Tag Archives: t-shirt party

FOOTWEAR

This one’s for the shoe weirdos only. When it comes to online retail, once a fearful domain where my bank details disappeared and I was left waiting for months for product to arrive (or not arrive in some instances), it’s curious that I should get nostalgic, but most men’s fashion retailers are fucking dull online. It’s the same stock as everybody else, a blog tagged on with brief features as an afterthought and I can’t get excited at all. Sports footwear’s even weaker — exactly the same options, pretty much globally, where once the US got some unexpected SC releases and co.jp was a mystery, now it’s all the same.

Staggered releases, but ultimately the same old stock. That’s why I pine for the grey retailers of old who actually had the untethered power to surprise a customer. Now we know what’s coming in advance and shocks are few and far between. If you lurked on the internet for Nikes between February 1998 and 2001 (though it started in 1996 and was online until 2010), you probably came across Shoetrends.com, with its mix of older and newer releases, import colourways and no-frills looks, plus the biggest amount of Air Max 95s, Dunks (a couple of years before their wider release and hype burnout) and Jordan retros the majority of us had ever seen in one place. It was riddled with some of the worst clip art ever, appalling fonts and other strange touches, like this:

…but the stock that passed through the store’s inventory was pretty spectacular. ACG and Terra fans were well served indeed, as was anyone with a thing for visible air. Sure, a ton of the good stuff was always sold out and while the secure server of the store with the Cerritos, CA P.O. Box address felt safe, the import taxes purchases incurred were often brutal. The basic looks and mind-boggling stock beats a million sites padding out mediocrity. To this day, Shoetrends is one of my favourite sites ever. After an early ’00s dalliance with consignment selling, those terrible looks remained until at least 2007. In early 2011 when i went to visit, stock had been liquidated and it sent me to DeadstockShoes.com — the new Shoetrends,com.

In honour of the greatness of this site and because I’m too lazy to write much this evening, I’m retroing www.shoetrends.com circa 1999 and 2000 as a reminder of the greatness it peddled. Note the ’99 Air Jordan IV Black/Reds sitting around. If this gets you hyped, you’re probably a likemind. Waaaay before Nike Sportswear, that SC abbreviation had retros on lock. Look at this and try to tell me colourways weren’t better in 2000. Women still got some amazing variations back then. In fact, I wouldn’t begrudge you if you find yourself sitting there, silently weeping, pretending to buy navy and orange 97 by clicking blankly on the screen.

This had to go up, because I get the feeling that pre 2004 footwear imagery is being slowly eroded (this content has been gone for nearly a decade) and the ’95 and Terra Humara fans might get a kick out of it. Those Uptempos are no joke either.



On the nostalgic wave, salutes to T-Shirt Party for celebrating that market knockoff era of Spliffy, adihash and the mysterious Naff Co 54 (Naf Naf for tramps, basically) brand with their latest releases. So widespread that they were, undisputedly, British streetwear for those without expendable dough, T-Shirt Party are shifting them as a three-pack. Those from the UK and of a certain age will get the reference — it was never good, but it sure is evocative.

BIGGIE VIA THE LAKE DISTRICT AND JULIO IGLESIAS

“Comin up on half a mil, we build/
Get real God, taking you on another one Son/
Uhh, Julio Iglesias/
Makin CREAM like that nigga.”

Raekwon ‘Criminology’

Yep. I’m aware that leading with a quote from a track taken from an album that fires barely concealed missiles at the late, great Frank White is a little odd, but I was hunting for Julio Iglesias references in rap. Funnily enough, Mystikal and South Park Mexican have used him in lines too, but I’m steering clear of the sex offenders. Kind of. Rap loves to grieve. If an MC or producer dies, we spend hours trading lines on Twitter, screaming to the skies, begging them to take Chris Moyles and leave us with our hip-hop hero for just one day.

Today’s been one of those days, being the anniversary of Biggie’s passing. And for once I fully understand. I love his wordplay, his versatility and his hunger for the hardcore. Had Mr. Wallace not been slain, rap would be different now – not necessarily better, not necessarily worse…but different. That’s an aura right there. Today you could get beat down for daring to wash your car when you should be listening to ‘Gimme the Loot.’ A murderer would be acquitted for stabbing you after hearing you hum ‘Hit ‘Em Up.’ My Facebook feed is riddled with the ‘Juicy’ video. Everyone’s copy/pasting lyrics in a bid to reach esoteric heights of fandom. But I don’t care, because, after Kool G Rap, Biggie Smalls was the illest.

But how do you blog about him without repeating yourself? You can’t. Everything he ever recorded is online somewhere. Except his appearance in Channel 4’s ‘Passengers’ in 1995, smoking blunts with Faith and wandering around Bed-Stuy, which somebody, somewhere must have ready to upload, I’ve actually posted the above image on my blog from when I used to blog at SlamXHype a couple of years ago. I actually posted it hours after being interviewed by ‘The Source,’ but when I told my mum, she didn’t give a shit, let alone smile.

But I think it’s remarkable that ‘Represent’ – a short-lived but excellent hip-hop UK-based fanzine – put the Notorious B.I.G. on its cover before anyone else. That’s deep. I read it in July 1994, and it contained (other than an ill-fated set of reviews that deemed Warren G’s LP better than the first Beatnuts LP) a feature on the big man based on a listen to the LP promo, declaring ‘Ready To Die’ as a successor to ‘Illmatic’ (released just a couple of months earlier).

I think the piece was written by DJ E-Legal, but I could be mistaken. ‘Represent House’ was based in Cumbria. We’re not talking London here – we’re talking Lake District territory. Matty C might have made his career-defining move, but it was a Brit-magazine – one that had Finsta Bundy on one of their covers – who made their own lo-fit but notable powermove during Biggie’s rise to fame.

Another key moment where strange gets stranger is the union of Biggie with then Jive upstart Crustified Dibbs aka. RA The Rugged Man. I never knew how this all happened, and an old email circulation of Biggie engaging in some kind of score sheet and claiming he wasn’t into the whole experience has floated around, but I don’t believe it — I’m sure I remember Biggie saluting just how Dibbs took it there in the misogyny stakes too. RA and B.I.G. work well together.

‘Cunt Renaissance’ is still one of the most offensive records I’ve ever heard and while the OG version is produced by Marc “Nigga” Nilez, matching the murky production I’ve heard on bootlegs of ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ (I’m not a massive fan going on the tape-sounding leaks — I prefer the sound of RA from 1997 to the present day), I prefer the mysterious remix from a mixtape from a decade or so ago. I’ve never known the producer, but it elevates these depraved verses to almost epic status with a lavish loop.

The sample in question comes from another duet, albeit one less preoccupied with bodily fluids — the introduction to Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross’s 1984 hit, ‘All of You’ (the mystery producer even let Miss Ross’s voice make a brief appearance when he used the record). I love the duality between the discarded blunt guts sex talk and the cocaine mansion seduction that the tracks evoke. For all the gossip, cinematic depictions, partying and bullshit, there’s still a lot of depths unexplored in Christopher Wallace’s short, memorable career.

UNRELATED MATTERS:


I’m excited about Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ after the disappointment of Criterion not releasing the version of ‘The Thin Red Line’ that goes on for, like, a week with half of Hollywood in it. Yesterday, ‘Little White Lies’ upped an interview with the special effects team who promised that there’ll be dinosaurs in it. Then the interview was pulled down. I hope the dinosaurs remain in the final cut and don’t get the Billy Bob Thornton treatment. There’s an interesting new poster doing the rounds too.

On semi-related Criterion matters, go check Eric Skillman’s blog to witness his work. An occasional Criterion cover artist and designer, book cover designer and comic artist, he’s consistently excellent, and in an age where everyone’s a goddamn art director, this guy is the real deal. I love looking at his work (that ‘Wiseblood’ cover’s still a classic) and the design process section of the site is fascinating.

It’s not Eric’s work to my knowledge, but the cover for Criterion’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’ (set for release in April) is a winner. A film this assured and stylish (the original promotional materials were good in the first place) can’t be an easy brief, but the gun element sets it off perfectly.

T-Shirt Party’s at an end. Nearly a year since I covered it here, and the mysterious Stan Still (who became less mysterious as the months progressed) fulfilled his mission to make 52 tees with accompanying videos. It ends with a black one, after 51 white shirts, plus a DVD of the visuals. I actually bumped into the man behind the project on a Supreme shoot when we were tasked with covering a backdrop with bricks of black box logo stickers. Time flies when you’re blogging gobshite.

I’ve never met anyone as dedicated to a singular subject matter as Scott (Bothan Spynet). He was doing the shoe-a-day thing a long time ago too. A nice bloke and someone with streetwear history, I stumbled across this little interview with him. Can’t remember if they were in that CLOT/ACU book a few years back with the alternate Stash BWs, but those samples of the 2003 Futura artist series Nike Blazer that Futura scrapped just before releasing the curry/Jedi version still kills me since they appeared on Recon a few years back. An amazing makeup that equals the unreleased Stussy Blazers from2001. They should have put out both.

And while I’m not a runner, I just freeload a lot, the Nike team in NYC recently instigated a masterplan that would even get me running. Training sessions with a hardcore mind-body correlator — Mr. John Joseph of the Cro-Mags. That’s serious. If you never picked up ‘The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon’ or ‘Meat is for Pussies,’ you should do. Training with a man preparing himself for this year’s Ironman tournament must be a pretty damned intense experience. He’s intense when he’s static and we’ve all seen him on stage so it’s safe to assume he’s pretty focused on the keep fit regime. Good work, Nike. Very good work.

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

REPRINTING THE T-SHIRT

You could be away from the internet for a long, long time these days and miss nothing. Just the echo of pop cultural references past as the global regression continues unabated. That’s why something different hits a little harder when it saunters onto the screen without blog hyperbole surrounding it. The majority of us could tell a cotton-based life story through print tees – those discarded, those lost – those that required a garment-disposal ‘Sophie’s Choice’ decision to euthanise because of yellowed ‘pits or a stretched off-the-shoulder neck. While on the west coast, the print shirt still seems to shift to kids who elsewhere, are button-downed up that makes sense – that’s the print tee’s spiritual home.

Elsewhere, the blank took over, from 5-packs to deadstock US-made Hanes to painstaking replicas of vintage, glorious crew-necked plainness. Bar the token collaborative offering on a tee, Supreme-heads seem to be bypassing the extensive screen printed offerings, going straight for the Ventile parkas instead – things done changed. Once the tees would’ve been the first to vamoose – the affordable, entry-level into a lifestyle brand, feeling infinitely less tokenistic than a similar shirt as a diffusion line from a brand – with Supreme or Stussy…even Vision, the shirt was the iconic piece from the brand. But over the last year, to quote Coppola in ‘Hearts of Darkness’, with regards to the hype-fueled tee-influx of ’06/’07 “We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.”

Now only makers of street-level shitcoms like HBO’s ‘How to Make it in America’ think that print tees are edgy. But the truth is, when they’re tough to track down, well executed, and steeped in that same mystique that got you stacking paper round dough to own a little piece of cutural capital, there’ll be an exodus back to ink and cotton. Those camo Rejuven8s are a hugely technical throwback to co.jp glories and if that aesthetic quietly slips back into the party, print tees will rise again. Palace dropped a few beauties these last few seasons, but T-Shirt Party is bringing it. Really fucking bringing it.

Serif fonts, well-chosen imagery, reference points that don’t feel played, and all straight out of London. Shirts are white, available as a subscription or purchased individually and the website’s aesthetic matches the garms – each one has an accompanying video. The Lisa Bonet (word to ‘Angel Heart’) design is strong but the ‘They Danced the Dance’ DEFII ‘Dance Energy’ stills collage is a classic. That’s a good use of a Fruit Of The Loom. (The tribute to Brother Malcolm is a great one too – anyone else re-watched the once hard-to-find unseasonal oddity that is ‘The Ghosts of Oxford Street’ on YouTube or 4OD?) With a certain mystique, it all feels like the kind of thing that would have you sending an SAE to an address published in The Face for more information. And getting no reply whatsoever. Those were the days.

www.t-shirt-party.co.uk