There’s plenty of little moments scattered across publications that altered the course my career would take in one way or another. Back in mid 1998, The Face ran a ‘Fashion Hype’ (and hype would become a word attached to these objects like a particularly excitable Siamese twin in the decade that followed) piece on the newly opened Hit and Run store (which would be renamed The Hideout for presumed legal reasons by 2000). This two page spread was a rundown of things I’d never seen in the UK and sure enough never seen them with a pound price next to them. I immediately rushed out and asked a couple of Nottingham skate stores if they’d be getting any Ape, Supreme, GoodEnough or Let It Ride gear in, only to be met with a blank stare. lesson learnt: Kopelman had the hookups that the other stores didn’t. This Upper James Street spot was selling APC jeans for 48 quid, while Supreme tees were only a fiver less than they are now. The 1998 season when Supreme put out their AJ1, Casio, Champion tee, Goodfellas script design and Patagonia-parody jacket was particularly appealing, and it was showcased here, while SSUR keyrings, BAPE camo luggage and soft furnishings were a hint of things to come. I guarantee that once you made it to the store, a lot of the stuff that you assumed you could grab with ease would be gone — an early life lesson that hype just isn’t fair.
Writing a top 50 of anything is a motherfucker. Nobody maintains a top 50 of something unless they’re truly insane. I keep a top 5 of some stuff, but that’s as far as it goes. And that’s subject to change. So putting together anything longer is hard, and beyond that top 10 ranking, it’s merely tactical. “You put XXXXX at 35! Are you crazy?” they shout in the comments section. And I don’t listen. Douchebags can glower at me at trade shows all they like. Streetwear is a subject that’s very important to me, and I can’t be bothered to break down what constitutes streetwear — you know what it is. Salutes to all who started at 432F.
When Bradley at Complex asked me to list 50 great streetwear bites (that was later changed to homages because “Bites” is a little too controversial), I was keen to get involved. Check it out right here. It’s nice to celebrate a realm before it went all cut, sew and RRL-lite — I’m not qualified to be talking about these things professionally, as I’m just a fan. I’m a toy. But that rack of shirts I browsed in Planet Clothing back in the early 1990s that was laden with Fuct, Freshjive, X-Large and some stray Carhartt is still fresh in my mind. It was a glorious confusion — was it skate wear? Hip-hop gear? I couldn’t work it out. So I used this opportunity with Compex’s 50 Greatest Pop Culture References In Streetwear to celebrate that. But I still had to omit some stuff important to me to fit that 50, and I forgot one key design.
I assume nobody cried about LRG being out the list again, because they’re not peddlers of parody, but I had to ditch Eightball and Droors because they’re skate brands, and before you claim that Supreme is a skate brand, we all know that it’s something bigger in 2011. In fact, I could easily make a list of nothing but Supreme gear, and I’m sure they loathe being tagged as streetwear too. But again, this isn’t the place for debate. It was originally a list of 80 or so designs. Some images were just impossible to find and some creations were excised because I couldn’t justify featuring more than 6 of the same brand when there’s a numerical perimeter to work within. You all knew Stussy and Supreme’s Chanel and Kruger homages would top it though, didn’t you?
But some stuff’s in there solely because I respect their business game or because that design typified an era, regardless of how regrettable it might look now. OBEY warrants a place for importance even if it’s super-wack to me nowadays, but those stickers fired my imagination back in the day. I saw one question on Twitter — “How could they forget air Johnny?” I can answer that one. Because it’s shit. It was nice to take another look at the work of the late Bleu Valdimer’s overlooked Kingpin line and Pervert’s Don Busweiler, who ditched the brand to join a cult. There’s a phenomenal documentary in there somewhere.
I regret omitting Supreme’s ARMY shirt, Stussy’s PiL-style StU, Zoopreme, King Stampede’s Cult stuff, Supreme Maxell, the J$ Situationormal Alpo shirt, Absurd’s A-Wing, DQM’s Meatallica, Diamond D-Wing, Undrcrwn’s Biggie and Pac shirts, Undrcrwn’s Coogi-style basketball shirts, Silas’s ‘Silas Bloody Silas’ shirt, Gimme5’s Ghostbusters image, Fuct’s ‘Warriors’, the BMW Red Army Faction shirt (I couldn’t find the designer), Perks & Mini’s Balearic Flag and Sun-Ra designs, Goodenough’s ‘Dog or Die, Staple’s Cassius Clay, Crooked Tongues’s ‘Crooked Force’, SSUR’s IZM IBM homage, Tonite’s ‘Party On’ Patagonia shirt, ALIFE’s Otis Bantum Correctional Facility, Freshjive’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’, WTAPS’s ‘Rise Above’ stuff NFC’s Krylon print, 10.DEEP’s Champion shirt, the SSUR Bruce Lee ‘Enter the Dragon’ chest marks, the St. Alfred’s YSL style monogram, the Bounty Hunter Danzig font, the Bounty Hunter Ducky Boys shirt, Pervert’s Kappa bite, Orchard Street’s ‘Pimp Accordingly’, Mishka’s ‘Death to All’, HVM8 ‘Bone Thugs & Typography’, aNYthing’s BAD NEWS series and a few more….in fact, I’m sure there’s a hundred more significant shirts, hats and sweats.
I couldn’t single out a specific NBHD design that’s an iconic homage. Mr. Craig Ford reminded me of plenty more Hysteric Glamour creations, Duffer’s Ducci Gucci bite and a Hermes homage, plus BAPE’s Versace and Cazal copies. The Natural Born ‘I Against I’ and 2K/Gingham Beatles designs are clever, but I never saw them as homages or imitations. Even only including a single No Mas design seemed churlish.
But now I’m boring myself.
There’s one major idiotic omission in the listing (and apologies to Erik for misspelling his name as Eric a couple of times) — the Fuct ‘Goodfellas’ shirt. The brand’s early ’92 film poster art preempts SSUR’s ‘Mean Streets’ and Supreme’s ‘Taxi Driver’. I mentioned it, then forgot to include it later on like a dumbass. It seems so obvious to stick gangsterism on cotton now, but back then it felt totally fresh. Fuct is a very overlooked brand indeed.
Why is the list largely absent of designs post-2006? Because there’s some lines that deserve a spotlight and I’m afraid SSUR creations warranted a place more than your line. There’s still some great creations being pumped out from newer labels, but post-2006, the homaged brands seemed to want more of that hypesphere loot and seemed happier to officially collaborate. I feel that murdered some of the rebel spirit and that was an instant disqualification, though on seeing the list, Jeff Staple mentioned that the John Jovino Gun Shop shirt was made with his cooperation.
It’s heartening to see a streetwear resurgence of sorts in the UK. Shouts to Gabriel at Origin London for his latest project with This is My Costume, Puck and Second To None. At fear of sounding patronising, the dude is 17 and creating a presence for his brand using a network of folk who dwell on the new. We old farts are on our way out — and not a moment too soon. Too much nostalgia can prove unhealthy.
With all the current MTV celebrations, it’s always worth re-watching the ‘VH1 Goes Inside Yo! MTV Raps’ documentary from a few years back. There’s some great outtake footage in there, and just as that rack of randomly gathered shirts had a vast impact on me, those saturday mornings watching Ed and the team were life-changing. Anyone else remember those switches to Marxman and Talkin’ Loud releases during Fred’s non-studio section courtesy of MTV Europe? I always felt I was missing out on some amazing US stuff as a result of that intrusion.
And if anybody can tell me what a ‘Purple Onion’ is in the comments, I’d love to know. While this track is hypnotic, I initially wrote the video off as a So Me copy, but the ‘Pop Up Video’ style comments and ‘What They Do’ style is decent.