Tag Archives: slam city

IT’S A DEMO

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Not much to report here that hasn’t been reported elsewhere. I just spent 15 minutes hunting for footage of the short-lived Latimer Road half pipe that was situated by the Westway in London. To my understanding, the ramp existed from 1987 to 1989 and some strong Vision and Powell-Peralta demos took place there. A very young-looking Gonz skated there alongside Joe Johnson and Kevin Staab around 1987 and the Bones Brigade visited as part of their UK tour in 1988. Continue reading IT’S A DEMO

LONDON

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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.

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SKATEWEAR

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British skaters are getting it bad this week from the press. The week started with the usually likeable Billy Bragg defending the Southbank against those pesky kids and turning it into a class war (and getting himself thrown out of Slam City Skates for causing a scene) situation as part of the Southbank Centre’s decision to win a debate by rolling out people who incite you to flick to QVC when the crop up on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage. To end it, the Evening Standard‘s ES magazine unleashed its own awkward take on skate chic, with puns in the header and a miserable looking model awkwardly clad in high-end and low-end cluelessness. A mall grab would have been the perfect finishing touch, because fake skater is very in right now — I haven’t seen these levels of grommet fashion section infiltration since the 1980s. This is the outfit that an undercover cop might sport to bust a skatepark weed dealer. Don’t be surprised if Julian Lloyd-Webber disguises himself in it for the next round of Southbank/skater skirmishes.

You can actually unsee the outfit above by spending some time reading this excellent Red Bull Music Academy piece on the Zoo York Mixtape and checking out the FWDMTN/Forward Motion auctions for Heart Research UK in memory of king of the North-East, Steve ‘Bingo’ Binks. If, like me, you eat off skate culture, but you don’t want to come off like the Evening Standard’s idea of a skater, then you owe it to yourself to click here or on the image to see the auctions, where there’s some Nike SB hype, Vans Syndicate rarities, signed reissue decks and some Supreme goodness to bid on. Salutes to all who put this together and contributed. This kind of thing is what pointless polemic in a broadsheet will always omit — skateboarding is one of the few activities where everybody knows somebody who knows somebody and in that can be used to raise some money for a good cause. R.I.P. Bingo and Bod.

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Why is the Slam City affiliated Holmes brand that Russell Waterman, Sofia Prantera, Ben Sansbury and James Jarvis brought to life pre-Silas pretty much excluded from the internet? Looking for some of the old Jarvis Holmes catalogue reminded me of how much better the now defunct Select magazine’s Greed section was in showcasing gear that Slam City stocked. Back in summer 1994, this spread had me scheming ways to get hold of this shirt.

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This guy’s 1989-era multiple brand bootleg sweatshirt is a crime against authenticity, but it’s so blasphemous that it reminds me of a happy time when Fila and Troop were way out your price range and this kind of thing was peddled in some fly-by-night retailers. The do-it-yourself pirate collaboration to end them all got phased out beyond holiday resorts eventually, but the brand gang bang prints went harder than most of the contemporary apparel from sportswear brands.

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FANTASTIC, PROPER & SHELLSUITS

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I don’t usually read many magazines because I’ve written for some and that’s all I need to prove that they’re probably not what they used to be. It’s turning my surroundings into an expensive barely browsed fire hazard. But I like Fantastic Man because it’s written by people who know far more than I do about the history and business of fashion despite a name that makes associates on the train home from work think I’m browsing gay erotica. I just want to read about clobber by proper journalists rather than chancers like me. By putting what’s just a long form FM article in small paperback form, Buttoned-Up (Penguin) is a fair use of 4.99 that can avoid the peculiar provincial town glances reading the magazine on public transport brings my way. I’ve found that an out-of-town commute has been the best book club (albeit a one-man book club) ever making me kind of literate after years of reading very little other than rap rumours. This book lasted from Bedford to Elstree, which is a good 40 minutes of start to finish content, which might be last a little longer if you’re not prone to hastily inhaling text rather than calmly absorbing it.

A 108 page examination of the button-up collar’s shirt and its ubiquity in east London is presented in the style of a Fantastic Man magazine and it’s a topic that fits the magazine’s clinical irreverence perfectly. At the same time, I get the impression it was pitched in a free form way over artisan breads on Kingsland Road without much preparation. Some have marveled about the specific nature of the fastened shirt collar as a book subject, but I’ve read far longer books on less. The interview with Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys (I remember Chris Lowe‘s Issey Miyake and Travel Fox gear blowing my mind as a kid), who are underrated in the style stakes, essay on the power of the collar in fashion through the 1990s to the present day, and its tees to dandyism and other manifestations of sartorial movements by Alexander Fury and Simon Reynolds’ piece on the buttoned collar’s position in mod culture, skinhead style, The Who, The Creation, Subway Sect, Secret Affair and a brace of 1980s groups who turned the aggressive uniform into a sensitive statement, including Orange Juice (who are cited as key button-uppers a few times in the book).

Personally, I have to pop that top button otherwise I feel like I’m being throttled by cotton, but it’s fascinating to find out just how much meaning can be ascribed to a simple gesture. Buttoned-Up is an amplified but pocket-size example of what Fantastic Man does very well.

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Another publication that comes correct is Proper, because everybody who writes for it seems to enjoy clothes and the cultures around them. It reads like Mark, Neil and the whole crew are having a blast putting it together. If they secretly all hate each other like Sam and Dave and found the publishing and editing process hellish, I’d have no bloody idea, because Proper is so fun. The themes continue, with the surf-centric issue #13 following up the psych-hike of #12. This one contains Yusuke Hanai, lad holiday recollections, histories of the board short and aloha shirt, an Our Legacy interview and an amazing chat with Andy Weatherall (who had a shit ton of tattoos long before everyone else went all Max Cady/Brian Setzer/Mike Ness). I remember going to Magaluf and pick pocketing an overweight holiday rep for extra beer money before falling asleep in a lift. Great times. Proper has undergone a self-fulfilling prophecy by become more proper with each issue in terms of presentation. A few years ago it was like chatting with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but disheveled bloke down the boozer — now it’s all slick but still full of content like a caffeinated coffee shop conversation in one of those places where they know the provenance of their beans. Go and support the new issue.

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I’ve never known how to feel about the shellsuit. I have some fond memories attached to it, including a relative who rocked up at our house one Christmas in a shellsuit, white toweling socks and loafers, Gazza, bare-chested beneath his flamboyant tracksuit spitting bars about how ace being a Geordie was and an episode of Casualty that included a plot about market-bought shellsuits and their notoriously flammable ways. Somewhere down the line, the definition of a shellsuit seemed to get twisted — waterproof running/training suits weren’t the same (some of the Italian sportswear brands made amazing ones) and hypernonce Jimmy Savile’s metallic numbers were something different too. For me, the shellsuit was slightly wrinkly, often unsparing in its use of logos and bore only a slight gloss. I recall owning an Umbro tracksuit with shellsuit trousers but a conventional glossy nylon track jacket. It was shit. I always wanted an adidas one, but now they’re the brown tie and flare combination of the early 1990s — a benchmark of terrible dressing of their times and implicated as part of Savile’s sex offending arsenal due to their elasticated waist.

It’s a shame, because there’s something a bit Stetsasonic circa ’88 about a flamboyant shellsuit. The Palace crew are trying to bring it with a Trailblazers logo homaging variation in the new collection at Slam — it actually has a 70% cotton count on the shell unlike the OGs which were made of nothing but polyester and napalm to immolate you while you were cooking Super Noodles. Palace played with World Cup 1990 imagery for their Umbro collab, so it looks like they’re following it up with a tribute to Gascoine’s post semi-final stardom steez. Theo Parrish wore this jacket at Boiler Room and if anyone can bring back the shellsuit, it’s Theo and Palace. After the current preoccupation with fleece, raglan and loopback, are we going to regress back to the shell? I kind of hope so. If the year ends in everybody breaking out pajamas and shellsuits in public, Liverpool’s got another thing to never, ever stop bragging about.

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MISERY, AUSTRALIAN & AUSTRIAN STYLE (PLUS JORDANS & OTHER STUFF)



My entire childhood was eroded by occasional exposure to Australian cinema like ‘Long Weekend’ and ‘Patrick,’ but even beyond those intentional attempts to chill the viewer, even TV shows like ‘The Sullivans’ every weekday lunchtime would bring me down with that curiously Antipode breed of budget, overcast televisual misery, despite the country’s oft-glorious weather. The UK and Canada can create grim films, but Australia seemed to master it. Even when they’re not trying to bring me down, their film and television output has a drabness that’s tough to beat.

So when they’re trying to make something deliberately depressing, they deliver. Having just finished watching ‘Snowtown,’ based on the squalid mid-late 1990’s case of inter-community serial slaughter by a group led by John Bunting, I’ve not seen such a sobering depiction of psychosis in many years, and I’ve seen pretty much every downbeat, brutal movie ever. Australia triumphs in the matey psycho, who’ll cook you breakfast, ask how you’re feeling, then pressure you into slaying a household pet. Every minute of ‘Snowtown’ is sheer doom, where everybody’s a potential deviant, but some are willing to deviate beyond all comprehension. Daniel Henshall’s turn as John is a perfect performance, with no theatrical twitches and stares — just a conscious evil and unnerving charisma that amasses accomplices. Nobody explains why he does what he does (something that even the equally bleak ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ offered the viewer), and the musical cues crank up the troubling atmosphere.

The prolonged strangulation scene is still embedded in my psyche, yet for all the monstrous behaviour and miserable shack-like cluster of outer-Adelaide residences that make up the film’s backdrop, the cinematography’s beautiful, giving the inhumanity on display an eloquence of its own. As a carefully crafted character study, it’s notable that Bunting still remains an enigma – offering no answers channels the essence of the case. The best killer films aren’t about carefully laid traps, ‘CSI’ style apprehension and transparent motive. They simply remain queasily ambiguous. ‘Snowtown’ is a solid accompaniment to 1998’s profile of murderous behaviour and alpha males, ‘The Boys,’ another Australian film based on a significant true crime (the John Travers gang and the Anita Cobby case) that’s still a cause of outrage. I recommend ‘The Boys’ for a feel bad viewing session that pre-empts incarceration with classic Australian prison films like ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead,’ ‘Everynight…Everynight’ and ‘Stir.’ Just make sure that you’ve got the ‘Seinfeld’ box set on deck to restore your sanity afterwards.

If those films aren’t enough to erode your sanity, 1983’s ‘Angst’ is the greatest portrayal of murderous insanity ever made. 1979’s ‘Vengeance is Mine’ is a strong portrayal of a remorseless maniac, Japan-style, but Gerald Kargl’s Austrian vision is mind-boggling yet, due to distribution issues, often unseen. You’ll get no fuel to unleash the ‘LOL’s or smiley faces on social media in Kargl’s film, but what you get is a film that’s two decades ahead of its time from a technical standpoint. The antithesis of documentary style filming, ‘Angst’ is a dizzying box of tricks, soundtracked by Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze in a synthesised style that makes it doubly unsettling. Based on the Werner Kniesek case (and from accounts, it seems fairly faithful), it’s about the pure pleasure of killing, and no ‘Saw’ or straight to DVD ‘Hostel’ sequel can maintain that sense of terror. Erwin Leder’s eyes alone beat any special effect, but that sweaty intensity and primal but inept killing techniques, twinned with the innovative, nightmarish set pieces, make it a lost classic.

It’s odd that Kargl’s IMDB profile ends with this film, but director of photography, co-writer and editor Zbigniew Rybczynski went on to pioneer HD techniques. If you’re a Gasper Noé fan, ‘Angst’s hyperactive camera and use of sonics will help you understand how his style was developed — this is one of his personal favourites. While there’s barely any dialogue to accompany the plot, the killer’s narration needs subtitles, and sadly, Barrel Entertainment, who promised a DVD for half a decade, went bankrupt a year or so ago. Not a pleasant experience, but a necessary one for fans of cinema. Just don’t come crying to me with tales of subsequent trauma. ‘Snowtown,’ ‘The Boys’ and ‘Angst’ — a perfect trinity of murderous misery.



On a lighter, very different, note, I’ve been trying to hunt the mysterious Boyz II Men Jordan XI and tux award show moment, but I can’t find it. Was it a gig? Why is there no video footage? Maybe it’s an apocryphal thing, but I’m certain that I saw a shot once. What I did find in my hunt was a picture of the Boyz in matching white suits and 2000 white/chrome Jordan IVs at a BET bash in May of that year. It’s hard to get hyped on any celebrity wearing retro Jordans (though the internet says differently), but I say that the cutoff is the stray black/cement IIIs on the cover of ‘The Blueprint’ in 2001.

The UK is killing it at the moment. Most football related attempts to be down crumble because, unless you’re a visiting rapper, there’s not much that’s cool about wearing a football shirt and beyond all the fancy stuff, Umbro’s never been a cool brand — it’s a utilitarian one that was affordable without fear of a playground beat down (unless you wore Umbro trainers, then you deserved what you got). But the hard-wearing twill of the drill top was the budget wear of choice in and outside of my school. I’m glad that team Palace have acknowledged that in their Umbro and Palace collaboration that includes a trill looking drill top that brings back that appeal. I like the idea of a Trill Top.

On a Palace affiliated note, Slam City Skates releases the ‘City of Rats’ DVD next week and you need it in your life, because, unlike the days of skate VHS bare-bones, there’s an abundance of extras too. It’s still mind-boggling that this is the first ever full-length Slam City skate video, but it’s okay, because it only took them 25 years to get it sorted. Big.

Graffiti magazines are a different breed nowadays compared to the things I’d overspend on at Tower Records or the ‘zines I’d send an SAE off for only to get nothing in return (maybe they thought I was “the man” or maybe they were just lazy), but truly iconic publications have been few and far between. That’s because graf kids make the ‘Maximum Rocknroll’ readership sound level-headed by comparison, and one man’s masterpiece is another twenty people’s “sellout shit.” The internet was pretty much made for the art form, with internet fame being as fleeting as moving trains, and ‘Crack & Shine’ and ‘Also Known As’ gave destruction a certain gloss that set a new precedent. I’m looking forward to seeing the paper spinoff of Hurtyoubad, ‘Hurtyoubad Journal’ which has been in development for a while promising, “A graffiti publication with no graffiti.” This will be the cause of much anonymous commenting and hipster allegations, but will be an excellent read. And seeing as it’s coming via Topsafe, it should look pretty too.

The Diggers With Gratitude team are holding it down for that peculiarly British breed of rap nerdery (and there’s plenty of crossover between our love of skate and rap, with more experts per person in those topics than many other nations) with their issues of lost tracks by the kind of characters you may have briefly checked for in their day but promptly forgotten. For the DWG team, that enthusiasm never died. To paraphrase Ice-T from ‘Colors’ — it just multiplied. Now they’ve gone and put out Latee of the Flavor Unit’s unreleased 1992/3 recordings on the ‘Who Rips the Sound?’ EP. But now they’ve all sold out, so you’re going to have to hope for a second volume of their reissue work compiled on a CD at some point in the near future.

And if that mix of plugging, serial killer films, skate stuff and Boyz II Men wasn’t an odd enough mix for you, here’s an interview I did for my buddies at Sneakersnstuff about Stockholm and Baltimore’s sports footwear scenes.

And shouts to ‘i-D’ magazine, Kate Moss and Alisdair McLennan for this:

EVENT RAP

Motherfuckers are impatient. Really, really impatient. A couple of days ago, Pusha-T’s ‘Fear of God’ mixtape made its official online appearance and pretty much shut down select Twitter timelines for an afternoon. Reactions were online within least than quarter of an hour after a Mediafire link appeared. That’s crazy. We knew the moment it would drop (despite a rogue streaming site) and Pusha even hosted a listening party for the tape…MP3, whatever. It was event rap, and that’s the rapid route to a fast-tracked backlash.

On Googling the name, fiending (I’m sure the Thornton brothers would use that as a jump off for yayo-wordplay) for a download, I chanced across a mediocre review made by a forum user that had been made at 4:30pm (half an hour before the release). It deemed the project unsatisfactory with track-by-track commentary. I respect that kid’s journalistic turnaround, but this decision to elevate the mixtape into a social media flooding, forced moment of ground breaking, epoch-defining magnificence, rather than your favourite rapper enjoying royalty freedom with promo-only status is a harmful one.

Nobody expects good any more. They don’t want acceptable, or a slow-burner. They want their music free, fast and immediate. ‘Fear of God’ doesn’t match any of the ‘We Got it 4 Cheap,’ trilogy (thankfully they dropped before the Tweet-rap era, otherwise the excitement may have broken the internet), but any Pusha-T material is worthy, given us that cold-blooded coke talk, with the quirkier touches that he seems to unconsciously apply to a verse, with pleasantly dated cultural references (as I’ve said before, Ric Flair analogies will always earn points with me) as well as Based God nods. One day, references to Lil B cooking and Twitter will be as archaic as 2Pac’s tales of mobile phone envy, but we can get a kick out of them in the short term.

I’m glad that Clipse have maintained their buzz after the Jive fiasco and bullshit Re-Up LP. Hopefully Pusha won’t have a problem with former Jive nemesis Barry Weiss being the new man in charge at Def Jam. Unless you’re Jada, 50, Kanye or Shawn, rap’s in the hands of 21 and below, and at 33, Pusha’s pensionable…Malice is 38. The affiliations with Kanye and that constant Pharrell helping hand, plus a constant lyrical elevation just keeps the duo relevant.

When Pusha spits over Soulja Boy’s ‘Speakers Going Hammer’ he isn’t like dad at the party drunk — he actually sounds at home on it. That’s a rare thing. With some of their early years pilfered by the goons at East West who confined them to bonus CDs with Nicole’s ‘Make it Hot’ CD in 1998 and buried the brilliance of ‘The Funeral’ in 1999. Anyone else remember Pusha being called Terrar and appearing on a Kelis track? Philly’s Most Wanted caught a brick (insert powder reference here) and Fam-Lay ended up in limbo, Rosco P Goldchain has his own legal issues and Lee Harvey vanished as quickly as he appeared…somehow, Clipse beat that Neptunes-affiliated curse. ‘Grindin’ could have gone ‘Tipsy’, even though ‘Lord Willin’ was hard as hell.

The Timberlake hookup had Pusha and Malice spitting some corny lines — you could tell they were itching to talk homicides right there. I met them briefly in early 2004 and they were nice guys, but I assumed that their moment was over as they performed ‘Grindin’ and some appalling commissioned track for London’s ‘World B-Boy Championships’ at Wembley stadium. I was surprised to see how BAPED-out they were, after early press shots had them in FUBU.

The fact their manager went to prison for trafficking, gave Clipse that edge like BMF and Jeezy (though Jeezy’s refusal to to Tweet due to his belief it’s a form of snitching) may have edged him out the conversation lately) to indicate that they weren’t mere studio fantasies in those wild tales of county lines and lavish car seating. Using mixtapes to fill the label-limbo between albums was a shred move. People still haven’t realised how good ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ actually is — these things need digestion time which 2011 rap refuses to allow — but it was ‘Freedom’ from ‘Til the Casket Drops’ that sold the new Pusha-T to me, living up to the promise of “Hip-hop on steroids” with that verse. And he hasn’t looked back since.

I was more of a Malice fan once (still am, but Pusha took pole position) once with his gloriously monotone, “The boy’s such an author, I should smoke a pipe” line, ‘Kojak’ references and elegantly tasteless Amistad references, but Pusha-T is my current favourite MC. This tape confers that.

Watching Tyler and company shut down talk of Nas in a recent interview was fun to watch. Why should young ‘uns be in thrall of those who’ve peddled tin-eared mediocrity for so long is no real mystery, yet they’re still expected to revere old guarders who’ve squandered their legacy. They spoke of Jay-Z and 50 Cent as their choice of listening growing up (let that be the final word in who one that battle) and there’s a respect for Pusha as a favourite MC too. Ignore the hype. Let that mixtape slow-burn, log out of Twitter and stop expecting freebies to be classic LPs. Just kick back and enjoy deadpan nihilism done well and (illegal) substance that those Rapidshare rappers have yet to develop, despite the singular subject matter..

RIP to Michael L. Abramson — the skinny whiteboy who shot Chicago clubs like Perv’s Lounge and The Patio Lounge in the 1970s, resulting in his portraits of 1970s South Side blues club goers that filled the ‘Light: On the South Side’ book.

The Grey Skateboard Magazine ‘Grey Nights’ video is online and despite its short running time, there’s some offcuts available on the Slam City Grey blog. It’s a great video.

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.