I always wondered what the mood was like internally between mega brands during the early 1990s. For years I wondered whether Tommy and Ralph hated each other and whether Calvin and Perry would join the ruck if they were left alone in a room. Continue reading RUGBY BEEF
The Hiroshi Fujiwara fragment retrospective on Rizzoli is pretty good. If you grabbed the Sneakers Tokyo and Personal Effects books, surprises are going to be minimised, but if you haven’t, it delivers the goods. Over the years I’ve heard the, “Hiroshi Fujiwara of (insert country/city)…” mentioned whenever it comes to isolating cool guys, but the majority exist as alpha individuals who are still followers who made the most of a digital world. Hiroshi laid down roots through an obsession with exploration and isolating personal picks and his taste is impeccable — more a McLaren-style figure than a blog-wonder. That’s what makes the difference, and for all the use of taste maker in the industry, there aren’t a great deal of them out there. The Fader article from 2000 is a good complement to this one and much of his travels outlined in this Interview piece help fill some gaps which aren’t fully explored in this publication — I’m still fascinated by the trips to London and NYC (and there’s some good examples of his Seditionaries and Westwood archive pieces at the close of the book), Soul II Soul connections, Tinnie Punx/Tiny Panx Organization, bearing witness to the Wild Style tour and all those Last Orgy articles (an English translation of Masayuki Kawakatsu’s biography Tiny Punk on the Hills would have cleared up a lot of that period from 1982 onwards). I want to know about the things that don’t necessarily translate, but the man behind the brands is fully aware that too much information can ruin the bloke as a brand. It’s good to be able to isolate the genesis years of Goodenough, Electric Cottage and A.F.F.A. and John C. Jay’s intro is a particular standout— as long as folks are calling themselves influencers on Linkedin, we’re unlikely to see another character make an impact like this. Not bad.
Northerners are the reason a lot of us fetishise coats and sportswear like we do — Oi Polloi’s progressive approach to something that started on the terraces is a great deal truer to the original energy than strutting around in a replica track top. Looking like you just got out of prison after 31 years in solitary confinement or dressing in a gang bang of anachronistic retro garments defeats a hard-to-define purpose. The new Pica~Post (free) and Proper (seven quid) put most competition to shame: a long discussion on sweatshirts with the Good Measure team and talk with an elderly ultra marathoner are the kind of content I mess with.
This edit from Dan Magee of a ton of classic and rare footage brought back memories of skateboard attacks at the end of the Right to Skate tape as well as some happier recollections. It’s a good use of two hours and seeing as my day began listening to Kid Capri tapes on YouTube and ended with this, my post about shutting the fuck up about 1993 a few years back has reached new heights of hypocrisy.
I’m backing any brand that does outerwear right and ALL THAT IS LEFT has a good pedigree. I know this new line will be putting out a full range beyond jackets that seems to include denim and leather goods, but this orange GORE-TEX shell creation with a Pertex shelled lining that contains Canadian Hutterite down looks bananas (read here for a primer on fancy feather insulation). It looks like it launches in September and my expectations are sky-high.
I’ve long been a fan of Ewen Spencer’s work — he’s responsible for documenting plenty of subcultures that few others sought to shoot, possibly because they felt they had little worth. Guess what? Now everybody’s nostalgic for Moschino and Classics right now and Mr. Spencer is sitting on a goldmine. If you read about late 1990s and early 2000s British club culture in The Face, you probably bore witness to what he captured and he’s still out there trying to find the enclaves and little scenes around Europe because, while he doesn’t necessarily like the music, he’s drawn to the energy.
From the overpriced champagne dance days to the scowls, spliffs and clashes to kinds far, far away blasting Flo Rida from crappy phone speakers, you don’t need any audio to visualize the soundtrack to the pictures he’s gathered over the years. As part of some recent self-funded jaunts, Ewen visited Naples and documented a group of teens out there. There’s plenty of alpha activity and apparel that’s of a distinctly Euro look, but there’s some familiarity in there too, but there’s no Camorra recruits holding up knives for the camera — it’s all posing and trying hard to look like you don’t give a shit (being a teenager, basically), with some candid moments in there too.
Ewen asked me to contribute a few paragraphs to the publication that contains the fruits of his Naples trip — Guapa-mente Issue 01. This is just the start of a series of explorations of European youth style and behavior — the parallels and the curious contrasts. With this being a snapshot of mid-summer 2013, if you want to look back a little further (and get a prequel to Open Mic), Ewen’s also finished putting together a book of UK garage imagery which has changed its name from Brandy & Coke to simply UKG, which ran parallel to the sweater, less clobber fixated late 1990s happy hardcore nights that Ewen also visited, resulting in the imagery that accompanies this excellent VICE piece. UKG is going to be an essential acquisition for anyone in the UK who heard those basslines from tackily decorated motors pre and post millennium or made the pilgrimage to the Empire or Colosseum.
With people getting nostalgic for old raving and the boom in bomber jacket popularity, is someone going to retro Dreamscape and Roast merchandise like the MA-1s? Will eight-packs of cassettes be dropping for record store day?
While we’re talking apparel and dance graphics, I don’t think Anarchic Adjustment gets it dues as a seminal British skate brand (even though its popularity seemed to stem from a move to America). A lot of the designs might look naive now, but manga, subverted taglines (Just Do It re appropriated for pill popping) and Miles Davis’ face on tee all had me fiending for the (former RAD art director) Nick Philip and Alisdair Mackenzie’s vision as a youngster (I think Alisdair and Nick split up as business partners early on, leaving Nick to run the brand). A cult brand in Tokyo (an example of Hiroshi Fujiwara’s clout, with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito pushing it too), Anarchic Adjustment is the tie that binds Hiroshi, Spike Jonze and Wired magazine in its earliest incarnation. There’s something in their whole “digital workwear” vision, even if time hasn’t been kind to the graphics. These guys were collaborating with some big names long before the rest were. This 1991 showreel is on YouTube looking 22 years old, but bringing back some memories of RAD ads and aspiration for cotton goods.
I’m slacking on blog updates because I just got back from NYC and I’m prepping to go on a stag weekend. I’m not used to actually living an existence — I’m more adept at forging one vicariously via the internet outside of everyday working hours, so it throws my WordPress routine and makes me twitch with OCD. I had something bigger planned for today, but the ground’s moving beneath me in pulsating waves — not good Max B wavy, but weirdo body clock wavy. Still, while London Fashion Week sounds dull so far, I’m feeling some new acquisitions that do an admirable job of taking something traditional and turning it into something technical. The thing about press trips is this — you can actually polish a turd. If you fly enough journalists out, make them feel special and present the turd to them in a glossy, bombastic fashion then thank them for attending, they’ll probably write a glowing write-up of the turd. What’s good for the karma is when you go on a trip to see an unveiling and you can gush about it because it’s genuinely excellent — Nike’s Flyknit is my kind of shoe. Beyond those of us who would take a man’s life for some shoes with a space scene on the upper, there’s those oddballs I identify with, who like moments in Nike eccentricity like the Alpha Project’s Seismic, 2008’s Lunar Racer (modern classic), Zoom Havens, Mariah PRs, Duelist PRs, the Woven collection that ushered in the ’00’s, Humaras and the entire HTM line that somehow linked Nike’s CEO, Mr Mark Parker to Tinker Hatfield and Hiroshi Fujiwara in a way that reeked of mutual respect and real-deal top-tier sensibilities.
Mark appreciates design (he really loves the Haven) and Hiroshi has a knack for elevating performance eccentricity. Somewhere down the line we became bogged down in variations on a theme, but the Nike GYAKUSOU range indicated that the future was top-tier performance rather than retros. It’s easy to assumed that HTM was always about premium classics in nice boxes, but the mid-cut Woven variation that was only an HTM release, first Macropus and latterly, the HTM2 Run Boot, indicated that is was a more freeform concept than that. That the latest HTM release debuted in a significant Track & Field trial at the start of the year rather than in the pages of ‘Warp,’ and that Mark mentioned the HTM project in his address to the global media is proof that there’s a conscious effort to push things forward that slapped me out of my footwear apathy.
If you compare initial whisperings about HTM from the Hiroshi interview from a Summer 2000 issue of ‘The Fader’ to the brief Q&A I had with Hiroshi and Mark that you can read here, there’s some interesting developments. Something went wrong in other sections of the collector-targeting offerings from every brand along the way in the interim, but HTM has always been an interesting experiment. I’m infatuated with the HTM+ Lunar Flyknit Trainer+ for that densely detailed toe, the threaded Dynamic Support eyelets (the Zoom Haven’s influence runs deep in these), the flipped colours on the medial side plus the way they feel like slippers on your foot, whereas the majority of attractive Nike slimline runners leave me doing the Verbal/Keyzer Söse hobble. A knit shoe can work like the Missoni Converse effort or it can be twisted into something even more cutting edge, and I imagine that in the wrong hands it could look like it was purchased at a craft fair from an earnest lady in a tie-dye skirt. Developments like Flyknit remind me why I like shoes. Seeing a Flyknit Air Max 1 or some such merger of classic and brand new technology would be a step backwards, but I’m not mad if shoes of the Flyknit Trainer’s calibre. I’m still waiting for the time when NIKEiD will allow us to submit an image or pattern for the Knit machine to add to the upper of our iD creations. For the time being, this colourway is a fine display of showboating the technology’s visual possibilities.
Today, vast conga lines of kids with Air Max 1s on slowly advanced towards the Supreme store doors and spent some serious bucks. I like the Kate stuff a lot – sneer all you like, but that official photoshoot stuff always delivers, yet the item I was most preoccupied with this season was the Taped Seam Coaches Jacket. It’s a basic look (Eazy-E on the ‘It’s On…’ EP cover wears a coaches jacket perfectly) and as a kid, from Naf Co 54 (the fake market store Naf Naf) and Spliffy to the cheapo faux-fur lined Raiders NFL-licensed efforts from Olympus Sports, they were a favourite. Supreme like to mess with the design, whether it’s working with Champion on collections of colours or giving them animal prints inside, but delivering a triple layer technical fabric jacket in the coach format is the kind of thing that those hype-wide eyes might miss during the feverish retail of the next few days, but with the nylon versions from my childhood being somewhat limited in their protection during blustering, inclement weather, this is tweaked to perform and look good. What’s often boxy has been taken in a little, and the teal variant is a killer coat, with an economic look that makes it versatile. I particularly like the contrast between the basic drawstring mode of fastening and the precise liner lines of machine-applied tape. The Champion variation in a similar shade eluded me a couple of years ago, so salutes to Angelo and James for their kindness.
Forget that never not working mantra. I’m not working this week and it feels good. It’s nice not to be writing an excess of shoe-related talk for a change, but guess what? Even during time off, I’m drawn to the subject. It’s a curse. Mr. Jeff Staple wasn’t lying when he mentioned that sleeping giant of footwear addiction that can’t be shaken off, even when you’re no longer in a brand’s target demographic (face facts, my over-30 brethren — you know that’s true). I even found myself making plans for Nike-related projects unconsciously on my BlackBerry earlier today, but it doesn’t feel like work — it’s normal, forgettable no-brainer behaviour.
Putting on a jacket and leaving the house isn’t something notable either — it’s something I just tend to do thoughtlessly, though I do see increasing numbers of photo shoots wherein a shirt and jacket combo as lumpen and ill-fitting as the clothes I throw on every morning is apparently “styled.” And lest we forget, I’m just a sagging shitbag when it comes to my dress sense, Styling is a noble artform (the attitudinal and brash trickle down of Ray Petri and associate’s Buffalo work fired my imagination as a kid and continues to be a pinnacle aesthetic in my eyes), but just putting some everyman attire on dudes with public school hairdos doesn’t look that difficult. Doing something different seems tougher.
Maybe these folk are doing it so well that they just make it look easy. Maybe I’d sever a finger buttoning up a shirt, or break a leg adding a millimetre to a turn up I know a few photographers who get a little touchy about the fact a license to do events and product shots seems to come free in the box of any SLR, so I imagine that plenty of stylists with a vision are a little perplexed about the tidal wave of chancers. I guess everybody has to start somewhere, but would it too much to ask to see bland
Seeing the video for Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ again at the V&A’s ‘Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990’ exhibition reminded me of how besotted I was with her and her whole swagger when I was a kid. I’m sure I recall entering a competition on BBC 1’s ‘Going Live’ to win a signed pair of adidas Metro Attitudes (the rare-as-fuck ones with the reptile print). Capturing a brilliant collision between high fashion, high art and popular culture and laced with brash branding that caught the eye of a new breed of expensive label magpies, drawn to anything they couldn’t afford that screamed its price point with every wear. What a lady. It’s an endlessly repackable style too, from the bolshy videos, to her lack of pregnant pause when it came to performing live.
In 1992, her seemingly non-styled (but nicely shot by Jean Baptiste Mondino) ‘Homebrew’-era (the album with ‘Buddy X’ as remixed with a Biggie appearance that led to Neneh getting a shout out on the ‘Ready To Die’ sleeve) is proof positive that Jordans look better on ladies. As the week ticks by with internet hype stripping the Jordan III’s cool away, let’s not forget how amazing a Jordan can be when it’s worn without giving a fuck, minus the tiptoes and twitpics. Neneh’s Military Blue IVs were old by the time this issue of ‘The Face’ went out (it’s dated October 1992), but the look of them is enough to make me forget that they were easily available in a plastic replica form for as little as £17 a couple of years ago. We’ll have forgotten about the reissues when they’re released again next summer, but the Jordan IV in that shade of blue hasn’t aged as well as Neneh.
I also forgot about Neneh Cherry recording with Hiroshi Fujiwara in 1994. You can hear ‘Turn My Back’ right here and it sounds like 1994 had a tendency to sound.
Inspiration and nice guy Nikolai put me onto Melbourne-based www.itsonlyatshirt.com who are putting out officially licensed horror film related tees in old style VHS box packaging. If the name ‘Patrick’ rings a bell, then you’ll probably lose your mind over this project. The frequently screened Oz b-movie about a terrifying telekinetic boy in a coma used to be a BBC late night staple, but I haven’t seen it in a while. I recall a jump scare at the film’s conclusion that once made me scream in a cowardly manner. In the Ozploitation stakes, ‘Patrick’ and ‘Long Weekend’ seemed to crop up with a certain frequency (often around holiday periods, when bedtime wasn’t a concern) and to see it celebrated like this is tremendous news. In this interview, it’s alluded that a ‘Raw Meat’ (aka ‘Death Line’ with the amazing soundtrack) shirt, based on the equally troubling 1973 classic is at brainstorm stage with this brand.
Look at these early 1997 Wallabee options that were featured in ‘New York’ magazine. Was that a post Ghostface reaction? The oranges are beautiful. It’s a shame that they were probably the post-87 North American market ones that were China made. Still, nice colours and composition. And if anybody knows who was behind the Killa Shoe Co. Padmore & Barnes made Wallabee-alikes from the early 2000s, I’d love to know.
This Erik Brunetti interview on the Heavy Mental is awesome, “Los Angeles, at least to my knowledge, is too caught up in ‘street art’ and hype-driven openings, which produce the worst piles of shit I have ever seen. Just dreadful to look at.”
Lest I forget, the homie Frank has just upped some of my musings on bags and outerwear history on Boylston Trading Company’s site to coincide with the Lexdray drop. My stuff is typically meandering, but I suppose if you’re talking about the outdoors, you’re allowed to ramble. It’s split into two parts and I think the second part is going up at some point this week. Good peoples and the Boylston Forums that are dropping in early December are killer.
Emptying the contents of a memory card, I found more images from the New Balance Flimby trip a while back. The original 670s are tremendous and the Kawasaki 993 is interesting. It’s still not quite as amazing as the Harrods New Balance M1700 from many years back (those Harrods NB images are swiped from homework4h38.blogspot.com and Parisian New Balance collector par excellence, Jay OneTwo’s images). Those shelves of UK-made goodies caused a few flashbacks and there’s a few samples there that bore striking differences to the production product. The mita croc skin 1700s from 2007 are underrated.
STAPLE IN PRINT
It’s good to see that the Reed Space’s ‘Reed Pages’ has reached issue one with a more substantial, perfect-bound offering than the launch edition issue zero all those years ago. I know I’m prone to assuming cancellation when follow-ups aren’t forthcoming, but almost two years is quite a gap. Just bear in mind that Mr. Staple is no stranger to printed matter.
It’s worth taking this moment to take it back to a time when you were still mildly optimistic about Rawkus releases, when Zab Judah was on the rise and Gravis Tarmacs (were they co-designed in any way by a pre-Visvim Hiroki?) were still a contender. ‘The Fader’ does an excellent job now on the music front, but in 2000 and 2001 it was a bible to me in my Bedford residence for matters of style too. I was more than happy to shell out around £6 an issue at the Piccadilly Circus branch of Tower Records in the hunt for this title and ‘Mass Appeal,’ ‘LODOWN’ or the lesser-spotted Transworld spinoff, ‘Stance’.’
These were pre-blog (shouts to the Mo’ Wax bulletin board massive, Spine Magazine, Rift Trooper and Being Hunted though) days, and if I saw an article I liked, it got memorized like rap album thank you’s. Jeff Ng’s contribution to the editorial side of early issues (the jeffstaple design was excellent too) gave us some English-language profiles of brands, product and people that had been confined to Japanese publications like ‘Boon’ and ‘Relax.’
It’s always nice to see the smart Supreme advertising that ‘The Fader’ carried, but Jeff’s 2001 Paul Mittleman and Hiroshi Fujiwara/Nike Japan profiles from issues #4 and #5 were very strong and resonated with me for some reason. The Hiroshi piece places plenty of emphasis on an innovative early ’00s boomtime—the Monotone collection white/green Terra Humara are something I’ve looked out for ever since in a US10 and the Air Max 120 remains underrated. Paul Mittleman’s recurring Arc’teryx coat and the shots of the never-bettered Dunk Lows (reissued next week) that built on his appearance in ‘Stance’ talking about the same shoe.
I spilt coffee on issue #4 of ‘The Fader’ and lost it when my mother culled my magazines left in her loft back in late 2002. Since then, I’ve been looking to read the Hiroshi article again (I’m sure that at one point it used to reside on its own www.fader.com/hiroshi URL). Then the homie Masta Lee at Patta saw my Tweeted plight and hooked me up with scans of the piece—props and praises to him for that act of kindness. Shouts to Jeff and the Fader for creating some essential content that resonated with an info-hungry freak like me.
UK RAP RENAISSANCE
Just because I think some folk need to deal with hip-hop’s progression doesn’t mean I feel some UK legends deserve to exist in a netherworld where their names are only uttered by the older generation during talk of the olden days. I think most of the current wave of UK hip-hop that’s broken through is still a crappy imitation of our American brethren, and while I appreciate that men rapping about demons over very fast Bomb Squad-style production isn’t going to cut it any more (maybe in some other parts of Europe, but not here), I love to see some of the old guard who made some classic LPs and reinterpreted rap on their own terms deserve some shine.
Take Hijack for instance—they had one of the best visual identities of any British band, but remained a cult favourite due to label politics—or MC Duke, or labels like Kold Sweat or Music of Life. There was a vitality to these names in their heyday and a sense that they’d go far to rep our nation at a point when hip-hop truly hit the mainstream circa 1991. Some are content to talk it up and simply recollect, some feel that they’ll give Giggs and Pro Green a run for their money at some point (still labouring under the misapprehension that their time is coming) and others entered a bigger industry and made a buck by taking off the blinkers and branching out. Respect to former HHC editor Andy Cowan for starting Original Dope—a label dedicated to reissuing old British hip-hop albums in remastered, repackaged and expanded form. Ruthless Rap Assassins, Blade and MC Duke fans should be delighted.
I remember the merchandise pages in Blues & Soul, HHC and several LP sleeves, but who was going to entrust their cash or postal order to some mysterious P.O. box address? I got my fingers burnt several times over the years, but I always wanted those mysterious tees and sweats that groups and labels promoted. Then there were the acts that should have had tees, but never did. What’s the solution? Officially licensed UK rap shirts from Style Warrior UK. Back in 2006 I spotted a MySpace for this UK label but missed out on a Hijack shirt…then I was outbid on eBay for it twice. Now it’s back—Overlord X, Son of Noise, Gunshot, M.C. Mell’o’, Music of Life (and there’s an excellent breakdown on their logo on the site), MC Duke, Silver Bullet, Kold Sweat are reliving their youth on cotton in a remarkably well-designed way, and there’s even two Hijack styles to pick from. The blog’s very good with some video links to the old ‘3rd Eye’ video magazine, talk of Stereo MCs and Cash Crew tees on the horizon and a history of the Demon Boyz logo too.
Today’s actually the cut-off for picking up the Hijack ‘Style Wars’ shirt. I assume there’s some rapidly aging fuckers like me who bug out at that kind of thing. It’s up there with the Japanese BBP licensed Showbiz & AG tees from five years ago in the very necessary stakes. Props to all involved.
JIM REDMOND: NIKEHEAD
Thinking about Nike endorsements, one of the most extensive one-man brand examples actually comes in the shape of an athlete’s father—Jim Redmond, the dad of Derek, who memorably accompanied his stricken son to the finishing line of the 400 metres in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. From the “Just Do It” hat to the Huarache t-shirt, socks and 180 running shoes, Jim was Nike down that day. I’m not 100% sure if the shorts were the brand’s own, but in late 2002 I bumped into him at an event and asked if he’d sell me the Huarache t-shirt. He laughed deeply and wandered off. I don’t think he realised that I was being serious.
It’s no surprise that ‘Confessions’ (‘Kokuhaku’) has been nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar. It’s a unique, strange, overblown, almost operatic blast of human misery, but it’s also one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen in a long time. The entire film pretty much moves in a stylized slow-motion, but it doesn’t jar or de-humanise the hyper-emotive nature of the film. Best of all, it relies on certain facets of Japanese culture that would confer any attempts at a Western remake to failure status.
THE RIDE #5
I’ll confess—I have no interest in riding a bike at any time in the future. I lack coordination and live in a town where the roads simply don’t want to accommodate car and bicycle at the same time. It’s a democratic mode-of-transport though, and for some reason, that seems to breed great journalism. ‘Rouleur’ is awesome and ‘The Ride’ journal is good too—from the ilovedust covers to the 700 word stories and accounts of bike experiences, brief interviews and fine photography, it’s evidently a painstaking production. I can’t be arsed to take foot to peddle, but cycling is such a broad church—far more than Eras, rolled up Uniqlo chino legs and fixies – that it generates absorbing and eclectic reading matter. It’s available at Albam, Howies and some other spots right now. Anything with a piece on 1960s Eastern Bloc cycling artwork that adorned matchboxes is worth the expenditure, plus all profits go to charity. It actually makes me want to take a ride, and only the knowledge I’ll end up under the wheels of a bus within an hour discourages me…
Allow me the indulgence of breaking habit, and posting something athletic-footwear based on this blog. I’m aware there’s another sit for this kind of thing, but alas, at time-of-writing, all things army are tinged with controversy and matters of Ministry Of Defence military issue quality are deeply topical. I’ve been known to complain about build on a product, but when it’s a matter of life or death rather than cracked paint on the sole, it’s something else altogether.
As a result, the release of Nike’s Special Forces Boot earlier in the year was a subdued one rather than a bells and whistles affair. So I thought I’d spotlight it here instead in a rare moment of product focus. I also think a lot of the writeups I’ve seen elsewhere have been pretty dry.