UNDRCRWN have been doing the funny tee thing beautifully for a decade now. When you’re doing this kind of thing, there’s a thin line between smart execution and stuff so awful it makes you chew your knuckle off, and this NYC brand seems to get it right with the sport and hip-hop references. Continue reading KARL, PHIL & RALPH
Tumblr might be rife with anachronistic blends of 1990s and 1980s thrift store and eBay overspend styling, but there’s a few little spots where you can see some shots of those who were there with all the gear and some serious shoplifting skills. Having said that, is getting that throwback outfit historically correct even a thing any more? The internet has created its own timeless gang bang of reference points and music that makes historical correctness redundant. For a new generation, 1996’s iconography is as prevalent as what’s happening now. Factor in the sheer amount of homages to expensive technical outer wear and the reappropriation of rich guy garms of the 1990s and then has become fused with now like never before. Characters like Rack-Lo represent the old guard, and I never get tired of looking at the pictures from their past, as well as the different array of themed outfits you need to be up on if you rock the horse. His self-published The Lo Life Adventures of Rack-Lo book is online here and worth a browse.
Happy new year. Hold off the social media threats of impending greatness and triumphant/anti-hater sloganeering for a minute and realise that you’re not going to be as successful as Ralph Lauren in 2015. Still, it’s something to aim for in the long-term though, and this interview on YouTube with China’s Oprah-esque media mogul Yang Lan (I originally, excitedly, read the title as, Yung Lean One on One with Ralph Lauren) at his NY home is worth a watch to extract some tips from. There’s nothing too insightful here if you’re already a fan boy or fan girl, and the sound inexplicably turning mute 30-minutes into both one-hour segments isn’t too helpful either, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Incidentally, am I the only person who finds the new label in Polo gear deeply disorienting?
If you’re looking for ideas to borrow this year because you haven’t got your own, you could do a lot worse than get the retrospective of former Junya Watanabe turned solo innovator Chitose Abe’s Sacai brand from Rizzoli when it drops in April. Sacai: A to Z compiles 16 years of experiments in fit, material and design from a Japanese label that’s acclaimed but seldom explored in any great depth with essays from people who know what they’re talking about like Tim Blanks.
The Mo’Wax Urban Architecture exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall wasn’t quite as grand as I expected (newcomers to the label should pick up the book for some background), but the densely packed cabinets should make the visit worthwhile if you’re interested in early 1990s hip-hop and it’s connections to London and Tokyo. While all eyes might be on the canvases, these displays are full of elements omitted from the tie-in publication — James Lavelle’s business card hoarding seems to have paid off. I hadn’t even thought about Yankee Peddler since the mid 1990s, when he had the ads in toy magazines that promised a veritable emporium of action figures and made me wish I owned a fax machine so I could get a catalogue. That Major Force card gives me Patrick Bateman levels of envy too. I’m not sure how many casual browsers passing through the Festival Hall would care about this kind of thing, but I certainly appreciated it. Shit, I’d gladly pay to visit a show that was entirely 1985-1999 hip-hop business cards and if you’re similarly geeky, go check it out before it finishes later next week.
The only marketing I’m interesting in right now is these urgent adverts from 1995 pirate radio stations like Shockin 90.0 and Dream FM 107.6. Defunct Kingston clubs, tape packs, and things that only Brits of a certain generation will be able to comprehend, are just part of the announcements recorded here. This beats your carefully mapped communication strategy.
Port magazine‘s cover story on Ralph Lauren by Donald Morrison makes the most of a rare opportunity and it’s refreshingly free of the sycophancy that I would have brought to it (though the celebrity soundbites are full of superlatives). I was trying to fathom the influence on Mo’Wax the other day, which was influenced by Stüssy and the Beastie Boys, who were presumably influenced by the Clash who may well have taken inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s work. It’s tough to pinpoint a solitary influence in things I love, but I know one thing: Lauren’s company is the brand that every streetwear brand wishes it was, even if most of us are chasing the little pony rather than aspiring to ride a horse on a ranch somewhere. Nobody sells a lifestyle like this guy. The world density map of stores is a nice touch (there’s 474,951 square feet of Ralph Lauren stores in the States) too.
No time to write so it’s time to throw up more Polo and RRL ads from the past. It’s safe to say that the saxophone tie isn’t the strongest look from the Ralph Lauren archives — their ad spend in magazines during the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed to be enough to buy a private island. I still need to dig out that LIFE article from around this time that debuted the American flag knitwear.
There’s not a lot of stones left to shift in the quest to bring old classics back, but the New Balance M997 seems to have been resurrected the right way. It took a lot to release a shoe in 1990 that had some visual restraint that affords it an ageless quality, but NB did it with this one, despite applying all kinds of technologies like motion devices and rubber compounds with complicated names.
It’s a good time to be into the most esoteric and underexplored elements of hip-hop culture — there’s books on European b-boys posing and there’s a Shirt Kings retrospective, so why shouldn’t there be a book of Buddy Esquire’s flyer art? Born in the Bronx was a good primer, but Buddy Esquire: King of the Hip-Hop Flyer arrives in June and delves a little deeper of the man who created modern art from the flyer format before it was just a case of Photoshop and an existing iconic image.
Once again, i haven’t got much to talk about on here today (freelance duties are taking over), so I’ll completely cop-out and throw up another The Face magazine scan from 1999. It puts my mind at rest that I’ve at least blogged something.
If it’s a tenuous link you’re craving to at least mildly relate this to a current project, a Kickstarter drive to raise enough dollars to fund a documentary about HR from Bad Brains and his eccentric ways. ‘HR “Finding Joseph I” could be good if it at least gets to the bottom of the greatest band frontman of all time’s (in his day) psyche. Is he schizophrenic, an eccentric or are the crack rumours true? I know he spent some time living in a legendary streetwear brand’s warehouse, but the tales of his time out between lineups and shows are patchy and I’m hunting for answers. This trailer has done the blog rounds in the last 48 hours, so I feel it’s my duty to link to something good as an addition to this — the entire festival cut of the documentary Bad Brains: A Band in DC is on Vimeo right here and it’s excellent. There’s an animated sequence depicting their tour bus being jacked in the early days, conversations with key characters from their past, some ultra candid footage of Daryl switching on HR after a duff performance in 2006, talk of that infamous Big Boys incident, those troubled Maverick days, but amid the chaos there’s a celebration of a unique group that inspired a generation to pick up guitars and make noise, plus a great observation regarding Bernard Purdie and Earl Hudson’s unflappable delivery of rhythm. If you haven’t watched it yet then you really owe it to yourself to take 104 minutes out of your fake busy schedule to educate yourself, because A Band in DC was well worth the wait. While it’s comprehensive, at its conclusion, the HR enigma will play on your mind and that’s where Small Axe Films’ mooted creation fits in perfectly as a follow-up.
In this MTV 120 Minutes interview (minus HR), Daryl Jenifer appears to be wearing the Air Jordan IV to reiterate the Jordan line’s connection to hardcore. That shoe features heavily in the this feature from The Face. The Jordan Years was co-written by Fraser Cooke and, while a sub-editor seems to have made some questionable decisions in the bylines and that quintessentially British decision to omit some of the stranger Jordans pre and post 1995 is there (it’s also curious that the Jordan V and VI never got a picture) there’s some good facts in there too, plus some much-deserved love for the overlooked Jordan XI Low IE (International Exclusive) and talk of its “inspiration” on the Prada shoe of the time as well as some talk with Tinker Hatfield. At the time, this kind of thing was more commonly seen in Japanese publications, so picking it up in WH Smiths was a major novelty.
On the apparel front, the white hoody from the new Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Collection that’s adorned with an old English font (in an appropriate shade of green) wouldn’t look amiss in an Eazy-E video over a Rhythum D production (alongside goons sporting the Karl Kani check shirt with the chest plate) if he was repping SW19 rather than Compton.
It would appear that I’ve gone, to quote Pusha T, “Laptop hot, internet warm” of late with an unexpected inclusion here. I’m unlikely to start trying to tell anybody how to do up a tie or identify the suit that suits them. In fact, I feel bad for all the people who clicked through, then saw a rambling eulogy to Michael Winner and home invasion movies. Sorry about that. I suppose the recurring Lifshitz theme borders on menswear and, according to store employees (who, lest it look like I’m trivialising their unemployment in a tough market, assured me that the Lauren company is looking after me) the London Rugby Ralph Lauren store closes this weekend, as the Rugby side of the business draws to a close. Let’s face it, you never made a point of traveling to the stores, did you?
That’s because Rugby fell into a strange realm where the brand, launched in 2004, lacked any real identity beyond being a whippersnapper Polo. The preppy aesthetic is present in many Polo pieces and the majority of strong Rugby designs were pretty much interchangeable with its big brother. With the opening of a UK store in 2011 seemingly aimed at the sector who’d graduated from Superdry technical college to the former poly that was Jack Wills, I can’t help but think it was a little misplaced — timed just as Jack Wills wearing bellends made a slow move to Streetwear Dave brands like Hype. Can Ralph cash in on streetwear? He doesn’t need to, because he’s instrumental in igniting many, many, many facets of that industry (ask your favourite “streetwear” and skate brand overlords what their favourite brand is in terms of wear and inspiration). And, as I’ve noted here before, there’s an official Ralph Lauren site (Ralph Lauren Vintage) talking up Lo-Life favourites and pledging reissues. Ralph knows.
So that was the end of the brand launched to capture the hearts and expendable/parental income of 14-29 year olds. Better than CHAPS, but not as hard as ‘Lo — that’s what the gravestone will read. What will Rugby be remembered for? While the majority of the products blur into one vast beige cotton twill and navy mass with twee collegiate cues, the all-over skull embroideries were amazing. Who else pumped out prep-goth like that? With THC-addled YouTube conspiracists keen to pinpoint French Montana and friends as satan’s spawn for waving their fingers around in a certain way, there was something strangely subversive in how Rugby merrily took inspiration from Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society. One day you may mourn not picking up those shorts, if nothing else, because they’re currently being sold dirt cheap. Sadly, this secret society’s global conspiracy for world domination has come to a close.
While we’re talking dirt cheap Rugby, what’s all the fussing and grumbling about with regards to Pyrex Vision? Mad because they took a shirt and stick some letters on it? You would have been apoplectic in the early 1990s — those lazy folks, just sticking letters on Champion, Gildan and Hanes blanks. Are you really annoyed because they never took the ‘C’s off the mesh? André Courrèges tributes are nothing new, pretty much dating back to Supreme’s earliest days, but I salute Virgil and the crew for getting their Malcolm McLaren on. Reappropriate it, hype it and they will come. Isn’t that the essence of streetwear? Chuck a Dipset reference in and you’re good to go. I’ll take a hustle like that over whatever fake artisan crap I’m supposed to be taking an interest in at the moment. Spend less time moaning in comment sections and more time buying up closing sale gear and making famous friends and maybe you can make that Pyrex money too. Who needs coke and Arm & Hammer when you’ve got cotton and a buddy who screen prints?
Jean-Noël Kapferer’s ‘The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands’ is a pretty good read (example heading, ‘Prolonging the ecstasy of a privileged moment’) if you’re hunting case studies and theory. It’s doubly handy if you’re building your own cliquey, willfully exclusive brand (it’s a good accompaniment to your cut-price Rugby shirts and printing hookup), but I’ll discuss more about it another time. This diagram of the Ralph Lauren galaxy is taken from it. It lacks RRL and Polo Jeans for some reason, but it’s a quick-fix glimpse of an empire. You can bet something will appear to fill that middleground void and accompany Club Monaco.
Affordable and Ralph Lauren co-signed publication ‘Men’s File’ has got a book coming out in August called ‘Men’s File: Tracing the Roots of Style’, written by Nick Clements and released on rockabilly and Americana-centric imprint Korero books. Promising a visual collection that examines revivalism as something that’s far, far more than a game of regressive dress-up, going on the magazine’s work, this could be worth picking up.