I was happy to help out on some stuff for Will Robson-Scott’s The Best of adidas tribute to the adidas Equipment range. The end result is an 18-minute documentary (you can see part one here) that features a few folk I respect that you don’t see on video too often — Peter Moore (who, between the adidas performance logo, Air Force, Jumpman and McEnroe logos defined the look of sportswear from the 1980s to the 1990s, even if he’d concede that he’s not much of shoe designer) is a hero of mine for his branding and marketing skills, and seeing behind the scenes at mita in Tokyo is pretty cool too. It all goes out next week to coincide with the reissue of the fan favourite EQT Guidance (the 1993 version, not the 1991 edition.) I’m super impressed with Will’s work. I genuinely hate a lot of modes of marketing footwear these days. I understand that attention spans are precious and that long-form copy isn’t the solutions, but a lot of comms folk would do well to understand why their brand is excellent, rather than some corny crap in the name of engagement or because a budget needs to be blown. You don’t need to be regressive to stay true to your strengths. I like this video because it feels adidas to me — it isn’t the same fucking faces pretending they ever cared about the shoe in question and I think there should be a documentation of the EQT project’s essence, because most bloggers and advertorial magazine dudes aren’t going to tell it. Speaking of pure adidas attitude, this Oi Polloi piece where Nigel breaks down his favourite adidas trainers is excellent — Hans Bitzer’s Viennas are probably the best bit.
The adidas Equipment line has long been a preoccupation of mine because there seems to be so many stories behind the whole collection. I remember the bags and sweatshirts being popular around my way (and Common wearing the sweat when he was Common Sense) after adidas seemed to be solely discussed in old school terms. Over time I appreciate the shoes as pieces of industrial design, but it’s a collection that brings arch-rival brands Nike and adidas together like never before. Peter Moore, who was brought into the Nike fold by marketing man Rob Strasser, was a key part of the team (as Nike’s creative director) to fight back against Reebok’s reign over Nike in 1984 by creating the Air Jordan I and its related campaign.
Moore was also half of the design team (with Bruce Kilgore) behind the less successful (but brilliant) Air Jordan II, a mastermind when it came to selling visible Nike Air and he designed the Jumpman before he and Strasser left Nike in 1987, leaving the design duties on that line to a former architect he recruited called Tinker. For those achievements alone (and it’s worth noting that Moore himself doesn’t consider himself much of a shoe designer), immortality in the industry was guaranteed to some degree. Leaving to start their own company (and apparently making an attempt to get MJ on board too), Sport Incorporated, with Benetton, Taylor Made and PF Flyer as clients, they took on the inner-city market targeting VanGrack brand, that used MC Shan as a frontman for a promo video. Then Rene Jaggi — chairman of adidas — got in touch in summer 1989, asking for a meeting.
In the era of technology wars and brand battling, adidas was suffering. Now, designs like the ZX 8000 are considered classics, but beyond core European markets who were 3-stripe loyal, the brand was losing money and found itself in an unfocused situation that had killed its visibility in the USA. While Reebok’s position at the time was strong (this was the year of Pump) the very things that Moore, Strasser and Mr. Hatfield had created had done some serious damage to adidas’s share of the industry.
The situation was grave enough that the Sport Incorporated team, leaving Portland for onetime enemy territory in Germany, proposed an anti-glamour, pure performance, no-bullshit approach to the top-tier products with a name that was defiantly fashion-free, Equipment (“The best of adidas“). Every discipline would get its own flagship shoes in a new colour palette with a new logo that was created with Moore creative directing and legendary adidas designer Jacques Chaissaing (creator of the ZX 500 and Forum) bringing them to life. Cottons and nylons on apparel and bags would be picked for their quality and the notion of the ultimate didn’t mean extra technologies — one of the tenets of the original designs was to use the 3-stripes as support features whenever possible so they actually functioned. This wasn’t heresy — it was an attempt to bring the spirit of Adi Dassler’s vision of sportswear as a tool back to the company.
Moore never seemed to have much love for the fairly recent Torsion Bar technology, but it was present in the original March 1991 rollout and first few seasons as part of the original Guidance, Support and Cushion, but would be altered dramatically in the next year for the new interpretations of those three shoes (named, appropriately matter of factly, after the main purpose of each design). EQT (which even released its own jeans) seemed like a retaliation to ACG’s then-popularity. There was EQT football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton and much more — each linked by a certain refinement and advertised in a particularly no-nonsense way.
That adidas were willing to let the colours get switched (reds and blues would be added over time) was significant but letting the man behind the Jumpman change the logo from the trefoil to the stripes was an indication of how open they were to solutions as a new decade started. Moore and Strasser felt that the trefoil represented another new category they’d been discussion — Originals, which would be upgraded lifestyle versions of classics that capitalised on an interest in classic adidas at the time. Sadly, Rob Strasser would pass away in late 1993, but Moore would stay with adidas until 1998, and remains a consultant to the company.
That gap between Originals and Equipment would, in the decades that followed when what was once a shock of the new became the stuff of nostalgia, stop the series from being retroed, bar a scattering of shoes. How could Originals put out the product that drew that line in the sand that determined that it couldn’t be Originals? It’s good to see that issue resolved, just as it’s good to see the shoes brought back in an appropriately no-bullshit way.
One of my favorite things about the Equipment line is this video from 1990, cut to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel and assailing the viewer with a montage of Nike, Reebok, ASICS, Geraldo, Mr T, Tyson, Rambo, Madonna and much more. Made for internal use to give either employees or potential retailers a sense of what EQT was meant to be a reaction to.
I hoard paper promotional materials like one of those oddballs stacking rubbish to the point where its visible on Google Earth. Some of the best stuff is promo only, because it’s free of clearance issues trimming the good stuff. Every shoe brand has books. PUMA has a hardbacked brand history, Nike’s ‘Irreverance Justified’ and a host of perfect bound listings, New Balance had a 100th anniversary tome, Vans put a book together and while there’s been histories(the 2008 book was okay, but it only scratched the surface) and Japanese catalogue style affairs, there always seemed to be scope for an adidas book that really fleshed out the roots of the company and celebrate the clinical brilliance of their very best output. So when some nice folks at adidas Originals sent over a copy of their book, ‘The Story as Told by Those Who Have Lived and are Living It’ (I just call it the big fucking adidas book), a gap on the shelf was filled. Actually, it’s more than a gap, because this book requires a chasmic space.
At 650 pages, in its own cardboard carrier and accompanied by two large posters — one of archive shoes and the other of classic adidas marketing campaigns — the adidas book is serious. Interviewing key athletes old and new, talking to execs, breaking down the entire timeline of adidas and making no attempt to gloss over darker days, showcasing classic sporting images with adidas in the frame, profiling the masterminds who created marketing waves still resonating, like Rob Strasser (RIP) and Run-DMC deal man Angelo Anastasio as well as DMC himself, it was worth waiting for the brand to deliver a book. With a personal preoccupation with EQT, I was well served by the contents, and if you’re expecting a breakdown of every adidas shoe ever, you’re out of luck, but the handful of pages at the book’s close are pure footwear porn (bring back the 1936 roller skating shoe please adidas). The embossed cover, inserts, paper stock and print quality is outstanding — even the book’s marker is coloured appropriately. The catch? It’s not going on sale. I have no idea how you get hold of a copy either, but the hours that have gone into this one show in the execution.
I spend an unnecessary amount of time pondering as to what rappers actually have in the bank. Traditionally they have to talk it up, but listening to some of Posta Boy’s wild claims on ‘Jurassic Harlem,’ frequently rappers talk big career talk before they’ve made it up the first rung of the ladder. And Young Buck mocking those who throw their rent money around and going broke, before reports rolled in of his bankruptcy a few years later? It’s a cold world. It’s nice to hear a little truth once in a while from a realm that favours exaggeration. It’s funny to see journos and commentators still falling about in shock at a rapper being articulate — not all rappers are Webbie in Wal-Mart mode.
The rap bio is the best kind of bio. Prodigy proved that with his trashtalking My Infamous Life (one of 2011’s best books), rivaling Dustin Diamond in the shit talking stakes. But hip-hop is a multi-layered thing. Even a behind-the-scenes player like Steve Stoute has his book out. Jeezy’s recent documentary and video interview campaign trail revealed enough details to create a compelling read in the corner boy-turned unit shifter stakes (I need a Project Pat Bob Dylan ‘Chronicles’ type tome in my life, charting a life of antics in Memphis) and RA the Rugged Man’s opus will surprise the uninitiated with his knowledge recall and journalistic savvy.
On the shelves, you can pick up Common’s ‘One Day It’ll All Make Sense,’ J-Zone’s ‘Root for the Villain’ and — the admittedly older — ‘Game Over’ by Azie Faison. That’s some commercially palatable Wholefoods rap, an indie rapper who had Mr Bongo’s going nuts and the gangster-turned-rapper multi-tasker all charting their lives thus far. If you’ve read J-Zone’s excellent blog on Ego Trip’s site, you’ll know he’s a MobStyle fanatic, so there’s a certain synergy between Azie’s book and his. Common’s book has plenty of rap trivia, Dilla recollections and introspect by the pound — the spiritual talk and maternal asides all makes it a little twee, but for better or for worse, it’s a decent distillation of the man’s sound.
J-Zone’s book is a self-published expose of the indie rap life circa 1998-2004, charting the rise and fall of walls of vinyl and serious kids with Jansport bags distorting their spines. It’s not bitter, but rather a rational look at the point where a rapper has to get a day job. It happens, and with Mr. Zone’s ‘Music for Tu Madre’, ‘A Bottle of Whup Ass’ and ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’ remaining some of the few non-gutter, illicit money street label indie releases worth breaking out in 2012 (most people spending their cash on J-Rawls records back then pretend they were listening to nothing but Pun, the Lox and DMX nowadays), there’s no shame in J-Zone’s game. He’s a gifted writer and despite trying to paint himself as a curmudgeon, is a likable character too, and while the autobiographical element fades like the protagonist’s income from the industry to give way to some angry essays, it’s a rare insight into a career in the underground and its ups and downs.
Go buy J-Zone’s book. I want to read Money Boss Players, Boosie, J Prince, Kool G Rap and Scarface autobiographies one day too.
I saw ‘Strange Behavior’ when I was a kid. Appropriately, it’s a strange, seedy little film. Ostensibly, it’s a slasher flick, there was weird stuff with a male character and his dad, a certain scuzziness that was answered when `I found out that it was an Australian movie despite American accents. But the soundtrack is amazing. Tangerine Dream on the score, a scene where an entire party breaks into a choreographed dance to Lou Christie’s solitary hit ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ and my introduction to Nick Cave in the form of the pre-Birthday Party group Boys Next Door, whose remarkable ‘Shivers’ on the car stereo pre-stabbing blew me away. ‘Shivers’ was written by Rowland S. Howard who passed away almost two years to the day, and I’m looking forward to getting hold of Richard Lowenstein’s documentary on the man, ‘Autoluminescent.’
‘Autoluminescent’ is set for a DVD release in March, but we Brits are being spoilt by Studio Canal with a budget-priced UK Blu-ray release of the Paul Schrader’ co-written revenge masterpiece ‘Rolling Thunder’ at the end of January. William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones are great in this gritty, faintly weird classic that’s a perfect supplement to other late ’70s Schrader aided revengers ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Hardcore’ — a John Flynn Q&A? Heywood Gould commentary? Linda Haynes interview? I’m in. Why we’re getting it and the rest of the world isn’t is a mystery, but hey, that was the case with the recent Blu-ray of ‘The Outsiders’ which was admittedly the ‘Complete Novel’ edition with the ill-judged rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, but the extras and extra footage almost make up for jettisoning Carmine Coppola’s score. Almost. On that film’s extras there’s discussion of Francis treating the Soc actors and extras like rich kids and putting the Greasers into no-frills accommodation, but I had no idea that there were Soc and Greaser t-shirts, plus an inter-faction basketball match until I saw the GreaserSocProject photostream with Paul Raczkowski’s image of the teams of extras posing. It’s a good set of images if you’re strange about that movie like I am. Being an extra in that film would have been a life highlight. I still want to see Mickey Rourke’s screen test for the film though.
On the subject of movie merchandise, Mr. Sofarok put me onto the sale of one of the prop jackets worn by Sylvester Stallone’s character Gabe Walker in 1993’s ‘Cliffhanger’ for $1200. Between this doing the ’90s outdoor tech thing and Seagal’s ‘On Deadly Ground’ (sold recently for the same amount) doing the native handcrafted RRL-esque look, I believe that action movie star outerwear will be a big trend for the coming season. I like the fictional accolades, locales and made up expeditions somebody had to mock-up for those patches.
You don’t see many interviews with James Jebbia, because he’s fully aware that most journalists will either miss the point or misquote him. Plus Supreme doesn’t need very much press coverage, does it? But you can trust ‘032c’ to get something right though, and their Supreme piece in the new completely redesigned edition of the magazine is decent. They approach subjects with a certain intensity, but even they only got a short interview with him that necessitated quotes from the book’s KAWS conversation and tracking down some Supreme affiliates for extra soundbites. It even discusses his reticence for Q&As. In the case of production runs, labels and chatter, the man behind the brand knows that less is more. Even in a world where you’re expected to Instagram and tweet your breakfast and the subsequent bowel movements. Still, as you’d expect, it’s a nicely presented article, with foldouts, the Nate Lowman artwork from the NYC store and plenty of red. ‘Absolutely Fabulous’s Christmas special was a car wreck testament to a shoe that was hardly funny in the first place, but nine years before the Kate Moss and Supreme shirt, there was a Supreme and Naomi Campbell collaboration on BBC1 at primetime. Check the hairdresser’s tee out in an episode originally transmitted in April 1995…