Tag Archives: silas

HOLMES

holmes1997id

I still don’t think that there’s enough detail online regarding Russell Waterman and Sofia Prantera’s Holmes brand. The predecessor to the seminal Silas line ran from around 1994 to 1998 before its successor took over. Shifting from intelligent printed pieces to knitwear, fleeces, skirts and outerwear, this British skatewear label with superior men and women’s offerings took influence from an array of American and European staples was the blueprint for what causes some queues in the modern age. Despite this 1997 i-D magazine feature (a perfect example of how far the brand had evolved since its inception), illustrated by regular visual partner James Jarvis, being very much of its time, Holmes (which, according to one old 1994 feature in the equally defunct Select, was allegedly named after legendary cinematic swordsman John Holmes) was far, far, far ahead of its time in experimenting with the perimeters of where Slam City-centric clothing could be taken and sending it in all kinds of directions without losing focus. Rarely discussed, but extremely important.

DRONING ON ABOUT HOODIES

sweatshirts

I recently spoke to Lou Stoppard at SHOWstudio on the topic of hooded sweatshirts as part of their sportswear series. If I had the funds, I’d pay Michael Watts to chop and screw my voice so I could listen to it without dying inside, because I can’t bring myself to watch the video with audio. Does anyone enjoy the sound of their voice droning, umming and tripping over itself? Continue reading DRONING ON ABOUT HOODIES

LONDON

slamcityscanrelax2002

A lot of brands could benefit from walking before they run and while I always want to celebrate homegrown organisations here, I rarely get the sense that there’s anything behind the brand to differentiate it from the rest when I get emails about new lines. That’s because I’m still judging things by the standards that Gimme 5, maharishi and Slam City set (and there’s a whole book — or at least a booklet — to be written on Duffer’s contribution and legacy). Shouts to Trapstar, Grind London and Y’OH (currently on hiatus) for creating brands with a sense of substance and none of the thirst that deads a brand from the offset — every brand I ever loved as a kid didn’t even seem to want my business and that was appealing to me. it still appeals.

Personable, transparent, super-social, heavily PR’d wannabe Supremes miss the point of why Supreme built foundations that can sustain waves of hype that could kill a lesser brand — crucially they have a skate heritage. If you’re making streetwear for streetwear’s sake without any subculture at the core other than a quick blog buck from the slew of British sites who’ll post any old shit then you’d better be making the best tees, hats and sweats ever. Most aren’t. Having said that, the blokes behind brands like Hype are almost certainly richer than the people behind interesting product, so credibility as we knew it back in the day might be an archaic concept.

Palace is interesting in that it’s rooted in the same spirit as Slam City spinoffs like Silas (given the folks involved, it’s practically a sequel), but it seems to have hit multiple audiences without compromising, as that triangle is on nearly every moodboard and presentation I’ve seen in the last year in one way or another. Shouts to Gareth and Lev for that one — jaded old farts like me love what they’ve created and so does that lucrative 16-19 year old consumer that brands are baffled by right now. I still think that the handful of alpha kids who know have an innate understanding of whether a brand is begging it by trying to bamboozle them with Tumblr-sourced skulls and galaxy patterns or whether a brand — or the folks who run it — have a certain subcultural provenance. Maybe I’m deluded.

To see Palace rise from a collective putting out book reviews, tees and clips to something that brands —from high street to high-end lines — want a bit of in a few years is phenomenal. If Relax ran the classic (shouts to Mr. Chris Law) October 2002 Slam City feature now, that diagram (above) would probably only be slightly different (for starters, TONITE, Aries and Palace would be there). It’s unhealthy to live with two feet in he past, but I think it’s always good to get retrospective in order to understand why Slam is such an important part of our culture and it’s an institution that’s key to appreciating the importance of skateboarding as a central force in creating a market for daft printed tees in this grey climate of ours.

The Palace Christmas Pop-Off opens this Friday at 100 Shoreditch High Street (an address that seems to place it within the Ace Hotel space) and the flyer promises nothing but awesome things rather than just garms, hardware and shoes — “a new silver board that makes you skate faster”, “hyper-printing techniques” we haven’t seen before and bobble hats, plus the new Palace Reebok project are all going to be there. This will be popular.

palacechristmas

THE SANTANA LOGO

“The corporations lead the trends. When did street fashion become all about sneakers? What is that about? Who the fuck cares what hip hop wanker has started what baggy arsed sweatshirt and jean brand? Unfortunately it would appear that many people do care. And so the trends are set.” Russell Waterman, ‘Aspekt Ratio’ #1, 2007

I grew up in a household where much of the music was confined to a small rack of vinyl in the lounge. As a toddler it seemed like an infinite collection of music, but my dad’s record collection wasn’t particularly extensive. It was however, eclectic. I was preoccupied with the covers of the Leadbelly 4LP retrospective, the lettering on Paul Simon’s ‘One Trick Pony’, the back of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Sunlight’, Third World’s ‘Journey to Addis’ and bizarrely, both my brother and I loved the Pointer Sisters 12″ coloured vinyl that contained some label paper in the translucent red due to manufacturing error.

Best of all, there was the Santana font — fantasy realist Robert Venosa’s masterpiece that accompanies Mati Klarwein’s painting on the cover of 1970’s ‘Abraxus.’ Coincidentally my friend Jonathan would encourage me to gawp at the cover of Santana’s self-titled debut to see the faces in the lion like some kind of child hippie. Yet we never bothered playing the actual music. In fact, when I did finally listen to ‘Inner Secrets’ it bored me. My dad told me that his Santana collection arose as a result of a casual mention to my uncle that he liked a solitary Santana song. The result? Carlos for birthdays and Christmas. He wasn’t actually a fan.

But what a logo it was.

As a result I’ve been drawn to any reference to the font, and it transpired that three of my favourite brands had a go at parodying it. I just finished a project pertaining to homages and it meant I could dig out one of my favourite t-shirt designs ever — Silas’s Slayer/Silas, which I believe dates back to 2003 (though for a long time, I believed this design was a Holmes release too). Silas’s knitwear, simple sweats, Black Sabbath themed creations and ’80s disco meets punk meets hip-hop collections were great, but this one was just pitch perfect, with the noodling fusion sound of Santana at odds with the speed of Slayer’s sonics. Of course, there were parallels in fiddliness (as any ‘Guitar Hero’ veteran can tell you), but it just felt like a joke told perfectly. The ultimate deadpan delivery. Seeing as there’s no set font collection beyond S, A, N or T, there’s an appropriate amount of improvisation and riffing on behalf of the designer, resulting in that jagged, Obituary-esque thrash metal tail on the ‘R’ ro maintain symmetry.

While I believe this is the best version of the Venosa design, solely because it’s so wrong that it becomes utterly right, Holmes and Supreme deserve shouts too. Holmes was an early fascination for me, back when Slam City and Bond were must-visits on any London pilgrimage. Holmes was the proto-Silas in its early ’90s irreverence, with some sources citing the name as a John Holmes reference, long before ‘Boogie Nights’ — Russell Waterman, Sofia Prantera and several other local creatives generated some forgotten classics under this Slam City owned brand. Their Santana font ‘Satan’ (circa 1994? The picture here is borrowed from my buddies at Goodhood) was one of them. That switched the letters around smartly, and with Silas (hence the character of Silas Holmes) being a sequel of sorts to Holmes, the Slayer tee is like a sophisticated follow-up to that cult favourite from a golden age of pre-Google Image Search homage.

Between both tees, props are due to the Supreme Santana logo shirt, art directed by SSUR, designed by Kevin Lyons and released in 2000. That shirt represents the year when the internet sent hordes to the nation’s capitals in search of expensive toys, elusive Prestos and BAPE. So why dredge up these past glories? Because the current glut of 1:1 replica attempts lack the wit to ever be this memorable and it’s always worth reinforcing just how important Holmes and Silas were.

INSANE: VERY BRITISH "STREETWEAR"

This blog was actually meant to be about British things. Back when Acyde asked if I wanted to contribute, it awoke some kind of blog-demon within me and I tried…really, really tried to keep it British as a point-of-difference from all the other blogs out there, but I got bored and my yankophile tendencies got the better of me. I’m not trying to be a flag-burner, but a lot of British stuff (note the fact I said, a lot — not all) at street level is fucking corny. If it’s good, the minute you’ve covered it, you’ve wrecked it — like one a well-meaning missionary introducing a remote tribe to western confectionary and soft drinks, and managing to destroy their way of life in the process. Of course, America and Asia is riddled with corniness too, but we’ve condensed corniness.

Plus – if we’re talking “streetwear” — the good, aspirational stuff is meant to be on the cool kids, not the gimps. But now the tough kids wear black hoodies, vast tracksuit bottoms and Fila F13s or Air Max 90s, not the eclectic, expensive garms that led me to my “career” path. Nerds wear all the pricey brands – hardrocks probably aren’t paying more than £25 for a hoody. I used to assume that if you saw someone in a Supreme box hat, they were — in some idiotic, cliquey generalisation — one of “us.” I don’t even know what constitutes “us,” but the box is so ubiquitous, that I and most wearers are estranged. We’d have nothing to say. Supreme is still one of my favourite brands, but I can’t assume that I share an affinity with each and every wearer any more. It’s probably a good thing.

So I can’t be bothered to rep the UK specifically any more. It’s too limiting. Alas, this entry was written on a PC, where Photoshop and something as simple as Grab don’t exist. Even the card from my camera isn’t compatible. As a result — until I visit a Genius — the imagery here is just pilfered from elsewhere (with credit, of course).

I don’t feel that there’s enough history on UK streetwear pioneers on the internet. There’s a certain Brit-mindset that’s keen not to blow our own trumpet too much, doubly downplayed by avoiding blasting those brass instruments in a realm where to enthuse too much is uncool. As a result, things just disappear. We had to get to where we are now somehow, but after the popularity of the raggamuffin style blog entry here last year, I thought I’d take a look at skate culture in the UK and a key brand. Brit-publication ‘RAD’ (that neon sticker that ‘SK8 Action’ tried to bite was kind of the box logo of its day) taught me a lot. it had me hunting for Slam City Skates and M-Zone (the UK’s Stüssy spot of choice, where jackets seemed to price hike from £50 to £200+ between 1987-1991), and it introduced me to some British skate brands like Poizone and Anarchic Adjustment, but it’s Insane Ironic Skate Clothing that evokes the fondest memories. Ged Wells is a UK pioneer.

Looking back at 1980s skateboarding, Americans seemed to be in two camps – the neon, hair metal rockstar idiots or the gnarlier, tattooed Santa Cruz kids. The British contingent seemed to have merged the two to look an awful lot like squatters and crusties. I find it hard to get misty-eyed looking back at old ‘RAD’s (BIG UP DOBIE and check www.whenwewasrad.com for scans of old issues) in terms of fashion, but Insane was something far ahead of its time. Skate style in the UK isn’t something that could come effortlessly — we’re not really a print tee kind of nation, so that look would always seem imported and as a result, extremely posey and awkward. Not Insane. It seemed to take few cues from the States and channelled that oddball charm that makes British skating so evocative with its cartoons, fluid, bouncy fonts. It was strange-good.

Insane was the forefather of Slam City affiliated brands like Holmes, Silas (with artist James Jarvis providing their unique character-led world) and Palace. The romanticized notion of all skaters as artists is of course bollocks, but Ged could switch from foot planting in a pair of Visions (or were they Pacers?) to creating these weird garments. I’m sure Insane was inadvertently responsible for a fuckload of awful clubbing-related brands too — the kind that would be bunched together in distributor ads at the back of ‘i-D’ magazine (with whom Insane actually collaborated for tees), but it’s not the brand’s fault that people were and are idiots.

Circa 1989, Insane seemed awesome and underground. Before Insane, there was talk of the Jim-Jams brand that led to the Ironic Skate Clothing’s genesis. It was on tees, bum bags, sweats, shorts, hats, jackets, videos (‘Mouse is Pulling at the Key’), stickers and tracksuit bottoms. The adverts in themselves were mini-masterpieces. There was even an Insane Skate Supply store in Camden in the mid 1990s. It could be displayed alongside Stüssy without shame or any allegations of lo-fi imitation — the strawberry graphic tees and shorts were particularly good. Insane was very much its own entity. How many other brands could claim that? Ged’s work was present on skateboards for Slam City, but they distributed Insane too, doing a fine job of getting it into spots like Glasgow’s legendary Dr Jives.

In many ways, Insane’s ascent occurred at the point where vert died and the freestyle kids got the last laugh (well, the ones with business minds anyway) so it’s popularity in 1991/2 ran adjacent to an exciting, progressive time for skating. Having launches at the Wag Club in 1989 just conferred the merger of the era’s most well-regarded spots and subcultures. ‘Face’ and’ i-D’ photo shoots placed the gear alongside Nike and Stussy too in a raggamuffin style. The surreal imagery even captured some of that Native Tongues hype of the time. Over a decade before Robin Williams got kitted out in UNDFTD and BAPE, he could be seen sporting Insane around the time of the underrated ‘The Fisher King’s release.

Nothing gold can stay and Insane ultimately left us, but Ged’s still active as an artist and designer. He’s exhibited fairly recently and remains progressive and innovative, but (refreshingly) he doesn’t seem to shy away from his Insane work. He has something to do with Trisickle magazine too, but I’m not sure what happened to the plans to resurrect Insane and retro key pieces in 2006 (was that inspired by the nostalgia tsunami ushered in via Winstan Whitter’s ‘Rolling Through the Decades’?). A Japanese audience obviously took Insane (and Slam City Skates) in as one of their own, embracing the overseas authenticity of these legit Brit reinterpretations of a Californian artform — just as that R. Newbold ‘Monster’ tee Slam City colab seemed to arrive from nowhere, it was refreshing to see Japan’s Tokishirazu team with Insane for an anniversary collection a couple of years back.

All the Insane images here are pilfered from Ged Wells’s Flickr account
www.flickr.com/photos/gedwells — go have a dig there for some classic ads, shoots and apparel, plus information on how some imagery came to be. His website is www.gedwells.com.

As a sidenote, ‘RAD”s letters page actually had an email address in 1988, using British Telecom’s complicated-looking Telecom Gold service: 72:MAG90459 from a time before @’s were the in-thing.

Slam City Skates logo designer Chris Long’s online portfolio (www.chrislongillustration.com) has an excellent ‘Relax’ cover from winter 1996 he drew that captures a very UK style.

NOSTALGIA OFFSET

Taking pictures from a Facebook account is a lowblow, so I’ll avoid it, but the homie Thomas Giorgetti (who knows more about sneakers and graffiti than you or I) is making power moves with the Bleu de Paname brand alongside partner Christophe Lepine. The line just gets better and better, defying the preconception that it could just be another denim brand, or another workwear renaissance. It’s far more than that. The pocket tees and sports jackets were killer and Thomas premiered a sample of a Comme des Garçons collaboration on his Facebook the other day. Great line and an astonishingly quick ascent in such a short time. Gun fingers to the sky for Thomas. That and ‘Crack & Shine’ #2 are two things worth looking out for over the next few months.

NAME THAT TUNE

If you’ve ever watched Mitsuo Yanagimachi’s awesome 1976 documentary ‘God Speed You! Black Emperor,’ depicting one of the least scary biker gangs ever committed to documentary (I didn’t spot any drug use at all and there’s little more than verbal conflict), you may have marveled at the soundtrack. The Bōsōzoku evidently knew a good tune. Shinsuke Takizawa and team Neighborhood were evidently taking notes (note the swastikas in the film too, probably worn as a throwback to US bikers trying to piss everyone else off rather than a sign of outright Nazism).

I’d recommend it as a double bill with the bleak early BBC ’80s Brit gang documentary depiction. ‘The Outcasts’ or full effect — both are available online at time-of-blogging. I’ve been trying to work out what the track is when our young rebel picks up his bike and goes riding with a friend is — it’s an infectious fuzzy stomping record with an almost traditional vocal performance between choruses.

There’s no soundtrack to the film and even arch unearthers of oddities like Andy Votel had to resort to taping the songs from the VHS. The language barrier doesn’t make the quest any easier, especially when I’ve used Google Translator to discover that even Japanese fans are having problems identifying songs. It doesn’t sound like a Flower Travellin’ Band record and the vocals don’t seem to fit with the Anzen Band either. I’ve revisited Julien Cope’s ‘Japanrocksampler’ numerous times for a solution, but I’m still stuck. Anyway, the audio of the mystery record’s below and it’s here because I’ve been humming it all day and it’s somehow familiar yet utterly otherworldy at the same time.

I doubt I’ll revisit the majority of my 1993 tapes or CDs, just because most of them were filler-tastic, they replaced too many an “s” with a “z” and because they were — in the perceived era of orginality — very, very generic. Rasps and iggety-wiggety wordplay-aplenty. I still break out Yall So Stupid’s ‘Van Full of Pakistans’ — an album we had to whisper about at school, lest we were misinterpreted and beaten to a pulp from time to time — because it was a pretty consistent record and because the crew sounded dusted without being New Kingdom or Justin Warfield. Dallas Austin made some strange signings. These guys? Illegal? Da King & I? Fair play Mr. Austin, fair play. Well, maybe not on Da King & I.

These Atlanta residents wore Vans and early ’90s skatewear, plus they had Glen E. Friedman doing their photography. By all rights, today’s hipsters should have had a seizure over this one. Except they hadn’t been born yet. And there weren’t blogs yet. My tape had these idiots on the A-side of the tape until I bought the real deal, making it a pretty schizophrenic TDK. Merge Yall So Stupid with Gangsta Nip and you’ve got Odd Future. Kind of. After getting dropped, the group made some noise (Massinfluence were interesting) but Wikipedia claims a follow up to ‘Van Full of Pakistans’ is coming. Really? After 18 years? I imagine they could fill a stadium in Japan or some such madness.

Once upon a time, only the Pharcyde and Yall So Stupid seemed to wear Vans. Then Lil B and his Pack buddies turned up and swagged it out.

Speaking to the homie Sofarok the other day, we both seemed to find ourselves gawping at the same website on the same weekend – Mystery Ranch. Dana Gleason’s backpack brand was born in 2000, but he’s got 30 years in the game, and his site’s excellent. US-made (they’re based in Bozeman, MT), rigorously tested and guaranteed for life, the range is extensive, there’s enough optional extras to keep equipment geeks happy and military and fire personnel safe. I love well-designed, functional, aesthetically pleasing gear like this. It’s far from rustic or folksy. Now THIS is what a fucking video lookbook should look like

My respect for BNTL (Better Never Than Late) is substantial. They do the socialising so I don’t have to. Who would have thought it? Bloggers that actually have lives beyond the monitor. In terms of content creation and plenty of opinion, they bring it. They’ve been putting it down for a while too.

I was skeptical when I heard about the Silas store opening in London yesterday. I loved Holmes and Silas. They hark back to a time when Zoo York, Supreme, Silas and Shorty’s seemed to be on the same level in terms of my obsession. Silas did great graphics, non-tokenistic womenswear and focused on shirting and knitwear before every fucker was a self-proclaimed expert. Then Silas pissed off to Japan. Tonite, Slam City, Pointer and latterly, Palace kept the old school Silas feel alive. Slam and Palace even seemed to be using the same tee and sweat suppliers that they used to.

I was concerned that the relaunch would be estranged from the Slam family origins, but this image (FROM BNTL’S COVERAGE OF THE OPENING) shows a nifty little collaboration trade on the Slam City and Silas logos. Looking forward to seeing it in the flesh…

www.bntl.co.uk

BRITISH REMAINS

I’m part of the problem when it comes to plugging things that are hardly revolutionary, and thus aiding and abetting the slow, sludgy flow of mediocre ideas, but by god (bar the excellent social life) I’m glad I’ve evaded the summer’s tradeshows. Just as dogs supposedly see in black and white, only when I leave certain areas of London am I aware that I see in more than just light blue and beige cotton. We’re flooded with it. The heritage lines are in full effect. If your ailing brand is more than 30 years old, start a heritage line. If it’s new, make it look like a heritage line anyway. Bread & Butter is generally awful, but this year’s sneakily shot offerings were total Emperor’s New Clothes (the emperor’s attire in this case being the same tiresome bunch of collaborators on bland brands and brands good enough to know better, and some once-great lines reacting to blog attention and playing themselves by losing that charmingly oblivious aura).

Naturally, the good people of Pointer and Wood Wood are excluded from vitriol as their offerings are looking excellent.

But how much post-Albam crap can we possibly take? Albam make excellent gear, fairly priced, but the slew of Albam-alikes pumping out button-downs, chinos, denim and totes makes a man want to self-harm. Regardless of the material weights, painstaking treatments, sourcing or manufacturer who’s within walking distance, a substantial amount of feverishly WordPressed product looks like Blue Harbour by Marks & Spencer. Ignore my quest for the perfect blank for a second. Bring back the print tee.

Print t-shirts never feel fully British — neither does the tee itself as an article of clothing, seeming more like a sought-after import that arrived and never left. John Lydon’s gleefully defaced Pink Floyd effort, Malcolm McLaren aided graphic output and Katherine Hamnett’s sloganeering seem like rare examples that made a significant impact. There were skate brands in my wardrobe that were keepers, but it took Holmes, Silas and Barnzley-era Zoltar or Tonite to really match the Shorty’s, Stussy and Supreme preoccupation. I think Gimme 5 was an underrated brand with graphics are worthy of a retrospective too. Can’t forget Carri’s Cassette Playa imagery either.

My respect for what Palace is doing doesn’t need require reiteration (Incidentally, Lev’s TMI quote pertaining to Fergus Purcell, “Loads of people try and bite Fergus’s shit as well…he’s the OG guy…” carries some weight) and the Ferg-Tour tee is a great piece of design, and T-Shirt Party, who I’ve enthused about before are still fulfilling their shirt-a-week mission, currently on number 21 with an England backpiece image. Just as they made their ultra low key arrival, Mr Andrew Bunney — a walking encyclopedia on a number of matters and a man who knows a fair few things with regards to subcultures and apparel has started a small brand with artist Daryl Saunders called British Remains for a simple reason – they couldn’t find the kind of t-shirts they wanted.

T-Shirt Party and Palace are channeling a certain Britishness that’s alien to or US cousins but easily accessible. To convey UK imagery without descending into mockneyisms or tiresome levels of nationalism is tough. I remember a streetwear brand called Artful Dodger, never my particular cup of PG Tips who were presumably (I certainly hope they were) American, and their awful ads in Frank151 that bordered on Dick Van Dyke chimney sweep patter. We don’t want to go there. But the Britain I love is a mixed bag, and I love to see our grimmer side showcased. And boy, do we do bleak well. Andrew seems dedicated to researching and unveiling the country’s treasures and oddball elements, and mixed with a keen eye for aesthetics, that means some nice shirts (plus totes too if that’s your thing) that play with some localised elements, some as common as W.C. cubicle signage, the glorious London Brickworks (which operated near to my hometown) and some class matters.

Just for riffing on the Hambert and Deverson’s ‘Generation X — Today’s Generation Talking About Itself’ study, familiar to a certain generation of sociology student as being, alongside Dick Hebdige’s ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ a rare moment of interest in an otherwise tedious curriculum on the ‘Generation X’ design, the brand impressed me more than most on first impressions. I look forward to seeing where this line goes, as I’m in no doubt it will confound any presumptions that printed white cotton will stay the sole medium. I love the type on the press release/statement of intent too.

As you may have gathered, I really like t-shirts, and London is making me proud at present.

Go get British Remains and Palace from www.hideoutstore.com

www.britishremains.co.uk
www.t-shirt-party.co.uk
www.palaceskateboards.com