Tag Archives: magazines



I’m guessing that I’m not alone in buying stacks of Japanese language publications. They’re rarely cheap (unless you actually visit Japan, postage or the markup in UK stores can be brutal) and can, unless you stick to your favourite titles and their myriad spinoffs and specials, be a let down once they arrive. But generally, with a mood of all-pervading geekery and a single niche taking up the first chunk of pages, these men’s clothing bibles are a triumph of obsession, covering territory that few western editors would ever dare tread, unless they were looking to bruise their already sensitive circulation. Fortunately, the language of unfiltered nerdery is global and singular. I wait for my Amazon Japan delivery in the knowledge that I’m not going to be able to sit and absorb every word. In fact, I’m probably not going to find a single sentence in there that I can decipher. But I’ll get flawless photography, detail shots, a sense of history—because origin years of a garment will be included— and, as a bonus, there’ll be some excitable captions in English.

If you’re really into the same kind of things as many Japanese consumers—good coats, vintage clobber and things you didn’t know you needed, but are so aesthetically pleasing that they’re necessary—then you’ll always be happy with Lightning, 2nd (Lightning’s younger brother, geared at a younger crowd), Free & Easy, and the tens of other titles that appear each month. ibought magazine takes consumerism to its compelling conclusion with page after page of stuff people bought recently, while GO OUT is the place to see unexpectedly awesome things like big branded GORE-TEX New Eras and costly rucksacks. Sometimes, a cartel of magazine editors unite to create a Whole Earth Catalog style paean to expendable income book stuff called, appropriately, Stuff, with sequels like Stuff Returns. The notion of being able to wander to a 7-11 style store near your house and find a 200 plus page tribute to Americana that examines the minutiae of denim rivets seems otherworldly, yet in many Japanese cities, it’s a norm. Minimal advertising, vast distribution and king-like levels of content means that, to quote Dave Gahan, words are very unnecessary. Every now and again you get stung for 15 quid by buying something completely uninspiring, but you would have blown that on something grass-fed in a bun that didn’t deliver anyway.

The Japanese approach to over analysing and cataloguing sports footwear appeals to me, because it’s a lane of its own that isn’t a youthful preoccupation with six or so silhouettes, nor old man griping over the shape/price/materials/availability, or whatever this month’s moan is. Boon Extra editions from the mid to late 1990s are still my favourite books on the topic, even if the copy could be calling me a bellend for all I know. Japan’s age-old fanaticism for shoes is something that resonates with me. They were up into the high 990s and four digit masterpieces from New Balance before the inevitable slow crawl of hype made the alternative to the bullshit—shoes that are still masterpieces—into another item caught in the bot and queue crossfire. I still feel that some shoes, like the reissue of 1996’s 999 that you only ever seemed to see in Asia, and the MT580, should never have had a release in the western world. We’re not built to appreciate them like we should. We should be observing from afar and making the pilgrimage to bring them back for ourselves and friends with flattened boxes and a not-guilty walk when it comes to NOTHING TO DECLARE.

2nd’s New Balance Book is the third solid NB mook I’ve seen over the years, and while the text is Japanese again, there’s enough imagery of grey suede and nubuck running shoes, factory imagery and history (the 1995 M585 and original M580 from 1992 are useful to see) to make it a worthy pickup. Many will find something new in there and the know-it-all will pick it up anyway because they’re too far gone with this collector thing, and bask in the knowledge that they have the knowledge when it comes to this sprawling, occasionally illogical secret society of numbers on tongues. You’ll probably pay some extra loot to get it, but this is comprehensive enough, despite not trawling some of the rarer releases or delving deep beyond running — like all the other good Japanese publications, it’s best used in tandem with other far eastern records of archive excavation. You could use Google, but it’s so awash with crappy content for content’s sake, and depressingly devoid of all those great little Geocities fan pages, that pricey paper is still your best bet.









Not every new magazine is worth celebrating. Some just seem to be made by six people for another six people, some feature the same rapper on the cover because the editor has only heard three new hip-hop acts in the last three years. Some will only ever exist as one edition, gathering dust in sale or return limbo. But where there’s expertise and passion, there’s something worth reading. Graffiti obsessives are a different kind of obsessive — beyond letterforms and the act of writing itself, they’ll discuss defunct paint pens for hours, know station after station, and appreciate the very thing they obsessively love to scar more than people who’d rather it was left pristine. The most interesting print projects relating to graf provide a distinct perspective and, as is often the emphasis within its tunnel-like mass of connecting cultures, their own style. With his own architectural practise, Whole Train Press don Andrea Caputo, whose imprint recently put out an Italian translation of chase story compendium Getting Caught, has put his passions to work with Public Domain magazine. Issue #1 of this hardback bi-annual celebrates underground activity with The Tunnel Issue. Intended as ongoing research project with a single type of space as the driving theme for each edition, this 128-page project is an examination of social potential, politics, physical and theoretical boundaries and constructions, freezing some temporary habits and rituals within these places. Including Kafka, words on walls, artists using the tunnel as guidance or a hiding place, criminal activity, Parisian sewers, journeys, catacomb histories, crew shots, conceptual drawings, scholarly essays, police pursuits, and a networked dark realm that visits Moscow and Amsterdam, the content is varied. There’s very little graffiti in Public Domain, yet the hardcore mentality and abundance of intense, intellectual outlooks makes it seem steeped in the habit without resorting to the predictable. More a book than a magazine, with its ad-free editorial, this #1 is well worth a dig.






This 1989/1990 voxpop from outside the Astoria via The Kino Library is pretty amazing. Shoe-centric talk, as Chipie, knitwear and shearlings are twinned with ZX 8000s, 9000s, Stabs, Kickers and Timbs captures a moment in dress well. Another piece from the same segment features a giant mobile phone being wielded and waved at the camera.



A lot of people talk about military spec benefits, but they think it’s just a big zip or a patch on some ripstop nylon. Everyone likes camo, yet the purpose of military apparel and accessories seems a little taboo these days. I’m fairly interested in material technologies and the notion of making something that has to perform in life-threatening situations, because, by my logic, even a diluted version of that build is going to serve me as a civilian in any situation my non military existence throws at me (bar a Red Dawn style invasion).

I appreciate that the army jacket love can be more influenced by a Nas lyric or a Japanese photoshoot than by those who put them to their intended use, but we need to understand the true intent as well as all the cheery subcultural stuff too. In a similar way, I respect running and how it relates to footwear design, even though running shoes as a statement were popularised by drug dealers and kids with lovable rogues (a nice way to say career criminal) as brothers, fathers or cousins rather than athletes. It helps to look at objects from as many sides as possible.

I’ve got a lot of respect for SOTech (Special Operations Technologies), who are based in Los Angeles. Mr. Rob Abeyta Jr. put me onto them (Rob knows more about military life than internet bystanders like me do) and he also gave me the opportunity to interview Mr. Jim Cragg, the president of SOTech, about American-made tactical gear. If your brand makes nigh-on indestructible bags and experienced a boost in business after the Bank of America shootout (which I’m faintly obsessed with), then I’m more interested in talking to you than I am if you’ve just started a streetwear brand that homages Givenchy and Margiela. I’d kind of given up on writing for magazines late last year, because nobody actually reads them — they Instagram the cover next to a coffee and then give it a cursory flick-through during a quick shit. But I had to make an exception for this one.

The magazines Jim (who is a super nice guy and not anything like Eddie Sherman from Seinfeld) designs for aren’t the paper kind, and they actually serve a purpose, but crucially, I was keen to chat to him because he has a dedication to his craft that I think is genuinely inspiring, and I wanted to learn a little more about design as it relates to survival. Plus the trainer expert and menswear blogger tag needs to be contradicted. Jim makes things using a process SOTech calls overbuilding. Overbuilding isn’t overdesigning and covering things with ruinous silliness, it’s making something better than other people because it matters and customers who aren’t dead are a good advertisement for what the company does. Because bootlegging is rife in the military design world, SOTech bootlegs itself and makes cheaper versions of its own products overseas under the Paladin But they’ve also done some work with Vans and Stüssy too.

This ended up in latest issue of The New Order, but I think it’s also something that a handful of people who visit this blog might get a kick out of, while the rest will wonder where the old ads are. I’m looking forward to seeing what Rob and Jim’s impending SOT-BLK line looks like too. This also reminded me that I need to add a feature section to this blog for this kind of thing.



Jim, how did SOTech start?

JIM: SOTech began in my mind and my muscles every time I went to the field with my unit. At the time I was in a Special Operations unit, but my body was racked with two strains of malaria that I had contracted working in refugee camps in South East Asia. The malaria devastated my body and made every lift and flex count, getting me thinking about building better load carriage systems for everything from parachutes to pocket knives. The Malaria as a recurrent disease also derailed my Army career and I was looking to diversify into a related job field.

While serving as an Army Reservist, I set up SOTech while renting out my brother’s dining room which I converted into a bedroom/sewing room. I soon had a steady stream of police patrol cars stopped in front of the house in Encino, California. I was working as a substitute teacher in the LAUSD which I really enjoyed too. I found a niche immediately as policemen and soldiers from across the country began contacting me through word of mouth referrals.

In late 1998, an SF buddy of mine named Dave Thomas gave me rent-free space in the back of his graphics factory. The military and law enforcement may be a good ol’ boy network, but that network is good advertising when you get a reputation for taking care of the troops and patrolmen. The company grew exponentially from there. The custom shop has been part of our DNA from the beginning.

Did you have a separate premises for the early days of custom work?

The custom shop WAS the shop. When we occupied the factory space, I started with three staff and increased to 6 over 3 years (including myself as a sewer/supervisor). We treated a 2-piece order the same way we treated a 300 piece order. Every customer was a lawman or warrior in need and every design was a challenge

What kind of custom commissions were you taking on back then?

From day one we’ve serviced the need — whatever on-the-ground need an operator was facing at that time. When an elite unit operates at the tip of the spear, standard gear has normally not developed to meet that soldier, lawman or rescuer’s mission requirement. Their mission’s function in that extreme unknown of operating environments, and gear has caught up. We get to sit down with those cutting edge warriors, listen to their tactical requirements, find out about their newest tools and devices, and find a way to build load carriage systems to fit their mission.

Typically, the rest of the military or law enforcement will see what they are doing, and a few years later the Department of Defense will commission projects to develop gear, frequently off our concepts, and begin fielding them to conventional forces. By that time of course, we are working with our customers to develop systems that are leaps ahead of those now old designs. In the early days we were developing load vests, holsters, belts, vertical entry, riot control, medical, and explosive breaching systems just to name a few.

What were the relationships that defined the company?

We developed close relationships with LA Sheriffs SEB (SWAT), DEA MET, LAPD, LA FBI SWAT, LAPD Bomb Squad and 19th Group SF at first. We had a steady flow of the top team members from these teams dropping by to commission some radical designs. Working with these top programs gave bona fides to the quality of the designs and soon we were hearing from agencies across the US. We frequently had customers fly into LAX from government agencies on the East Coast, taxi to our office in the morning, provide a device and hands on description, and by the afternoon we had fitted a custom rig to the operator and drove them to the airport for an evening flight back to the East Coast. One of SOTech’s key differentiators is that I set up our business model as a service provider and not a product manufacturer.

Do you see yourself as a craftsman?

We are craftsmen providing a service to people conducting complex and life-threatening missions with great social relevance. This way we focused on providing utility solutions to customers, not on profit-making mass productions. Frankly, had I looked at this as a numbers, quantities and efficiencies based business, I wouldn’t have justified keeping the doors open. But when you are providing short runs of a tool to a fellow special ops troop, you are willing to eat ramen noodles and rice for a few more months. The profit wasn’t there, but we walked away with hundreds of designs from “the dark side” that are now in demand across the spectrum.


Did you feel that the quality of military equipment had started to dip in the mid 1990s?

As a military historian, I’ll say there was a surge in the development of military load carriage gear in the late 1700s, and since then gear development was pathetic. The same forms of packs, pouches and belts went from leather to canvas to nylon right up through the 1990s.

The monolithic thinking of soldiers in mass formation wanting everyone to look uniform stifled radical thinking literally for centuries. I still deal with it today, in law enforcement more than the military. I was just fortunate in the 1990s to be serving in Special Operations where very few Sergeant Majors were eyeballing your gear, and commanders were more interested in the ability to accomplish the mission than in looking “right” for the award ceremony afterwards.

The major impetus to allow change in the conventional forces was the inception of ballistic armour in the conventional field forces. This forced people to accept soldiers and policemen looking differently than they had when their fathers and grandfathers had gone to war.

To many of us, the Bank of America shootout felt more like a movie than most Hollywood films — how profound an effect on the business did that have with regards to police purchases?

The Bank of America shootout brought the threat of danger home to policemen and women. It was Vietnam and Beirut-style machine gun fire in suburban America. The vision of body armour and full auto fire opened the minds of a lot of senior officials and broke them away from black leather gun belts, blue suits and shiny badges. Now the sight of a nylon drop leg taser holster, an active shooter go bag, or a MACTAC pack is common sight on Police walking our streets. Back then it would have been called “paramilitary”. Today, US citizens feel safer running to a deputy wearing a tactical vest, but a decade ago the perception was that citizens only felt comfortable with the pressed shirt and leather belt look. This was profound for SOTech.

With that shootout, we led the way in development by creating clip on thigh rigs for ammo carriers to the officer’s leather belt rigs. That opened minds to allow the M26 Taser to be clipped on — previously they couldn’t get cops to use the taser because there was no room for it on the belt, so it was left in the car. Subsequently, thousands of lives have been saved because officers have had the non-lethal option whereas otherwise they would have only been able to employ the lethal option. This has opened minds to many other tools and their carriage systems. Law enforcement has changed drastically in the last decade, and it’s awesome to be riding the lip of that wave.

Was manufacturing in the USA always part of the plan?

USA manufacturing has been an issue of both quality control and rapid change and improvement. Of course every week when I hand out paychecks I’m reminded of the American families that we support and the local economic infrastructure this supports. But I have always focused on flexibility in our production. If a customer calls up and tells me that a retention strap is blighting the tall guy on his team, I can walk out to the floor, adjust and re-sew the sample, and change our production run. I’ve seen competitors get stuck with 3000 vests of an old imperfect design that they tried to push on unwitting customers. But when it takes 6 months to get a design in from China or Vietnam, once you’ve received that tractor-trailer full of gear, there’s no easy way to change the order.

Do you find that other manufacturers of product are creating gear overseas?

Offshore quality simply cannot match production that you oversee. I have had personal experience with offshore sewers trying to cheat my standards with cheaper materials and stitch work. And when it comes down to servicemen’s lives, it really bothered me to see them being equipped with offshore made gear that I know wouldn’t last a deployment. But there is always someone in the supply chain trying to make more money, and a purchaser trying to “save” more money.

Is it beneficial from a patriotic angle that sits with the nature of the product as well as a quality control standpoint?

I think that the quality control standpoint is the patriotic standpoint. If American innovation and quality is not worth the extra cost of buying American, then we aren’t doing our duty as Americans or industry leaders to inspire our countrymen. I thinking buying American solely to give jobs to a person of our own nationality helps no one.


The Paladin overseas manufactured approach of almost bootlegging yourself is an interesting one — how rife is imitation within the military gear industry?

Knocking myself off with producing Paladin copies of SOTech designs fought fire with fire, and we won. I went to my dealers and distributers and put it bluntly: if you buy offshore product from me, at least the profits will go to keeping open SOTech’s design studio and you will get radical new designs in the future. If you give the orders for these designs to the offshore brands, SOTech will fold and they won’t have new designs to copy next year! It worked. Military and law enforcement gear was so rife with imported copies, that we had to make an effort to educate government contracting officers how to tell when a product is Berry Compliant or not.

When imported tourniquets began to fail on severely wounded soldiers, this signified a dark time in our industrial supply of our youth going to war. Luckily, I believe that the military is well beyond the spin up period in the war where they had to buy what was available, and are now making calculated developments and purchases as the war winds down. This means that the opportunists that tried to jump at last-minute deployment funds to sell an offshore made copy product are running out of targets. I’ve already seen some of these businesses disappear, but only after having made a fast buck.

Is it a race to patent as you go along?

Patenting designs is delicate art, but required in defense contracting. I have fought and won two lengthy court battles involving our patents (we have 10 patents). But sadly, even the US military has begun generating its own designs that look eerily like commercial products, and attempt to narrowly skirt citizen’s patents. The Marine Corps puts on meetings inviting companies to bring in their designs to show off. But most of the invited companies are afraid to bring their designs for fear that the Marine Corps will “incorporate” the designs into a USMC-owned pack design. Patenting products can be a hassle in the fast paced world of production, but when I pay the money to go out and interface with the operator in the field, my product will be priced to cover that extra expense, so the patent is used to protect the innovation from those companies that will attempt to profit from our work without incurring the expense.

Have you been endeavoring to employ veterans since the very start?

Employing veterans evolved from a desire to have staff members who had a base commonality with our primary customers into an effort to promote awareness that veterans have a significantly higher rate of unemployment than the average citizen. Employing veterans is a two-edged sword. On one hand you get a motivated worker who is experienced in working within a disciplined organization. On the other hand you engage an employee who has experienced some of the harshest extremes that our culture can endure, and may have suffered from it.

Part of my goal is to build a bridge with our designs to bring back our veteran population from an isolation state to a core of American culture state. This can be done by a veteran fresh back from the Middle East seeing a kid on a skateboard wearing a backpack of the same design that he lived out of on patrol. It’s those subconscious connections between the street and combat that can have deeper impacts than a fashion statement.

Has the business grown significantly in the post 9/11 climate?

It has grown since 9/11. Part of that is natural business expansion based on our capabilities. Part of that is vastly increased congressional spending because of wartime demands. And part of that is a bond that has developed between the street purchaser and people who have been sent to war.

Performance in this case is so critical. Is that responsibility something that can be stressful? On an athletic item, something small can be the difference between first and second place — here it can be a life or death situation.

Combat, rural search and rescue, and street policing are all games of odds with death in the balance. Every feature offers you one more advantage. Every sane person that enters into these professions spends hours contemplating the odds they face and every little way they can improve those odds. I used to say that if your vest is ounces more ergonomic than your adversary’s rig, after you both patrol 15 miles to the point of engagement, will that added measure of energy that you have and he doesn’t give you the ability to raise your gun barrel faster? Or maybe you should ask, will that lighter weight design allow you to make it that last kilometer to back to base camp?

Military and police products seem like competitive marketplaces — do soldiers and officers buy their own gear?

Typically, the agency provides a government approved and issued set of mission essential gear. Most agencies acknowledge that this gear is designed around the last war, so they allow small units to use funds to buy gear and for commanders to approve soldiers and policemen to privately purchase gear. Serious operators buy their own gear with foresight into the next fight that they are engaging. Good commanders similarly look for gear for their units to improve their soldiers’ survival. A Brigade Sergeant Major Ken Riley of the Falcon Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division came to us, designed a paratrooper chest harness off our internal magazine slot design and secured approval and funds to purchase 3,000 for his brigade heading to Iraq. It was a great experience meeting a Falcon brigade soldier who had been saved by the design when a RPG rocket was fired at him.

Are contracts swayed by pricing over quality?

When Congress says, “we put a priority on saving the lives of the sons and daughters of our constituents” the military takes that money and buys the best quality gear. When the war starts to draw down, and congressional funding diminishes, you read statements like, “this contract will be judged in terms of price, utility, durability, and prior performance, in that order” you know the contracting office just had its budget cut.

Do you feel your military insight makes all the difference with SOTech? To have been out in the field and seen needs and potential consequences must be invaluable. It’s hard to imagine that someone who hasn’t seen combat would think to create baggage that neatly stacks magazines in movement.

Having served in the field gives you a focus on the priority, but also a cognizance of the whole picture. The natural inclination is to think solely of the tactical action —setting the explosive charge, closing the wound, shooting the sniper rifle — but when you have truly experienced the environment, you bring into account the peripheral impacts like the sounds of metal rattling, the dangling protective glasses, the last second need to access your radio to call the team leader and the sudden need to access a tourniquet to stop your buddy’s bleeding. When you are planning a great white shark cage dive, all you can think of leading up to it is the massive shark, but the second you hit the water, that freezing cold water seeping into your wetsuit brings you back to the reality of your environment.

The notion of overbuilding is a fascinating one — does that deliver a challenge in creating something that’s rugged enough yet free of superfluous elements that could weigh or constrict in a combat situation?

15 years ago we developed our reputation overbuilding everything. The conventional soldier’s gear needs to last 10 days of continuous use before failure, but Special Operations Forces require 90 days before failure. When we went into Afghanistan, you now found troops fighting at 12,000 feet chasing terrorists in man-jammies up hillsides. So we engaged the challenge by maintaining the overbuilt qualities at key load bearing and wear points while minimizing buckles and webbing that weren’t 100% required. It was actually both fun and fascinating because we were led to dissect the tactical operator’s user feedback even deeper to allow us to determine what was kept and what was removed.

How critical is user feedback on these pieces? When you’re equipping people for anything, access and ease of use must be something that’s constantly a work-in-progress.

It’s a fascinating process. The best part of my job is getting down and dirty with the customer to determine what they are doing in the field and what their actual requirements are. Here you work with their historic mission examples, current tactics, techniques and procedures, and projected future threats. If you could only put a camera on some of these discussions. On the flip side, 15 years of experience has taught me that every operator has his own opinion. Just because one soldier out of 5,000 who got issued the piece of gear complains about the placement of a flap, doesn’t mean you have to go change the design immediately for everyone…so you develop a filter and systems to test feedback and get multiple opinions.

How pioneering was SOTech in designing modular baggage for battle?

From day one, I always saw load-bearing gear as systems. The hard part was breaking the military away from its centuries old concept of, “everything you need for your mission has to be carried in your backpack”. As a company that specialized in mission focused gear, we were able to sneak these concepts into medical pack systems, explosive breacher pack systems and sniper systems. Each of these were set up modularly with grab and go bags supported by advanced kit resupply inserts. Once these were in the field with the elite special operations units, the rest of the military and later law enforcement had to embrace reality.

The concept is simple: finally realizing that your troops are almost always within a kilometer of their vehicles, if you need to carry 6 devices for your mission but need to lighten your load, why not carry 3 and leave 3 on the truck? Just send a troop to run to the truck and grab the go bag with the other three devices. That’s why customers call us “the home of the go bag.”

Focusing on an item like the Patrolman’s Magazine Rig Belt Hanger, how many alterations has a design like that had over the last 16 years?

A good design is a good design. Changes come from trends in lighter fabric, changes is belt style and color trends. But I frequently smile when I see a large order from a police department for a design I came up with in the bedroom-sewing studio that I started in.

Is there scope for timelessness when it comes to military design? I get the impression that SOTech is a restless company creatively.

I told myself when I had 40 designs competed that I would be finished when I reached 80. Then it became 150, then 300. Now we have over 1,500 designs hanging on the sample wall and there is no end in sight. The principles of utility, simplicity and durability have a timelessness to them, but the eternal competitive nature of military design means that until we achieve world peace, someone will always be thinking of a way to outdo his adversary. Beyond that, we at SOTech want to take our designs beyond the military and law enforcement realm to provide the utility development to the street, sport and professional worlds. We have been inspired to develop some great concepts for the life and death environments, and now I feel a social duty to provide them to other areas of society.


Are there significant differences in creating products for combat and for combat support?

Not really. In the modern conflicts, everyone is a target and thus requires the same principals applied.

Do you have a specific testing process for SOTech products?

We listen, build a sample, send it for field-testing, make adjustments, retest, get approval, and then produce. As revisions come in, we integrate and retest. We have a solid core of friends who test the gear for us.

Has the quest to find the perfect Cordura been a challenge?

Its been more of a nuisance. The industry provides great quality fabric in 1000 denier, 500 denier, and 300 denier, which are military standards. It’s often overwhelming when people try to make cheaper, inferior cloths and hound us to try them out only to find that there is a reason that they are cheaper.

The obscurity of the clasps SOTech uses is something different in the market — are they sourced or custom-made for you?

Yes, we commissioned custom fasteners and the military approved them. When it’s dark, and your hands are cold and muddy, getting into a pouch to retrieve a survival device is no time to realize your zipper pulls are too small to grab. This situation has dire meaning when a wounded soldier is bleeding in front of you, but I find it helpful every day I unzip to pull my laptop out of my go bag.

Using thread so thick that the sewing machines have to be modified for it is the kind of thing that an accountant will never comprehend — does that approach to manufacture prove far more expensive than regular manufacturing processes?

I have been at odds with my accountant since day one. But I believe China currently beats America in mass production efficiency. But where America beats China is in innovation — when we were willing to go that extra mile that the mass producers couldn’t, we established ourselves as a cut above.

Has the location of the company been beneficial in terms of onscreen presence of SOTech products in movies?

Being located near Hollywood has always been a benefit for SOTech. It has been fun for our staff, and having access to arsenals full of dummy props for design purposes has been great. But the advertising we have gotten for our designs has been unreal. Movies like Transformers and Proof of Life became the talk of the gear community.

Has that helped business?

I’ve always looked at it as a fun side business, but providing props has become a notable part of our marketing. And now studying social media marketing and its interconnection with media, I see imagery that originated in Hollywood films promoting SOTech gear finding its way in images and video bits into multiple social media outlets.

Have you seen an increase in urban usage of SOTech products?

I really feel that the demand for SOTech bags on the urban market is more than just a trend, I see it as people on the street connecting with people downrange. After all, a majority of the Special Forces and SEALS that I know were riding skateboards before they enlisted.

So many non-military brands boast Mil-Spec details, but it sounds more like a buzzword.

I get frustrated with the term Mil-Spec because we pay extra money to have our raw materials certified Military Specification, and I see companies throughout the industry stamping Mil-Spec on products that I wouldn’t wear to a baby shower, much less into combat.

Is serving in the military and still running a company where customers are encouraged to demand to speak to you if the product isn’t up to scratch a difficult task?

I’d rather be interfacing with happy or unhappy customers than sitting through financial meetings! I live to communicate with the troops. It’s what keeps me in touch and invigorated. Still serving adds to my depth of concern. I have the same concerns for my soldiers as does the customer on the other end of the line. I hope I never lose that sense of responsibility, even after I leave the service.

How did you end up working with Rob? Was the bag for Vans the first project you worked on?

Rob was working with a team at Stüssy that took an interest in our tubular SOTech Go Bag design. I think that because of Rob’s prior life as an infantryman, he wasn’t afraid to reach out of the urban world into the military contractor world to talk to us. Rather than have a civilian company make a version of our design, why not go for authenticity and develop the bag that was actually used in combat? I’m really glad he reached out. It has given us at SOTech a creative outlet that we have been looking for and it has had positive impacts on all facets of our development as a company. Rob brought us in and we did a backpack for Stüssy that really changed our company tone. After that, Vans engaged us for the DualForces bag and shoe collaboration. Right now, we are building a skateboard travel bag system with Anthony Van Engelen. This spring, we’re working together on the SOT-BLK (Special Operation Technologies, Black) line.



This blog should probably become bloggingaboutchampiongearidontownagainandagain.com, but it’s my blog, so if I want to get stuck in the mud and dwell on one topic, I will. Nobody told me about the existence of this sweatshirt — I knew about last year’s Stussy collaboration on that slightly fussy M-65 style tracksuit employing Windstopper, but this ARMY Reverse Weave hoody in Oshman’s is the best Champion Windstopper design yet. Trying to give basic fleecewear technical properties is problematic. Angular, stiff fanciness defeats my primary purpose for putting a sweatshirt on. If a DWR treatment can’t sustain regular washes, it’s pretty pointless and if you can’t breath through the sweatshirt, it becomes a suffocateshirt. Water resistance has never worked for me on these garments, but Gore’s Windstopper protection layer makes sense and doesn’t infringe too much on the hand feel of a sweat. It’s good to see two technologies with over 50 years between them (I think this might be the Windstopper patent, a technology that officially debuted around 1992 while the 1938 patent here is a Champion one that seems to be focused on a Reverse Weave style technology). Pop fastenings on the collar, ribbed side panels, minimal vertical shrinkage, but annoyingly small Japanese sizing — everything that intrigues me about the work from a licensee that just does its own thing with a certain finesse.

The ‘Vintage Menswear’ book by Josh Sims and The Vintage Showroom’s Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett is good value for money. If, like me, you lay down £20 on a Japanese magazine covering similar ground just to gaze at the photos, the 130 items here and accompanying copy is a nice antidote to keep on the shelf. I’m still stuck in the military chapter, where reversible German mountain parkas, custom military greatcoats, eccentric footwear innovations, a truly remarkable Aero Leather company B-7 sheepskin flight jacket and a lot more deliver enough insight for an idea-free clothing brand to get at least 2 years of designs out of it. The notion that the British Army’s Paratrooper’s denison smock was painted with a non-colourfast ink so that it might fade in enemy territory and give the wearer a different kind of concealment by letting them blend in with civilians (though it’s just a rumoured innovation) fired my imagination. I had no idea that the reddish applications to brushstroke camo on the Indian Army paratrooper’s smock dated back to the 1940s — I thought they were a 1970s treatment to the (to tie it to the Windstopper talk, the Denison jacket design’s spinoff was the lighter Windproof smock) pattern. All of which goes to show that I know nothing about camouflage. Go buy the book and get educated — it’s bitesize pieces rather than an exhaustive history of anything, but the spotlight on the details.

Who else used to buy magazines for the tapes? ‘NME’, ‘Select’ and ‘Melody Maker’ seemed like better value for having them on the cover, even though I never listened to them. ‘The Source’ had a good Rush Associated Labels one attached in 1994 and on buying ‘Fantastic Four’ #376 in a mysterious polybagged pack for the tape, I was introduced to the mighty ‘Dirt’ magazine. Then dad-mags like ‘Q’ got all fancy and stuck CDs on their covers and by 1996, the cover cassette was done. Few genres justify continual use of a long-gone, labour intensive object like the audio cassette like doom metal does, and UK-noise bible ‘Terrorizer’ gave away a couple of CDs this month, but throwing Dorset-based stoner-doomers Electric Wizard’s new EP in as a tape was a glorious flashback to the newsagents of old. It was a shame that only select issues got it. It’s also a damned shame that I don’t own a tape deck any more.


I know we should encourage print publications in ailing times (especially when an online appetite for anything that constitutes content means that a lot of digital features and editorials are at least 40% longer than the average attention span, scattered with “one” in lieu of “you” in a bid at intelligence), but there’s a lot on the shelves that just seems to exist, bogged down with the predictable PR pushes of the moment and lacking any paper pulp identity. I had no idea that ‘TAR’ was still going either. ‘The Hunger’ magazine caught me off guard. I caught a glimpse of it and dismissed it as another vacuous publication that was presumably the pet project of some oligarch’s wife.

Then I found out that ‘The Hunger’ is Rankin’s baby, meaning the level of photography is predictably excellent, but it’s notable that advertisements seem to have been smartly folded into the actual content rather than the bookends of 40+ ad pages we’re used to. If we’re talking in idiot’s terms here — and during a recession it’s always worth reverting to a dopey notion where size and weight determines value — 500 pages for £4 is pretty good.

What really shines is Rankin’s conversations with some of ‘LIFE’s greatest contributors, including Burk Urkel, Guillermo “Bill” Eppiridge and John Shearer in the Documentary section. If you’re UK or Europe based, you can catch Rankin’s pretty good ‘America in Pictures: The Story of Life Magazine‘ right here on BBC iPlayer (if you can’t access it, consider it revenge for the times those MTV links you’ve embedded have denied me) — his passion shines through and he fanboys out with childish enthusiasm on meeting the pioneers of the photographic essay. Next time you’re admiring your Instagram efforts, I recommend trawling through the ‘LIFE’ archives on Google Books to puncture that misguided sense of what’s awesome. I love John Shearer’s ‘The ‘Prez’ of the Reapers’ photo essay (with text from Reginald Bragonier) that ran in the 25th August, 1972 issue. You can read it in its entirety here.

‘LIFE’ ran several excellent gang-related pieces before, but this reflected a new wave of crew violence, depicting the Bronx climate that spawned the Black Spades and inspired Walter Hill’s vision of Sol Yurick’s ‘the Warriors.’ Pride, violence, grief and a face beyond the bravado is present in Shearer’s work and while the article ends of a downbeat note, his blog indicates that Eddie Cuevas — the star of the article — left the gang life after beating the murder case to become a set-painter.

‘The Hunger’s website is strong, offering a plethora of video content and I recommend trawling through the BBC4 ‘All American’ collection to watch a 1981 ‘Arena’ episode on the Chelsea Hotel, four episodes of Alexis Korner’s ‘The Devil’s Music’ from 1979 and the more recent ‘America on a Plate[‘ documentary on the cultural relevance of the diner. You can lose a lot of time constructively while it lasts.

While ‘LIFE’ was a sappy, re-released shadow of its former self long before I was born, Henry Chalfont and Tony Silver (R.I.P.) 1983’s ‘Style Wars’ was a life-changer that offered another Bronx tale. Even catching it long after that fabled Channel 4 screening, those quotes from SKEME’s mum, CAP, Kase 2 (R.I.P.) and Min One have entered the everyday conversational lexicon of me my equally nerdish associates and I as much as ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘Seinfeld’ ever did. It’s bigger than hip-hop.

The frequently great ConspiracyUK radio show (from 27 minutes in), which seems to get some long interviews (with Menace sometimes sounding like Morell from ‘A Room For Romeo Brass’ with a rap fixation) with tough to track down subjects, recently chatted with Henry Chalfant for half an hour on the fundraising project to restore the 30 hours of outtakes left decaying. After the Save Style Wars campaign launched with a questionably fancy looking site that looked like it would flee the country with your credit card details, the new Style Wars site used KickStarter to raise the $28,000 to save them. Last week it hit the funding goal and the extra money will be used to restore the documentary itself. There’s some good incentives to contribute and at time-of-writing, 56 hours left to donate.

KickStarter is also being used to fund the release of Michael Miller‘s ‘West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Pictures’ which has doubled its goal. Compiled, Miller’s west coast rap photography (including the ‘Cypress Hill’ cover shot) could be well worth your time.

Listening to Elton John’s underrated ‘Rock of the Westies’ (GTA players know that ‘Street Kids’ is on point), all I can say is, thank god for that white. Elton’s prodigal yayo habit in 1975 caused him to create bangers with a completely new band. But beyond the sounds, that outfit on the album cover is some unkempt flamboyance. Check the near-beard, deerstalker, polo shirt, dog tag, bugged-out sunglasses and flossy rings, including a keyboard looking piece. Inspirational. This shot captures Sir Elton somewhere between broken and awesome. Rock stars don’t dress with this kind of lunacy any more.

The big aggressively shapeshifting elephant in the room at the moment is ‘The Thing’ prequel. I wanted to like it and some of the effects were strong, but it lacked the absolute dread and sense of isolation that made the 1982 version so necessary. It wasn’t a complete waste of human cells though and no spoilers intended (it has its own self-contained plot), but the segway between movies is smart. The hood might lack fur this time around, but the helicopter markings, doomy thud of the original score and Albertus MT typeface let the film conclude on a high note.

After the backpack talk the other week on Boylston Trading Company, Mr. Frank Rivera gave me the opportunity to write ‘Expendable Income’ — a love letter to the adidas Forum Hi which is one of my favourite shoes. I still don’t know why the story of the shoe hasn’t been told at length before (and there’s still a lot of facts to check and tales to be included), nor why the Hi seemed to be so hard to find post 2002. It’s good to talk Dellinger, crack money and stupid price tags. Click the image or check it out here.

Look around you. 2007 just got retroed. The onslaught of camouflage gear, queues for shoes and the rise of the print. That protectively waxed conservatism had to disintegrate at some point. All over patterned hoodies again? Ralph Lauren himself seems to favour these wintery traditional patterns above the majority of what his empire pumps out, and this Spruce Heather fleece has an air of 1989 about it too. It sure isn’t cheap, but it’s something different for the fanboys. No Polo player on the chest – this opts for a waistband patch logo instead. I like the texture too.

I just found out that Lewis Rapkin’s ‘Live From Tokyo’ documentary about the city’s music culture is finally available to rent on some new-fangled YouTube rental system. It’s worth £1.99 of your money (with a disaster relief charity donation in there too). I love Tokyo.


I don’t want this to be one of those blogs where the curator merrily hurls every piece of freebie tat hurled their way into a post, or makes a limp promise to a PR that “coverage” to a handful of readers and friends should warrant a freebie. Nobody needs to be exposed to the work of a lame blogger like that. But you probably know that I like magazines, and my respect for New York’s (formerly ATL’s) FRANK151 has cropped up here time and time before. Back when I posted an ill-fated list of magazines last month I even noted that this publication not making the top ten was something of a bozo move.

I first grabbed a FRANK151 as part of a package from an online rap retailer based on the same city as team FRANK (Sandbox? All I recall is being made to “fax” my Mastercard via an antiquated scanner before they’d treat me as anything more than a criminal before waiting more than a month to grab my vinyl. While the shipping by weight was no joke, the freebies were what made it a superior E-spot. Promo CDs, stickers, XXL tees, hastily signed CD booklets, white labels and occasionally…very occasionally, magazines.

A decent publication called ‘Mugshot’ turned up in a heavily sealed mass of cardboard, but it was FRANK151 that fired my imagination. It seemed utterly self-indulgent and totally focused on specific matters. I can’t even recall the chapter that proved a gateway drug, but it wasn’t until I grabbed a copy of 14 circa 2003 (with SSUR at the helm) that I truly grasped the guest-editorial nature of this project. My experiences with it in London have been fleeting. Beyond DPMHI’s heyday, I’ve never grabbed it in the same location more than once. It seems to deliberately elude me.

While you’re out trying to get your print project off the ground expecting me to high-five you just for picking pulped paper over pixels, whether it’s physical or not, garbage is garbage is garbage. FRANK151 rarely lets me down. It feeds my enquiring mind. I’ve broken out copies copped overseas and opened them back in the UK to reveal French and Spanish language editions. But I’m not mad. I stacked and saved those too.

Some editions have not been entirely themed on subjects I’m barely interested in, but they’ve proved educational regardless. You can’t go and demand your money back either, because it’s free, even if some stores keep ’em so far into the shelves that they’re practically daring you to reach over, look them in the eye, take a copy and wander out without buying a damned thing. Collated, I may well have spent enough time feigning interest in hanging racks of heavily marked-up cotton just to pick my moment to grab a copy and leave to watch Leone’s ‘One Upon a Time in America’ in its entirety again, even if it’s just the butchered VHS version from the ’80s and ’90s. That’s a lot of time spent lurking.

The book’s book-size defies freebie disposability and smuggles itself into lofty company with the books I pretend to read on my book shelf. It’s a survivor in that regard. Somehow I feel the urge to collate them and leave them be while less diminutive perfect-bound magazines in my living space get pulped. I spent a long, long time hunting down the Soul Assassins chapter, only for Estevan Oriol to kindly give me a copy recently, but not having the ALIFE, No Mas and recent Seventh Letter crew editions was eating at me. Until FRANK151’s Managing Editor Adam Pasulka clocked my rambling magazine entry, showed forgiveness for my oversight and sent me a “care package” of 13 FRANKs. It made it from the USA in a matter of days as well, unlike the lengthy vinyl limbo the likes for Sandbox and Hiphopsite used to leave me in.

Chapter 42 is the Cuba edition. For the Mellow Man Ace article and Michael Halsband’s account of Hunter S. Thompson running wild in the heat alone, you need it in your life. Cheers Adam.



Consider this another cautionary tale. Over a year ago, I cockily accepted Acyde’s challenge to provide a top 10 magazines pieces for TMI. It sounded easy — I like magazines. I quite like writing. Job done. I went home and wrote it over a few hours, mourning the print industry and sneering at Kindles and other modes of techno-book. Then I found myself returning to it every other week to add a publication and switch something to my RIP section, as for every new indie on the market, a handful more would perish, never seeing a follow-up issue. Then it seemed to go the other way. More introductions and less passings. Then Steve Jobs announced the iPad, and I gave up.

I seemed to have haplessly timed this piece at a time when magazine industry shapeshifted and a recession was being ridden out. As a result, the text below is included as an example of ill-timed writing. Some of the prose uses references so dated, i may as well be babbling on about BSB Squarials and Rabbit Telecommunications.

My attempt at a magazines top ten falters because it changes daily (I think there’s a good case to have put ‘Frank151’ in there too). I think ‘Swallow went under, ‘Sup’ is cool but they owe me freelance £ and I’m not sure that ‘Apartamento’ is actually that good.

‘Mark’, ‘B’, ‘Proper’, ‘Brownbook’ , ‘SOME/THINGS’, ‘Novembre’ , ‘Huge’, ‘Dodgem Logic’, ‘Slider’, ‘No’, ‘Journal de Nimes’ , Tyler’s ‘Mediterraneo’, the amazing ‘McSweeney’s newspaper one-off, ‘Livingproof’, ‘AIE’ and ‘Obscura’ are things I probably would have mentioned now, either as new startups, case-studies or contenders. Lesson learned. Don’t try to summarise something this vast in a few sickly paragraphs.


“Who be first to catch this Beat Down?/My Rap Pages be the Source/Ego Trip remain victory and no loss/Rap sheet show you details of wars in streets/Where the most live, catch Vibe and Blaze heat…”
GZA ‘Publicity’

2009 was subjected to a papery cull, and the increasingly barren shelves of your local newsagent attests to this. On the achingly familiar work route, a newsstand, once dense with logos, bombastic cover stories and promises of informational enlightenment has downsized into a metal shack with only a fraction in stock.

Many have fallen these last few months. Some, like ‘Maxim,’ were publications you might have assumed were defunct in the first place — others, like ‘FACT,’ recently forced into an excellent online-only form after the free status didn’t work for them, deserved a bigger spotlight, but with a net-savvy, MP3 right-clickers as it’s core readership, once openly questioning as to who the hell actually buys music magazines in this day and age.

In fact, dwelling on the music magazines, some might say, that the Dad-rock periodicals, ‘Mojo,’ ‘Uncut’ and ‘Q’ may live to cover more Bolan and Coldplay by dint of a readership that isn’t net-savvy in the slightest. ‘Vibe’ bit the dust. Many grew up with that magazine around them might mourn them — beyond the daft internet polls, it’s a shame – Bobbito, Bonz Malone, Cheo H. Coker and Kevin Powell’s work was part of a golden age of black music journalism, but by instigating a brouhaha around the best hip-hop blogs, one can’t help but feel they championed one of the key causes of their own demise. Anyhow, most hadn’t bought it since it switched from saddlestitch to a perfect bind.

On a similar topic, whatever your opinion of ‘HHC,’ it was something of a UK institution, pre-empting the deluge of hip-hop publications, and its absence leaves a gap on the shelves that, like Romero’s mall-dwelling undead, those grabbing it monthly out of habit find themselves scowling at the missing shelf link between ‘XXL’ and ‘Knowledge’.

For years, even the most tinpot tech prophets have been predicting print press’s downfall, but it took a recession and the knock-on with advertising budgets to cause the real closures. It’s not just music magazines taking a slap — ‘Arena’ went under, and ‘i-D’ is now bi-monthly. What’s the solution? ‘i-D’ has been stronger in the last two years than it has been for a while. Magazines should exist without electronic interruptions. Online, everyone’s a critic and everyone’s a writer.

A blog onslaught offers no substitution for excellent editorial — magazines have long been the training ground for some of the most astute cultural commentators, while the many blogs deemed “influential” lack insight, critique and all but the most rudimentary writing skills. They’re no replacement for a tactile, well-structured paper reading experience. A smartphone or iPad offers little of the tactile ritual of purchase, dog-earing, flicking, pass-around or zoning out on enlightenment during public transport. That’s not to say print press has any right to respect above online publications. From a personal perspective, the two just feel, despite attempts at synergy, with PDFs, flick-through previews, archives and exclusive passworded content, like utterly different entities — paper versus pixel.

Conversely, just jumping feet-first into print without a killer application, well-selected team or ability shouldn’t be a fast track to credibility. Call it quaint, but the magazine, in its position as an informer, and ideally, an agitator and thought provoker, should educate, enlighten and challenge its readership. Those heading up a project should be great writers, great minds and troublemakers. Telling them exactly what they already know makes for a passive, nod-along experience, as uninvolving as elderly neighbourly smalltalk, that’s utterly throwaway.

These are disposable times, and it takes a little more to be supreme. At time-of-writing, with a little digging, what’s available is excellent, albeit disparate. There’s no handy compendium cherry-picking what’s a necessary read. You’ll have to work for it. As of yet, no one’s captured the current bloggy zeitgeist in a refined, unpretentious way. Elsewhere, pseudo-pretension without an inkling of ability, insight or intelligence just keeps on sinking newcomers.

The magazine diet is utterly subjective. The following is tinged more than a little with a mildly male bias, and only scratches the surface of the sheer number of publications worth celebrating. There are many, many notable omissions.

For example, while it’s easy to keep it strictly niche, arguably, mainstream publications like ‘The New Yorker,’ ‘The Nation,’ ‘National Geographic,’ ‘Time’ and ‘Wired’ (US edition only please) warrant a place in a top ten. Some magazines had glory days that have since passed — ‘The Source,’ ‘XXL,’ ‘Loaded’ (anyone remember a doomed pilot issue of their foodie spinoff, ‘Eat Soup’?), ‘Newsweek’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ are perfect case studies.

Others are honourable mentions — ‘Dazed’ (and its Japanese edition), ‘Empire’ for the ’09 Spielberg guest-shot, ‘Lightning,’ ‘Groove,’ ‘Paradis,’ ‘Popeye,’ ‘Clark,’ ‘Spray,’ ‘Lodown’ for holding it down where others have come and gone, ‘Vice’ for providing stronger content than the lion’s share of magazines for sale despite the hate, ‘Monocle’ — smug but informative, ‘Juxtapoz,’ ‘Warp,’ ‘Sense,’ ‘Murder Dog,’ ‘Acne Paper,’ ‘Wallpaper*,’ ‘Thrasher,’ ‘FRANK151,’ ‘NEWWWORK,’ ‘Xplicit Grafx,’ ’Little White Lies,’ Wax Poetics,’ ‘Elephant’ ‘Arkitip’ and its newspaper project, ‘Draft,’ ‘The Rig Out,’ ‘Qompendium,’ ‘The Journal,’ ‘Zoetrope,’ ‘Creative Review,’ ‘INVENTORY,’ ‘Lurve,’ ‘It’s Nice That,’ ‘ME,’ ‘Man About Town,’ ‘Purple,’ ‘Pop,’ ‘Frank151,’ ‘Wooooo,’ ‘ANP Quarterly,’ ‘Arena Homme+’ ‘Fire & Knives,’ , Complex,’ ’ Kilimanjaro,’ ‘Mono Journals,’ ‘Sneaker Freaker,’ ‘Encens,’ ‘Men’s Non-No,’ ‘Vogue Homme Japan,’ ‘No.Zine’ ‘A Magazine,’ ‘032c’ and ‘Sneeze’ are all strong.

In fact, the ‘Vice’ movie issue and ‘Frank151’ De La Soul were the two best issues of any magazine last year. And they didn’t cost a damn thing.

Before continuing, a moment-of-silence for the other fallen soldiers worth stacking – ‘Neon,’ ‘On The Go,’ ‘Philosophy,’ ‘True,’ ‘Grand Royal,’ ‘Rap Pages,’ ‘Select,’ ‘Street Scene,’ ‘Blues & Soul,’ ‘TAR,’ ‘Year Zero,’ ‘Life Sucks Die,’ ‘Mugshot,’ ‘One Nut,’ ‘Mass Appeal,’ ‘Boon,’ ‘Missbehave,’ ’12oz Prophet,’ ‘Relax,’ ‘Ego Trip,’ ‘Jack,’ ‘+1,’ ‘Phat,’ ‘Dirt,’ ‘Scratch,’ ‘Jockey Slut,’ ‘Sassy,’ ‘The Face,’ Rap Sheet,’ ‘Sky,’ ‘The Bomb,’ ‘Represent,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Select,’ ‘The End,’ ‘Boy’s Own,’ ‘The Downlow,’ ‘Beat Down,’ ‘Big Daddy,’ ‘Grand Slam,’ ‘RAD,’ ‘Elemental,’ ‘Kings,’ and ‘Straight No Chaser’.

There’s no daft numerical ‘Top Trumps’ style criteria at work here. The following ten magazines are highlighted for their presentation, taking specific topics and just going all-out. What works and what doesn’t is down to personal taste. One key criteria is that sense of anticipation on purchase, and a lengthy read on returning home. At what point does a magazine just become a book? Is self-proclaimed ‘journal’ status a snooty attempt to rise above? A certain regularity, be it monthly, quarterly or annually, and a position on magazine shelves were the clinchers here.


One benchmark of good magazines is to make the niche utterly absorbing. Bikes are all around you, but ‘Rouleur’ veers to the serious side of bikes as a sport, with plenty of hobbyist touches. Track bikes, road bikes…whatever — 2009 was the year that the fixed fixation truly sank into self-parody, but look beyond goons in checks and a one-leg pinroll, and you can appreciate the discipline, construction and beautiful builds that make cycling so appealing.

‘Rouleur’ is truly covetable without spot varnishing, embossing and other fuss, bar paper stock switches – it oozes serious cyclist without alienating the browser with minimal interest in pedal-power. The photo essays are stunning, it feels cohesive, contemporary and curiously ageless, and Guy Andrews is an editor who takes the two-wheeled subject matter extremely seriously. Whether it’s kinetic, mud splattering tournament shots, or static, fetishistic vehicular deconstructions, this is a phenomenal undertaking. Even the ads for brands like Rapha (owned by the same company) are beautiful. Guy’s history of Reynolds in issue fifteen is particularly strong.


Swallow Magazine

Food magazines out there tend to fall into two camps — the snotty bon viveur (their time’s limited – see the demise of ‘Gourmet’ for proof) member’s club feel, or the housewife’s choice. Neither appeal. It’s surprising that an appetite for something that captures a current spirit of gastronomic fetishism hadn’t been sated up to this point. ‘Swallow Magazine’ gives it a damned good try. See that cover image? That’s Salmiakki licourice right there.

Giving each issue a specific regional feel, the inaugural edition is strictly Nordic. Essays on the local mushrooms, beautifully rendered pencil illustrations of reactions to dishes during a family dinner, food label scans, fishing trip photo journalism, black metal pubs and tasty looking Karelian pastys make up the content, and the design and photography is spectacular, down to the embossed hardcover.



Published in Barcelona, with offices in Milan, ‘Apartamento’ is staffed by a mob who look and dress like, well, the kind of people that work on a magazine called ‘Apartamento’. But while the likes of ‘Wallpaper’ are merely aspirational, this is a little more inspirational. The killer application here is an un-styled way of presenting interiors that potentially could kickstart you to upping your quality-of-living without excess expenditure.

There’s nods to the escalating appreciation of classic furniture, but you won’t be cajoled into feeling inferior over a handmade oak table, custom carved in a remote Scandinavian village, or presented with mammoth yards you’ll never own. A fine merger of lifestyle elements, ‘name’ contributions from the likes of Mike Mills and Geoff McFetridge, next to a classical layout, solid balance of words and pictures, plus no shortage of ideas carries a certain consistency.


Vanity Fair

Since relaunching in 1981 after it was cancelled during the great depression ‘Vanity Fair’ is underpinned by one fundamental mystery — whom is it actually targeted toward? Those celeb-heavy cover photos and layouts, plus regular jewellery supplements point to the females or the ultra-ultra-ultra metrosexual. It can make a read on the train attract glances of derision, but stand tall, because this, with its lengthy exposes and reportage may be the ultimate public transport read.

A polar opposite to the quick fixes of this capital’s atrocious free newspapers, writing from the likes of Peter Biskind and Christopher Hitchens satisfyingly sprawls with a continue instruction, to the back pages. Photoshoots are expensive and expansive, technically superior and studded with stars too. It goes without saying that Graydon Carter is a very well connected man.


Sang Bleu

Pushing the remit of what constitutes a magazine here, ‘Sang Bleu’ is a publication of extremes. Dealing with tattoos and body modification, it eschews the lurid skin shots of the usual tattoo art publications for something far more refined, but without compromising tattoo culture in the slightest. And while it ain’t cheap, this Swiss creation is big in stature — on missing the release date for volume III, Editor-in-Chief Maxime Buechi decided to merge it with volume IV, clocking in at 500+ pages, filled with gatefolds, supplements and even a CD. It’s a definite labour-of-love.

A heavy focus on fonts, with Max running the BP foundry, dense blocks of explorative texts and the black and white looks periodically interrupted by colour blasts of tattoo flash, means it’s an arresting experience, even if your interest in the covered subcultures is minimal. Don’t question how a project like this can be profitable — just appreciate it while it’s here.


The Economist

Maintaining an oft-imitated advocacy journalistic approach, with a perpetual consistency and reliability, plus a discreet sly wit creeping in that rarely misses its mark or hits heights of whimsical self-indulgence, ‘The Economist’ is the one that hasn’t dropped off yet. Like all the best periodicals it leaves the reader enlightened, and masters of summary that they are, sums up some heavy-duty business and political theory with a brevity that’s far from smart-arsed. Reportage and criticism is naturally, of the highest standard, but with a history stretching back to 1843, by their own description it doesn’t technically qualify for inclusion here, with an insistence on calling itself a newspaper despite the glossy pages.

A devoted following is quick to write in to correct, complement or lambast, ensuring there’s a certain interactivity to the proceedings. Most wouldn’t take the time to squint at the contents on a monitor, but stapled and in your hands, there’s a week to slowly digest it before the next installment. With a comprehensive in-house style guide, there’s less showboating from contributing writers — rather an attempt to achieve a steady tone, and a refusal to treat its readers like imbeciles, ‘The Economist’ is very necessary. As weekly reads go, it isn’t cheap, but if you can the daily newspaper purchases and consolidate the cash, this is a smarter buy.


‘Sup Magazine

Available semi-regularly and free of charge providing you keep an eye on the scattered handful of pickup spots, ‘Sup Magazine’ is New York-based, but with a strong UK editorial presence, it manages to scoop up the best in terms of young journalists and photographers.

The editorial decisions are appropriately offbeat and you’ve got to salute a magazine with Carl Craig on the cover. Previously, ‘Sup’ looked decent, championing emerging bands, artists and writers, but with issue 16, the art direction became more refined, resulting in the fine object it is today. If you’re running a title with a pricetag, you really should be striving to top this one for content and value for money — more of a challenge considering team Sup…’ made the unorthodox choice to make it complementary.


Fantastic Man

Too many hetrosexual minds behind a men’s fashion magazine would sink it. It would be a mass of chambray shirts, chinos and workboots. That’s all good, but it’s wearable basics not necessarily fashion. From the minds behind ‘Butt,’ ‘Fantastic Man’ is run by people that can commission a page long ode to the perfect white tee, but celebrates the more avant-garde side of clothing too.

Referring to interview subjects as Mr. and instigating some of the cleverest shoots of any periodical, the devil is in the details — ‘Style Notes and Other Matters’ accompany conversations, ‘Word of the Season’ is announced early on, ‘The List’ changes in theme each issue and is a compulsive read imbuing the whole shebang in a clinical tinge of camp that annihilates the menswear competition. Recently switching from saddle stitch to a perfect binding, somehow the price has dropped too. ‘Fantastic Man’ is contrary like that.


The Believer

Something of a cerebral bench press, ‘The Believer’ is from the ‘McSweeney’s stable, and having run for several years now, it’s suffered some flak for allowing advertising in its previously ad-free pages, provided they fit with the magazine’s literary tone. There’s a lot of text in ‘The Believer’ and the occasional themed issue, but by and large, it’s accessible, and with each issue the reader emerges enlightened. Whether they thought they’d need educating on the cultural history of the wing chair is another thing.

Embarrassing encounters are relived and great minds correspond — ‘Short Takes On Books That Don’t Exist’? Charles Burns on cover illustration duties? Yes please. From a design perspective, it’s all steeped in a certain traditionalism, with illustrations of contributors accompanying a piece and a full list of what’s discussed preempts an article, and like ‘Fantastic Man’ there’s more than enough seemingly throwaway detail tucked into each page to confer regular purchase.


Free & Easy

It would be too easy to punctuate a top ten with non-English language releases, particularly Japanese niche publications, so only one has been retained here – ‘Free & Easy,’ a magazine for the ‘young and young-at-heart’ that merrily panders to fans of ancient workwear, cars, furniture and even strange pets. If you’ve ever wanted to dress like Dustin Hoffman in ‘All The President’s Men’ or wanted to source a manufacturer remaking depression-era t-shirts, you’ve come to the right place.

Pathologically comprehensive, this paean to older male style has been running for years, but now the hipsters seem to be trailing (a good ten feet behind it has to be said), the workwear bandwagon, ‘Free & Easy’ is here for the duration, but it’s readership must be burgeoning.

Extra points for running their own ‘Rugged Museum,’ regularly featured with surreal captions summarizing certain visitors. How the team gathers enough information and imagery to put this out monthly is staggering. Plus Managing Editor Minoru Onazato always precedes each issue with a missive titled, “Dear Readers” — it’s debatable as to whether English language is necessary. In terms of information it’s clearly a goldmine (with an authentic pair of denims to match that era), but that language barrier gives the magazine an extra mystique.