Northerners stay winning. As I sit here in the Lake District, 5 hours from London, I’m aware that I’m in a place where justifying some GORE-TEX expense makes a little more sense. Clobber-loving print publications from that side of the UK impress me time and time again to the point where I’m starting to repeat myself every time I receive new copies. Far more than just being about a jacket and a certain swagger, the Oi Polloi empire has spread south of late, but their always-excellent Pica~Post is an antidote to the influx of digital look books showcasing hollow-cheeked dudes looking uncomfortable in Sports Direct style gear on the periphery of a housing estate (just far enough away to avoid any potential wallet inspectors). Issue #9 (which retails for the comedy price of just 2p) contains an interview with perennial screen weasel David Patrick Kelly, who stole the show in classics like The Warriors. Commando, Dreamscape and Last Man Standing, before being one of the best characters in last year’s action masterpiece, John Wick. The team also got orthotic and put together a decent Mephisto feature that sheds some light on the billion dollar business built on uncompromised comfort, and how Arnie (star of the aforementioned 1985 fleck-suited, neck breaking, synth and kettle drum soundtracked favourite) and Pavarotti were fanatical about the brand’s offerings, complete with a shot of the rotund tenor wearing a pair — no shot of a rapper in freebie shoes without the super-soft walking experience can match that swagger. Proper’s new issue is a belter too, and they’ve gone Hollywood on us too — the illustrated guide to outfits in films is way better than another know-nada Steve McQueen fetish feature, singling out a few lesser-discussed sartorial screen moments, while Russ from TSPTR’s vintage sweatshirt collection will make you jealous.
No blog content again, but here’s a super-corporate mini-documentary on Champion and the Feinbloom brothers that founded it. It looks like it should be playing in a foyer somewhere, but there’s a few informational gems in that narration, plus some interesting imagery too. These gents patented plenty of sweatshirt-related things we take for granted as well as some processes in appliqué lettering. I’m all out as far as words on Champion go, so I’ll stop now before I end up hating fleece wear.
If you can’t find the sweatshirt you want, take matters into your own hands and make the damn thing yourself. I’ve been enjoying Concepts’ Canadian-made fleece creations lately in some seasonal colours and patterns, but it’s good when the UK represents and as the man behind The Original Store, Spiv Agency and as one half of the S London tradeshow squad, Carl Burnham knows his stuff. Seeing as The Original Store championed (pun unintended) Buzz Rickson and Champion Reverse Weaves, with their polar opposite fits — jock body or smedium, but undeniable merits, Burnham has taken his favourite parts of an everyday classic, from the loopback cotton to flat locked seams, ribbed side panels to the Dorito-like ‘V’ neck. Best of all, as the Good Measure name of his sweatshirt brand suggests, it’s cut fairly wide, slightly high and with a neck that doesn’t hang off the shoulders. It sounds like the man responsible has spec’d out the kind of crew sweat we’ve loved and lost over the years. As a bonus, they’re made in England too. The idea of a perfect fit is open to endless debate until a Gattaca style uniformity comes in to play, but Good Measure seems to be aimed at a sweet spot for those hunting sweats that can be worn to the death. Oi Polloi’s got them in right now and the Dirty Yellow is a strong look.
That’s a GOOD segue to this very brief video (via Cameron McKirdy) of Tinker Hatfield, who very briefly addressed the Kanye West/Nike situation during a presentation a few days ago. Tinker doesn’t bite his tongue on certain matters and with either Air Yeezy being built on two platforms that are his babies (Air Jordan III/Revolution and Air Tech Challenge II) he’s entitled to respond — “…and then there’s this other side of the coin where we take retro sneakers and we allow people to just design their own versions and that’s really style and sometimes those lines, they blur — they cross — and that’s how you probably end up with this Kanye situation…” There’s probably a lengthy think piece to be written paralleling sampling to using Hatfield’s existing creations for a new form, but life’s too fucking short to write it and it probably exists somewhere anyway. Tinker jokily expresses concern regarding Kanye sending goons his way for his comment, but an Anchorman-style DONDA vs. Innovation Kitchen style lunchtime rumble could be an incredible thing.
A few months back I wrote some things about the Nike Air Python, oblivious to the fact a retro was on its way. The resurrection of this shoe seems to have split friends’ opinions — some can’t fathom why this shoe was brought back when there’s more significant shoes in the archive and others, like me, were pleased it made a return, just because they wanted a pair in the stash. I can understand the former opinion because some things are best left as aspiration — while the original intent was hardly one of pure performance (it seems more like an excuse to use some 1987 lasts and tooling), there’s an aura to the rarely seen and now a Google Image Search is going to spit out PR pics rather than a scattering of yellowed pairs. The spell is officially broken.
But you know what? This shoe still delivers — the swooshless oddness, the proto-Troop Cobra flamboyance, the way Nike added those tongue and heel labels as if the shoe was a big deal. As a Jordan II fan (a shoe that’s soon to get its aura bruised by reissues and hype), it’s a solid partner piece and (contrary to the myth of them having real python on them 26 years ago, which I fell for, it was always snake-effect leather) the retroed Air Python’s quality is good. Many’s the memory obliterated by a cheap looking resurrection, but the leather here is appropriately soft, rather than a plastic toy mockery of the original. Having only ever handled a pair under cellophane I can only presume that they felt like this (Edit: I am very reliably informed that the original Air Python was made from decidedly non-luxury leathers and far cheaper materials than the Air Python Lux seen here, which makes it a rare case of a reissue that’s better quality than the source material). Ignore the faintly Liberace steez that my amateur photography gives the snakeskin texture on the silvers (brown drops next month), because it’s undeniably flossy but not as sparkly in the flesh.
That bulbous toebox makes them fit roomy (at least half a size bigger than usual) and they’re surprisingly chunky, but it’s good to tick a box and get these in the teetering pile I’ve amassed since I decided to slow down on the footwear acquisitions. They make more sense releasing in the current climate than they did when they were swamped by 1987’s slew of more heavily publicised classics. Know what else ruins a rerelease? A generic packaging. That spot varnish scale pattern on the box for these is a nice touch. Shouts to Nike for these ones.
After the talk of Kukinis on Sunday and these 1987 oddities reappearing, I’m keen to level things a little by including the LeBron XI — I’m blatantly in mid-life crisis mode, but that swoosh and Hyperposite combo makes them the logical successor to the Alpha Project lunacy of 2000. This is exactly what a basketball shoe should look like in 2013.
On that Nike topic, this chat with Chris Bevans, creative director of Billionaire Boys Club on Salehe Bembury’s blog indicates that he’s one of those industry guys who seems to have had a hand in plenty of significant projects. A lot of talented people have passed through Rocawear over the years — while we’re in danger of assuming that Instagram represents the world at large’s tastes, Bevans and company seemed make far more of a splash on a grander scale. There’s a spot of insight here on the genesis of the Kanye West Nike Air 180 that occasionally surfaces during talk of rarity among nerds.
The new issue of Fantastic Man has a lot of content to recommend, but Jeremy Lewis’ exploration of the mystery of the ‘Dorito’ (that triangular panel) on the neck of sweatshirts, complete with an answer from vintage master Bob Melet. This is still the best men’s fashion magazine out there.
Seeing my friend Edson of the mighty Patta crew sold these Rockwell sweat pants to me. Edson has significantly more swagger than my disheveled, pallid self, but that print is at its greatest in this context. On sweats and rucksacks this design works, but here, it’s leisure wear done very right.
Pressed for time because of freelance work, so why not fall back on two failsafes — All Conditions Gear and Champion? ACG as a full subdivision may be gone (though every time you see a sealed seam jacket from Nike, the spirit lives on) , but it’s still part of of the footwear offerings at trend level. Here’s a few non-ad images of some interesting moments in ACG history — Trip Allen is a crucial part of the old ACG squad and according to legend, he was one of the pioneers in applying some truly insane colours to shoes that remain scorched into my retinas for reference in far too much of my work. I believe (looking at the sketch) that he was heavily involved in the Terra ACG design — a pioneering moment for the brand that may or may not have aided in the genesis of the non-ACG Terra trail running range you might have lusted after in the late 1990s. The Terra ACG’s speckles and wildcard orange and pink were decidedly peculiar at the time too. The packaging for the Nike Thermax Underwear that I believe dates back to the early days of ACG (I like the “Clothing as equipment” copy too) is well executed and captures the commitment to it at the time. Moisture wicking ACG underwear is a rarity nowadays, but these are some of the most aesthetically appealing thermals ever made.
Why does Champion’s Japanese licensee get it while the others don’t? Admittedly it’s a country where a heritage wing could actually prove profitable, but to see this brand plastered on tat in the UK is depressing. Like Fila, it’s an opportunity wasted and while Champion always was a fairly affordable brand compared to the Italian premium sportswear of the former, it seems the original point was lost in a variety of acquisitions and wheeler dealing. Even Russell Athletic seems to be slowly getting its shit together in this territory while former champions flounder. Pop-ups and spaces are usually a good reason to ignore an email invite, but the collegiate-themed Champion Bookstore in the Shinjuku branch of Oshman’s (itself a franchise of a mostly-gone US sporting institution that became Sports Authority — not dissimilar to how Shibuya’s mighty Tower store keeps standing) looks tremendous and captures the essence of what makes the brand great. Cotton fleece heaven with a history lesson worked in there. This kind of thing and the nanamica x Champion masterpieces of loungewear maintain this brand’s magic. Everyone else seems intent on sticking a ‘C’ on cheap accessories. Sadly, I can imagine what proves the most profitable.
Another MacBook is unleashing the spinning wheel, so I’m using an Acer that doesn’t have PhotoShop and doesn’t seem to want to accept the card from my camera. So you can make do with over stylised, untrustworthy Instagram shots with the filters that make terrible things look acceptable. I’m grateful that as yet, no magic haze has made writing look much better, though we hobbyist copywriters were hit by nobody actually reading anything over two sentences any more and people trying to tell us to write with Google in mind, so I think we’re all equally screwed by social media in 2012. I visited Jacket Required on Friday and got to wander around a tradeshow devoid of men who look like Zucchero and the guy from Nightcrawlers wielding multiple Wrangler and Superdry goodie bags. There were plenty of beige and camo things on display, plus lots of people seemed to be doing animal printed Y’OH-alikes without Kara’s reference points, but highlights came from Wood Wood’s technical-looking, sporty stuff, Our Legacy’s athletic pieces and Soulland’s Versace faux house of Soulland style sweats.
Lots of colour, lots of embroidery and a look of diffusion line that should set of something in the head of multiple generations who grew up desperate to amass labels. Soulland make beautiful, brilliant clothes and Silas Adler just gets it – I would have thought this brand was amazing for collaborating with Jacob Holdt a few years back, but for continually evolving, surely it’s due to blow up imminently? The orange sweat in particular had me bugging out the most. The blogs are about to go wild for technical apparel (which only a handful of factories in the world can execute properly) and food, but these sweats hit the sweet spot between older brother wear nostalgia and simply being bold and brilliant and confident in those tonal embroideries. US men’s magazines are all over Scandinavia at the moment, but they make it sound like little more than blonde women, slicked back hair, beards and rolled up pants, which I suppose it is, but additionally the clothing coming out of there leaves your heritage brand sprawling by evolving into the perfect mix of basics, avant-garde and detail.
What also had me hyped (though it wasn’t necessarily on display) was the UK-made Palace gear. Being a non-skater doofus who still wears the shirts, I was accosted with regards to the source of my Palace shirt during my recent NYC holiday and the brand seems to have gathered hype at an alarming rate. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch either. See those eBay prices for the Chanel tribute sweats? The way the Trail Blazers snapback is everywhere and how the afterthought New York Giants tee became a bestseller? Crazy. Now the brand has been bootlegged multiple times, people seem to think the comedy surf line is a fake too, but they’re mistaken. British made shirts (are we allowed to use that term “cut and sew” with its visions of gun print tee brands switching to preppy chambrays and chinos really badly?), jackets, plus trousers and other stuff is a nice expansion of the Palace brand and a nice Tango slap to anyone who thought it was just about bolshy screenprints. That’s’s something to look forward to over the next month.
If you know central London, you know that Camissa & Son does the best sandwich in the area at a good price. My friends at Slam City know that and they’ve contributed that recommendation to Vans’ Syndicate newspaper, ‘These Days’. I’m on Syndicate’s dick because it always gets things right. That LXVI stuff? I’m not convinced yet, but Syndicate’s packaging, risky choice of collaborators and hard-core approach to distribution is always appreciated. Their paper (supplied to me by Mr Charles Morgan) reminds me of Berlin’s fine ‘Aspekt Ratio’ in its broadsheet execution, but the lengthy Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen interview, guide to making your own tattoo machine, W(Taps’ TET on his first Vans (a pair of Sk8 His), an Ice-T interview (bringing the whole $YNDICATE thing full circle), chat with skate ‘zine legend Gary Scott Davis and a Mike Hill Alien Workshop design retrospective are all tremendous. I know creating a tangible piece of print media is this year’s equivalent of the dull video lookbook and teaser, but this is absorbing, passionate content that should resonate with multiple generations.
Lots of people hate Byron Crawford, but you can’t deny that his musings are the perfect antidote to a world where everybody’s toadying with hip-hop so they don’t get locked out the listening party. He’s just put out a Kindle book, ‘Mindset of a Champion: Your Favorite Rapper’s Least Favorite Book’ charting his rise from proto-blogger to-day jobber and internet, sorry, internets, star. It reads like one vast, sprawling, semi-proofed blog entry, but it’s a fun read. Crawford has a knack for capturing mundanity that matches his appetite for controversy (“KRS-One himself has never been on crack, as far as I know. he’s just crack-ish. he used to be homeless. He’s know for making off the wall statements.”) and there’s tales of rap board wars, talkbacks and hip-hop journalism that justify the £2 outlay within just a couple of chapters.
This interview with Brent Rollins is excellent. Like me, he wishes he came up with the UNDFTD logo, but unlike me, he’s a design genius and it’s revealed that he’s the Jordan IV and orange sock dude on the ‘Do the Right Thing’ poster. On a Complex-related note, this rant from the perspective of some chisel toe shoes is also worth your time.
The Kate Uptons of this world will come and go, but people will still get excited about Kate Moss. Yayo footage couldn’t stop her and neither can any number of sket upstarts. There’s a whole book about her called ‘Kate: the Kate Moss Book’ dropping in November via Rizzoli delivering a full retrospective of her career thus far. Jefferson Hack and Jess Hallett editing, plus an $85 pricetag and 368 pages indicates that it might be pretttttttty good.
Rick Ross might have shut down the internet for a few minutes on Friday, but Springsteen is still the true Bawse. Still, the prospect of a live E Street Band without Clarence is a troubling one. ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Jungleland’ won’t be the same without Clarence Clemons and judging by the laborious process to even find out if tickets for Springsteen’s London shows are still available, it looks like Ticketmaster won the war when it came to paying to see him, but Bruce still maintains a certain magnetism. He’s not the greatest dresser — misguided souls might believe it was jingoistic excess, but ‘Born in the USA’ wasn’t a regrettable phase musically, but that leather, denim and headband hasn’t held up well — and nor is he the worst, but the construct of the Bruuuuuuuce mythos means the outfit must come second to the sound to represent that absolute dedication to the craft (that doesn’t apply to the rest of the band, who wore some wild suits in their day).
That utilitarian approach to dress meant that Bruce managed to dodge some of the most regrettable looks of the 1970’s, but also put together some excellent outfits — the jacket and white v-neck tee (swooping, but not to the point of 2012 man-cleavage douchery or Givenchy chest bearing) on ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in 1978, the wooly hat and rolled up denim shirt from the sceptic smashing Hammersmith show in 1975 and the early Columbia press shots are my favourites. 1973 was a good year for my heroes and their garments, including Marvin Gaye’s double denim (yeah, the trousers might have been flared, but he still pulls them off — Bruce’s Hammersmith Odeon slacks were a little voluminous too) and red wool beanie from Jim Britt’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ session shots make for the coolest looking Marvin in his career, but while Gaye was in the process of redefinition, Peter Cunningham’s images of Springsteen around the release of ‘Greetings from Astbury Park N.J.’ in February 1973, in full interview conversation mode are the most effortless Springsteen outfit — beard, grey hoody, flannel shirt and denim. A no bullshit uniform from a time that taste occasionally forgot.
The sound matured from word-cramming opuses and the decades-old throwback romanticism, but Springsteen emerged cool. Not everybody could go balls-out like Bowie when it came to attire in 1973 and pull off teal tailoring or a pirate eyepatch and hoop earring combo. Still, they ended up meeting in 1974, and Bowie covered ‘Growin’ Up’ during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ sessions and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (with a coked-up soulful excellence), both from Springsteen’s debut. An image from John Kalodner captures the meeting of a megastar and a man on the edge of stardom with two very different dress senses.
Looking for some inspiration for something I haven’t made yet, I revisited Hype Williams’s troubled ‘Belly’ from 1998. Now the film’s fondly remembered after some negative reactions, but while the bulk is style over substance (not necessarily a bad thing, hence my love of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’ with a vampiric Bowie and a lesbian scene with Susan Sarandon that blew my pre-pubescent mind), the byproduct is still stunning. DMX can almost act, Nas can’t, but the film still captures that excess of the era perfectly. In fact, that film lacked a certain substance but reveled in excess makes it as much of an embodiment of hip-hop in 1998 as ‘Wild Style’ was of a rough and ready (and still sketchy) scene in 1982. The opening titles are still some of my all time favourites — the gooned-out masks in ultraviolet lights, the way the beat drops, silenced gunshots and the movement within the BELLY letters are all still on point, with Hype’s techniques still trickling down to WSHH premiered promos of mixtape tracks.
Hype Williams was 29 when he made ‘Belly’, having evolved from bad graf on the walls for ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1991 to his first video, ‘Two Minute Brother’ for BWP aka Bytches With Problems (he also directed ‘Come Baby Come’ for the equally forgotten K7) and then changing the look of an entire culture half a decade later from working with female acts with acronyms as group names. Seeing as Hype was inspired by Gaspar Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ for ‘All of the Lights’, I expected big things from a ‘Belly’ follow-up when it eventually happened, but his plans to direct a film from a Joe Eszterhas screenplay called ‘Lust’ was unexpected. Both Hype and Joe have pretty much been off the Hollywood radar since the late 1990’s, and yes,because Eszterhas is involved, it’s an erotic thriller. I’m interested to see how the film turns out if it’s ever made.
David Fincher’s translation from music video man to film director might have had a ‘Belly style production ordeal with ‘Alien³’ but he came of age, and just when it looked like he was going to be the stylish film with a big reveal guy, he drops ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Social Network’ on us. What’s consistent in his films is a focus on typography, motion graphics and the art of the opening title — Kyle Cooper’s ‘Se7en’ work (complete with Bowie’s ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ over the end titles if we’re going to tenuously try to link these entries with a Bowie birthday theme), Picture Mill’s ‘Panic Room’ sequence and P. Scott Makela’s ‘Fight Club’ design are all memorable. ‘The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’ doesn’t match those highs, but it works well as a slippery, gothier, bleak take on Bond opening credits, but like ‘Se7en’s opening, Trent Reznor’s work suits the mood. There’s a good breakdown of how the film’s opening titles were developed here, talking to Blur Studio’s Tim Miller who directed it. Salutes to masterful motion graphics dude Onur Senturk too. The sequence looks like the commercial for the Hewlett-Packard peripheral from hell, with Rick Owens on creative direction, but somehow that suits the movie.
I’m late to the party on this video interview with Stüssy Triber Lono Brazil, who also uploaded some footage of the International Stüssy Tribe 1st Annual Tribal Meeting in Tokyo from 1991. It’s worth a watch. Because I just used to gawp at the VHS cassette in clothing stores back in the day without every buying it, I’m not sure if it was on the old Stüssy tape back in 1992.