Tag Archives: raekwon

RAEKWON HAS FOLDING SKILLS

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Streetwear loves Wu-Tang. Over the last decade there have been tributes of varying quality that rarely come close to what Oli “Power” Grant and the crew did do help redefine rap merch with Wu Wear—complete with no less than four physical stores—as much as they did the hip-hop record deal. Wu Wear was pretty much played by the time it hit Virgin Megastores to coincide with Wu-Tang Forever, but that I hold it in similar status to a slew of pioneering black-owned brands of the era rather than mere tie-in is a testament to the Wu brand’s clout. These are hyper referential times and every cultish nook and cranny of rap culture has been cleared out and beamed into a broader spectrum. C.R.E.A.M. branded dairy products or a Liquid Swords washing up liquid complete with the ‘W’ logo wouldn’t surprise me right now, and that 1992 snowboarding pullover that Rae rocked is being rinsed. It’s the reappropriation of memories of one of the greatest reappropriated style moments ever. It might be considered quite meta in one way or another. It’s well documented—and I’ve probably upped at least 10 Wu-centric posts here before—that, in their day, the Wu-Tang were style kings who rolled en masse before the dissent kicked in. They were innately fly. In a world where collaborations are an increasingly tiresome currency and many rappers dress in various levels of shitty (awkward in leather, Karmaloop gift voucher, or 1998 called—it wants its denim back), it’s something of a lost art.

King collector DJ Greg Street is a man who seems to own everything, and a week or so ago, he made the video above where he showed Raekwon an array of merchandise from over the years. It’s entertaining stuff, but two things stand out—Rae seems completely unaware that most of this gear ever existed, and the man can fold a tee like a pro. Does he have a retail background*, an obsessive compulsive approach to his gear, or is this a habit borne of constant touring? The man could be working in Supreme with this commitment to keeping a shirt in order.



*Big up Ross Turner for noting that it’s a packing fold rather than a retail fold.

CHEF

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Too busy to blog, so here’s some pictures of Raekwon instead. I know that’s meant for Tumblr, but I’m too old to be upping 1990s rap imagery on there. Why Rae? Because I see more and more adoption of the 1993-1999 hip-hop aesthetic across lookbooks and products means anachronisms galore plus I think this guy always edged Puba in the style stakes. Even when he’s in that Michael Douglas Basic Instinct knitwear on the beach in linen trousers for Vibe to promote that patchy second album Lex Diamond is still styling it. Motorola phones, Polo, Sertigs and shorts, fly medallions. The rest of the Wu were style masters too, but this guy always stood out. Shit, I’m hyped at the prospect of Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies (no amount of tees worn by I.T. bods and dudes called Dan at design studios who get fully Movembered can kill my love of the film), Crispin Glover and Snake Plissken action figures made in a faux early 1980s Kenner style, but the appearance on Tumblr of this shot from a 1995 Rap Pages shoot (the coolest of all Rae shoots — to quote the man, “…soon to get an article in Rap Page“) that I’ve been hunting for a while has brought back some powerful memories of keeping a mental note of everything this guy wore and then trying to find something similar and wearing it badly. He wore the box before most other rappers too when he posed with his bodyguard for Kenneth Cappello in 2005 and since he rocked up at RapFix in head to toe Fila ahead of the release of this year’s Fly International Luxurious Art album (which promises to be a celebration of the gear he’s worn throughout the years), this guy still seems on it, even if the more eccentric outfits of his younger days seem to have been jettisoned for the F, the C and the man on a horse.

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THE BIG C

That title’s not a cancer reference. We’re talking Champion. Over the months this blog’s been mired in references to reverse weave, from talk of the genesis of the tactically stitched build, hardcore and No Mas’s loving tribute to the US-made versions. It’s time to dead that obsession on this URL, but not before one final love letter to Champion products. Well, it is Valentine’s day.

Hip-hop and Champion sit together like any other re-appropriation of the basics the subculture’s popularized, but while the bulbous fit with the ‘C’ on the sleeve largely represents the east coast from ’91-’94, and the brand never really left us, it’s currently in the midst of a renaissance. Is it tactical distribution from the brand? Who knows, but Jadakiss, Nas, Rae and Cam’ron have been C’d out in the heft of the Super Hood lately, while 50, Ghost and Rick Ross have been spotted in the brand’s newest creation – the Super Crewneck.As staple as Polo in the cotton fleece arena, the brand’s gone one further with a giant applique ‘C’ that seems like a gloriously low-end retort to the big ‘Lo horse and rider (if a connection to the house of Ralph seems far-fetched check the feature below from December 1991 drawing a parallel).

It’s almost as far removed from the neat, slimmer cut Japan-made replicas of marl grey American masterpieces as you can get – ‘almost’ is employed there because the thinner, Double Dry fleece Classic Sweatshirt, another personal favourite, is cheap (fifteen bucks!) cheerful, and available in a mindbending array of shades, including some of the colours that had fans scrambling when they were in a reversed stitch. Many would prefer to shell out extra for the sleeve ‘C’ and a thicker cotton and polyester blend, but some might be able to appreciate that dementedly low pricepoint.

From the vintage shades, Cazal logo face ink and enlarged Vuitton custom gear, Officer Rawse has a certain aspirational aura that took a Champion fanboy back to the characters that elevated an athletic brand to him in the first place. It’s tough to single out the non-hardcore musical endorsees who made their mark the hardest wearing Rochester’s finest. Notable examples are MC Lyte in the snap button jacket in 1989’s ‘Self Destruction’ video, and Rakim’s large tonal logo on an orange hoodie during a 1992 MTV appearance, worn with white AF1s too. Inspirational. To be inspired to hunt down a sweat because a rapper wore it is some boom-bap pensioner behaviour – an act of second childhood, with that hefty branding acting as the perfect analogy for hip-hop’s current louder, brasher state, compared to the lowkey single vinyl murk of ’93.

Champion USA now resides comfortably as part of the Hanesbrand family – fitting that the Beefy-T and Reverse Weave are related in their much-loved basics that a certain subsection of Brits in particular, worship. It’s the American Classics generation – that store doesn’t get its full recognition, peddling the import necessities since 1981.

The curious lack of recent availability of classic (respect to the Original Store for filling a gap in the market) Champion products in the UK has given a new Reverse Weave the power to incite conversations between strangers – while fat laces and Vans are now no mark of a like mind, that ‘C’ still has clout. The Italian distributor catering to the EU is slipping, yet they’ve happily franchised the footwear side to produce some budget shockers, though to be fair, in NYC Air Max 87 copies from the brand were spotted. C’mon Champion, when you dropped the suede block colour mids in 1990 with a spurious technology, we could sit them next to the Fila F13. These knockoffs damage the brand as a whole.

And yes, the Double Dry and Super Crewneck have the ‘flying squirrel’ fit on the arms; minimal waist or cuff lengths, a preposterous amount of room, and room at the front for a fifty inch chest. But the high school jock fit is part and parcel of the contemporary Champion experience. The colours and thickness on the Super Crewneck in particular, are good. As the picture of Mr. Ross indicates, even with his weight, he’s not packing one of these bad boys out. At least the wrist ‘C’ is stitched rather than stuck on, and the Super Crewneck is bonkers enough to justify purchase if you’re a brand disciple. And yes, while the equally insane Super Letterman jacket feels like excellent value, padded, and only eight-five bucks, it’s just as hefty.

Those residing in Japan get some extra breaks. Asia’s licensee loves Champion. A cursory visit to sportswear mecca Oshman’s reveals gems. Having been introduced to the tees they sell by Michael Kopelman, who knows his garments, I noticed you’ll get none of the supersize with the China-made ‘Champion Products Inc.’ label pieces – from the neck detailing to the slimmer fit, they’re a near perfect shirt. The Reverse Weave zip parkas and crewnecks are slimmed-down too and superior in quality. There’s oddities too, like grey-on-grey polka dot zip parkas, yet somehow it all works.

If that doesn’t sate the Reverse Weave appetite, Osaka’s HUNKYDORY  have been dropping gems with an American-made replica line. We might be done with the US build preoccupation, but these fits here are superior, and these are beautifully packaged. The Remake Crew Sweat takes it way, way back, but the Reverse Weave Crew Sweat is all that the brand’s output could and should be. Beautiful. There you have it – from the ridiculous, to the sublime.

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A TRIBUTE TO GORE-TEX

Agh, these blog posts just keep on lacking brevity. I can only blame a terminal case of verbal diarrhea and misplaced enthusiasm  for it. GORE-TEX is on a premium, waterproofed pedestal with me for some reason. The mundane reality that the name is merely a hyphenated mix of a Mr. Gore and son’s surname and the word ‘textile’ is conveniently forgotten whenever someone hands me a product that employs the material on the lining. How does a breathable fabric become such a mark-of-quality, and more importantly, confer the otherwise passable to a taped-seam must-have? Why does that name still carry such clout?

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10 RAP NEW BALANCE REFERENCES…


Blog post from March 2009.

Hip-hop and sports footwear are practically related. I’m not enough of a tracksuited, beatboxing, uprocking doofus to proclaim them the ‘fifth element’ of the culture because, well, that’s irritating bollocks, but they’re pretty incestuously linked across-the-board. As a result, I gave into a to a Ghostface ‘Beat The Clock’ style self-challenge to out-nerd anything I’ve blogged so far.

Continue reading 10 RAP NEW BALANCE REFERENCES…