Tag Archives: dickies


Hey, ironist whitey — don’t front, you know you’ve pretended to throw up a gang sign, Crip walk or done up the top button on a Pendleton and scowled at the mirror. Bet you’d shit yourself if you were in gang territory though — your blogwear wouldn’t stop from being treated like Marky Mark by locals. Still, our preoccupation with Los Angeles gang culture isn’t any more inexplicable than the mafia fascination that pervades popular culture (gotta love ‘Bangin’ in Little Rock’ with one of my favourite moments at 17:06), and any organisation operating outside society’s rules with its own rules and uniforms is going to fire imaginations. Ah yes, the uniforms.

Let’s be clear here, who’s selling the aforementioned Pendleton, Chucks, Carhartt, Dickies, Ben Davis, khakis and white tees to you — some lookbook clown with a side parting who you could put in a chokehold, or some real OGs? That pride in the quality basics is a striking aesthetic that’s had more impact on the current wave of simple, quality looks than is credited.

If we’re going to explore how a blog post like this comes about, it was entirely fuelled by the photo of Crip founder member Greg “Batman” Davis (check his website here) in swagger mode — I don’t understand enough to either condone or condemn Greg’s earlier lifestyle, but with his Charles Manson friendship plus dalliances with the Symbionese Liberation Army and Jim Jones he’s a fascinating figure — that I spotted at the MOCA ‘Art in the Streets’ show. The way a whole gang phenomenon was summarised in a couple of sentences as part of the exhibit was curious, but that high rolling image is a strong piece of criminal imagery, with Davis seemingly looking to document a moment of perceived invincibility fired my imagination.


What happened to Nemo Librizzi’s Bloods and Crips documentary ‘Lay Down Old Man’ from 2005 that got a single screening at Blacktronica and some film festivals before vanishing? It had plenty of footage of Davis reflecting over his past, but whereas ‘Bastards of the Party’ and Stacy Peralta’s ‘Crips & Bloods: Made in America’ are readily available, ‘Lay Down Old Man’ has never reached DVD.

That Crip talk made me think of the Glen E’ Friedman photo session from South Central Cartel’s 1994 LP ‘N Gatz We Truss’. It’s not the guns which grabbed my attention (seriously, what was the odds of ANOTHER group having a Havoc and Prodeje in?), it was the customised Ben Davis work shirts, including the Def Jam West variation that blew me away. I’ve even put it in mood boards, blissfully ignorant of the heavy metal in the foreground. What can I say? I’m stupid like that. That in turn had me pondering the mighty Ben Davis. Seeing as the blog logo (courtesy of Sofarok) is a Ben Davis tribute, I’ve never done the brand justice on this site.

All you really need is O.D. Wolfson’s 1995 interview with Benjamin Franklin Davis and Frank Davis from ‘Grand Royal’ #2 — that offers some excellent background on the brand and how it started. I’ve upped a scan of the page here, but there’s a few other interesting morsels that make for an interesting supplement to the answers Mr. Davis provides.

Beyond the handful of store photos, painted ads and newspaper promotions from the late 1940s and 1950s, it’s interesting that Davis mentions that while the shirt is a Ben Davis creation, their pants were based on a design that was an acquisition (the Ben Davis brand started in 1935) from the then defunct Neustradter Bros. and their ‘Boss of the Road’ line — the gorilla was a reaction to mascots like the ‘Boss of the Road’ bulldog. I found some of their old advertising (dating back to 1901), and it’s notable that the ‘Boss of the Road’ brand was bought and resurrected by Lee in the late 1930s with added Lee branding, but that familiar jowly pooch is still present.

Continuing Ben Davis’s link to other denim powerhouses, Ben’s grandfather Jacob W. Davis’s patent for his invention – the copper pocket rivet for jeans — filed on August 9, 1872 is available too. That started with duck pants before the transfer to denim. That patent was half-owned by a certain Levi Strauss, and it’s a hugely significant moment in denim evolution — Jacob worked with Levi by developing the manufacture of the resulting pants and he sold his interest in the patent to Levi Strauss in 1907, just before he passed away.

Ben Davis passed away on February 19, 2009 — a pioneer and inadvertent father of streetwear in many ways. But that’s a whole different story…

UK/Euro heads should tap up the good folks of www.theoriginalstore.co.uk for your Ben Davis needs.

Ben Davis store photos taken from this page right here.


Almost every day I’m guilty of multiple acts of insincerity. An insincerity spree as it were. I tell people I like things, firmly shake their hands and pretend to enjoy being in their company. Whether it’s work-related, during a commute or feigning nice-guy on a social basis to prove that I’m not some self-harming misanthrope, I’m prone to it. I’ve said nice things to get free things or laden paragraphs with superlatives to keep people happy. Like I said, I’m prone to insincerity. 

This blog however, is—unless I’ve become so pathetically self-serving and false that I’ve forgotten how my true self actually feels about anything—something a little more honest. I’m not ashamed of my vacuous, phony antics as I generally surround myself with people I genuinely like. So if I see something I like and chuck it up here, it’s not just because it was flowed my way—it’s because I genuinely like it. 

I have stacks of booklets, pamphlets, fold-outs, USB sticks and lookbooks clogging up my living space that, as a hoarder, I can’t dispose of. Much of it never got beyond a blank glance on the train when I was fishing through a goodie bag to see if there were foodstuffs or promo-cigarette papers in there (all goodie bags should have cigarette papers somewhere in the mix…plus matches). If you’re one of the few who follows these updates, not only do I love you for that (I really mean it) you may have gathered that there’s a preoccupation with workwear and basics round these parts. I love Ben Davis, I love Carhartt and I love Dickies. Nobody had to flow me product to say that. 

Still, I’ve always wanted more archive Dickies information—it’s always seemed a little tougher to obtain than the details of Hamilton Carhartt’s hardwearing empire. During the recent Crooked Tongues BBQ, Juergen at Dickies was—in what’s arguably the era of the bullshitter—the most efficient, friendly and professional individual we’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. The same goes for all Dickies team and affiliates operating in Europe. Keen to elevate the brand, Juergen handed over a startling level of creative freedom to my old agency haunt (and spiritual home), U-Dox to create a brand bible. Truth be told, on hearing about the project, I anticipated something solid, readable, but along the lines of Carhartt Europe’s excellent promo book series, following that well-worn trail of history and product preview.

On seeing some untreated snapshots and art director Jay Hess hard at work during a preview of the Hideout capsule collection—and in the knowledge that gentleman and scholar Jason Jules was editor and creative director—I’d clearly grossly underestimated the scale of this project. ‘Love Your Work’ is inspirationally good. Busy without being over designed, there’s an air of ‘Sang Bleu’ (If you don’t know by now, you’re never going to know) to the look and playful use of paper stocks. Stocks, finishes, fold-outs, inserted factoids about key Dickies designs and bonus interview applications, foil printing, pop out colour-coded circles…for a simpleton like me who enjoys the tactile side of the reading experience, it’s a joy. Jason’s even such a gent that he thanked me in the NYC hip-hop map section, despite a contribution that bordered on fuck-all. Bar the wack shoes on most of the ladies in the group shot, it’s consistent too.

I see familiar faces throughout, but this isn’t a biscuit wank on paper. Employing the minds at Astro Man to create revisionist ads in an early 20th century style was a great move too. Deeply impressed by the work here and looking forward to the next installment, I’m also deeply jealous that I never got more involved. Launched on monday at an enjoyable exhibition with a neat “takeaway” gimmick, it also allowed me to meet a personal hero, Kevin Rowland, very briefly (“Nice to meet you Kevin. I ‘m a big fan of your work.” “Thank you very much.”). This entire project elevates my appreciation of Dickies as a brand, and I think that’s a job well done.

It’s free too. I hope all involved love the work they’ve created. 

The usual vitriol will resume this weekend…


No visit to the USA is complete without bringing back some kind of preoccupation as a psychological souvenir. That was the case after a trip to Los Angeles. Obsessed with gun-toting rap from the safe distance of a provincial part of the UK, attitude was only one part of the package – those outfits were the next. Chucks, Cortez, Dickies, Pendleton, Cascades, and Carhartt. And white tees. Lots of white, pressed tees – that’s how you pull off basics with aplomb. The love of cheap workwear that runs through this blog with irritating repetitiveness isn’t the byproduct of a site informing me of the wonders of Americana or some Japanese bible of utilitarian brilliance – gangster rap made me do it. But the current boom in workwear has made picking up gear significantly easier with an explosion of stockists. It doesn’t quite match visiting a clothing store in the middle of god-knows-where browsing stiff short-sleeve shirts with monkey labels while a shopkeeper eyes you quizzically.

The main style king? MC Eiht. MC Chill was, well, cool and all, but Eiht wore the quintessential left coast uniform like no other. The only swagger to match was King Tee – especially in shotgun toting ‘Act A Fool’ mode. The cover of 1992’s ‘Music To Driveby’ looking down at the two MCs, sans Slip in presumed jack mode, with the record in your hands in the back seat, creating some kind of infinite driveby effect is one of the greats. June 1994’s issue of ‘The Source’ (alas, ‘Zino crept into that gangsta rap summit) homaged it well, with occasional collaborator Spice 1 and Scarface in the driving seat. One of the most effortless transitions from lyrical persona to screen in ‘Menace II Society’? For sure. It was good to see Supreme reproduce the cap he wore on MTV Raps a few years back. Every good west coast production feels culled from Compton’s Most Wanted – Cube and company made entire tracks from the funk and soul loops that were implemented for mere seconds on ‘Straight Checkn ‘Em’ and ‘Music To Driveby’. DJ Slip doesn’t get his dues as a pioneer. At all. Respect to Peter Dokus (who also shot Above The Law and NWA) for that art direction and photography. Team Life Sucks Die were quick to pay tribute to the 1994 solo opus ‘We Come Strapped’ album’s lettering and composition. Rightfully so – nice watch too.

Take a snippet of Gwen McRae, mix it with Isaac Hayes and throw in a denim shirt worn better than you ever could and you’ve got a classic promo…

Sadly Japan’s version of ‘Lowrider’ magazine exited recently on its 98th issue – there’s still something touching about a final issue that bids the reader farewell. It’s less jarring than a no-show, rumour then confirmation from the publisher. Fortunately help is at hand – a couple of months back, Jae Bueno recommended a new publication from the Far East – ‘Roots’ magazine. Sal Barbier and Vans Syndicate are in the content page of the debut issue too. Only in Japan, as the print industry crumbles around us, could a niche publication like that spring up, fully formed. It’s something to celebrate and support.

Seeing as I’ve been dwelling on the early ’90s, it’s time for a spot of retro offsetting. Gasper Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ looks stunning from trailers, Thomas Bangalter is assisting sonically and it looks like a significantly less grounded affair than ‘I Stand Alone’ and ‘Irréversible’ – BUF’s computer animation work is unbelievable. Check the effects footage reel here. WARNING: The much-discussed sex scene shot of a penis during intercourse from a vagina POV is in there. Don’t sue me if you get fired.

Looks like 21st stoners/nutmeg drinkers/acid munchers just got their own ‘Altered States’ or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – suddenly Gasper’s Kubrick preoccupation shines through more overtly. Can’t wait for this one.


Ladies De Aztlan, Santa Cruz

America’s multicultural brew gave us some of the most stylish looks – when it gets too white, you’ve got imbeciles prancing around in pastel and bow ties pretending they’re dandies in higher learning. Fuck that. It’s a shame that at present time, core American brands are in, but they’ve been pushed back to American consumers by Japanese and European interests – crazy to see so many Red Wings in New York, but it’s odder to discover that the current boom trickled from Europe and the far east. Acting a follower on your own goods? Strange. Sometimes you can’t see the trees for the lumberjack felled quasi-woodsman style. I expected to see the next shit. Instead,  I just saw dudes dressed like their dads.

Since the days of ‘Dance Energy’ I’ve seen Cholo-styled shoots capturing the stance and pride in Chicano culture. It beats the beard and buffalo-check look, but boy; has their culture been jacked. Chucks, Dickies and a white tee? Untouchable. On you? Not quite so good. Just wearing the outfit ain’t cutting it. Take a look through Estevan Oriol and Robert Yager’s (showcased here on the Selvedge Yard) work for starters and see how much deeper it goes. It’s been a minute since I saw a latino figure in a lowrider during a video, and that subculture’s their creation. People love to pick from the barrio aesthetic, but few want to put anything back again.

If we’re going to dwell on the aesthetics, the west coast’s proudest taught me how to deify the basics – there’s no excuse to not look fresh when your dresscode is built on making something out of nothing – pressed khakis and tees, Ben Davis shirts and Converses make for a sturdy collection of reappropriated staples, treated with reverence. Pinning back pants to avoid ruination by the lack of “back” on a pair of Cortez? It’s all about the little details.

Outsiders peering into any subculture will pick, choose and romanticize as they see fit. That applies to the previous paragraph, and it applies to photographers looking to shock, intimidate or defy stereotyping with their depictions too. An insider’s perspective certainly won’t lack an agenda, but for authenticity within a realm that’s been alternately demonized, robbed, recycled, parodied to the point of racism and frequently misunderstood, you need an inside man or woman. That’s where Reynaldo Berrios enters the picture.

If you’ve ever mourned the demise of even a fraction of your magazine stacks, or just missed out on a full fanzine run, decisions to compile in book form can only be something to celebrate. The recent ‘Boy’s Own’ compilation was a perfect example, and the ‘Sniffin Glue’ collection was strong too. Similar ones for ‘The End,’ ‘Dirt’… even annual ‘The Source’ compilations up to 1993 would be welcome. The possibilities are endless.

2007’s ‘Cholo Style’ book compiled the strongest articles from ‘Mi Vida Loca’ magazine, edited and mostly written by Rey Berrios, and frequently illustrated by Victor A. Spider, whose detailed but occasionally crude illustrations gave it a unique appearance. For the hood, by the hood and sold in the hood, it didn’t travel too much outside its target spots, but for a decade it documented Raza life in detail, with the editor risking his life to get a story written, seemingly for the love of it rather than any Pulitzer opportunities. Now that’s what’s real.

If you pick it up expecting a guide on how to wear a Pendleton properly, go elsewhere – there’s a trove of imagery from the inside present, but the uncompromising stance of the reportage and points raised might alienate some. Conscious of the whitewashing of his community’s legacy, Berrios talks about the cowardice of drive-bys, prescribing punishment for those engaging in the activity, makes trips to other areas interviewing the younger occupants about their hopes and fears, talks Che and Aztlan history race relations, cars; including an Oakland police lowrider, community organization, prisons and self- empowerment. ‘Cholo Style’ makes no effort to provide you with a learning curve, context or spoonfeed you a way of life, but it proves totally absorbing from the preface to the hand-drawn “a message from our sponsors” ads at the back for barbershops, boutiques and corner stores that stocked ‘Mi Vida Loca.’

Naturally, themes of machismo arise, but one of the best collections of images accompanies the feature ‘A Focus on the Homegirls,’ with submitted female crew photos capturing some strong looks and stances for the camera – true hometown pride. This is the stuff that stylists can’t emulate. What became of the showcased Ladies De Aztlan Redwood, San Mateo, South City, East Palo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and South Hayward is never documented, but it’s a great moment-in-time captured. Importantly, Berrios caught the essence and diversity of his subjects – it’s not just about sending the photo editor the gun-toting shots of the most loco exhibitionists – this is the side of a lifestyle and culture rarely seen.

Feral House’s hit and miss approach to publishing the obscure, taboo, or rarely documented is always something to salute. For every couple of conspiracy-laden titles, there’s a ‘Lords Of Chaos, ‘American Hardcore,’ ‘Prisoner Of X’ (Allen MacDonell’s account of his time working for Larry Flynt at ‘Hustler’) and ‘Cholo Style’ – if the first two can get films made, the latter definitely warrants a documentary. Self-publishing against some heavyweight levels of adversity.



Ladies De Aztlan, South City

Ladies De Aztlan, Redwood City

Ladies De Aztlan, San Mateo

Ladies De Aztlan, San Jose

Ladies De Aztlan, South Hayward


It’s apparent that Camber don’t do funny business. There’s an enduring mystery to this sports/workwear brand that’s nicely at odds with every other brand letting the blogsphere see every inch of their inner workings down to the guts – they make great product, so hard wearing that it nearly falls into the current workwear boom that’s got your local hipster hotspot looking like dress rehearsals for ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ with added GORE-TEX. This has been the year of the heritage range. Marketing guy spots local urchins in denim and workboots, discovers the hype blogs and realises that all they need is their old logo on a patch, Vibram on the sole and voila! They’re in the running.

In the tumble to show just how goddamn old and authentic they are, old brands are acting less like the bemused Farnklin Davis who expressed concern for Ben Davis fan Snoop Dogg around the time he was aquitted of murder charges,I heard something about that Snoop Dogg guy getting in trouble…or a crotchety old man chasing a young man in cropped chinos wielding a DMC-GF1 off his factory property. Nope. Now it’s all blogger tours and storytelling.

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Whether you were there at the very start, were overseas feverishly browsing Subway Art or just stacking dog-eared XXLs, someone has helped define how hip-hop looks to you. George DuBose, Glen E. Friedman, Martha Cooper, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabaz and Brian Cross among many, many others, have made memorable contributions by amber encasing key cultural moments. Despite his B+ moniker, Limerick-born Brian Cross is far from an underachiever, putting out A-grade output for nearly two decades, from coast to coast, but calling LA home. He gives the City Of Angels a unique contribution aesthetically – appreciating the elements that only a onetime outsider could bring to the surface.

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