This SHOWstudio conversation with i-D founder Terry Jones is 52 minutes well spent. It’s good to hear Jones discuss his approach to art direction back in his early days at Vogue and any print head out there will get something out of it. This man’s publication taught me a ton when I stood and used WH Smiths as a reading room after school and his regulation pair of Chucks was a colossal inspiration on the shoes I choose to wear at least every other day as my age advances. Not a lot of time to talk about much else on here today, but time with Jones is better spent than anything I can muster. On the topic of magazines, this Daily Beast piece on The Source and its inexplicable survival while XXL was almost booted into digital form is a necessary read.
Earlier this evening I wrote something for this blog then found out it was on another site with a better writeup. After that Armin Tamzarian Billy and the Cloneasaurus moment I had to resort to something else quickly. However, don’t mistake that for integrity, because my plan-b was to up some more magazine scans and upping somebody else’s work in such a wholesale fashion is pretty much the opposite of integrity. Once this self-inflicted (what can I say? I’m a yes man, which ends up turning me into a no man when it comes to favours for a few months) freelance workload is over maybe I can start living in the now rather than the glut of nostalgia I’ve been unloading on these pages lately. There’s too many shoe-related (a lazy day job overspill) pieces on here and too much magazine scanning in lieu of writing anything over 500 words. Normal service will resume at some point in early summer.
One of The Source‘s greatest moments in shoe coverage was the August 1994 issue with The Fat Fifteen selection that has the Jordan 10, Fila Spoiler Mid, the underrated adidas Intruder (as worn by John Starks), Womens’ Allegra, Air Flare and the Jordan III reissue. I can remember seeing this and immediately scrawling down the names of over a quarter of the showcased shoes and scheming how I could raise the funds for them. Then there’s the Just Kickin It piece where rappers talk about their favourite shoes. Andre 3000 likes an adidas Forum and Big Boi shouts out the EQT range, while Phife and Da Brat co-sign the Nike Air Darwin. Shyhiem and Kurious show an affinity for the Barkley CB2. A few months ahead of the staff walkout, The Source still ruled my life as a reference point and stuff like this gave me all the information I needed to head to a sports shop armed with questions.
When this blog was marginally more interesting, I pondered as to who draw the US poster for The Beastmaster that King Kase2 and the crew acted a fool over at the train station in Style Wars. Recently I discovered that it was C. Winston Taylor (aka. C.W. Taylor) was responsible for it. That’s one mystery solved, but I want to know who was responsible for the Champion Cheeba parody tee that was sold in Union circa 1993. Was it a SSUR creation?
I’m back in the UK and it doesn’t look like I missed much during my absence (I’m basing that assumption on the contents of my email inbox). New York was excellent and while there were several highlights, the carrot cake at Carbone and visiting Quad Recording Studios (and yes, references were made to testicular bullet holes in the lobby) with Mr. Nick Schonberger to see Large Professor playing Stalley some new beats from an iPod were two of the best moments. Many of the producers I’ve obsessed over in my lifetime have hit a decade-long dull streak but Extra P is still a beast. To be in the presence of genius or a really big fucking slice of dessert is always a privilege. Nothing makes me amplify my awkward Brit steez more than meeting my rap heroes as a fumbled iPod cable passover testified.
One of the few other rap dudes who would have me carrying on like that is Kool G Rap, with whom the Professor worked on classics like Streets of New York — looking at old issues of The Source, I find myself mourning the decline of the record label art department who put the incredible teasers that were scattered throughout that magazine. The release of Kool G’s 4,5,6 in 1995 was preceded by Epic paying for small ads with co-signs from Method Man, LL Cool J and — best of all — this quote from Biggie that sums up the ultra violent state-of-mind that the great man was capable of conjuring. Nowadays this would probably lead to a boycott of something somewhere and a mass of Twitter reactions. Back then, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at this or the album when it eventually dropped.
According to my friends at Proper, Champion is on its way back in the United Kingdom, but looking at their £65 sweats with the SuperDry style prints and how they’ve even flubbed the U.S. college gear, I’m not sure what to make of it all. It’s definitely a collection that had me pulling the Michel Roux Jr. faces. Recently I was discussing whether there’s actually a “real” Champion out there or whether it’s just a mass of regional licenses. How can it be that Nick and Stalley’s Blue Collar Gang BCG creation that’s printed on a middleweight Champion blank with the C on the sleeve ether an entire brand’s local output? Somebody somewhere really doesn’t understand the power of simplicity their company holds. I feel that the bin-shoe I spotted on Friday in Greenwich Village sums up my feelings on this situation, but I retain a single spec of optimism that somebody might get it right at some point in the next twelve months.
Swallow Magazine takes its time with the rollout, having hit issue three in just under four years, but it’s one of the best food publications in terms of capturing the visceral pleasure of stuffing your face. Concept heavy with each issue, after the Trans-Siberian edition, the hardcover is gone in favor of different binding, more content and a scratch and sniff Mexico City theme throughout. The whole food obsession seems to have boomed since it last dropped, so publicity for the new Swallow Magazine installment has been more substantial than before. Protein ran a little show in their gallery to celebrate the release and this interview with the magazine’s founder and editor James Casey is pretty good. He raises some interesting points on print as an object of beauty and a method of administering experiences a digital medium can’t deliver quite yet.
With the passing of both Chi Cheng and Jeff Hanneman this year, it’s a good time to reacquaint with some metal classics as a tribute to their work. Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman’s Louder Than Hell: The Definitive History of Metal is a reason I’m looking forward to my next birthday. This and the French Montana album are a good reason for me to not spend the day traveling to a Swiss clinic. Oral histories are addictive and metal is a breeding ground for anecdotes on anecdotes on anecdotes.
Farewell Tim Dog. I wrote excitedly about your Dateline appearance last summer and now you’ve gone. I know Tim never had too many lyrical smarts (the majority of the very poor Do Or Die album exposes them), but for we Brits, his 1991 debut and those Ultramagnetics affiliations made him a significant source of fascination. No disrespect to Dilla’s output and his legions of post-passing Stans, but the DJ Quik Beatdown Skit and the ram raided intro of Penicillin on Wax may have had more impact on my life than his entire output. Like some prime Rap-A-Lot of the era the album had it all — some smart sequencing, an appetite for beef, good production and the sexually explicit Secret Fantasies (that blew my pubescent mind and made me see Cindy from En Vogue in a different light) all made it a classic. Reinforcing my faraway vision of the Bronx as that grim locale that even Paul Newman couldn’t save, the album’s goon-laden sleeve shots and the artist’s jewellery-draped, sunglassed, flat-topped, stone-faced portrait in black and white is a classic.
Tim’s decision to call out NWA and even heist their NIGGAZ4LIFE opening was inspired marketing — before we had hashtags he had a campaign of burning Compton hats and tees with Fuck Compton that flipped the classic old English font (worn by his boys in Huaraches while he stood in a Giants Starter jacket). Calling out the west coast, Kwame, Vanilla Ice, Kid-N-Play and anyone with a pop inclination, Tim’s first album sounds like it’s about 150 years old in 2013, where the subliminal is excitedly dissected by sycophantic rap journalists and the crossover is no longer taboo. The Dog gets extra love for causing Compton’s Tweedy Bird Loc (they don’t make them like that any more) to let of lyrical shots in both his and NWA’s direction — a hip-hop bar brawl. After ducking out of a celebrity boxing bout prior to his disappointing follow-up, Tim’s Fuck Wit Dre Day response, Bitch With a Perm took two years to materialise and was barely listenable, followed by Make Way For the Indian a deeply forgettable duet with Bhangramuffin sensation Apache Indian. And that was pretty much that.
The last Tim Dog track I paid attention to was the strange and amazing 29 second A Visit to the Zoo skit from his Big Time album with Kool Keith…then nothing. Until he appeared on MySpace trying to sell a 5-CD Greatest Hits compilation, despite possessing an EP-length quantity of hits (and that would be pushing it), before getting his Madoff on with gullible, lonely ladies. He also promoted his book, Who Killed Hip-Hop on his site (“Pre-order the book now and get 3 TIM DOG Mixtapes for free”). I had no idea that he recorded two more albums either. In some ways, Tim deads that myth that lyrics were the only way to get ahead back in the day — he just seemed to get fame through knowing some talented artists and having a propensity for greasy talk (criticisms which could be leveled at several contemporary acts), but there was something about him that captured the era where every artist had to have a “thing.” Tim’s “thing” was uncut ignorance and that’s what made us love his work. Salutes to Ruffhouse and Columbia’s art department for coming correct with Pencillin on Wax — the early 1992 ad above has some of my favourite copy (The Source was full of ads with phenomenal, bombastic wordplay between 1991 and 1993) — in fact, it’s campaigns like this that made me want to be a copywriter. Rest in peace.
Once again (this entry really is a rehash of last July’s writeups), can Fila take a look at their 1986 tennis output and being back their premium status after over a decade of being dragged through the bargain boxes by bad licensing decisions? These designs are still phenomenal. Most brands trying to come back were barely there in the first place, but you wore. Actually, seeing as Fila would almost certainly be dragged into the lure of collaboration blog inches by some marketing dude who just heard of this really cool thing called “sneakerheads”, maybe it’s best if they didn’t.
The T-Shirt Party project with photographer Tom Beard includes a shirt with some Notting Hill Carnival goers wearing the Air Max 90 properly. Even the forbidden mix of stripes and swoosh looks better than any carefully structured streetwear “fit.” All the minds behind the project have a strong idea of London style — the kind that doesn’t seem to get much blog shine in favour of some synthesised perceptions of what kids actually wear.
First things first, I recently got sent my own site as part of a press pack on the assumption that something I’d written was some kind of advertorial for a brand. Fuck that. What’s the point of that stuff? This isn’t “placement.” I don’t play that PR mouthpiece fuckery on this site. If it’s here, it’s because I’m a fan rather than an request to cover something, so please, please stop sending me releases for product placement here on your music, terrible “street art” prints or brand that makes wacky tees to match your hype shoe colourway and make you look like a sex offender. The internet is awash with insincerity. I’d sooner be somebody who (cue Just Blaze beat) really means it. Shouts to Tyler at WorkinNights for getting in touch though — the Jes Aurilius ‘All Skrewed Up’ mix is soundtracking this blog entry’s creation.
Alas, the time has come to get all heritage again, because I don’t think there’s a better pair of boots in my wardrobe than the Danner Mountain Lights. I’ll be damned if I ever wear them to go off road in, and with their flashy Vibram Cristy soles that are devoid of lugs and intended for military, service or work, I’d almost certainly slip and fall to my doom in them. I did a warehouse stock take in them a few years back under the misapprehension that they were steel-toed though, but thankfully I’m not walking with a limp right now. Looking at these boots, in a world of synthesised histories, I think the Mountain Light deserves a little more historical context as a design classic and a breakthrough piece of hiking functionality. That’s a good enough excuse to cobble together an attempt at a narrative here. Gotta love those ‘Backpacker’ archives.
I love GORE-TEX lined gear and if you’ve spotted the gratuitous uploading of early 1990’s winter boot round ups from ‘The Source’ that you can see in this post and this post, it always seems that Danner slipped beneath the radar at street level, despite being a particularly legitimate item. Vasque Hikers and Merrell Wilderness got some shine, and there was a lot of Havana Joe. And with Danner being a Portland-based brand, I even found myself scrutinising Sir Mixalot LP sleeves to spot a pair, given his Seattle proximity to the brand’s headquarters and factory, to no avail. To sate my own personal curiosity I’d also like to know who set off the red lace craze on hiking boots — Pivetta, Lowa, Limmer and Browning all seemed to have them as a focal point all those years ago, but I’ve seen it on ski boots from the 1940’s and 1950’s too, so who started it?
The Danner Mountain Light commenced life as the Danner 6490 (the hardier older brethren of the 7509 Climbing Boot) model back in the early 1970’s. While it didn’t carry the Light name then, it was a shoe famed for its lightweight feel. If you’ve held a pair, you’ll note that they feel pretty weighty, but the 6490’s 3 pound and 14 oz on the scales was low in 1973, when a fair amount of hiking boots clocked in at 5 pounds. The 6490’s supple leather on the one—piece upper and minimal seams to rub on inside made it a boot without a break-in period, the Vibram sole maintained traction, a padded tongue ensured extra comfort while that ski-boot style wrapped tongue cover and bellow detailing made them waterproof too. Leather lined and built to last, Danner’s 6490, advertised in the mid 1970’s as the 6490 Mountain Trail Boot and boasting a glowing ‘Backpacker’ magazine review became a bestseller that, “Needs little or no breaking in.”
I hold maharishi in high esteem. It was the brand that advertised in mid ’90’s issues of ‘HHC’ and the pre-‘TRACE,’ ‘TRUE’ magazine with the hemp and zen connection. I remember it being prominent in the issue of ‘HHC’ that ran my poorly-written defence of KRS-One in the Biteback section from “GAZ One, Bedford” — my first moment in print since the ‘Bedfordshire Times’ claimed I’d called ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II’ “Turtletastic!” on exiting a free screening. But whereas so many other brands fell by the wayside, it evolved. It even managed to outlive the era of Sarah Cox and members of All Saints stumbling glassy-eyed out of the Met Bar in Snopants. The other All Saints would create rival militaristic trouser designs and H&M earned themselves a lawsuit over their “homages” but Hardy Blechman’s vision of a war-free re-appropriation of military functionality was one of the few great British streetwear brands.
Even their MHI spinoff, a more defined ground level takedown in comparison to maharishi, offered tees with camo stitching on the neck that was impossible to stretch (trust me, my head can stretch any garment’s collar) and breathable mesh armpits. We got the Henry Chalfant tees in train boxes, the DPM book and the Terminators, visited the Gonz and MODE2 exhibitions in the impressive DMHI store, then high rents and market shifts seemed to shake things up to the point where I pretty much stopped paying attention to maharishi or its spinoffs. Hardy Blechman remains a hero to me though for transcending what could have been an idealistic couple of seasons of itchy fabrics and sloganeering, and turning it into a lifestyle brand with a serious amount of substance, aided in no small part by that authoritative tome.
The Spring/Summer 2011 maharishi offerings, shown in 2010 on a circular catwalk hinted that the brand was getting interesting again, but the offerings for late 2012 that have been getting some tradeshow shine look great. Just as camo heads in cuntery towards levels of overkill akin to the wartime pattern overdose of 2006 (camo and tailoring will be in Primark by the end of the summer — witness the brown elastic chino brigade embrace the disruptive patterns very, very soon), maharishi is doing what the brand does best and seems to have Mr. Blechman back on board at a design level to riff on an encyclopedic knowledge of military function, textures and fabrics, rather than just diving into the camouflage patterns. The ultra-detailed cut-out overlays on tees offer some deep levels of detail, but the netting-theme based on the fabric blend of Personal Load Carrying Equipment tactical webbing is appropriately British in inspiration, but goes far beyond chucking a tweaked pattern on a slim-fitting jacket. It’s delivering what maharishi does best, and even the selection of athletic fleece basics looks pretty strong too.
John Wayne’s tiger pattern fatigues from here
But regardless of how much army fatigue I find myself suffering from, camo will always be cool to me. Tiger stripes will always maintain those deadly special ops connotations to me, steeped in a Green Beret mystique. No amount of misuse can take that away. I like the way John Wayne’s outfit in the much-maligned ‘The Green Berets’ is frequently referenced in Sgt. Richard D. Johnson’s ‘Tiger Patterns’ as “John Wayne Dense” and “John Wayne Sparse” — I always enjoyed that film as a kid, offering some irresponsible levels of violence on a Saturday afternoon, with an awesome theme tune to boot. Right-wing propaganda isn’t right, but it does make for some of the most fun action films Hollywood ever put out. In fact, ‘The Green Berets’ has an example of Skyhook in it too, which makes it doubly interesting (I wish there was footage of the original military tests on that system, using a pig that apparently attacked the crew after being “rescued”) One set of the Duke’s tiger stripes went on sale late last year and sold for just over $13,000. Owning those and learning the techniques displayed in this photo set from a 1985 issue of ‘Black Belt’ would make anybody at least 30% more excellent.
But forget the tiger stripes for a minute. Mr. Charlie Morgan gave me a heads-up on the existence of a replica of Snake Plissken’s strange asymmetric camouflage patterned trousers from ‘Escape From New York.’ Those trousers, with their strange front cargo pockets and low belt loops have been the talk of forums for a while, with users oblivious to the fact that, unless you look like Kurt Russell circa 1981, dressing like Snake will just make you look deeply camp rather than a growling badass. Is this the camo that soldiers battling in a dystopian future would need? When they’re not onscreen, in the cold light of day, the EFNY camo is a bit Cyberdog circa 1997 rather than the apocalyptic 1997 Carpenter depicted. Still, Macleod’s MODEL ‘1997 pant is an amazing labour of love that’s made using the Blu-ray edition of the film as a reference point for maximum authenticity. Mr. Morgan also put me onto Macleod’s ‘Mr. Bickle’ toy replica of Travis Bickle’s homemade gun sleeve — the perfect accompaniment to the Real McCoy’s Bickle-wear. To save you having to get in touch with Easy Andy, you can even buy a toy Colt 25 or 380 Walther to put in it to perfect your Travis in the mirror or avenging angel in army jacket routine. They even sell retro-style targets too — everything a crazed loner needs in their life.
And for no good reason, here’s another winter boot spread from ‘The Source’ — this one’s from the November 1994 issue aka. the staff walk-out edition that left the magazine a shadow of its former self from that issue onwards. I wonder if the Lugz and Skechers in there were ‘Zino’s fault too? Still, can’t fault those Vasques.
I think this blog is becoming a receptacle for magazine scans of anything from the 1980’s or 1990’s and getting a little too bogged down in nostalgia. I could reblog the same pictures of the Kate Moss for Supreme posters that are around town at the moment, but every single blog on the planet seems to be chucking up the same shots. I’ll leave it to them, but I definitely need a copy for my wall. I’ve been trawling the archives for some information on one specific boot and the quest led me to old issues of ‘The Source.’ I can’t stress the importance of that magazine back when the closest place to get it was the WH Smiths in Luton’s Arndale Centre and people got angry because TLC were on the cover. Lord knows what they’d make of Nicki Minaj at the weekend, but I assume they’re probably dead of old age by now, which spares them the rage. I liked the specially shot covers back in the day (seemingly one of the final casualties of their shakeups over the last few years) and I haven’t picked up a copy for close to a decade, but I’m glad that ‘The Source’ is still going.
It was the militancy of older issues and the real reporting (I think Ronin Ro’s piece on Luther Campbell touring Japan, as reproduced in ‘Gangsta’ is one of the magazine’s most insightful moments) plus glimpses of products I’d never seen before that had me hooked. The November 1993 issue was an old school retrospective that taught my gun rap loving self a great deal (it included the Henry Chalfont shot above) and despite the frequently anaemic graffiti content, the four-page feature on legends like Dondi and Futura by Ricky Powell was a great moment in a period generally considered to be the magazine’s downturn and an early 1993 article on the new wave of streetwear brands that hit their radar the previous year was a moment when skate and hip-hop (primarily through Pervert) style really seemed to strike, championed by west coast MCs from the Good Life Cafe scene. I don’t listen to the music so much these days, but everything seemed to gel and broaden my horizons. I never found the boot I was hunting, but November 1993’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’ with the questionable inclusion of Hi-Tec, but including the glorious Iditarod Sport Hiker, Merrell Wilderness ($260!) and the ACG Rhyolite never fails to make me yearn for a golden era of invincible footwear.
The White/Cement Jordan IV eluded me in 1989 in favour of the other key colours — as did the reissue a decade later. The 2012 version feels like closure on that matter (I won’t cry myself to sleep over the lack of NIKE AIR). 2006’s IVs were of quality comparable to the plastic Michael Jackson cash-in slip-ons that some unfortunate kids still broke out at my school back when the IV debuted. The new version is marginally better in quality and after two days of wear, creasing isn’t critical, but the curried goat stain I attained today nearly led to a Buggin’ Out type scenario, even though I was the sole culprit. Probably best to go half a size down, and they still rub on my little toe. But what are you going to do? Grown men shouldn’t be getting so agitated about things they didn’t get the first time around. Plus they’re still the best looking Jordan ever.