Tag Archives: lunarlon

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONVERSE ALL STAR

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A few weeks ago I covered the Converse All Star Modern launch for 032c and we had to leave out a fair chunk of historical talk regarding the Converse All Star. Seeing as it’s such an important design (whether you care much for shoes or not), here’s the part of the rough draft that was excised. As always with these kinds of things, I encourage all feedback and corrections. It still blows my mind that this shoe is a century old next year.

Converse’s in-house archivist Sam Smallidge is deeply enthusiastic about the All Star and the brand that made it despite no previous inclination towards athletic footwear. Having previously been an Ernest Hemingway Collection Intern at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, trading Papa for Chuck has been a new outlet for his love of discovery for research, “My favourite part of the job is joining the dots — my personality type is getting obsessed with whatever collection I’m working on to obsessive detail.Continue reading A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONVERSE ALL STAR

BRITISHNESS

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Please excuse the rushed nature of this blog entry. I was going to move servers to make gwarizm.com the official home of all this claptrap but strange domain redirecting issues meant I actually ended up having the time to chuck something up here tonight after all. My relationship with printed matter is a tempestuous one — for much of my life I dreamed of being a scribe for one of the fancy magazines that broke the £2.50 mark in WH Smiths, but once I actually wrote for one, I realized that most of the content was advertorial (even the stuff without “advertising feature” on the top of the page). That culled my buying habits significantly.

While putting out a publication seems to be a new norm as some reaction to people thinking bloggers are chancers, doing it well is difficult. After all, the big magazines are spreading their pages for advertisers for a reason — survival. Just starting a magazine for the hell of it is as tedious as calling your blog an online magazine, so I’ve slashed my purchases to a handful of regular and when-they-can-be-fucked-to publications. Being lazy and odd (and not actually living in London) I never made it to Goodhood’s launch for the new issue of LAW, but I feel guilty about it, because it’s something worth supporting — continuing the history lesson, when I was putting out strange blog entries for Acyde’s The Most Influential site a few years back, I was determined to keep it UK-centric.

As a Brit, i felt it was my duty to talk about local matters and not my yankophile leanings. TMI actually changed before I could run out of ideas fully, but I was definitely running on fumes. I feel a certain guilt for not representing Britain fully on here, but – as I’ve mentioned several times – I think the ISYS squad, Rollo Jackson and LAW do it better than I ever could. There’s a certain Britishness that barely translates abroad and it’s part of the urban and suburban everyday existence — it’s all sportswear, mild eccentricity, inadvertently odd design touches and scowls. Most of the time we take it for granted and don’t document it (I’ve hunted some imagery for a couple of projects in the last 12 months and was shocked at how little documentation there was). LAW goes in to log it with a keen design eye that affords everyday objects and lives a certain elegance.

LAW #3 is out now and the use of Goodhood’s interior with the magazine’s driving slogan was a nice touch (all LAW-related imagery here is swaggerjacked from the Goodhood site). You can buy it right here for £12.50.

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Another magazine that gets a lot of deserved shine here is Oi Polloi’s Pica~Post. You need to know your stuff to actually have fun with anything and everything in this free publication – from the typography to the product pick is on point. This beats any bullshit slow blog-baiting lookbook (and those Anthony Crook Engineered Garments shots in here are a nice example of how a lookbook can be done) and you can read this online right here but the way it’s printed as an object gives it a purpose beyond the screen. Shouts to Eóin and the whole Pica~Post mind squad.

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In addition to the above, the Joe McKenna profile in Fantastic Man #17 is excellent too. But you’d expect them to deliver on a feature like that, wouldn’t you?

Cheers to Nike SB for letting me do some writing about the Koston 2 shoe for the Nike Inc. site. Anything that lets me interview Eric is the sort of thing that would make the 15-year-old me do an awkward dance in public. Now I just do it in private. There seems to be a quick glimpse of an interesting Lunarlon-aided Koston 2 golf shoe sitting by Tiger Woods’ shopping bags in the behind-the-scenes footage.

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On the shoe topic, now that every hip-hop related documentary of my youth is available on 2-disc DVD or on YouTube, where are the British trainer documentaries? The first time I ever saw Tinker and company was on the excellent 1992 BBC program Trainer Wars. I know that was far better than any recent effort to document sports footwear. Where can I get hold of a copy of it? Back in the day, you paid someone like Dave the Ruf to send you a 240-minute tape of tenth-generation dubs of everything you needed. I need Trainer Wars and the 2001 Sneaker Freaks documentary that Channel 4 aired as part of the Alt.TV series with Jeremy Howlett sitting on top of Howlett’s. OG Air Max 95s being sold for insane money at Meteor Sports and Will Self pulling a gasface at the notion of anyone hoarding Nikes. In fact, I believed that Trainer Wars never happened until I found this footage of the commercial for it from when it showed on Discovery Europe.

IS THIS HARD RAP?

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Because everybody seems to care about Air Jordans nowadays, including the post VII versions that the people of Britain used to let gather dust in the select stores that carried them and because I’m being exceptionally lazy right now, it’s a good time to dump some lesser-discussed Jordan ephemera up here. I maintain that in terms of sub-cultural shoe spotting, from Heavy D to ‘School Daze’, ‘Warlock’ and beyond, the Air Jordan II is deeply underrated and easily one of the greatest Jordans ever. To this day, I’ve seen every other Jordan crop up, but only handled an original pair of IIs once. Every reissue misses the point because the Made in Italy status of the shoe that pitched it perfectly into a world where high-end brands were making their own hustler-friendly sports footwear and swatted them away with one of the definitive designs that bore so much power that it didn’t even bother with a swoosh. For that reason, there’s only one issue of the Jordan II that’s any good and those highs and lows in the two colourways are no longer wearable. Both those colours crop up in Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ video and the recent ‘Bad25’ documentary got a good shot of them in between all the PUMAs and fawning talking heads.

But that’s not my favourite Jordan II moment in popular culture — ‘Sports Illustrated’s final issue of 1987 was a picture special, with a close up shot of Walter Iooss Jr’s overhead shot of Mike. The odd thing is, despite it being the year of the II, Jordan isn’t wearing a pair – he’s wearing a deeply nondescript pair of the low-priced Court Force Low. Not the strangest thing. What is strange is that if you flip the same magazine to the back cover, there’s a man in a Winston cigarette ad, sat on a stoop taking in those tasty carcinogens while wearing a pair of…Nike Air Jordan IIs. It’s as if somebody painstakingly took the time out to switch the footwear in the photos.

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With the XIII on the comeback trail this weekend, they should have retroed the September 1997 NikeTown launch party for that shoe (bearing in mind that it was the dawn of the spin-off Jordan Brand too), complete with Dwayne from ‘A Different World’ and BLACKStreet’s Chauncey. I think Jordan Brand could probably get them to attend for a not considerable fee, and I’m sure I’ve spotted Mike in that suit in recent years. Around the same time, Bobbito caught up with Jordan for ‘Vibe’s ‘Sound Check’ and MJ suddenly aged when ‘In the Ghetto’ by Eric B & Rakim (the Jordan of rap) was played, professing to have never heard of the god and claiming to never listen to rap at all. What would Heavy D have said? Still, his, “Is this hard rap?” query is something I occasionally use when an unfamiliar artist is blared in my direction. Strange to think an athlete who’s so namechecked and linked to hip-hop never actually messes with rap. In a curious way, that makes Jordan even more hip-hop, just like Scarface when he revealed he listens to Enya and Pink Floyd instead of rap.

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Mr Salehe Bembury is a key mind behind the Cole Haan Lunargrand shoe, which has been widely imitated but not yet bettered in its mix of the weird and the traditional (I maintain the grey with volt was the truest, purest example of that impure blend at its most effective) and he put me onto an image that’s on his blog via Jeff Henderson (it’s a veritable chain of image sources and I’m assuming Jeff is the same Jeff Henderson who was integral to the design of the excellent Lunar Eclipse and Air Max 2009) of a possible prototype of a high heel that seems to use Lunarlon. What happens to Lunarlon and Cole Haan now, post-Nike? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s a pretty cool addition to a high heel.

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HAPPY 2012


Happy New Year.

The only drag at this time of year is starting all over again. It’s best to try to start from scratch from January 1st, lest you become one of those people dragging old clippings around and making references to barely seen projects from half a decade ago. Especially if you’re writing for a living. The only projects that count are the ones ahead of you — we might live in a world of nostalgia and retro fixation, but don’t render yourself a retro. This policy began just as I’d started submitting sycophantic rap reviews to magazines to obtain free CDs and — rather quaintly — to get my name in print. It was 2001 — people cared about stuff like that back then.

In May that year, I watched a fairly joyless and disturbing Channel 4 ‘Cutting Edge’ documentary called ‘Brian’s Story’ that charted the street-level, hand-to-mouth existence of a Cambridge-educated journalist called Brian Davis, from the occasionally amusing misunderstandings and chaotic meanderings that replaced a successful ascent at a time when print press really mattered, as Brian slept rough and muttered his way through central London. Brian had written a book called ‘The Thriller: the Suspense Film from 1946’ in 1973 (with the cover using the classic shot of Popeye Doyle shooting Nicoli from ‘The French Connection’) considered to be a definitive text on the genre. He wrote for ‘Campaign’ and ultimately became editor of ‘Creative Review’ between 1982 and 1984 with an apparent reputation for perfect prose despite a shambolic way-of-life.

Becoming editor of ‘Campaign’ in 1984 at the age of 39, Brian walked out of the job after a week into a freelance existence marred by manic depression and alcoholism. Dave Nath’s documentary caught him sixteen years into that uncertain world, where a lack of work had put him on the streets. Brian wielded his bag of press clippings as the only link to a past life, talking about the big breaks that lay ahead of him and mumbling about a presumably fictional date set to interview Roman Polanski that would dig him out his rut. There was some funny stuff, like the jump cut from him being given a home to sleep in by a family member to a spectacular mess with marks on the kitchen walls from neglected cookery missions. Then there was the really unfunny stuff, like Brian falling to his death from the roof of a cheap hotel.

It wasn’t the triumphant back from the brink tale that he assumed the documentary would depict, but Brian was likable throughout and ‘Brian’s Story’ reinforced just how unreinforced our future is. If it could happen to somebody that talented — though nobody ever claimed he didn’t have his flaws — it could happen to anybody. And it’s a long way down. So I figured that it’s best not to be that person living in the past, with portfolio scans and LinkedIn lists replacing those faded carrier bags of old triumphs, and that it’s best to focus on the next.

Alas, like other documentary favourites of mine like ‘The Knocker’s Tale,’ Brian’s Story’ isn’t available online. Perhaps it’ll be added to Channel 4’s 4OD service at some point this year. Every time I hurl a BlackBerry across the room in a tantrum, give a MacBook the Ike Turner treatment or think back to my mum thinking I was autistic for being able to recall Dengar, Zuckuss and 4-Lom but not being able to add 1+1 I think back to Brian’s decline. The freelance realm can destroy a fragile mind.


(Picture courtesy of Sneaker Freaker)

It’s 2012. That means we must have robots cooking dinner, TVs implanted into our eyeballs and cars that do the driving, right? No. But we have got phones with cameras and affiliated apps that make the pictures taken look like they’re from the past. That’ll do. Plus we can spread rumours and make up Martin Luther King quotes for viral purposes by way of micro blogging. 2012 is awesome. What did you think a shoe would look like by this moment in time? the Nike-owned Cole Haan’s brogues with Lunarlon are an amusing mix of futurism and fuddy-duddy and I think I like them. That’s visible Lunarlon, not the secret drop-in midsole variation either. On discussing a friend’s move to Cole Haan, I joked about Lunar brogues and was told that I wasn’t too far off the mark.

Nike man Jarrett Reynolds’ custom saddle shoes with a Dynamic Support sole caused some attention just over a year ago, and the fruits of that project seem to be present in the Lunargrand wingtip that’s in the latest Sneaker Freaker. But why are people sleeping on the grey and lime variant in the traditional Lunar palette? That’s a truly insane creation that fills the strange cool kid gulf between total tech on the foot (witness the popularity of the Lunar line and Free Run+ 2) and Alden, Alfred Sargent and the rest. The Lunargrand is dumb yet amazing. Cole Haan’s been using Nike technologies for a minute, but they’ve long been the brand obstructing my digs in Nike outlets. This is something far more interesting.

Sports footwear trying to look like “proper” shoes is corny. Proper shoes trying to look like sports footwear is a far more entertaining proposition. Back in the early 1980s, Nike’s decision to make smart shoes using Nike technologies wasn’t a success, but it resulted in a range of forgotten shoes in plain and moc-toe styles like the Bedouin and Vagabond circa 1984, that used the Octowaffle pattern outsole as an adaption of existing Nike running technologies. Looking back, the styles are Clarks-alikes, and the decision to buy Cole Haan a few years later was probably a smart move, but I guarantee that many would lose their minds if somebody broke out the Bedouin now. The smart Nike shoes weren’t a success at the time, but the same thinking (and the popularity of Mark McNairy’s creations) makes these a little more timely. Nearly twenty years later, the HTM Zoom Macropus (a clever spin on the marsupial genus that contains the wallaby) was a bold move at trend level too.

While Nike are revisiting past experiments, they need to put out the stonewashed Nike Denim Full-Zip Jacket with the FORCE logo and underarm zips, plus the Denim Shorts that were released around 1990 to wear with the Air Force Five. A.C. Slater meets David Robinson is a strong look.

If you’re looking for something mindless to watch as New Year’s Day winds down, I recommend one of 2011’s most underrated action films — ‘Ironclad.’ It might outstay its welcome, but if you enjoyed 1985’s grim Paul Verhoeven-helmed ‘Flesh+Blood’ ‘Ironclad’ takes the medieval misery way beyond anything there. No fucking elves or orcs — just lots of fighting, and some of the goriest scraps I’ve ever seen. Forget Colin Firth with a speech impediment. This was one of the best British movies of the year. The beating of a man to death with a severed arm is a nice touch. Not even Paul Giamatti’s shit Engish accent could spoil it.

LUNAR JACK PURCELLS & OTHER MATTERS


I love wearing Converse, but those things hurt my feet. I’m an old-fashioned type, so generally it’s Chucks and Jacks in the shoe stack, yet it only takes half a mile before I’m walking my walk, thugged-out, orthopedic. I should probably admit defeat and concede that I’m not designed for these shoes, but the design classicism keeps drawing me back in. One solution to add mileage was always to pillage Nike SBs for their Anatomically Contoured Zoom Air footbeds, but they only delayed the pain.

This weekend I’ve been giving the drop-in Lunarlon midsole from the Koston One (read some nerdery on that shoe here) some road testing in my Jack Purcells, and it shits on the OX edition footbed, as it narrows towards the forefoot to minimise rubbing on the toecap. Usually, while the toe is smiling, I’m grimacing. Plus it’s fun to merge cutting-edge with a design that dates way, way back – lately, Mr. Russ Bengston,Mr. Nick Schonberger and myself have been discussing how awesome a Lunar and Flywire Chuck would be — even if it was just to anger purists. This cross-pollination of footwear is one comfortable step closer to that dream.

Incidentally, this brand crossover is sanctioned, because Converse is part of NIKE INC. Were it not, it would break a cardinal rule — I’ve grown out of some bizarre sub-culture imposed laws over the last few years, but the prohibition on mixing sneaker brands remains in place. If you wear adidas apparel with Nike shoes, or vice versa, it’s not a good look. And if you attempt to reunite the Dassler brothers in one outfit by merging PUMA and adidas, it’s even worse. It could get more extreme, with embargoes on wearing specific non-sports gear alongside the branded footwear that don’t have a collaborative relationship, but that’s just strange. Converse and Nike are now siblings, so the alliance creates a certain creative freedom.

But if we’re going to delve deeper, does that sanction wearing Nike with P.F. Flyers? For all the discomfort, the Jack Purcell’s selling point was once Posture Foundation technology to aid comfort, and it was introduced by the BFGoodrich tyre company as a badminton shoe in the mid 1930s. The BF company also started P.F. (Posture Foundation) Flyers in 1937 using a technology they’d created in 1933. There were other shoes in the Jack Purcell line by the late 1960s, with Jack Purcell by BF Goodrich making the capless Jack Purcell RaceAround (relatively recently retroed by Converse), the adidas-alike Jack Purcell Indy 500 (a lawsuit waiting to happen) and the Jack Purcell Windjammer (recently retroed by P.F. Flyers under New Balance ownership minus the Purcell name — does that mean you can wear NB and Nike with immunity?).

In 1972, Converse bought P.F. but apparently legal issues meant the purchase never took place in it’s entirety, but they got the licence to make the Purcell. This humble little shoe spans several brands, and it’s worth noting that the art in that Windjammer seems to be by the amazing Bob Peake, who designed the posters for ‘Apocalypse Now,’ ‘Enter the Dragon’ and a lot, lot more, vying with Drew Struzan for hero status.

Digression time. I watched John Carpenter’s ‘The Ward’ yesterday with mild anticipation. I appreciate that ‘Ghosts of Mars’ is unforgivably bad and that ‘Escape From LA’ should never have happened, but ‘Cigarette Burns’ for ‘Masters of Horror’ was interesting and because I forgot the majority of it immediately after watching, ‘Pro Life’ with the devil coming to claim back his kid from an abortion clinic was a madcap enough failure for me to think fondly of it. After a decade out of movie making, one of my heroes directed a film that looks a little like a Canadian TV-movie and feel like ‘Halloween II’ and a sail way too close to the plot of a film I won’t name for spoiler purposes. Still, I quite liked the font for the title lettering. Even if it didn’t feel quite like my beloved Albertus MT, there was still a lithe, gothic look to it. For that reason, I enjoyed it for around two minutes and trundled through the rest — though it’s not as bad as George A. Romero’s ‘Survival of the Dead’ or Dario Argento’s ‘Giallo’ in the genre-director-off-the-boil stakes. Plus Carpenter told Dazed & Confused that he likes to sing along to Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started,’ so I’m blaming her for this CGI-aided damp squib of a film.

I hadn’t seen this 1986 image of Donald Duck wooing Daisy in full Paninari getup before until I picked up a fortieth anniversary Moncler book from a few years back. I’ve seen Mickey rendered in hardrock mode with some big boots on and a scowl, but a dayglo Donald seemed to be out to replace the brand’s trademark duck with that Moncler vest and nubuck Timberland boots. Italy’s consumerist convergence of brands somehow managed to echo elements of casual, mod, NYC’s street level boosters, hip-hop uniforms and even today’s breed of slimline chino twat. Donald got there before you all and he got the girl as a result.

Whenever I’m feeling ill, I watch a double bill of ‘Death Wish III’ and ‘Shottas’ — both films have healing properties through sheer mindlessness and are as riddled with errors as they are bullets, but I still can’t get enough of the disregard for period looks that ‘Shottas’ maintains. If you’re going to have a 1978 flashback scene with a stashed shooter, it’s best not to use a distinctive shoe like 1996’s Jordan XII to hide the weapon. The Hilfiger boxers in that scene are bad enough, but this was some progressive footwear for the 1970s. ‘Shottas’ is far too yard to care for wardrobe accuracy.

And what better way to celebrate a holiday weekend than with a very, very sincere Swiss documentary on Celtic Frost that somebody has kindly uploaded onto YouTube with English subtitles?