Tag Archives: jordan

HIGHER LEARNING

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.

CAB

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.

O.G. STYLE

Hypocritical miserabilist rants about the proliferation of hiking styles on solemn city residents are about as ubiquitous as the gear itself on those who’ve no intention of conquering any more than the mildest of gradients. So there’s no point segueing into one here. It doesn’t matter how overexposed they get. There’s an intrinsic beauty to the D-ringed boot that’s hard-to-beat. It’s just a shame that the sports footwear industry is intent on “homaging” them at every turn. Still, in researching something that’s yet to be seen, and in conversation with Kish, the subject of greatest album sleeve footwear moments sprang up. On the hiking side, Stephen Stills seemingly had it on lock. The guitarist’s off road styling on 1969’s ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’ and his eponymous 1970 album’s artwork is both effortless and iconic.

It’s surprising that ‘Free & Easy’ haven’t dedicated an entire album to Stills’s look. Were he to walk into the Rugged Museum, it’s safe to assume the staffers might fall to the ground in reverence. But that’s not the greatest album cover moment for trail footwear. That belongs to some other boys from Texas.

O.G. Style’s ‘I Know How To Play ‘Em!’, harking back to 1991 is the ultimate footwear LP sleeve. It’s easy to assume the east coast was hip-hop’s spiritual home for iconic shoe imagery. That would be incorrect. J. Prince evidently looked after his Rap-A-Lot roster on the sneaker side of things, and this is the best collection amassed in a single cardboard square. The Houston duo’s DJ Big Boss and MC Eric “Original E” Woods rocked matching Nike Baltoros on the front cover, but eyes left for the stern-faced, long coat and hiking boots look. Eagle-eyed fanboys will also note the Jordan VIs at the rear and the Foot Locker LE Air Max 90s on the right. For out-of-towners, there’s something curious about a bunch of men wearing ACG shoes in a Houston ghetto (5th Ward?). The assumption is that the area is a little warmer than say, New York or Washington. But that’s probably just ignorance. Turning to the rear, Big Boss rocks the grey Baltoro, and Eric opts for a Foot Locker LE 90 too, this time in a contrast black and white to his homeboy on the front. He’s also rocking that model in the ‘Catch ‘Em Slippin’ promo.

Closeup courtesy of NTM on the CT forums.

Not only is it festooned with the finest in footwear, but ‘I Know How To Play ‘Em!’ is a strong LP that’s up with prime Geto Boys and Convicts for the best early example of Prince’s rap dynasty. Good to hear James again on the intro to Bun B’s excellent ‘Trill O.G.’ Tragically, DJ Big Boss passed away in late 2006 of kidney failure, and Eric Woods died of a brain aneurysm on January 3rd 2008. Mourning should be officially inducted as a hip-hop element, given its prevalence. Currently the rap nation is mourning the demise of the NYC Fat Beats store, despite abandoning it for several years in favour of downloads. That’s the nature of the artform’s fans. O.G. Style deserve more respect, and the passing of both members warrants infinitely more retrospectives. Hunt down the album—listen to the music and respect their footwear savvy.

As a postscript, I’m actually hoping the current poor man’s monsoon season signifies the end of the UK’s summer 2010, so I can put this pile to use after months of inaction…

PATENT SNEAKERS

Zoom Seismic designed by Richard Clarke

Between the day job and copywriting today, today’s blog is particularly aimless. Stuck between regressive and attempts to stay at least moderately progressive, my mind’s been on sports footwear. This blog was originally created as an outlet for things that aren’t shoe related, but I can’t deny my admiration for shoe design when its done right. Google Patents has been a godsend for studying the legal nitty-gritty of brands in general, and on the running/basketball/training shoe front, as brands battled in the technology wars of the late ’80s and ’90s, the sheer volume of patents filed was staggering – its on this, another of Google’s glorious timewasters, that you can see the original sketches of core elements that made up classics.

The imagery below is strictly for the nerds and fellow oddballs out there, but design-minds might get a kick out of it too. Good to see that Nike took the development of some of the stranger late ’90s performance pieces now cemented with a certain cultdom and misty-eyes on mention from types who spent hours poring over beat-led stoner music and Project Dragon once-upon-a-time. I’d really like to know more about this though.

You can tell me that sneakers are done while you slide around in your brogues in slapstick fashion, but when it comes to the more ambitious side of shoes with Swooshes, and messrs. Clarke, Hatfield and Lozano were feeling particularly inspired, you got the design classics. Looking at them as component parts here, I appreciate the damned things even more.

As a small, partially-related digression, while this retrospective is more fun than the actual movie, Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze’ doesn’t get the shine it deserves from an apparel standpoint. Custom adidas sweats? A prolonged Jordan II cleaning scene, and while I could pretend I clocked them in ‘Public Domain’ or on Jack’s feet earlier in ‘The Witches of Eastwick,’ is that a pair of Dunk Hi’s I spy as part of the most pauseworthy ensemble of Spike’s directorial career? If you’re gonna rock hi-tops, best not to combine them with daylgo Speedos that even the House of Xtravaganza in ‘Paris is Burning’ would deem a bit “much.” What’s with all the briefs at a pyjama party? For me, reeling from the heavy-handed message at work, it was a curious introduction to a shoe that became a phenomenon.

The reason I’m dropping some truly gratuitous screengrabs is in tribute to the homie Jonathan Rockwell’s ‘A Fist In The Face Of God’ blog, mixing screencaps with a true knowledge of black metal, thrash and legends like Saint Vitus. It’s one of the best sites out there – big things a ‘gwan this year for team ‘Fist.

Terra Goatek designed by Sergio Lozano

Air Trainer SC High designed by Tinker Hatfield

Zoom Haven designed by Richard Clarke

Part of the Jordan XI designed by Tinker Hatfield

Zoom JST designed by Tinker Hatfield

Air Flight designed by Tinker Hatfield

Jordan XI IE designed by Tinker Hatfield

Air Moc designed by Tory Orzeck

'SNEAKERHEADS'

Working with sports footwear, or as Scoop Jackson would call them, gym shoes, on the daily, It’s easy to get very, very jaded, and lose sight of exactly what lured you into making them a profession of sorts. In my case it was a fluke. As with anything attracting disciples, there’s tiers of hoarders, collectors and fanboys who’ll pick a particular boomtime that was a cut-off when things were purer and the herbs were less involved.

With sports footwear it’s a tough one to call. Things are still mighty healthy, but the early ’00s was a point when the big brands truly capitalised on the cult of the collector, and when they entered the fray and saw the extra $$$ to be made, things went out of control. At time-of-blogging, visions of Jordan XI retros are on the mind – just as religious types can suffer a loss of faith, the avalanche of drivel has caused a few doubts lately, and to be excited about a release proves there’s still some personal mileage in the industry. But that shoe is a design that’s fourteen years old. It still looks fresh, but still, fourteen years. That things tailspinned from an aesthetic direction in favour of re-rubs of former classics is a debate that won’t be unleashed on this blog, bearing in mind that it was meant to be a sneaker-free spot. But hey, worlds are always going to collide on occasion.

Continue reading 'SNEAKERHEADS'