Tag Archives: tokyo

EARLY COLLABORATION

stussyi-dmagazinetshirt1

One collaboration I’ve not mentioned here before in all the proto industry model talk is 1990’s Stüssy i-D magazine tees. Created to commemorate the magazine’s tenth birthday alongside pieces from the likes of Simon Foxton, the shirts were sold for 15 quid via mail order. The Stüssy design was pitched to readers as a Shawn Stussy for i-D project rather than a straight-up brand collaboration and offered in white or grey. Given that the brand would take a slightly different, pared-down look, release some tribe-centric videos and host an event in Tokyo (that’s still considered a pivotal moment) the following year, it was inevitable that this project would make a splash far beyond London.

It wasn’t just the pioneering streetwear line that had a significant 1991 making grander Japanese inroads — i-D’s first Japanese incarnation was launched in September that year, lasting 16 issues. As a result, I’ve seen different versions of the shirt, which originally read “Enjoy yourself stupid amounts” on the front in that familiar hand style and included a dense list of predominantly female names on the back that includes the Queen, Sade, Lisa Stansfield, Sarah Stockbridge, Grace Jones and Wendy James. Continue reading EARLY COLLABORATION

A DUTCH DOCUMENTARY ON SPORTS FOOTWEAR

timedson

The majority of documentaries on sports footwear are a bland retread of past glories with the same talking heads telling exactly the same stories. The world doesn’t need some guy in weirdly laced shoes asking people who’ve been queuing for 16 hours, “What is a sneakerhead?”, any more than it needs another Imelda Marcos reference in the opening of an article on collectors and resell. Dull. The much-hyped exhibition in NYC right now looks a little middle-of-the-road too, even if the first part of the book offers a useful primer on the history of athletic shoes Still, there’s a few slept-on productions with some rare footage out there, like Sneakers, a 2004 Dutch production that features Patta brothers and true shoe Jedis Tim and Edson (back when Tim had dreads), some super-dated “cool hunting” (which seemed to fascinate people back then), and some chats with Steve Van Doren, Tinker Hatfield and Nobukazu Kishi from Boon. Like much on the topic from this period, it’s dated, but in a nice way — like over-designed Flash streetwear and shoe websites from the same time frame that don’t work on Wayback Machine. Submarine did a decent job on this 50-minute film, so salutes to whichever kind soul took the time to subtitle this.









SOME WORDS ELSEWHERE

stussycutie

Nothing much to report here right now because I’m fed up of the MacBook screen after transcribing two and a half hours of conversation. But here’s a couple of things I wrote for some friends who sell stuff — a short piece on the Stüssy Tribe for MR PORTER (that 1990 CUTiE spread above stays gold) and a bit on the Converse One Star (one of my favourite shoes ever — there’s something a bit longer written for another outlet on the same subject too) for size? Two subjects dear to my heart that crossed over with each other too (as evidenced in the UK newspaper supplement that showcased a couple of pairs on Shawn’s fireplace back in 1993).

onestars

WORDS ARE VERY UNNECESSARY

newbalance1

I’m guessing that I’m not alone in buying stacks of Japanese language publications. They’re rarely cheap (unless you actually visit Japan, postage or the markup in UK stores can be brutal) and can, unless you stick to your favourite titles and their myriad spinoffs and specials, be a let down once they arrive. But generally, with a mood of all-pervading geekery and a single niche taking up the first chunk of pages, these men’s clothing bibles are a triumph of obsession, covering territory that few western editors would ever dare tread, unless they were looking to bruise their already sensitive circulation. Fortunately, the language of unfiltered nerdery is global and singular. I wait for my Amazon Japan delivery in the knowledge that I’m not going to be able to sit and absorb every word. In fact, I’m probably not going to find a single sentence in there that I can decipher. But I’ll get flawless photography, detail shots, a sense of history—because origin years of a garment will be included— and, as a bonus, there’ll be some excitable captions in English.

If you’re really into the same kind of things as many Japanese consumers—good coats, vintage clobber and things you didn’t know you needed, but are so aesthetically pleasing that they’re necessary—then you’ll always be happy with Lightning, 2nd (Lightning’s younger brother, geared at a younger crowd), Free & Easy, and the tens of other titles that appear each month. ibought magazine takes consumerism to its compelling conclusion with page after page of stuff people bought recently, while GO OUT is the place to see unexpectedly awesome things like big branded GORE-TEX New Eras and costly rucksacks. Sometimes, a cartel of magazine editors unite to create a Whole Earth Catalog style paean to expendable income book stuff called, appropriately, Stuff, with sequels like Stuff Returns. The notion of being able to wander to a 7-11 style store near your house and find a 200 plus page tribute to Americana that examines the minutiae of denim rivets seems otherworldly, yet in many Japanese cities, it’s a norm. Minimal advertising, vast distribution and king-like levels of content means that, to quote Dave Gahan, words are very unnecessary. Every now and again you get stung for 15 quid by buying something completely uninspiring, but you would have blown that on something grass-fed in a bun that didn’t deliver anyway.

The Japanese approach to over analysing and cataloguing sports footwear appeals to me, because it’s a lane of its own that isn’t a youthful preoccupation with six or so silhouettes, nor old man griping over the shape/price/materials/availability, or whatever this month’s moan is. Boon Extra editions from the mid to late 1990s are still my favourite books on the topic, even if the copy could be calling me a bellend for all I know. Japan’s age-old fanaticism for shoes is something that resonates with me. They were up into the high 990s and four digit masterpieces from New Balance before the inevitable slow crawl of hype made the alternative to the bullshit—shoes that are still masterpieces—into another item caught in the bot and queue crossfire. I still feel that some shoes, like the reissue of 1996’s 999 that you only ever seemed to see in Asia, and the MT580, should never have had a release in the western world. We’re not built to appreciate them like we should. We should be observing from afar and making the pilgrimage to bring them back for ourselves and friends with flattened boxes and a not-guilty walk when it comes to NOTHING TO DECLARE.

2nd’s New Balance Book is the third solid NB mook I’ve seen over the years, and while the text is Japanese again, there’s enough imagery of grey suede and nubuck running shoes, factory imagery and history (the 1995 M585 and original M580 from 1992 are useful to see) to make it a worthy pickup. Many will find something new in there and the know-it-all will pick it up anyway because they’re too far gone with this collector thing, and bask in the knowledge that they have the knowledge when it comes to this sprawling, occasionally illogical secret society of numbers on tongues. You’ll probably pay some extra loot to get it, but this is comprehensive enough, despite not trawling some of the rarer releases or delving deep beyond running — like all the other good Japanese publications, it’s best used in tandem with other far eastern records of archive excavation. You could use Google, but it’s so awash with crappy content for content’s sake, and depressingly devoid of all those great little Geocities fan pages, that pricey paper is still your best bet.

newbalance2

newbalance3

newbalance6

newbalance5

newbalance4

newbalance7

RESELLERS

moneyforusedshoes1998

The world of footwear reselling is nothing new. People act like it was invented last week and while the Dunk played a heavy role in resell as we know it, it actually pre-empts the SB. Between 1996 and 1998, local newspapers in the USA were scattered with tales of the goldmine sitting in Americans’ attics, as Japanese kids were willing to spend big on their old shoes. In the mid 1990s, Japan had the shoe boom that never seemed to hit the western world until around half a decade later. The Nike Air Max 95’s role in this was substantial (the Jordan XI played a role too) with the shoe selling out and becoming one of the first shoes beyond the Jordan I or made in France Superstars I ever heard silly resell prices quoted for (though X-Large and Acupuncture were selling all things old school for a fair amount — and the hiked price on obscurities was an age-old phenomenon). In fact, a spate of Japanese AM95 (and, as I recall, AM97) robberies in Osaka even got column inches.

Post AM95 there seemed to be a surge in interest in AJ1s, Terminators, Pythons and mid 1980s basketball, but around 1997/98, the Dunk was the most sought after. That led to the sumo ads (sorry, no Force, Flight, Pegasus, Nike Air, Triax or Zoom — an indicator as to what was hot in Tokyo that year) that did the rounds urging small-town Americans to have a dig and make some money. Above, you can see another example of those ads, via the Grand Rapids-based Small Earth company. I’ve thrown a scattering of the column inches of the time, including a Michigan-based newspaper’s account of the far eastern popularity of their university’s colours on the Dunk.

The documentation of this phenomenon was a little warning (including accounts of unwary owners digging out old Daybreaks, Legends and French-made Concords to make a quick buck, plus Japanese collectors’ ability to spot the difference between 1985 Jordan Is and 1994 ones) about the hype to come, but it’s little surprise that some shelves and lofts were probably dry on the deadstock side of things once America realised it wanted to stock up on colourways too. Stop acting like this is a contemporary phenomenon.

sneakerrobbery1997

nikejapaneseresell1996

march1997story

michigandunkresell

dunksalestory1998

eugenestory1998

1998resellstory

smallearth
(Image of the Small Earth owners from the Cincinatti Enquirer)

SIZING

nanamicachampiontees

Quick update time. I’m in Tokyo right now, so I’m too dazzled by the bright lights to compile anything of note here. A visit to Daikanyama’s T-Site — a spectacular triple building monster of bookstore — has still got me shellshocked, but it’s nice to have my spending curbed by minuscule sizing. These Japanese-made Champion creations (which, admittedly, weren’t as microscopic in medium as many tees out here) at nanamica would have been in my possession if I didn’t get the JR Hartley treatment when I asked for a large. Damn. There’s big Cs and then there’s colossal Cs and this design celebrates the brilliance of that logo design on a great quality shirt. The urge to spend was briefly put in a headlock there, but the beauty of this city is the 100,000 other ways it’ll manage to separate you from your hard-earned cash.

nanamicachampiontees2

GIGER, TOKYO CLOTHES & HIP-HOP

As part of a recent Instagram conversation with those older and wiser than me on such matters, the subject of Tokyo’s legendary Let It Ride line emerged. Too many brands seem to be ignored in favour of lesser ones and just finding an old Japanese-made Let It Ride long-sleeve tee with what looks like bleached branding and a ’50s style back print during a clear out reminded me of the brand’s work. Established in late 1993, by former BEAMS and United Arrows employee Ken Sadomura and designer Kiichiro Kurata, the brand was a key part of the ELT (which I believe stood for Every Little Thing) store in Shibuya that also provided the foundation for a few more brands along the way (according to an entry on Pass the Baton, the store made Birkenstocks fashionable too).

Let it Ride made no secret of its inspiration from punk and Malcolm McLaren’s pre-SEX Let it Rock store, with the teddy boy style that imbued the Neighborhood aesthetic too. As the elder statesmen of the industry pointed out to me, Let it Ride was superseded a little by Unrivaled, as stocked in the mighty Goodhood — a brand with startling levels of attention to detail. It’s not that the brand ever declined, it’s simply that the minds behind it seemed to opt to avoid magazine and blog “celebrity” and just let the product talk. Kiichiro Kurata seems to be putting in some extra work on the Tuscany-made PRESIDENT’S line too (that Oddojob jacket is tremendous) but back in mid 1990s Kurata was an early partner with POST O’ALLS on a sub-brand with ELT called SPANISHCURVES, inspired by the rear view of Hispanic ladies during an NYC trip. This ELT site proves that Let it Ride is still very much an ongoing project.

Salutes to Let it Ride for opening my eyes to (cue up the ‘Aladdin’ soundtrack) a whole new world alongside GOOD ENOUGH. Out of interest (and I know some of you can answer this in a second), what became of Sarcastic post 2006? I’d also love to know more about another early POST O’ALLS collaborator — Shinichi Nakasone, who founded the LL Bean, New England style of Harajuku’s Labrador Retriever store in September 1988 with some vintage pieces, imports and dog-centric takes on rugged Americana way, way, way before the majority. I know it split into two companies with the same branding in the mid 1990s, causing a little confusion, but Nakasone’s contribution to the culture is deeply significant.

Did the YO! MTV Raps documentary leave anyone else as melancholy as it did me? That show changed my life back in the day and the mild sense of anarchy, title animations and even those white album and directorial credits affected me in a way that’s tough to describe. We got a weekly mashup of those daily episodes on a Saturday morning and I’m not mad at the MTV Europe insert of Marxman and Al Agami videos where US videos would have been either. Even the crappier elements are rose-tinted to me. What Ted Demme pushed for changed my life. R.I.P. Ted.



I still maintain that the Demme co-directed documentary ‘A Decade Under the Influence’, released posthumously and screened on IFC is absolutely necessary if you’re a fan of 1970s cinema — there are few better love letters to cinema’s most subversive period. While it might feel a little rushed, there’s several anecdotes delivered by some folks who’ve since passed on that make it a joy to watch in its three-hour form. It used to be on YouTube in its entirety, until music rights and whatever else led to it being alopecia patchy in the chapter stakes, but you can sample the first part below. During the final YO! In 1995, was that a Supreme sweat that Ed Lover wore or was it made by somebody else? (Edit: Sung from Clae, a former PNB founder member, confirmed that it’s not Supreme and it’s actually a 1993 PNB Nation sweat with a WEST FC handstyle) Bearing in mind that the good folk at Milkcrate Athletics upped some footage of Fab politicking with Stash, Futura and Gerb in tradeshow mode (I recall Fab presenting from NFC retailer Triple 5 Soul in 1990, but I’m sure this was from 432F a couple of years later), maybe Ed got tipped off — his clothes were usually on point anyway.



Some are struggling to decry ‘Prometheus’ as garbage, so they’re in denial, giving it ‘7’ and breaking it into two halves of differing quality. I just saw muddled rubbish that felt like a straight-to-DVD pilot to a show that never was. Despite falling asleep during ‘Robin Hood’ and the one with Russell Crowe and wine, the marketing had me fiending for a film that turned out to be as engaging as the appalling “AVP2: Requiem’ with that smartly executed TED talk.

I don’t want to know how those curious HR Giger designs came to exist, especially when the Space Jockey looks as though it’s basketball player height compared to the reclining behemoth in ‘Alien.’ The only piece of Giger mythology I wanted answered is how he and Chris Stein from Blondie became buddies, but apparently it was just a meeting at a gallery after ‘Alien’s release, resulting him creating the cover art to ‘Koo Koo’ and directing the videos for‘Backfired’ and ‘Now I Know You Know’ being full of his work. There’s some good photos of Giger’s house on Chris Stein’s site that don’t disappoint — the baby faces on the garden wall are a nice touch. The ‘Now I Know You Know’ video is better than all of ‘Prometheus.’