Yep, I’m still peddling that old shoe schtick. Not content with writing a top 50 trail shoe piece for Complex a few years back that bricked because kids don’t care about 20-year-old brown rustic-tech (rus-tech?) shoes, I collaborated with my friends at High Snobiety to run through 25 of the best Nike ACG shoes ever — naturally, somebody asked where the non-ACG Terra Humara was with the quickness. This one’s good because HS brought in the talented Dan Freebairn to illustrate the shoes, meaning this might be the first and last time you’ll ever see a drawing of a Pubah or Terra Tor, because they’re not the kind of shoes that anybody normal cares about. I think I’ve run my course on the footwear history side of things (unless anyone wants to give me money to talk on the subject of ancient footwear. Anyway, this was fun. I’d campaign for a lot of these shoes to be reissued if I didn’t know that they’d probably brick with a 21st century audience. All Conditions Gear is 25 this year (26 officially — the Pegasus ACG was 1988 but the category and logo really seemed to take form in 1989) and my childhood ambition of giving one of these shoes a colourway remains. If you think something deserved inclusion, leave a comment.
Pressed for time because of freelance work, so why not fall back on two failsafes — All Conditions Gear and Champion? ACG as a full subdivision may be gone (though every time you see a sealed seam jacket from Nike, the spirit lives on) , but it’s still part of of the footwear offerings at trend level. Here’s a few non-ad images of some interesting moments in ACG history — Trip Allen is a crucial part of the old ACG squad and according to legend, he was one of the pioneers in applying some truly insane colours to shoes that remain scorched into my retinas for reference in far too much of my work. I believe (looking at the sketch) that he was heavily involved in the Terra ACG design — a pioneering moment for the brand that may or may not have aided in the genesis of the non-ACG Terra trail running range you might have lusted after in the late 1990s. The Terra ACG’s speckles and wildcard orange and pink were decidedly peculiar at the time too. The packaging for the Nike Thermax Underwear that I believe dates back to the early days of ACG (I like the “Clothing as equipment” copy too) is well executed and captures the commitment to it at the time. Moisture wicking ACG underwear is a rarity nowadays, but these are some of the most aesthetically appealing thermals ever made.
Why does Champion’s Japanese licensee get it while the others don’t? Admittedly it’s a country where a heritage wing could actually prove profitable, but to see this brand plastered on tat in the UK is depressing. Like Fila, it’s an opportunity wasted and while Champion always was a fairly affordable brand compared to the Italian premium sportswear of the former, it seems the original point was lost in a variety of acquisitions and wheeler dealing. Even Russell Athletic seems to be slowly getting its shit together in this territory while former champions flounder. Pop-ups and spaces are usually a good reason to ignore an email invite, but the collegiate-themed Champion Bookstore in the Shinjuku branch of Oshman’s (itself a franchise of a mostly-gone US sporting institution that became Sports Authority — not dissimilar to how Shibuya’s mighty Tower store keeps standing) looks tremendous and captures the essence of what makes the brand great. Cotton fleece heaven with a history lesson worked in there. This kind of thing and the nanamica x Champion masterpieces of loungewear maintain this brand’s magic. Everyone else seems intent on sticking a ‘C’ on cheap accessories. Sadly, I can imagine what proves the most profitable.
I don’t know why I keep returning to ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ Maybe it’s for the same reasons that I keep trying to get dig away at ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ with it’s spine cracked to just 10% of the book’s content — I want to know what I’m missing. I’m not talking about the cult of characters who topped themselves in black and white Nike Decades, but Michael Cimino’s ponderous ani-western, which fired my imagination as a kid by featuring a manic Christopher Walken, Tom Noonan, Brad Dourif, Jeff Bridges and Mickey Rourke and a nude Isabelle Huppert. Alas, the pauses, the pacing of the first half and the frequent misuse of its spectacular cast means I’ve never managed to finish watching ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ I concentrate too hard and get confused, I get restless, I answer the phone, I end up daydreaming that I’m watching ‘Con Air.’ I got so close — 20 minutes from the end of the 149 minute cut, but after pausing it to answer the door to a Domino’s I realised that I just didn’t want to go back — I didn’t care about Kris Kristofferson’s hero or Sam Waterston’s villain. That 20 minutes could be spent watching a ‘Seinfeld’ episode again
Somebody told me that I’m a fool, a spoon fed moron, who doesn’t understand the nuances of Cimono’s work, but I’m convinced that this film could be distilled into an engaging 100 minutes. I still can’t co-sign the animal cruelty like the supposedly “real” horse with dynamite sequence — if you’re going to die for a film, I’d sooner be the bull in ‘Apocalypse Now’ or the cow in ‘Come and See.’ Being sacrificed for a film that recouped $3 million on a $44 million budget is the final insult. I still haven’t made my mind up about this film. What am I missing? Why did Jerry Harvey make the extra effort to screen the longer version on the Z Channel? There must be something in this abomination that creates these rabid fans who think the film flies by. The Johnson County War is a significant moment in American history, but it isn’t the stuff of gripping cinema — rather it seems to have been something that’s touched on in more entertaining books, TV shows and films as part of a snappier narrative — and the director slows it to a molasses crawl that I can’t quite wade through.
I’m going to return for more when the real director’s cut (the 219 minute version was a rush job) that’s been trimmed to 216 minutes is released by Criterion this November. Maybe that 3 missing minutes is the key to unlocking this mess. Maybe I’m just a glutton for cinematic punishment. Will Criterion put out a ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’ 2-disc Blu-ray package in 2032 that lets us reassess Eddie Murphy’s lost masterpiece with a digitally restored 142 minute director approved cut? I hope so. If I had one really positive thing to say about ‘Heaven’s Gate’ it’s that the film has the best roller skate violinist/barn dance sequence of any Hollywood film. And that’s something to be grateful for.
With OG Huaraches set to return, it’s always worth focusing on a slightly more contemporary (though still showing my age) crush than Huppert — Chilli from TLC whose Huaraches and ACG-looking garments in the ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ video make me love her even more.
I think this blog is becoming a receptacle for magazine scans of anything from the 1980’s or 1990’s and getting a little too bogged down in nostalgia. I could reblog the same pictures of the Kate Moss for Supreme posters that are around town at the moment, but every single blog on the planet seems to be chucking up the same shots. I’ll leave it to them, but I definitely need a copy for my wall. I’ve been trawling the archives for some information on one specific boot and the quest led me to old issues of ‘The Source.’ I can’t stress the importance of that magazine back when the closest place to get it was the WH Smiths in Luton’s Arndale Centre and people got angry because TLC were on the cover. Lord knows what they’d make of Nicki Minaj at the weekend, but I assume they’re probably dead of old age by now, which spares them the rage. I liked the specially shot covers back in the day (seemingly one of the final casualties of their shakeups over the last few years) and I haven’t picked up a copy for close to a decade, but I’m glad that ‘The Source’ is still going.
It was the militancy of older issues and the real reporting (I think Ronin Ro’s piece on Luther Campbell touring Japan, as reproduced in ‘Gangsta’ is one of the magazine’s most insightful moments) plus glimpses of products I’d never seen before that had me hooked. The November 1993 issue was an old school retrospective that taught my gun rap loving self a great deal (it included the Henry Chalfont shot above) and despite the frequently anaemic graffiti content, the four-page feature on legends like Dondi and Futura by Ricky Powell was a great moment in a period generally considered to be the magazine’s downturn and an early 1993 article on the new wave of streetwear brands that hit their radar the previous year was a moment when skate and hip-hop (primarily through Pervert) style really seemed to strike, championed by west coast MCs from the Good Life Cafe scene. I don’t listen to the music so much these days, but everything seemed to gel and broaden my horizons. I never found the boot I was hunting, but November 1993’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’ with the questionable inclusion of Hi-Tec, but including the glorious Iditarod Sport Hiker, Merrell Wilderness ($260!) and the ACG Rhyolite never fails to make me yearn for a golden era of invincible footwear.
The White/Cement Jordan IV eluded me in 1989 in favour of the other key colours — as did the reissue a decade later. The 2012 version feels like closure on that matter (I won’t cry myself to sleep over the lack of NIKE AIR). 2006’s IVs were of quality comparable to the plastic Michael Jackson cash-in slip-ons that some unfortunate kids still broke out at my school back when the IV debuted. The new version is marginally better in quality and after two days of wear, creasing isn’t critical, but the curried goat stain I attained today nearly led to a Buggin’ Out type scenario, even though I was the sole culprit. Probably best to go half a size down, and they still rub on my little toe. But what are you going to do? Grown men shouldn’t be getting so agitated about things they didn’t get the first time around. Plus they’re still the best looking Jordan ever.
For something I assumed to be ultra-niche at this point in the 21st century, the ACG-themed post from here late last year proved pretty popular in terms of feedback. There’s evidently more All Conditions fanatics out there than meets the eye, so here’s some more visuals. I’m not entirely sure what resonates so hard with this sub-range of functional oddness — maybe it was the co-sign from climbers and Grand Puba alike, the inner-city re-appropriation that led to the Nike Boot movement targeting that consumer directly with shoes for them under the guise of ACG and the fact that this line created some of the best Nike shoes of all time, built to take on off-road challenges, meaning extra value when you broke open a beige, recycled box.
I’m currently appreciating the Meriwether and previously mentioned Air Max Prime GTX that were created under the Nike Sportswear wing – proof that there’s still mileage in hiking themed sports footwear when it’s not a case of chucking D-rings on an existing model or last to feign Viberg and Danner status. The latter Nike shoe is a Peter Fogg creation, and I’m saddened that during a recent submitted Q&A to the man, I didn’t ask at least 50 questions about the Terra range. While they’re frequently assumed to be ACG, due to their rugged looks, Fogg’s Terra Humara, Terra Ketchikan, Terra Minot and Humara weren’t ACG — I assumed this was because Terra was its own ’97 trail running division that had nothing to do with the early 1980’s Terra T/C concept, but as mentioned here before, the existence of the ACG labeled Terra Tor from 1996 ruins my theory. Unless the Tor was the point when Nike decided to make similar rugged running designs Terra rather than ACG. Bored yet? I need that mystery solved. The Terra Ketchikan is the best Nike ACG shoe that never was.
While the colours implemented across the barely christened All Conditions Gear line were strange for shoes with a swoosh, they followed the crazed-out, hi-vis makeups that outdoor wear manufacturers had been playing with for a while. In the hands of Nike designers, those wild shades and willful contrasts highlighted the best of each shoe, but the little eccentricities — the “lawnmower man” on an outsole, the jagged labeling that bellowed the name of a shoe and the excellence of women’s makeups that were just as good as the men’s variations. Those who know, appreciate these products. At its core, the collection harks back to a certain hippie idealism, where the worlds of running and a boom in backpacking carried a certain romanticism, and with those Oregonian roots, there was scope for both activities (other than the fact the two words rhyme, it explains the ‘NIKE HIKE’ sticker from the 1970’s.
The original Nike hikers pre-date the Nike ACG line by almost a decade, when the Magma, Approach and Lava Dome appeared in 1981 ads with a 1978 image of John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway (who went on to become a vice president at Patagonia) at base camp on K2 during their dramatic 1978 expedition that made them part of a group of the first Americans to make it. Both men are wearing the LDV (the shoe formerly known as the LD-1000V) during camp time, and you can see cues from that shoe in the Lava Dome. That same runner at base camp concept seemed to be imbued in Sergio Lozano’s lower profile 1998 Pocket Knife design. I’m a big fan of the later B&W image of the amassed group too, with plenty of battered Magmas in the mix.
After the passing of Heavy D last year, I documented some of the Nike obsession that runs through his early work, but 1989’s ‘Money Earnin’ Mt. Vernon’ video is notable for him and the Boyz rocking what looks to be matching Lava Highs, plus a scene in a sports store, with stacks of red Nike boxes, vintage ads and a serious Reebok diss when the Overweight Lover openly casts a Union Jack topped box aside – the most grievous rap video brand diss since Doug E. Fresh’s Bally’s destroyed some Superstars. Lava Highs pre-date ACG, but if they dropped today, they’d be blessed with the triangle. I still can’t get enough of Tinker’s Mowabb sketches either — “Outdoor Cross Training” sums up that design nicely, but the fishy Rainbow Trout inspiration for that midsole speckle and proposed Pendleton blanket lining are interesting elements. I still can’t get enough of those advertisements either.
Every now and again my sports footwear preoccupation infects this part of the internet as well as the other place in which I dwell, but after the homies Mr. Ali and Mr. Grandin put the work in to sort me some Steven Alan Nike Lava Domes,it reawakened a preoccupation. That shoe has an aura. You might not know it by the initial appearance – a roughneck update of a late 1970s mesh runner (think LDV or LD-1000), but it might be one of the best footwear designs ever. Not only did it birth the ACG range, but it just looks terrific. Many of my favourite shoes have been annihilated by overeager colourway characters, but this one’s being treated with a certain reverence — possibly in an attempt to woo the ‘Free & Easy’ heads, hypesters, ’80s nostalgics and NYC’s hiker-loving hardrocks. 1981 was a good year, and this shoe’s 30 years young, still looking correct in grey and orange or the sand and navy variants. I wouldn’t be mad if they released a father and son pack with the Son of Lava Dome. The Lava Dome 2000 never fired my imagination, but if Nike Sportswear put out a Flywire-aided ‘Grandson of Lava Dome’ I could potentially flip out.
This shoe was the subject of some ‘Backpacker’ coverage in its day and I think it aged better than the Approach – especially when they took the GORE-TEX selling point away. And the Magma? Too rustic. This shoe was well-regarded as the middleground between boot and sneaker (though the New Balance Rainier — with New Balance CT tennis shoe inspiration rather than running at the root — seemed a lot more “serious”), with it staying in production for several years (though the RRP slipped significantly). Steven wins with the green suede swoosh, but goddamn, this Georgetown makeup is a thing of beauty. No gimmicks, no bullshit bar an Air application that makes them more comfy. I need more pairs in my life. Its been a pretty dire year for footwear, but the quiet birthday resurrection of this shoe has been a highlight. I could still live without the pissy midsole. Cheers to the Nike man dem.
I like this Eastern Mountain Sports ad from the 1983 era with a few fusions showcased among the dull-looking own-brand stuff. I know nothing about the DMC Outwest Tough Tred, nor why it’s pictured in a pocket.
Because my wrists are feeble, I generally have to switch watch straps to a Nato, but they feel a little wanky. My brother thinks it’s like putting wooden tires on a Benz, but like a child who can’t be trusted with nice things, I ended up putting it on a camo strap. It was a failure because it created a weird mix of diving and DPM, plus the quality sucked, but I took a picture before I kicked it to the kerb, just because I like looking at camouflage things. Why isn’t there an enterprising individual out there offering Natos in every camo there is and packaging their SMUs like Starks did laces? That selvedge joint on Style Forum is just the tip of a profitable iceberg. The poser pound is strong even if the economy is crumbling around it.
Before the Cement Jordan IV drops again, here’s a masterclass in how to wear them from Hank Shocklee in this Glen E. Friedman portrait. You need to be a master of shrieking sonic backdrops to pull off denim that tapers like that though. Wondering why your dad/older brother/ageing colleague bugs out over Public Enemy? The garments they wore (shit, even the Troops) helped matters a great deal, but it’s the supporting characters rather than Mista Chuck who really had me losing my mind from an aspirational standpoint.
The world suddenly seemed to discover the well-known Lo-Life story a couple of weeks ago, but I saw this ‘Lo Down in London’ video for the first time today (hold tight, BNTL) and it was good to see the homies Seth and NickBam aka. Megalopolis on-screen. There’s a curious mix of earnestness and straight-up joking, and the shoplifting question elicited some funny responses. Bar many, many embarrassing moments that will have the NYCers face palming their nose bones into their brains, Seth gets props for making an effort.
A May bank holiday cleanup has unleashed the nostalgia again. E-retail is a soulless experience (though folks like Eastman Leather Clothing at least try) and physical retail seems to have gone the same way. Spaces sullied by synthesized aging, and hapless attempts at instant vintage are no fun. A white space, devoid of dust would beat these Bristol Downs League attempts at Ivy League any day. When the much-discussed J Crew* shifts a stack of yellowing Steinbeck novels for pricks to pretend to read at heavy markups, you know you’re in herbsville…it makes sense shifting ’50s editions, what with them being founded in 1983 and all, and some oak-laden Gant concept store with blog support shows what happens when dad-wear mania goes wrong, can we expect a Marlboro Classics push in the next few months?
The Polo-lite approach to stores is rapidly getting tired, and the expensive vintage collection in the corner rarely rings true. That makes the truly great physical retail experiences something to cherish. My personal favourite? San Francisco’s Harputs. Sadly, the Fillmore Street store, opened in the mid ’80s after the Oakland location closed (apparently that was where former sportswear salesman Turk Harput found a pile of deadstock in the late ’70s, traded his car and saw the potential to shift it) closed earlier this year. The archive is reportedly being kept safe somewhere.
If you’re surrounded by sports footwear samples on the regular, or suffered from exposure to some douche filming themselves opening a shoebox and chucking it on YouTube (“Ummm, I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s got red suede stripes…“), like me you’ll hate 80% of sneakers and despise the very notion of “sneaker culture” having grown beyond weary of the mediocrity that clings to sneaker fanaticism like piss stink on a drunkard. Thank fuck for Harputs. You can still go out your way and find rarities in ancient sport shops, but this was a store that organically brought that feel through a policy of hoarding and occasionally holding back. Stumbling past the parade of unfortunates babbling their way up and down the streets, with the Morganator and I taking Henry from Slam City and Gareth from Pointer along – themselves jaded by shoe overexposure, in 2008, we saw faith restored in minutes, as DJ and one of the heirs to the empire, Matt (Bootsy) Harput held it down, with a screen blasting old promo footage in the background, allowing a little wander around the fabled stockrooms. While the store’s rep is ostensibly adidas-centric – when Matt’s father Turk Harput opened it, it was a key brand that shits on any contrived concept store, we saw Converse, Nike, Reebok and Avia by the ton, with Matt naming his price – weirdo Escape editions and Ewings made in Europe knocked us sideways.
Stack upon stack of boxes and loose shoes piled in a way that mocks the kid glove deification of deadstock was a beautiful thing. A.R.C. imitating boutiques, with the globally homogenous, carefully spaced out seasonal top-tier packs will be the downfall of the industry – that and cornball Rapidshare rappers wearing whatever they’re seeded – this felt like the antidote. Matt naming an outrageously reasonable price on a pea green canvas pair of USA-made Jack Purcells (cheaper than J Crew’s pre-distressed versions) led to the purchase of what’s arguably the best pair in my ever-expanding pile of pleather, leather, gluemarks and mesh. Lest we get too ‘Free & Easy’ about them, these aren’t particularly old – maybe they’re early ’90s, but they could even be 2001 – bear in mind that the Lumberton factory, the last bastion of USA-made Converse closed that year. It doesn’t matter. They’re perfect. For financial rewards, and the James Dean look, you’d need the PF ‘Posture Foundation’ pre-Converse variations, but this pair is just a perfect shoe. As the icing on the cake, Matt ushered us to an empty premises next door, a former pizza parlour, still haunted by a doughy stench, filled with bags of garish sportswear – some terrible ski-style gear, but a spot of crack dealer Troop and some ACG tees in the mix – once again, we got an off-the-dome price on them.
Great memories. Another one bites the dust, but we’re promised a Harputs reopening in new premises for 2011. Shouts to Bootsy, and RIP Turk Harput, who passed away in August 2009. A retail pioneer, and founder of a store with the kind of atmosphere that can’t be bought.
No disrespect to Reebok, but they’ve got a habit of squandering past glories. When they relaunched the brilliantly-titled Weebok line circa. 2005, it wasn’t like it used to be. Despite a crappy 1990 Cabbage Patch Kids doll tie-in around 1990, they had some of the greatest baby sneakers of any brand. Harputs have a few online (the pictures below are taken from their site), and they look eerily similar to some grown-up size capsule collections trying to capture the 2010 zeitgeist. Hikers? Deck shoe styles? Damn Reebok. You really had it going on. It’s enough to make me broody.
*Apparently London’s getting a branch on Regent Street. Seen on message boards and heard whispered conspiratorially in an elevator.