I wince every time I see someone with an outlet for their witterings, be it a blog or inexplicably, a place in a magazine starts calling themselves a writer or, god forbid, a journalist. You can hurl the dictionary definition my way that might say otherwise in a most literal sense…shit, you can hurl the whole dictionary at me for all I care, but chances are—and this is especially applicable in my vapid field of work—you’re not. You just string a few sentences together to make a PR happy, to get free things or win the respect of your equally one-dimensional peers. You are most likely, like me, a chancer. Nowadays, if you can button up a denim shirt, you’re putting “stylist‘” on your CV. If you beg friends on Twitter, you’re in “communications“. If you watched ‘Helvetica’ and can crop on PhotoShop you’re a “designer“. If you’ve can do all these things, maybe you can claim you can offer some “creative direction“. Chances are, you’re a prick.
If you’ve written an uncritical, bombastic paragraph about a new t-shirt company by slightly deconstructing the promo-guff someone emailed you as a PDF attachment and are patting yourself on the back I’d like to get semi-literate for a second and point you in the direction of the books above. George Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ isn’t necessarily journalism, but as an act of utter immersion, and even if there’s a few liberties with the timeline, as a lesson in scenic setting, characterization and pace minus the pointless sentences that lower eyelids, it’s a necessary read. Don McCullin’s rise from East End snapper to the photojournalist’s photojournalist, risking life and limb in any hellhole you care to name (‘The Bang-Bang Club’ is highly recommended too on a similar topic) is an inspiring and humbling story. He’s an excellent writer too.
Michael Herr took a typewriter and a notebook to Vietnam rather than a Nikon, on assignment for ‘New America Review’, ‘Esquire’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ – he writes with abstract eloquence in heinous conditions, and ‘Dispatches’ is the greatest of all war reports. Then there’s Gay Talese—the impeccably-dressed master of the written portrait. His pieces on Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Floyd Patterson are flawless, and if traditional tailoring and the inner workings ‘Vogue’ are of interest, he set precedents with profiles there too. The minute I got my name in print, the sheen was buffed by the corruptive presence of ad money. I enjoy writing, but it’s stifled by cash-led limitations. As a result, I can’t claim to have done much more than write advertorials. But at least I know my place.
The aim here isn’t to belittle what you do, but to offer some perspective. Reading the above will broaden some horizons, and with luck, bitchslap you into hesitating before you bellow those journalistic credentials. I can’t imagine that Orwell, McCullin, Herr or Talese could flourish in pixels alone. The more intelligent and lucid the writing (though The Sabotage Times has been taking up my web time in the best way possible of late) or imagery, the more the screen makes me squint. Maybe I need glasses, but it leaves me wanting to see it on paper. Any time anyone pays me the slightest compliment, I return to these books to understand my position in the scale of things. You can be okay in the field of fashion footwear, but it’s like being the skinniest kid at fat camp…compared to everyone outside the camp you’re still a waste-of-space.
It’s rare that I mention my employer here, just because it has its own online presence and this blog was started as its distant cousin, but Crooked Tongues is 10 years old this year, and that warrants a mention. That’s a long time in E-years. Many sites have comes and gone—even much of Crooked’s pre-2005 history has been lost for this or that reason. While I seem to have taken some role as a mouthpiece for the site (and the next hack that claims I created it gets a slap), the site’s history pre-empts me by years. Shouts to Russell (the HNIC), C-Law, Chraylen, Acyde, Kahma, Tim, Grace, Niranjela, Dean and Phil, plus the likes of Jeff and Al, and of course, my partner-in-crime (now-Vans) Morganator and the current roster of Mumbi, Tom, Amberley and Jade. Oh yeah, and Zaid, Jaymz, Leo, Chris, James and all the rest. Plus everyone else who ever passed through and many more who were there before me.
I only joined just over half-way through that decade (I wrote some crappy LP retrospectives that Chris Aylen graciously didn’t delete on sight on April 2000 for Spine Magazine)—freelance for Crooked only commenced from mid 2004, leading to a full-time role from January 2006. Ah, memories. There was little like Crooked Tongues before (Nikepark, Shoe Trends and Altsnks were ill though). Were it not for the trusting minds behind the site, my life would be significantly shittier right now. For that, I’m eternally grateful to Russ and the duo of Christophers. I don’t care a fuck for what you think of it now, nor that you’re “over” sports footwear, but Crooked changed the game. The big dogs paid attention. In many ways, it may have been partially responsible for the boom in theme pack “limited” crap, as brands started to take more and more attention to the sneaker weirdos. You may not see overt linkage to it here (it’s my day job), but I’m immensely proud and honoured to be involved. When it happens to piss brands and retailers off, I’m even prouder of it.
From wandering to the site (and ‘Cavemilk’s) launch party at the Great Eastern Hotel in January 2001, wearing Zoo York and Wallees, to the 2004 BBQ, an attempt to capture a “block party” vibe (which I believe, was originally meant to be in a basketball court according to nascent planning), to the April 2005 DMPHI book lunch, to the 2005 BBQ in the same venue as the year before, to the adidas ‘Black Monday’ 2006 event, to the BBK 2007 BBQ, to 2009’s party, the real-world events have been remarkable, forging more than a handful of friendships. While the food will run out fast, and people will angrily text me for being left waiting outside, I hope tomorrow’s tenth anniversary BBQ will be equally memorable. Still, at least we’ve got goodie bags to give away.
C-Law posting up the House33 New Balance 576 recently reminded me I’ve still got my one of ones in the loft. I can give or take the orange laces, but the carbon effect ‘N’ and forefoot is a winner. Can’t forget the PUMA Clyde ‘Warnett’ edition either. The stitched rather than printed lettering makes me love these an awful lot. Like I said, Crooked has afforded me some excellent opportunities.
I’m collating some examples of Slayer self-harm (plus a more professional but equally disturbing ankle scar artwork). These guys really mean it more than Jimmy, Cam, Freeky and Juelz ever did. The chap in the ‘Live Intrusion’ who gets it carved on his inner forearm in the ‘Live Intrusion’ VHS gets extra points for having rubbing alcohol ignited to cauterise the wound. Flaming Slayer skin slashes aren’t big or clever, but I find it an oddly inspiring act of devotion. If you want to leave negative comments surrounding self-harm scarification glorification, I suggest you keep it to yourself-maybe you could carve it onto your thigh or forearm instead. With Slayer, it’s never a cry for help—it’s just a thrash metal war wound.