No update today because I’m busy selling my soul elsewhere. With ‘Air Max Day’ (possibly created by Mayor Quimby) looming, for which I supplied some writing, it had me wondering why some Air Max models have never made a comeback. The AM1 has been played out for a minute, but there’s other chapters that deserve attention — Sergio Lozano (designer of the Air Max 95) had one of his finest non-95/Air Mada moments with the Air Tuned Max in 1999. I recall going to short-lived club Home late the year that these released and the hefty queue being heavy with Tuned Max. Then, despite having some of the best ads ever, the technology seemed to vanish. Those Alpha Project designs were ahead of their time. When the excellent Air Max Deluxe appeared the following year, the sole seemed to switch back to the 97 unit, which seemed like a regressive touch, but the Air Max 2000 and Air Max 2001 (or was it the Air Max Ecstasy?) brought back the five-dotted Tuned Air. Three years of the same unit seemed questionable. Then the overlooked Air Max 2002 got all progressive and dropped tubular Air on us. The failure of that instalment meant that the 2003 reverted back to a six-year-old air unit. That always seemed like an admission of defeat to me. I’m guessing that bringing back the Tuned Max unit wouldn’t be cheap, given the weird piston-powered, multiple pressure, multiple chamber nature of that particular technology.
The beauty of the current craving for content and storytelling is that it means tales get told that are well overdue. Some of that is down to the older generation taking greatness for granted and not putting it down on video or paper, some is down to ignorance and some is just the assumption that there was already a documentation of the thing in question. It’s baffling to think that all these years have passed without a John Simons documentary — he has been mentioned in many key texts, but his is a story of working class kids absorbing overseas cultures with a discerning filter that turned dressing up into an artform in itself is amazing. Simons has long been the gatekeeper to a world of well-dressed yankophiles where the little details were the secret signals that connected club members — something as small as the roll of a collar could get the nod. But it’s far more than that, because even for us scruffs, Simons brought over Pendletons, Golden Bear and was searching for the perfect sweatshirt long before blogs. He’s one of the original obsessives, setting trends since 1955. I’ve long wondered what the difference is between a mod and a modernist, but from conversations with those better dressed than myself, the modernist preempted the mods — a sharp reaction to popular styles of the time and the groundbreaking movies and music released then and, while I’ve long assumed art’s modernist works of the 1950s and 1960s were something very different, the hard-edged geometric abstract work of the era seems to complement the attitude and a connected appetite for more avant-garde sounds and literature, but contrast with a love of natural shoulders on a jacket. Putting the majority of the #menswear brigade who get wowed by the sight of a pocket square and tie-pin to shame, John Simons knows and (longtime garment and culture connector) Jason Jules and friends have put together this Kickstarter to raise funds to make a full-length documentary on Simons’ history and legacy called The Neat Offensive. Between this and the Kickstarter-funded Duffer project, it’s good to see the kind of things the BBC would be unlikely to payroll can come to fruition.
Wow. In all the hip-hop and movie excitement, I forgot to talk about clothes. It’s all go in London, but this is a nation that doesn’t wander around bigging itself up like those ‘How to Make it in America’ bellends.
I find that when it comes to matters of menswear online, at least 80% of the time earnestness outweighs knowledge. Sure, you can talk about plackets and positions of collars all you like, but plenty of paragraphs fizzle out – lost in the quest to create content but lacking direction. I speak as one who knows nothing of menswear who pads out pages with the worst of them. That’s what makes those who genuinely understand the subject matter and can offer a context in terms of both the details and the sub-cultural something to cherish — Mr. Jason Jules has been mentioned here many times, but it’s worth celebrating the work of a chap who’s always impeccably dressed, lacks any know-it-all pretense, blogs like few others can and can turn out a perfectly structured page or two too. He has the ability to tell the stories.
He’s also been modeling for the the Hideout and Stüssy Deluxe lately, but I’m sure he would be too humble to talk about such things on his Garmsville site. Lately I’ve become a little tired of magazines. My print spend is down significantly — you can bang out a magazine over a few months, but if none of it offers any content that informs and educates me, or if your writing is weak, you’re out the pile. My days of paper loyalty are looking a little tattered. It’s funny how much can change in a year. ‘INVENTORY’ is still a decent publication, despite my allergy to stern-faced matters of loomed cotton and long-lasting leathers. The UK price tag is dizzying — emulating the heavily-taxed Japanese publication costs, and the ‘Monocle’ influence is undeniable, but the John Smedley article by Leanne Cloudsdale and the history of the humble Harrington by Mr. Jules are outstanding.
With extra insight from John Simons, the design’s popularity via these shores and time as a totem cool and uncool (via Arthur Fonzarelli) are explored. Great stuff. Bear in mind that Jason’s been putting it down as a writer and stylist since ‘i-D’s early days and even contributed to ‘Boy’s Own’ circa 1987 (documenting a visit to Soho’s legendary CUTS). Many who know, keep their cards to their chests and the inquiring mind of many a veteran has a tendency to close for business — especially when they see their old favourites paraded again and again — but this guy just maintains and keeps on educating.
I liked the little interview with the man himself for the launch of Utile clothing. I think I know a few folks involved in the launch of this UK-made collection and the output looks promising. There’s enough going on to separate it from the horde of Albam, Garbstore and Folk-alkes who have a tendency to miss the point a little. It’s all in the little touches — as Norse Projects have demonstrated — but fuck with the formula too much and it tumbles into a longevity-free land of quirkiness. The Utile crew seem to know the power of the smaller touches and what little branding there is comes via the talented Nick Duggins — I think the Jules jacket may be named after a certain someone. It definitely fits his style. Like any true Ivy disciple, Jason prefers to listen to the masters play the horn rather than blow his own trumpet, so big up “The Professor.“
While we’re talking UK-brands that are linked to people I’ve got a lot of time for, seeing as I covered Utile here a week late (despite a heads-up), Greg (of Pointer fame) has been getting busy too with his partnership in the LARKE line that’s also UK-made. Bomber jackets and overshirts for men, plus some equally intelligent outerwear designs for the ladies too, are being stocked in east London’s The Three Threads make up the inaugural drop, and like Utile, they’re created for a gap in the market and personal tastes rather than a cash-in. The product looks great in the flesh and that Auton-looking dummy is no substitute for a sentient being. The site isn’t fully operational yet, but it’s located here.
It’s nice to see nice people creating nice things.
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…