When you’re strapped for inspiration, YouTube is an easy way out for blog entries. Spending 30 minutes there puts you through multiple rabbit holes. Film trailers lead to documentary snippets that lead to lectures, before taking a sharp turn into timeworn VHS uploads of unsettling oddness. I always emerge enlightened but unsettled. Takedowns are so frequent that upping them here is destined to lead to black boxes and dead links, but having spotted the creepiest commercial I’ve ever seen, a manic Japanese commercial for the Goonies II NES game, the bloke from Limp Bizkit hosting a 1991 skate jam and a background reminder that Chicago team coloured Air Jordan 1s hit the sale racks with a vengeance in 1986 due to overproduction in the quest to find something I spotted a few weeks back and wanted to share here, I felt they all warranted a mention too. That video I was hunting was a 1989 commercial for Sports Fanatics, a store in Watertown, Massachusetts that specialised in sporting merchandise. This volume of team jerseys, sweats and hats deserved bars, and Sports Fanatics seemed to get the Saturday boy who owned an Eric B & Rakim tape in to spit half-arsed bars about replica hockey shirts long before Fabolous put out Throw Backs as a bonus track. Erie, Pennsylvania’s Play It Again Sports would try to play the goofy white rapper card five years later with Dr. Jimbo spitting about second-hand athletic equipment (with a Special Ed nod in there too), but it loses points for being too deliberately wacky.
I can’t actually wear caps because they make me look like a car thief, because I’m old and because my head is vast. That wasn’t always the case though — I used to have a Dodgers and White Sox hat (Ice Cube and MC Eiht inspired me) that I wore every day, until I saw a photo of myself with the cheap Starter hats perched high on my head, adding an extra four inches to an already sizeable noggin. That was that. But I’ll always respect the baseball cap. Some say it’s not British to wear one, but that’s usually strung-out rock stars and fashion advice gurus who dress like Paul Burrell. Their opinion doesn’t matter. They could counter my argument by pointing out that Jonathan King rocked a cap heavily on ‘Entertainment USA’ back in the day, and I’ll give them that one, but there’s a place for the hat in my heart, hanging in the affordable section of the sports shop, assisted by my mum’s 30% discount.
Before the reign of the fitted (my first fitted was actually an uncomfortable 1993 Hurricanes design in that glorious green and orange that lacked at least an inch in circumference), I was obsessed by Del’s peak in the ‘Catch a Bad One’ video from 1994. Just destructively folding the peak by that point was considered bad form, so I submerged the wool-mix test subject in the sink before fastening the peak around a length of plastic guttering using rubber bands and leaving it to dry. The effect was a temporary curve of at least 330 degrees, resulting in a long-term 180 degree effect. As you might have guessed, I was an odd teenager.
My oversized dome also led to shame on a purchase of a Stussy New Era a few years later, where shop workers frantically searched in the stockroom for a stray freak size fitted. It was like the time I witnessed a morbidly obese lady fail the turnstiles at Anfield and have to be let in a special door complete with dungeon master style keys. That deaded my personal relationship with caps entirely, bar my love for the Hundreds Starter tribute in 2006 that felt downright quaint in a world of 59Fiftys with spirit level straight peaks, complete with holograms and foil stickers. Who would have thought that the “snapback” (we just used to call them caps) would reign again alongside the 5-panel hat (another style I can’t wear)? Who decided that a fringe visible under the front of the hat was a good idea? Streetwear Dave steez in full effect.
Now I’m seeing more and more fitteds like the Our Legacy Ebbetts Field design, with plenty more Ebbetts creations from the hordes of imitators, but if it keeps a fine brand like Ebbetts busy, I’m cool with that. Is that a reaction to the snapback fever? I’m just glad that I never wore the Negro league Jackie Robinson cap I picked up all those years ago. I imagine it could have earned my pallid face some bruises, but I noticed that Starter are dabbling in those league designs again for later this year. I wonder if Chris Brown and Tyga will ever release a ‘Flexfit Back’ freestyle?
Back in 1990, ‘Spin’ magazine let Spike Lee, fresh from ‘Mo’ Better Blues,’ guest edit the magazine. Alongside excellent pieces on Public Enemy and Bad Brains, it also included ‘SPIKE LEE’S ALL-STAR B-BOY CAPS’ — two pages of Spike offering one-line reviews of his favourite caps, culminating in him decrying a man in a Celtics hat as an “Uncle Tom.” The images were shot by one Ari Marcopoulos and it’s an amazing feature. The Public Enemy piece has a nice picture of Chuck reclining in the white/cement Jordan IVs. He wears them well, though not as well as Hank Shocklee wore ’em in Glen E. Friedman’s images of the group.
While we’re talking big-name photographers in their jobbing days, before he was getting his boner out at any opportunity, Terry Richardson was shooting Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in Memphis to accompany a short Sacha Jenkins profile of the group (around the show that instigated the Three-6 beef?) before their cover story by Jenkins a year later. I’m in nostalgia mode, and the post signature wave of Karl Kani gear with the plate (I never saw the plaid shirt that Eazy-E wore in the ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’ video on sale) to elude bootleggers had me fiending in 1993/94 like the Ape Shall Never Kill Ape letters and Supreme box would have me hunting a few years later. Biggie, Keith Murray and Aaliyah made it look necessary — I got the hoody, but despite the plate being a fake deterrent, I ended up with fake denims. And just like that, they were uncool. Bone Thugs wore the plate hoody heavy in the Richardson photos and twinned with the vast cellular phone in a liquor store, it was particularly effective. FUBU, Mecca and the rest meant that Karl caught a bad one.
Farewell to Mr. Geoff Hollister, Nike employee #3 and a man who brokered an SMU for Elton John, created the Windrunner jacket, designed the Aqua Sock and created a promotional strategy for a struggling Blue Ribbon Sports. I never got the opportunity to meet the man during his visit to the UK to promote his book, ‘Out of Nowhere,’ but I heard nothing but positive things. Rest in peace Geoff.
It’s good to see that the Big Star documentary ”Nothing Can Hurt Me: the Big Star Story’ that got Kickstarter funding seems to be coming along nicely. This trailer’s promising. Teenage Fanclub taught me about this group, and with only one living founder member, it could get emotional. Some legends fall through the gaps, but the influence stays substantial.