Twitter is swarming with links to Robin Williams tributes, and with good reason — the handful of people I know who met him found him to be a class act and it’s a testament to his versatility that while I never found his standup particularly side-splitting, he was one of the ultimate actors when the script was right, as was the case with Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King and Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad. Williams was a man with an inclination toward some of the brands and cultures discussed here — FTC (his local spot), Slam City and Supreme were all apparently regular haunts and the BAPE and Viotech combo has become a message board staple.
Some ill-informed characters would jeer at that gaudy combo a few years back and discuss it as if it was the death knell for those brands, but the fact is, Williams was most likely on it before it hit the radar of a new breed of cynics. Williams was even up on Acronym, picking up pieces from San Fran’s Darkside Initiative store. He was up on Raf Simons shoes back in 2009 too. Now, if a semi celebrity wears some easy-to-find Jordan IIIs, the internet starts quaking — back in the mid 2000s, this was unique. Between that , the video game obsession and Questlove’s tale of an encounter that indicates that he might have been a hip-hop fanatic too. There’s too many layers and degrees of separation to even begin to dissect here, but his loss is a tragedy.
In these situations, I clocked a few of the social media voices of unreason complaining that we mourn celebrities more than we do victims en masse in a war zone — that’s because it’s tough to fully grieve when there’s no face to put to the deceased and, given his admirable work ethic, Williams’ mug was a familiar sight. The sad reality for the complainers is that some poor kid thousands of miles away that strayed onto a landmine wasn’t in Fast & Furious 6 or Jumanji. It’s human nature. Are the going to start picketing our uncles’ funerals next because we’re not getting angry enough about Syria? Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt We’ve been given the emotional depth to be upset about both things.
But anyway, forget all the sentiment — the image above from 1990 (jacked from Getty and the LIFE archives), around the Cadillac Man era in Williams’ career, wearing the GORE-TEX North Face TransAntarctica coat indicates that, long before he got himself an Acronym, he understood the power of great outerwear. Robin Williams was unique on every level and he was doing the brands long before the blogs too.
If you never got a copy of the Nike Genealogy of Innovation book from the project I worked on and your browser is too weedy to look at the website, here’s a video that the good people of Golden Wolf put together that animates 200 Nike shoes from 1972 to 2014 in chronological order. Crazy that the lists I was writing in iPhone Notes during a train journey ended up looking like this — it looks like the inside of my mind.
Whoa. Did Apple just acknowledge the obligatory Supreme box logo sticker on a MacBook that’s the Hypebeast Essentials equivalent of a Scarface poster in an episode of Cribs? That’s an interesting corporate co-sign. Things have come a long way. Personally, I think that it’s a 19th anniversary salute to Lord Nikon in Hackers, the Supreme sticker on a laptop OG back in 1995 who slapped a box onto a Toshiba Satellite. In a film that seems to be Apple sponsored, Nikon was one of the few without a chunky Powerbook, meaning he never quite brought the worlds together entirely, but Laurence Mason’s character is still the father of that rectangle you carefully applied to expensive hardware to fake not-caring. Unless we’re Dutch, we’re not listening to Urban Dance Squad, wearing shades to hack in strange digital cityscapes or whizzing around on rollerblades, but Hackers got one prophecy on point.
The whole Genealogy of Innovation project I worked on for Nike has been collated in a book by Sneaker Freaker and it’s very good. Weirdly, I put a book project on hold to write that website copy and now it’s a book, but there’s extra copy in there, all the shoes, all the stuff I wrote, some interviews with Nike football folks I did, other interviews with famous people and about 230-something pages of stuff. The packaging is bananas with the Magista (and Superfly) colour contrast on the slipcase. I still wish I’d written THIS IS THE ORIGINAL MARIAH AND NOT THE MARIAH PR after my Mariah copy all those months ago, but it’s a minor (and it’s correct on the site). I know quite a few were produced as promo pieces, Salutes to Woody, Ryan and the team on this — ridiculously fast turnaround and a very impressive product.
This entry is short and Nike heavy. Seeing as a couple of things pertaining to the swoosh went live over the last 48 hours, I may as well direct you there. First up, there was this quick chat with Mark Parker about HTM (I had to include my dud attempt to get him to compare the Presto Roam to the new Superfly. He was too professional for that) for 032c. Not included was a quick conversation about the Nike Internationalist (which I was wearing) — Mark actually designed that shoe as well as a few of the V-Series, the Epic and the Escape among others. Nice guy and great to get the opportunity to talk about specific shoes with him. Then there’s this Genealogy of Innovation site right here which I’m proud of. I worked with a bunch of talented project managers and designers (salutes to R/DA for that execution), with invaluable help from Nike’s DNA department to get this done — the way they laid this out (provided that your wi-fi is strong and your browser ain’t out of date — otherwise you might want to pass until it’s on paper) as a site is great. Displayed like this it’s basically a simulation of the inside of my head. I wish we could have gotten our hands on the cleated versions of the Air Match models and hasn’t omitted the Air Fire due to circumstances beyond our control, but bar the Air 180, they’re all original shoes. It could have easily spilled into 500, 600 or 800. But it didn’t. Maybe next time. If you like some of the nonsense I put up here, you might find something to like there.
Given the current craze for multiple brands on a garment by illegal means with almost as much gusto as the bootleg boom of the late 1980s and the strange period when Boss, Nike and adidas shared shirt space with a neon rainbow fade connecting rival or disparate logos. This shirt from Oshman’s celebrates their extended family of outdoor brands (with an appropriately bouncy typeface) but omits Patagonia and Arc’teryx from proceedings despite their key positions in the Harajuku store. That’s a whole lot of big names in one place on the back of this t-shirt and while Merrell might have kicked back and become a laceless dad shoe of choice without any semblance of Free & Easy’s rugged paternal style, those with a longer memory might recall Merrell having some staggeringly expensive, Italian-made hikers like the Wilderness on the market back in the very early 1990s that rivalled Vasque. They definitely managed to kill that credibility on these shores, but in Japan they seem to be in good company. This brand orgy is excellent.
Paul Gorman is one of my favourite writers and while I wait for his books on The Face and artist Derek Boshier (check out this Clash artwork) I read a brief stopgap in the new GQ with Gorman’s feature on British photographer and fashion editor of Paul Raymond’s Club International, David Parkinson. It’s an education if you want to find out more about a forgotten legend who did a lot of things worshipped now several decades earlier, but took his own life before he could capitalise on it. On the subject of British subcultures rarely explored, the Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliott curated Return of the Rude Boy exhibition looks like it’s going to be a necessary visit when it opens in mid-June and this Guardian piece offers a quick overview of the look’s origins. It looks like Barrie Sharpe’s book has been successfully kickstarted too, meaning the Duffer story — and a lot of London’s clubland moments from a pivotal time — will be told.
I worked on a little project — Genealogy of Innovation that includes around 200 shoes — for the Nike Football Phenomenal House project that opens in London tomorrow at the Sorting Office on New Oxford Street. Lots of football boots from the past and a few other important shoes (with a few underrated gems in the mix) and it’s on until Saturday. There might be some more discussion regarding that exhibition on this blog next week at some point.