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
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.
Some things are necessary. They’re not always things that make much sense either, but Vans Caballeros made into Half Cabs BY Cab were necessary. Ever since I made good with a childhood vow to own every item of sports footwear I ever wanted in one form or another, I’ve grown to appreciate the absurdity of the situation. Hoarding shoes you’re never going to wear, with no inclination towards eBaying them is strange, but I still operate under the self-delusion that I’ll get round to it one day, despite only 40 or so pairs out of 1000+ being habitable for the feet of anybody over 30. There is an age cut-off for certain styles and it’s a damned shame, but it’s a universe closing in on itself as it reissues itself out of relevance with inferior materials and larger numbers. Once upon a time, in the UK, only a select few had the £110 and necessary stature to visit one of the nation’s sole Jordan III stockists in South London and pick up a pair. Now the Jordan III is becoming increasingly played-out and it’s a goddamn shame, because it was — until last year — my favourite shoe of all time. Indie kid sour grapes with fanboy potassium levels at work? Possibly, but a product’s near-holy aura can be dented by the evils of overkill. Remember the Dunk at the turn of the 2000’s? Remember how you didn’t want a pair when the next decade rolled around? Exactly.
For some reason, despite being readily accessible, shifting untold units and getting extensive train station advertising, the Vans Half Cab has maintained a certain hardcore appeal – it’s a product of the late 1980’s (despite the cut-down being made official in 1992), unlike its 1970’s siblings within Vans’ icon program. The others are sleek and minimal, whereas the Half Cab isn’t necessarily the most elegant design — it’s barely even a mid and it looks clunky. The homemade heritage roots are still present in production models, whether they’re inline, bulkier versions without the insole, or the sleeker, more comfortable Syndicate editions. The visvim Logan Mid and Nike SB Omar Salazar were obvious tributes, made because Hiroki and Omar are Cab fans. The man behind the shoe was a childhood hero of mine too — say what you will about Hawk’s height and and style, but Caballero had it going on. Everybody respected Cab. Even the guy’s name fired my imagination. Remember him on the November 1987 ‘Thrasher’ in the PUMA Prowlers (you can see more images of that very shoe right here)? He never seemed to wear Vans for a substantial chunk of the 1980’s, though the footage of Cab in his early teens in the ‘Skateboard Madness’ documentary shows him wearing a pair — incidentally, ‘Skateboard Madness’ in its entirety with the Phil Hartman commentary and ‘Heavy Metal’ style animated bookends, from the claymation intro to the cartoon conclusion, laden with weed and Quaalude references is actually superb.
When vert’s death rattle commenced as the decade came to an end, Caballero and McGill’s ‘Ban THIS!’ contribution felt like a dignified last gasp, and Cab sports the hi-top Caballero shoe sliced down for this custom variation there. That Steve has a spine condition should have made his success a matter of triumph over adversity, but when you skated as smooth as him, it just wasn’t an issue. That switch to street led to suicides, bankruptcy and dinosaur status, clipping the wings of those who’d been throwing stickers to baying crowds at demos year or so earlier. Gator’s “I SUCK!” cry during footage of his street skate attempts in ‘Stoked’ are just depressing. That street skating’s next generation embraced the Cab once it was made lower, assisted the Caballero legacy, but his willingness to embrace street and do an okay job of it (he mastered flip tricks nicely for ‘Scenic Drive’ ) was beneficial too. Those Powell ads that targeted indie brands meant they were doomed to suffer in the 1990’s at the hands of World Industries and their various spinoffs. It’s a shame that more didn’t keep the faith with vert, and I’ve never known whether Caballero suffered during skating’s darker days (he certainly never lapsed into any Hosoi-style misdemeanors) — he’s loyal to his sponsors and he’s got music as a side project, plus, as footage around the latest Vans release testifies, he’s still an extraordinarily fluid skater, despite the advancing years.
Everything’s cyclical though. The impending Bones Brigade documentary might tell that tale of vert’s ascent and descent, but it could also attract attention like ‘Dogtown & Z-Boys.’ That in turn could unleash a ton of documentaries on other crews of that era too. Will it fire imaginations like Jay Adams’ rockstar appearance and swift burnout did? Maybe not, but Caballero’s appearance will be substantial. Sneakers took 24 months out the spotlight in favour of a pair of Tricker’s. Sneakers started trying to look like shoes. Then Tricker’s had a Chas and Turner ‘Performance’ style metamorphosis into sneaker-style collaborative hype via their custom program and copyist retailers and brands — now people are back into sneakers again. Shoes…sub-cultures…everything has its moment in the spotlight.
I still have problems buying an object of clothing in the knowledge that I won’t ever wear it. Our notions of limited editions are skewed. When I was younger, I was fixated with comic books, until I worked with them in the back room of a comic book store at the height of Valiant/Image crossovers, hologram covers and monetary markups for metallic covers. Everybody was collecting and “limited editions” of 20,000 weren’t uncommon. Thankfully, DC’s Vertigo line dropped to deliver some hype-free content, but the whole thing imploded, and a million kids were left with worthless polybags of crap, alphabetically sorted for investment purposes. That made me wary of wilful hoarding, and it was paralleled in the sports footwear realm a few years back too.
When I heard about Steve Caballero trimming down 20 pairs of Cabs for Supreme, gaffer taping them and signing the boxes, there was no question of non-ownership. That’s a genuinely limited edition. I don’t wear sneakers with black midsoles, but they feel like a fitting tribute to a shoe that’s as important as the Jordan I to me — maybe more so. No other brand would let their star athlete tinker with a shoe like that, then shift them at retail either. As far as I’m concerned, the cut-down Half Cab is the best Year of the Dragon shoe ever. To some, it’s probably a baffling mess of a project, but seeing as I never got Caballero’s autograph at a Stevenage demo in July ’88 when my dad took me there, it feels like closure too. First Barbee and now this. Intrinsically, they’re worth a ton. The downside? Everybody else’s special projects will look tethered and weedy next to this one. And just in case I do choose to wear these Caballero creations at some point, I made sure I got my size too (thank you Jagger), because buying shoes that aren’t my size is one step too far into the abyss. And you can keep your hype on ice and jaunty coordinated caps.
While we’re talking childhood epiphanies, I also picked up this deceptively stylised poster for Jamaa Fanaka’s brutal, no-budget 1979 prison boxing flick, ‘Penitentiary’ this week. I love ‘Penitentiary,’ Penitentiary II’ and ‘Penitentiary III’ ever since I saw part II by accident when it was put in the wrong rental box. We wanted to watch ‘Jabberwocky’ (we dodged a bullet there – the box betrayed how dull and self-indulgent Gilliam’s film was), but we got fighting midgets and Mr T entering a fight dressed as a genie, carrying a smoking lamp. Our lives were changed right there, and a crusade to watch as many jail and borstal films began with that viewing. The first chapter of the trilogy is daft, but extremely gritty nonetheless. The underrated ‘Short Eyes’ (with the early Luis Guzmán appearance, minus dialogue) and the terrifying documentary ‘Scared Straight‘ are perfect supplements to Fanaka’s vision. Arrow Films’ ArrowDrome colour coded cult film subsidiary are putting out a DVD in the UK next month that contains the original ‘Penitentiary’ with a commentary by Fanaka, plus the significantly odder follow-up. Great films. Walter Hill’s underrated ‘Undisputed’ was steeped in ‘Penitentiary’ spirit, albeit with significantly glossier presentation.