Tag Archives: terra humara

THE BRITISH SPORTS SHOP

olympussport

Because I like trainers, and it’s relatively well-documented, it’s assumed that I’ll be keen on anything that’s trainer-related that isn’t actually a pair of shoes. During a boom time, most stuff that isn’t from the actual brands is just cash-in tat, and I’ve had a few emails from people scheming some ill-fated sounding documentaries. Your documentary will run thusly: footage of queues (with a few interviews with excitable individuals ranting about resellers), at least one dude standing in front of a wall with a legal piece on it, dull footage from some kind of convention, some bloke in a sparsely shelved boutique, interviews with the same bunch of “influencer” dudes who are pretty much omnipresent anyway, a footballer who bought a load of shoes at a mark up (plus a couple of fakes) during the last 24 months, a depressingly token female collector, a rapper collared at some kind of store event talking about Jordans with excess background sound, and a quick collage of some guys with rooms full of Nike boxes from the last three years, complete with a Drake instrumental in the background. Feel free to prove me wrong, and if I am, I’ll almost certainly write something excitable about it for you somewhere. My guess is that it’ll be a shitty Just For Kicks knockoff. Why not just single out a solitary subject and run with it? I want to see a film dedicated to the dwindling state of mom and pop stores, about the Adi/Rudi rivalry, or on the golden age of the British sporting chains.

On the latter topic, it’s crazy how the shops that reached every provincial town, where most of us saw our first Air Max, ZX or Air Jordan haven’t just shut their doors or been assimilated into a bigger chain they’ve vanished from the digital landscape too. Their boom times were back in a time when only boffins had the internet, so there’s only slivers of information online.

Brits in their late twenties and above might recall a time before the scattering of trend-led spots with exactly the same sets of upper-tier shoes. Back in the 1990s, there was Olympus Sport, First Sport, Allsports, Champion Sports, Cobra Sports and its spinoff Cobra Frontier, Intersport, Sports Division (which, as I recall, took over Olympus shops in the mid 1990s before JJB bought them). But to Google them, bar LinkedIns pages of sport industry veterans and snippets of business and marketing archives, it’s as if they never existed. Olympus — a store I spent hours in, staring at shoes and asking for leaflets and catalogues — has just vanished, despite its colossal contribution to the trainer obsession that became a monster. Some of them were still standing until the mid 2000s. It’s understandable that they faltered and fell, due to bad business decisions, stiff competition, rapid expansion and takeover bids, plus the internet’s ascent as the shopping method of choice, but it’s unusual that they barely left a note for us to remember them by. Perhaps it’s better that they vanished completely, than become a sickly imitation of themselves like Regent Street’s Lilywhites, which went from selling Italian sportswear and the kind of specialist gym equipment that oligarchs would buy to Donnay shoes and Dunlop luggage in a couple of decades. Going there is like visiting your formerly high-flying friend, only to find out that he’s been sacked, disinherited and is living off Nurishment and the occasional Pork Farm product.

For a while, I found myself assuming that Cobra Frontier was just something I dreamt up. I could at least find a picture of a flagship Olympus Sports (nothing else though). I know my more learned friends will be able to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure Frontier started as an instore section of Cobra that traded in Timberlands, adidas Adventure, Merrell and Nike ACG, before it became a set of shops (that I’m sure, outlasted or took over standard Cobra Sports doors). Then I found this gloriously basic short film online that looks like it’s from early 1998. Looking like a college project and full of music and the occasional slo-mo blur that defines the era, beyond the skate park footage and obligatory graf, there’s a whole section filmed in a Cobra Frontier branch, with a wall full of Air Max and Terra gems, from a time when B-list celebs wandering out the Met Bar in a yayo daze made trail shoes seem like they’d supersede runners. Sarah Atkins, I salute you for making a trainer documentary that’s almost certainly better than any more ambitious production for those few minutes alone.

britishsportshops

humarasfrontier

THE FADER'S EARLY DAYS & SOME OTHER STUFF

STAPLE IN PRINT

It’s good to see that the Reed Space’s ‘Reed Pages’ has reached issue one with a more substantial, perfect-bound offering than the launch edition issue zero all those years ago. I know I’m prone to assuming cancellation when follow-ups aren’t forthcoming, but almost two years is quite a gap. Just bear in mind that Mr. Staple is no stranger to printed matter.

It’s worth taking this moment to take it back to a time when you were still mildly optimistic about Rawkus releases, when Zab Judah was on the rise and Gravis Tarmacs (were they co-designed in any way by a pre-Visvim Hiroki?) were still a contender. ‘The Fader’ does an excellent job now on the music front, but in 2000 and 2001 it was a bible to me in my Bedford residence for matters of style too. I was more than happy to shell out around £6 an issue at the Piccadilly Circus branch of Tower Records in the hunt for this title and ‘Mass Appeal,’ ‘LODOWN’ or the lesser-spotted Transworld spinoff, ‘Stance’.’

These were pre-blog (shouts to the Mo’ Wax bulletin board massive, Spine Magazine, Rift Trooper and Being Hunted though) days, and if I saw an article I liked, it got memorized like rap album thank you’s. Jeff Ng’s contribution to the editorial side of early issues (the jeffstaple design was excellent too) gave us some English-language profiles of brands, product and people that had been confined to Japanese publications like ‘Boon’ and ‘Relax.’

It’s always nice to see the smart Supreme advertising that ‘The Fader’ carried, but Jeff’s 2001 Paul Mittleman and Hiroshi Fujiwara/Nike Japan profiles from issues #4 and #5 were very strong and resonated with me for some reason. The Hiroshi piece places plenty of emphasis on an innovative early ’00s boomtime—the Monotone collection white/green Terra Humara are something I’ve looked out for ever since in a US10 and the Air Max 120 remains underrated. Paul Mittleman’s recurring Arc’teryx coat and the shots of the never-bettered Dunk Lows (reissued next week) that built on his appearance in ‘Stance’ talking about the same shoe.

I spilt coffee on issue #4 of ‘The Fader’ and lost it when my mother culled my magazines left in her loft back in late 2002. Since then, I’ve been looking to read the Hiroshi article again (I’m sure that at one point it used to reside on its own www.fader.com/hiroshi URL). Then the homie Masta Lee at Patta saw my Tweeted plight and hooked me up with scans of the piece—props and praises to him for that act of kindness. Shouts to Jeff and the Fader for creating some essential content that resonated with an info-hungry freak like me.


UK RAP RENAISSANCE

Just because I think some folk need to deal with hip-hop’s progression doesn’t mean I feel some UK legends deserve to exist in a netherworld where their names are only uttered by the older generation during talk of the olden days. I think most of the current wave of UK hip-hop that’s broken through is still a crappy imitation of our American brethren, and while I appreciate that men rapping about demons over very fast Bomb Squad-style production isn’t going to cut it any more (maybe in some other parts of Europe, but not here), I love to see some of the old guard who made some classic LPs and reinterpreted rap on their own terms deserve some shine.

Take Hijack for instance—they had one of the best visual identities of any British band, but remained a cult favourite due to label politics—or MC Duke, or labels like Kold Sweat or Music of Life. There was a vitality to these names in their heyday and a sense that they’d go far to rep our nation at a point when hip-hop truly hit the mainstream circa 1991. Some are content to talk it up and simply recollect, some feel that they’ll give Giggs and Pro Green a run for their money at some point (still labouring under the misapprehension that their time is coming) and others entered a bigger industry and made a buck by taking off the blinkers and branching out. Respect to former HHC editor Andy Cowan for starting Original Dope—a label dedicated to reissuing old British hip-hop albums in remastered, repackaged and expanded form. Ruthless Rap Assassins, Blade and MC Duke fans should be delighted.

I remember the merchandise pages in Blues & Soul, HHC and several LP sleeves, but who was going to entrust their cash or postal order to some mysterious P.O. box address? I got my fingers burnt several times over the years, but I always wanted those mysterious tees and sweats that groups and labels promoted. Then there were the acts that should have had tees, but never did. What’s the solution? Officially licensed UK rap shirts from Style Warrior UK. Back in 2006 I spotted a MySpace for this UK label but missed out on a Hijack shirt…then I was outbid on eBay for it twice. Now it’s back—Overlord X, Son of Noise, Gunshot, M.C. Mell’o’, Music of Life (and there’s an excellent breakdown on their logo on the site), MC Duke, Silver Bullet, Kold Sweat are reliving their youth on cotton in a remarkably well-designed way, and there’s even two Hijack styles to pick from. The blog’s very good with some video links to the old ‘3rd Eye’ video magazine, talk of Stereo MCs and Cash Crew tees on the horizon and a history of the Demon Boyz logo too.

Today’s actually the cut-off for picking up the Hijack ‘Style Wars’ shirt. I assume there’s some rapidly aging fuckers like me who bug out at that kind of thing. It’s up there with the Japanese BBP licensed Showbiz & AG tees from five years ago in the very necessary stakes. Props to all involved.

JIM REDMOND: NIKEHEAD

Thinking about Nike endorsements, one of the most extensive one-man brand examples actually comes in the shape of an athlete’s father—Jim Redmond, the dad of Derek, who memorably accompanied his stricken son to the finishing line of the 400 metres in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. From the “Just Do It” hat to the Huarache t-shirt, socks and 180 running shoes, Jim was Nike down that day. I’m not 100% sure if the shorts were the brand’s own, but in late 2002 I bumped into him at an event and asked if he’d sell me the Huarache t-shirt. He laughed deeply and wandered off. I don’t think he realised that I was being serious.

NOSTALGIA OFFSETTING:

‘CONFESSIONS’

It’s no surprise that ‘Confessions’ (‘Kokuhaku’) has been nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar. It’s a unique, strange, overblown, almost operatic blast of human misery, but it’s also one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen in a long time. The entire film pretty much moves in a stylized slow-motion, but it doesn’t jar or de-humanise the hyper-emotive nature of the film. Best of all, it relies on certain facets of Japanese culture that would confer any attempts at a Western remake to failure status.

THE RIDE #5

I’ll confess—I have no interest in riding a bike at any time in the future. I lack coordination and live in a town where the roads simply don’t want to accommodate car and bicycle at the same time. It’s a democratic mode-of-transport though, and for some reason, that seems to breed great journalism. ‘Rouleur’ is awesome and ‘The Ride’ journal is good too—from the ilovedust covers to the 700 word stories and accounts of bike experiences, brief interviews and fine photography, it’s evidently a painstaking production. I can’t be arsed to take foot to peddle, but cycling is such a broad church—far more than Eras, rolled up Uniqlo chino legs and fixies – that it generates absorbing and eclectic reading matter. It’s available at Albam, Howies and some other spots right now. Anything with a piece on 1960s Eastern Bloc cycling artwork that adorned matchboxes is worth the expenditure, plus all profits go to charity. It actually makes me want to take a ride, and only the knowledge I’ll end up under the wheels of a bus within an hour discourages me…