Tag Archives: john roskelley

ALL CONDITIONS PT. II (SON OF ALL CONDITIONS)

For something I assumed to be ultra-niche at this point in the 21st century, the ACG-themed post from here late last year proved pretty popular in terms of feedback. There’s evidently more All Conditions fanatics out there than meets the eye, so here’s some more visuals. I’m not entirely sure what resonates so hard with this sub-range of functional oddness — maybe it was the co-sign from climbers and Grand Puba alike, the inner-city re-appropriation that led to the Nike Boot movement targeting that consumer directly with shoes for them under the guise of ACG and the fact that this line created some of the best Nike shoes of all time, built to take on off-road challenges, meaning extra value when you broke open a beige, recycled box.

I’m currently appreciating the Meriwether and previously mentioned Air Max Prime GTX that were created under the Nike Sportswear wing – proof that there’s still mileage in hiking themed sports footwear when it’s not a case of chucking D-rings on an existing model or last to feign Viberg and Danner status. The latter Nike shoe is a Peter Fogg creation, and I’m saddened that during a recent submitted Q&A to the man, I didn’t ask at least 50 questions about the Terra range. While they’re frequently assumed to be ACG, due to their rugged looks, Fogg’s Terra Humara, Terra Ketchikan, Terra Minot and Humara weren’t ACG — I assumed this was because Terra was its own ’97 trail running division that had nothing to do with the early 1980’s Terra T/C concept, but as mentioned here before, the existence of the ACG labeled Terra Tor from 1996 ruins my theory. Unless the Tor was the point when Nike decided to make similar rugged running designs Terra rather than ACG. Bored yet? I need that mystery solved. The Terra Ketchikan is the best Nike ACG shoe that never was.

While the colours implemented across the barely christened All Conditions Gear line were strange for shoes with a swoosh, they followed the crazed-out, hi-vis makeups that outdoor wear manufacturers had been playing with for a while. In the hands of Nike designers, those wild shades and willful contrasts highlighted the best of each shoe, but the little eccentricities — the “lawnmower man” on an outsole, the jagged labeling that bellowed the name of a shoe and the excellence of women’s makeups that were just as good as the men’s variations. Those who know, appreciate these products. At its core, the collection harks back to a certain hippie idealism, where the worlds of running and a boom in backpacking carried a certain romanticism, and with those Oregonian roots, there was scope for both activities (other than the fact the two words rhyme, it explains the ‘NIKE HIKE’ sticker from the 1970’s.

The original Nike hikers pre-date the Nike ACG line by almost a decade, when the Magma, Approach and Lava Dome appeared in 1981 ads with a 1978 image of John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway (who went on to become a vice president at Patagonia) at base camp on K2 during their dramatic 1978 expedition that made them part of a group of the first Americans to make it. Both men are wearing the LDV (the shoe formerly known as the LD-1000V) during camp time, and you can see cues from that shoe in the Lava Dome. That same runner at base camp concept seemed to be imbued in Sergio Lozano’s lower profile 1998 Pocket Knife design. I’m a big fan of the later B&W image of the amassed group too, with plenty of battered Magmas in the mix.

After the passing of Heavy D last year, I documented some of the Nike obsession that runs through his early work, but 1989’s ‘Money Earnin’ Mt. Vernon’ video is notable for him and the Boyz rocking what looks to be matching Lava Highs, plus a scene in a sports store, with stacks of red Nike boxes, vintage ads and a serious Reebok diss when the Overweight Lover openly casts a Union Jack topped box aside – the most grievous rap video brand diss since Doug E. Fresh’s Bally’s destroyed some Superstars. Lava Highs pre-date ACG, but if they dropped today, they’d be blessed with the triangle. I still can’t get enough of Tinker’s Mowabb sketches either — “Outdoor Cross Training” sums up that design nicely, but the fishy Rainbow Trout inspiration for that midsole speckle and proposed Pendleton blanket lining are interesting elements. I still can’t get enough of those advertisements either.

ALL CONDITIONS

For those that actually look at this blog, I hope this material brings a little sunshine as your weekend concludes. I love Nike’s All Conditions Gear division and I know a fair few who are equally, if not more, psychotic about the product they’ve pumped out over the years. Even those speckled, beige boxes have us babbling incoherently. I’m constantly haunted by turning down an ACG trip in Utah back in late 2008 (I had my reasons) where I could have nerded out by campfire. ACG is bigger than sneakers to me — the colours and resolutely uncommercial nature of the range always struck me as a labour of love rather than some cash-in, with several key Nike personnel enjoying steep gradients in the name of fun. That ACG aesthetic still resonates in contemporary product and 1989-1995 was one of the best times to be a little peculiar about offroad product. The colours on the apparel at the time of ACG’s 1989 launch are particularly interesting.

From 1981’s launch of Magma, Approach (complete with GORE-TEX) and Lava Dome to the Escape runner and the rugged pieces in each subsequent catalogue (Son of Lava Dome, anyone? Bring that back) and the Nike Hiking line pre-ACG, the mix of muted and some brave blasts of pop colour, trail styling was a significant influence on my perception of good design. It’s a good thing that I found myself working alongside folk who appreciated it too. It’s no surprise that Japanese collectors appreciated ACG’s odder pieces (like the Moc) a little more on their debut, but the work of Tinker Hatfield, Sergio Lozano, Tory Orzeck, Peter Fogg, Carl Blakeslee and Robert Mervar on the silhouettes is appreciated round these parts. Salutes to Nate VanHook for his work on ACG via Nike Sportswear too — seeing the Lunar Macleay on an inspiration board at Stone Island HQ in the new ‘INVENTORY’ proves that shoe made its mark in terms of innovation as well as nods to old Nike favourites.

Of course, there’s the “what if?” factor too. Geoff Hollister was set to launch Nike Aqua Gear (with an emphasis on boat activity) around the time ACG was launched — a watery Nike sub-range to work alongside the Aqua Sock. It could have generated some brilliantly lurid garments and further footwear, but sadly wasn’t to be. Later ACG releases made to work in and out of rivers and streams carry some Aqua Gear spirit, while the Sock stays classic.

Over the last few years an emphasis on retro has distracted us from some of Nike’s brilliantly polarizing ACG releases. The Tallac, debuted in 2003 was a classic piece of strange and 2009’s Zoom Ashiko was excellent too. This seasons fine Zoom Meriwether feels like the intelligent offspring of the former footwear. My buddy Frank the Butcher (not to be mistaken with Mike Reid’s wheeler-dealer) recently tweeted a picture of some black-on-black ACG boots that piqued my interest. I enjoy the Nike boot’s status as an inner city orientated release masquerading as an offroad design.

Nobody’s going up a mountain in Goadomes, but they stay classic — the mystery shoe carried a faint aura of the DC and Baltimore favourite, but minus the Frankenstein’s Monster factor. I love this Laced interview with Mr. Blakeslee about the genesis of that shoe, how it was a Timberland response and how Udi from Training Camp was involved. Frank’s boot had me losing my mind — GORE-TEX, a slightly Bakin shape (presumably built on the same last as the ACG Foamposite Bakin boot) and even an air of old personal favourites like the Max Uptempo were all in the mix. Except this looked to be built like a brick shithouse, The model is the Air Max Prime and it’s an expensive one at $200 (only $25 cheaper than the insane Superdome model was in 1992) and it’s available in spots like Eastbay now. It looks built to last, with that centre eyelet, carbon-style heel counter, swoosh and ‘ACG’ on the Max Air being particularly effective. I’m sure the majority will loathe it, but that just makes them more appealing.

This article in the April/May 1981 issue of ‘Backpacker’ was published shortly after the original Nike hiker ads with John Roskelley and crew ran, and discusses the rise of GORE-TEX, sneaker hybrids and a lighter breed of hiking shoe. It’s fun to see GORE-TEX treated as a flash-in-the-pan by some, but there’s some good material in there on how it was placed in performance product.

Then there’s the ACG and Nike Hiking marketing. Merging a rustic breed of beard-friendly gear with state-of-the-art technologies and a fair amount of whimsy that probably wouldn’t make it to publication in other divisions, some really smart W+K copywriting and design shines through in each of these ads. The Air Azona one (what’s Nike Outdoors though?) is particularly excellent in breaking down the ACG formula.