape around this time, and with the first book fetching some big Amazon Marketplace money, $45 could prove to be a good deal.
Just in case that book gives you a hankering to get up, take heed of this 1970s anti-graffiti video uploaded a couple of years back by ProperGanderSaul. Pledges of love sprayed in broad daylight, block capital slurs, daring climbs onto signs, anti-principal marker pen insults and some throwback gang name…it’s all here.
(Image by Ernie Paniccioli from Free Stylin’)
Watching Onyx carry on during The Breakfast Club as if the last 21 years never happened, with Envy’s important question about them firing blanks during their Source Award appearance cut off by some haggard mad facing reminded me of how much I wanted an Onyx hockey shirt or black denim jacket back then— I never saw the official Slammin’ Gear versions of the quilted vest in the UK. While April Walker’s contribution to the industry is well-documented, I feel that it should always be reiterated whenever possible — we all know about Walker Wear (whose hoodies seemed more minimal than anything else on the hip-hop brand side of things) which was on the back of any thug rapper of influence, back when a giant mustard waistcoat with fireman jacket fastenings was a thing. The Walker Wear logo was incredibly effective on chests and heads and her connections got it everywhere, but Angela Hunte-Wisner’s styling work from the same era was incredible too — she was key to putting Starter and Nike on in Another Bad Creation, R Kelly and LL Cool J album covers and videos, but her decision to put Jodeci in Hi-Tec Magnum boots (possibly the only legit moment in Hi-Tec’s history) was pioneering in bringing rugged looks to R&B. April Walker also designed Onyx’s mad face logo — this piece from last year is still essential.
Naughty By Nature always seemed to have the best rap merchandise pre Wu-Wear (bar Public Enemy, NWA, Run-DMC or those Sleeping Bag jackets that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars that were advertised in the EPMD sleeve) and for reasons unknown, I was preoccupied with getting some Naughty Gear denim in 1994. Treach, Vinnie and Kay Gee set the brand off in 1993 and opened a store in Newark, New Jersey the following year. Building on the “Down with O.P.P” tee and Naughty by Nature underwear, plus a knack for merchandising since the New Style era (the connection to master merchandisers Tommy Boy probably didn’t hurt either), given Treach’s patronage of Walker Wear, I’m certain April Walker played a role. This piece from Yo! MTV Raps back in 1995 (recorded in bad quality but essential nonetheless) showcases the store as well as a trip to a hardware store to get chains, plus a Timberland mission too. In that video, Vinnie reveals that Naughty Gear jeans were made by Ruff Era, a frequent advertiser in The Source, who sold stiff, voluminous jeans. Savvy choices of collaborator and Vinnie’s decision to build the brand beyond just local screen printing paid off, but when the band started beefing in the late 1990s when urban wear really started popping, their licensing deals to make Naughty Gear, Inc. more profitable suffered. I’m not saying Naughty Gear was classic, but Naughty By Nature’s visual identity very smart indeed. Now Naughty Gear looks a little more basic.
South Beach colours on a Wildwood should be the worst thing ever, but these impending versions are decent. Still the greatest all-round All Conditions Gear shoe of all-time — the mystery of why this Pegasus remix existed around the time that the Pegasus ACG and Pegasus A/T were sold remains, but this always seemed closer to Escape spirit.