I haven’t got too much to say this evening, but I’m always surprised that a lot of the more interesting Nike apparel hasn’t made a return in these thrift-and-resell hype days. Some old creations resurrected using Tech Fleece or F.I.T. fabrics with accompanying shoes from the eras? I’d be down. Though it’s unlikely that I could pull off a Sharks basketball vest. These snippets of catalogue line art from between 1987 and 1988 are the tip of a particularly lurid and excessively patterned iceberg. Continue reading MORE OLD GARMS
The adidas Equipment line has long been a preoccupation of mine because there seems to be so many stories behind the whole collection. I remember the bags and sweatshirts being popular around my way (and Common wearing the sweat when he was Common Sense) after adidas seemed to be solely discussed in old school terms. Over time I appreciate the shoes as pieces of industrial design, but it’s a collection that brings arch-rival brands Nike and adidas together like never before. Peter Moore, who was brought into the Nike fold by marketing man Rob Strasser, was a key part of the team (as Nike’s creative director) to fight back against Reebok’s reign over Nike in 1984 by creating the Air Jordan I and its related campaign.
Moore was also half of the design team (with Bruce Kilgore) behind the less successful (but brilliant) Air Jordan II, a mastermind when it came to selling visible Nike Air and he designed the Jumpman before he and Strasser left Nike in 1987, leaving the design duties on that line to a former architect he recruited called Tinker. For those achievements alone (and it’s worth noting that Moore himself doesn’t consider himself much of a shoe designer), immortality in the industry was guaranteed to some degree. Leaving to start their own company (and apparently making an attempt to get MJ on board too), Sport Incorporated, with Benetton, Taylor Made and PF Flyer as clients, they took on the inner-city market targeting VanGrack brand, that used MC Shan as a frontman for a promo video. Then Rene Jaggi — chairman of adidas — got in touch in summer 1989, asking for a meeting.
In the era of technology wars and brand battling, adidas was suffering. Now, designs like the ZX 8000 are considered classics, but beyond core European markets who were 3-stripe loyal, the brand was losing money and found itself in an unfocused situation that had killed its visibility in the USA. While Reebok’s position at the time was strong (this was the year of Pump) the very things that Moore, Strasser and Mr. Hatfield had created had done some serious damage to adidas’s share of the industry.
The situation was grave enough that the Sport Incorporated team, leaving Portland for onetime enemy territory in Germany, proposed an anti-glamour, pure performance, no-bullshit approach to the top-tier products with a name that was defiantly fashion-free, Equipment (“The best of adidas“). Every discipline would get its own flagship shoes in a new colour palette with a new logo that was created with Moore creative directing and legendary adidas designer Jacques Chaissaing (creator of the ZX 500 and Forum) bringing them to life. Cottons and nylons on apparel and bags would be picked for their quality and the notion of the ultimate didn’t mean extra technologies — one of the tenets of the original designs was to use the 3-stripes as support features whenever possible so they actually functioned. This wasn’t heresy — it was an attempt to bring the spirit of Adi Dassler’s vision of sportswear as a tool back to the company.
Moore never seemed to have much love for the fairly recent Torsion Bar technology, but it was present in the original March 1991 rollout and first few seasons as part of the original Guidance, Support and Cushion, but would be altered dramatically in the next year for the new interpretations of those three shoes (named, appropriately matter of factly, after the main purpose of each design). EQT (which even released its own jeans) seemed like a retaliation to ACG’s then-popularity. There was EQT football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton and much more — each linked by a certain refinement and advertised in a particularly no-nonsense way.
That adidas were willing to let the colours get switched (reds and blues would be added over time) was significant but letting the man behind the Jumpman change the logo from the trefoil to the stripes was an indication of how open they were to solutions as a new decade started. Moore and Strasser felt that the trefoil represented another new category they’d been discussion — Originals, which would be upgraded lifestyle versions of classics that capitalised on an interest in classic adidas at the time. Sadly, Rob Strasser would pass away in late 1993, but Moore would stay with adidas until 1998, and remains a consultant to the company.
That gap between Originals and Equipment would, in the decades that followed when what was once a shock of the new became the stuff of nostalgia, stop the series from being retroed, bar a scattering of shoes. How could Originals put out the product that drew that line in the sand that determined that it couldn’t be Originals? It’s good to see that issue resolved, just as it’s good to see the shoes brought back in an appropriately no-bullshit way.
One of my favorite things about the Equipment line is this video from 1990, cut to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel and assailing the viewer with a montage of Nike, Reebok, ASICS, Geraldo, Mr T, Tyson, Rambo, Madonna and much more. Made for internal use to give either employees or potential retailers a sense of what EQT was meant to be a reaction to.
If you’re looking for anything longer than a few paragraphs tonight, go look at this piece on Hypebeast instead (if you’re a Jordan/LeBron signature series fan). I think I forgot to mention that the NBA seemed to be a far more brutal place in 1990, where MJ would have to face bruisers like Charles Oakley and Bill Laimbeer — I’m not sure if LJ could flourish in that climate. That proven ability in a more extreme incarnation of the league gives his franchise extra value.
I think our Reebok Shoe drops in a couple of weeks. Shouts to Reebok for letting me put a prison and borstal theme (it’s envisioned as some kind of standard issue footwear in a jail from a parallel universe where sportswear brands vie for shoe contracts*) on a Reebok Classic to let me homage the shoe’s less salubrious past in the UK and overseas. I apologise in advance for it hitting the £100+ mark too (I think that’s what it retails at) — I wanted amazing leather and a custom stitched canvas material and forgot that they both cost more, which can happen when you’re given full run of the factory fabrics creatively. There’s stories to it (more on that next month) but I’ll be damned if I’m giving it a nickname. I like this prison arrow intersection at the front a lot though.
Visiting the Black Market Clash exhibition earlier this week, seeing Paul Simonon’s broken bass from the London Calling cover was cool, but the tiger stripe camo shirts (among other military gear from the Combat Rock period of the band’s history) was a personal highlight. The Sandinista and Combat Rock era was a great little subcultural intersection — between Futura, that camouflage picture disc and Strummer onstage with the Travis Bickle inspired hairdo and tiger pattern in 1982, a lot of my favourite things converged right there. And that’s before we even discuss the great music or the hours I’ve spent trying to make myself enjoy Alex Cox’s Straight To Hell. The Clash were the best dressed band of all time and it’s good to see that Mick Jones and co can still dress, rather than degenerating into picture postcard punks with receding temples. The Google Play videos on that period are interesting too.
*I just made that up.
British skaters are getting it bad this week from the press. The week started with the usually likeable Billy Bragg defending the Southbank against those pesky kids and turning it into a class war (and getting himself thrown out of Slam City Skates for causing a scene) situation as part of the Southbank Centre’s decision to win a debate by rolling out people who incite you to flick to QVC when the crop up on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage. To end it, the Evening Standard‘s ES magazine unleashed its own awkward take on skate chic, with puns in the header and a miserable looking model awkwardly clad in high-end and low-end cluelessness. A mall grab would have been the perfect finishing touch, because fake skater is very in right now — I haven’t seen these levels of grommet fashion section infiltration since the 1980s. This is the outfit that an undercover cop might sport to bust a skatepark weed dealer. Don’t be surprised if Julian Lloyd-Webber disguises himself in it for the next round of Southbank/skater skirmishes.
You can actually unsee the outfit above by spending some time reading this excellent Red Bull Music Academy piece on the Zoo York Mixtape and checking out the FWDMTN/Forward Motion auctions for Heart Research UK in memory of king of the North-East, Steve ‘Bingo’ Binks. If, like me, you eat off skate culture, but you don’t want to come off like the Evening Standard’s idea of a skater, then you owe it to yourself to click here or on the image to see the auctions, where there’s some Nike SB hype, Vans Syndicate rarities, signed reissue decks and some Supreme goodness to bid on. Salutes to all who put this together and contributed. This kind of thing is what pointless polemic in a broadsheet will always omit — skateboarding is one of the few activities where everybody knows somebody who knows somebody and in that can be used to raise some money for a good cause. R.I.P. Bingo and Bod.
Why is the Slam City affiliated Holmes brand that Russell Waterman, Sofia Prantera, Ben Sansbury and James Jarvis brought to life pre-Silas pretty much excluded from the internet? Looking for some of the old Jarvis Holmes catalogue reminded me of how much better the now defunct Select magazine’s Greed section was in showcasing gear that Slam City stocked. Back in summer 1994, this spread had me scheming ways to get hold of this shirt.
This guy’s 1989-era multiple brand bootleg sweatshirt is a crime against authenticity, but it’s so blasphemous that it reminds me of a happy time when Fila and Troop were way out your price range and this kind of thing was peddled in some fly-by-night retailers. The do-it-yourself pirate collaboration to end them all got phased out beyond holiday resorts eventually, but the brand gang bang prints went harder than most of the contemporary apparel from sportswear brands.
Farewell Tony Scott. Underappreciated and considered a maestro of the overstylised, his movies were always interesting. What’s wrong with an excess of style anyway? I never put a tape of any of his films into the VHS expecting ‘Kes.’ For matters of disclosure, I hate ‘Top Gun’ — it’s boring, hi-fiving rubbish and no better than ‘Iron Eagle’ or any of its sequels. I hate ‘Days of Thunder’ too. But there’s much more to pick from — a corrupt cop losing his fingers to Denzil’s angel of vengeance in ‘Man on Fire’ (incidentally, I’m also a fan of the messier 1987 movie of the same name too which Tony Scott was originally set to direct) , Bruce Willis making like Prodigy and rocking his assailant in the face and stabbing his brain with his nosebone in ‘The Last Boy Scout’ and the Drexl Spivey interrogation (Tarantino’s script but Scott gives it a final buff that makes it better) in ‘True Romance’ and the end of the slightly underrated ‘Revenge’ that’s typically glossy but packs an emotional punch (though it’s more effective if you’ve actually watched the movie). Then there’s 1983’s Bowie-tastic ‘The Hunger’ (above) with the gothiest opening scene ever. The new wave of bloodsuckers can’t compete with this vampiric new wave moment — the font, the lighting, Bowie, Peter Murphy, psycho monkeys, Catherine Deneuve in Yves Saint Laurent (and trust me, even if ‘The Hunger’ was the only thing Scott ever directed, for the impact the Sarandon and Deneuve love scene had on my pre-pubescent mind alone, I’d be mourning his passing) basically makes it the most black painted bedroom friendly 6-minutes of cinema ever. Bela Lugosi was dead, but this next breed of bloodsucker was a great deal more menacing. Ignore the usual bro fodder when it comes to celebrating Tony Scott’s life and there’s gems. Am I the only one who likes at least 50% of ‘Domino’ too? What’s that? I am? Okay then. Each to their own.
Tony Scott put Mickey Rourke on during his early to mid 2000s comeback trail, but I’m currently obsessing over his straight-to-video era, post ‘Wild Orchid’ and pre ‘Buffalo 66’. Rourke’s presence at any stage of his career is undeniable and this 1994 portrait by Michel Comte for ‘L’Uomo Vogue’ is amazing. The manliest of hand holding (check the dual watch wearing) and Mickey matching a Marlboro with adidas tracksuit bottoms and two-tone wingtips is a tremendous look. You need to be Rourke to make that unemployed look actually work for you though. He might dress a little Eastern-Europe theme pub now when he’s hitting Stringfellows, but there was a point when this guy couldn’t not look cool. (Image from Photographers’ Limited Editions)
For a short while I thought I dreamt up this photoshoot, but this 1992 ‘People’ article image of Phil Knight slam-dunking in Jordan Vs is every shade of awesome. Reluctant to get in the limelight, this picture is a rare super-animated publicity image of the Nike co-founder. Having read several accounts of Knight’s competitiveness on the court, that expression on his face is no surprise.
The downfall of many a product (sometimes an entire brand) is the fonts. Mr. Maxime Büchi is a mastermind when it comes to letterforms and with the new ‘Sang Bleu’ arriving shortly, he’s putting out some shirts with some fine typography without resorting to tattooing cliches. I need to transcribe an hour-long conversation with Maxime for another site at some point in the next few days. Gotta love that overachieving Swiss-born madman. In the meantime, go to SangBleu.com to see how you can get a tee. (Image swaggerjacked straight from the mxmttt Instagram account)
And via my friends in Las Vegas I just found out that Jim Jones’ Vampire Life brand and French Montana’s Coke Boys brand are exhibiting at the same time. Is streetwear beef going to make a return?
I’m back from Canada and I can barely see because of the jetlag. The human body is pathetic. So pathetic that I thought it was Saturday yesterday and forgot to update this blog. I can’t say much about my Arc’teryx visit other than that witnessing the factory process upped my appreciation of the brand’s output and that I know more about GORE-TEX taping now than I knew last Wednesday. As a fiend for those Gore membranes in a jacket or shoe, it was borderline Wonka-like to see the processes, even though GORE-TEX itself, minus the shell or lining, is just an anonymous white sheet.
I’d wondered about the jacket Michael Jordan (not a stranger to bizarre sartorial choices) wore on his September 1991 ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance — a strange green quilted design, but the little Tinker Hatfield piece in the new US ‘GQ’ solves that mystery. “At one point I pushed for a less sporty sub-brand called Jordan Beyond. When Michael did SNL in ’91, he wore a Jordan beyond quilted green jacket. But I couldn’t make it happen. I’ve still got some samples, including a basketball shoe that was perforated like a wingtip.”
Jordan Beyond sounds like the genesis of the XI dress shoe concept and what the contemporary models are working with but it certainly seems to be a little at odds with the Jordan VI aesthetic. One day, I’m sure the ‘Jordan Beyond’ boxset, reproducing that unwearable jacket, will make an appearance. If the JB line had taken off, I’m sure it would have dated badly, but it doesn’t sound too far from the Cole Haan LunarGrand strategy, and I like to think it would have included a suit made of marl grey fleece with giant shoulders and Mike’s pleated dress pant, polo and wingtip steez in the mix too.
IDEA Books‘ mailout is the best out there and some of the oddities they obtain are phenomenal. As well as showcasing a Panini Fiorucci sticker album you’re unlikely to ever see a again, earlier this year they got hold of Vincent Alan W’s (a frequent photographic documenter of gay African-American crews), ‘The Bangy Book/New Yorker Street Boys’ — a compilation of Vincent’s 1988 era snaps of the Bangy/Banjee phenomenon, where hypermasculine goonwear and the “homeboy” look of the time betrayed stereotypes of sexuality (hence the Banjee part of the ball in the seminal ‘Paris is Burning’). The nudity’s going to alienate, but I can’t help but think that Banjee infiltrated hip-hop again during the last decade, resulting in contemporary hip-hop’s mess of big tongued shoes and couture cues. A rarity worthy or reappraisal, just because there’s not enough imagery of this movement around.
(Images lifted from the IDEA Books scans.)
On that 1980’s New York topic, the Leica Bruce Davidson video was cool (and I think I’ve broken down the impact ‘Subway’ had on me in installing a healthy fear of NYC on here before)
but I’d never seen this Bruce Davidson Q&A from last year at the Strand bookstore. Worth 52 minutes of your life.
This blog has kind of fallen off, self-sabotaged by its attempts to not be a sports footwear-centric WordPress, but then dwelling on the subject matter a little too often. But self-indulgent talk often echoes the day job and in that job shoes figure heavily. Right now, the heat and a lengthy flight from the west coast to the UK has killed my creativity stone dead, but I was energised by a trip to Nike’s WHQ for some work. From my early teens onwards the notion of visiting the Nike Campus sounded like some Willy Wonka business, minus the sinister wig outs on boat rides or bi-polar freak outs that Gene Wilder unleashed on Charlie and his benefit fraud grandfather and having been a few times now, it’s a fun place to visit that seems to deify the same kind of nerdery I tend to celebrate here.
Of course, the work and what lies behind doors remains secret, though the Innovation Kitchen, Nike Sports Research Lab and archives are impressive — in fact the archive is basically a geek ground zero that proves, no matter how much you think you’ve swotted up, you’ve only seen the tip of a dusty, yellowed, PU and nylon based iceberg. Having been lost on campus twice (to get from the Michael Jordan building to the canteen involves walking by a 7 minute saunter by a lake, football pitch and over a bridge), been chased by a goose and slashed my nose open on a low hanging metal lampshade in the archives these last few days, I’ve suffered for my art.
Even if you couldn’t care less for shoes, the scale’s still impressive, but if you follow Nike history, there’s plenty to stare at at — even in the receptions of each building. Bill Bowerman’s waffle iron, the 1984 NBA letter regarding Jordan’s fines, prototype Prestos and AJ1s…it’s a lot to take in. Buying Lunar Montreals and NFL shirts by the trolley from the Employee Store was a good use of dollars too, and ultimately — for the casual visitor — the whole setup’s pretty much a sportswear theme park. For several employees, I’m sure it’s simply a place of work that’s frequently disrupted by gawping idiots like me wielding iPhones.
Because I need sleep, I’ve sold you short here, so here’s three bonus images chucked in because they look cool; one of a 1989 plea to get people on NYC’s subway post graffiti cleanup, one from a 1970s ‘New York’ article and a 1982 Timberland ad.
In the name of nostalgia (because it’s mostly either excessively indulgent or unremarkable in the rap stakes), the same person that uploaded the 1998 ‘World Wide Bape Heads Show’ has uploaded the 1999 one too. It takes me back to a time of attempting to justify wild prices, the Mo’ Wax BB, thick cotton on tees and deranged mark-ups on used gear in Camden market. Musically, I think I actually prefer the Omarion-in-the-lookbook era.