Nothing to see here (again) but I feel compelled to draw your attention to TheTapeToday’s YouTube channel for this short documentary on the LA Gear/Nike rivalry. LA Gear will always lose for its Jordan copy MVP series and Reebok Twilight Zone imitation Regulators and, with Robert Greenberg leaving to found Skechers, that habit of creating some shoes ever-so-slightly similar to existing bestsellers remains. Of course, after this Sneaker Wars documentary screened in 1990, LA Gear didn’t topple Nike. Reebok would falter a couple of years later and after filing a lawsuit against Michael Jackson for not supporting their collaboration with a video or album (to which MJ countersued and the matter was settled in 1994), LA Gear’s Flak line — which seemed to be a response to Nike’s Raid and Ndestrukt offerings — would brick, while a controversy about mercury in LA Gear Lights caused extra PR problems. LA Gear will always be a bad look — don’t let any revisionist reissues or PR firms tell you otherwise. There’s a fair bit of describing kids as “Urban Street Warriors” here, down to billing MC Hamlet (who I believe is the same MC Hamlet who appeared on Malcolm McClaren’s 1990-era remixed output) with that job title, plus some insight from Ron Hill from Nike’s marketing department at the time, who was Tinker Hatfield’s nemesis when it came to product (in Tinker’s own words, if Ron liked it, he felt he was doing something wrong). Gotta love those stay in school and anti-drug ads with Bo and David too.
TheTapeToday also upped this 1990 sportswear showcase in a boxing ring which looks like it was from The Clothes Show or DEF II with Public Enemy and NWA on the soundtrack. That bootleg-looking Nike long-sleeve would shift plenty of units in 2014. Footage of Normski demonstrating an array of handshakes that same year brought back extra memories.
I see a release date for Contemporary Menswear: the Insider’s Guide to Contemporary Men’s Fashion. While the name of this book would make me want to hit myself in the eyes if this were in lesser hands, the fact that longtime supporters of this blog (and good blokes) Steven Vogel, Nick Schonberger and Calum Gordon are behind it means it will be decent.
Apologies for the BlackBerry-quality struggle shot of this shirt. Only Andrew Bunney and friends could turn a defunct moquette from the District Line and a few other carriages and buses into a plaid-style pattern and a kind of public transport camouflage. With the Nike project using this design there seemed to be a deliberate nod to the parallels between trainspotters and shoe dudes but this thick overshirt design with its workwear weight (part of a handful of pieces using this pattern as an all-over application) from the second Roundel collection just seems to have a bit of fun with the inadvertent bashiness of it, looking like something Super Cat would wear in 1991 (always a good thing) or some kind of alternative London Underground staff uniform. Back in 1978 when Misha Black was creating this design for the Design Research Unit, he would have been oblivious as to where it would end up. Beyond its intended line, it was on Metrobus seats, the Circle Line and 1983 Jubilee Line stock until it exited the District Line in the mid to late 1990s and had apparently vanished from London at the start of the 2000s.Those were the days when everyday design had a certain soul.
Because I’ve never bothered to take the time to make this blog look slick in any way (down to the long-winder .wordpress.com URL), I find searching it to be a big old mess. So I can’t recall whether I’ve mentioned What We Wore (I suspect I did, in its infancy), but the site has a lot of great personal accounts, ill-fated fashion moments and pictures of tribes that are rarely documented. I just spent some time there looking at every submission and now I’m gonna watch Lethal Weapon 2, so that’s why you’re not getting another 800 word, hastily researched history lesson on some brand that nine people care about tonight.
Using early 1990s magazine shoots and articles might make for fun reference points, but when the shoots were heavily stylised and using big city cool kid circles and borrowed clothes, they’re not indicative of the reality of the time, let alone the boroughs with lower rents or the provincial towns and villages full of kids trying hard but failing beautifully with lookalike brands and a slightly skewed perception of what was happening in London or Manchester (speaking of Manchester, I’m glad I live in a world where there’s 22-minute documentaries on Bugged Out that make me miss Jockey Slut even more). Those outlying areas are where the magic really happened, creating groups of like-minded folks using what resources they had to try to keep up and creating their own little histories and cultures at the same time.
And with a What We Wore book coming this year, we can anticipate a good accompaniment to the recent Derek Ridgers book, Sam Knee’s A Scene In Between and issues of LAW (who do an equally good job of celebrating everyday greatness, because we don’t see the woods for the fucking pop-up shops). Support What We Wore’s crusade, and — for a similar exploration from the other side of the pond — if you never picked up Anthony Pappalardo and Max G. Morton’s Live…Suburbia book from a couple of years back, you should get yourself a copy as soon as is possible.
While we’re moaning about pop-ups, has anybody got any more pictures of the Champion and Wu-Tang space? Or are they talking about that Tried & True event in Los Angeles last month? I never thought the day would come when old Wu-Wear tees would be reissued.
Most skate-centric attire from the late 1980s is best left as a neon memory. By the time brands were creating apparel specifically for it, they seemed to be too late. But with a current obsession with sweatpants (or tracksuit bottoms as we Brits more commonly call them, though blog-induced Americanisms are killing traditional terms) and plastic goth imagery and long-sleeve tee repeat prints, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a renaissance of the Powell Peralta sweatpant collection from 1987-1989. Going beyond the Rat Bones wheel imagery and building on the skeleton characters that defined the company’s graphics since Ray “Bones” Rodriguez’s board (which really seemed to have a profound impact on W(Taps too) and took it back to the Dogtown era’s intimidating imagery, these creations seemed to coincide with some metal related merchandise in a similar vein. Powell must have made a killing from chucking a print on Discus Athletics blanks — I was obsessed with these things for several years and repelled by their £39 price tag when they were on sale in my hometown’s scattering of skate stores (some being a little more opportunist than others).
Thanks to the Thrasher archives, we can see Jim Thiebaud and Mike Vallely wearing their pairs with pride. After the Animal Chin, Skeleton Handplants, and Cab Bats, and Rat Bones (the object of my affection) editions, the leg bone variation would appear in catalogues nearer the decade’s end. By the time I had sufficient birthday funds open for a pair, Christian Slater (and Mike McGill as his skate double) wore the Bag O’ Bones ones in Gleaming the Cube while scouting for pools by bribing a plane pilot, they were played out. I suspect older skaters at the time knew they were pretty terrible all along.
Am I the only person impressed by the fact that the Pump Fury was created by the man who designed the M1500, M574, M996 and M997 for New Balance?
Salutes to Mr. Steve Bryden (who was integral in giving me my career break) for putting his book out. Caps: One Size Fits All is all about the cap’s place in popular culture and there’s some great archive imagery in the mix too. I have a short contribution in there, but the best stuff is the conversations with folks like Mister Mort and Brian Procell plus brief histories of hats like the Coca-Cola Long-Bill. Have there been any books specifically dedicated to baseball caps and similar headwear before? Any 192-page book that includes a picture of Arthur Scargill rocking a United Mine Workers of America hat as well as a concept sketch of the Nike Tailwind running cap is worth your time. I look like I’m robbing to fund a habit when I throw one on, but I have a deep respect for the cap and its cultural roots. Amazon says it drops at the end of next month, but it also has it in stock. Amazon is clearly confused. Anyway, go support a man who knows what the fuck he’s talking about.
Seeing as we’re discussing armprints on tees, I like the après-ski look of St. Moritz Supersoft‘s output because it reminds me of Campri or EPMD breaking out the Hobie Alpine garms. It also taps into the current reoccupation with absurd levels of logos better than many.
I remember being super-impressed in 1998 when Polo Sport seemed so powerful that it could spawn a sub-label like RLX. Then Polo Sport vanished, bar a blue bottle of fragrance (developed by the same nose that would launch Power by 50 Cent 15 years later). I’ve never known the reasoning behind that switch — if ever a brand was of its time, the metallic fabrics and big branding on Polo Sport was it, embodying the late 1990s. But post millennium RLX would take over like a young upstart at the office elbowing out its predecessor in 2005 in favour of skiwear and golf gear with the three-quarter sleeves. Still, it’s better than U.S. Polo Association gear (I only just found out that there was once a U.S. Polo Association bear on their cheap luggage) Having said that, I’ve never noticed anyone wearing RLX (beyond Diddy), but I’m guessing that it must make some money and the last half a decade of Polo Sport seemed pretty unmemorable and maybe the SoHo store opening in 1999 that promised to be a more accessible experience killed it. Now, in a world where 1996/97 Hilfiger and Polo Sport colour blocking, arm lettering and mesh pockets and panels is being homaged heavily, it’s ripe for a resurrection, but it’s probably for the best that it stays on the other side and is left to the vintage and thrift store gods for rediscovery. The old ads with the Bruce Weber photography stay classic and while that Polo Sport tie is not top of my wishlist, the J Peterman style copywriting is no joke.
I’ll keep it short: a couple of things have inspired me today. First up, it’s that kid above, lifted from this slideshow from Idea Books of Watanabe Katsumi’s book Discology, which seems to be nothing but images of new-wave Japanese club kids acting up for the camera. Which makes it incredible. I’d seen Katsumi’s other Kabukicho tribe shots in Gangs of Kabukicho and some other underground imagery in Shinjuku: the Story of a Band of Thieves (other people’s copies, never mine), but this was a new one to me and that kid sitting cross-legged with the v-neck overall with this bootleg, “BE HUMBLE YOU COOL FUCKER” Snoopy patch sewn onto it. Does sewing a badge onto something negate effortless cool? That’s kind of an effort — he looks cool regardless.
The second thing is this 1993 MTV News piece on hip-hop fashion uploaded from the considerable Crates of JR with a trip to Union and an appearance from Alyasha Owerka-Moore talking about Phat Farm (which, with the likes of Alyasha, Eli Gessner and Paul Mittlelman on deck to set it off, was pretty desirable around the time this segment was broadcasted. Nothing says 1993 like giant light blue jeans (laugh all you like but Supreme are taking it back for their 20th anniversary), lots of flava talk and Young Black Teenagers.
Too busy to blog, so here’s some pictures of Raekwon instead. I know that’s meant for Tumblr, but I’m too old to be upping 1990s rap imagery on there. Why Rae? Because I see more and more adoption of the 1993-1999 hip-hop aesthetic across lookbooks and products means anachronisms galore plus I think this guy always edged Puba in the style stakes. Even when he’s in that Michael Douglas Basic Instinct knitwear on the beach in linen trousers for Vibe to promote that patchy second album Lex Diamond is still styling it. Motorola phones, Polo, Sertigs and shorts, fly medallions. The rest of the Wu were style masters too, but this guy always stood out. Shit, I’m hyped at the prospect of Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies (no amount of tees worn by I.T. bods and dudes called Dan at design studios who get fully Movembered can kill my love of the film), Crispin Glover and Snake Plissken action figures made in a faux early 1980s Kenner style, but the appearance on Tumblr of this shot from a 1995 Rap Pages shoot (the coolest of all Rae shoots — to quote the man, “…soon to get an article in Rap Page“) that I’ve been hunting for a while has brought back some powerful memories of keeping a mental note of everything this guy wore and then trying to find something similar and wearing it badly. He wore the box before most other rappers too when he posed with his bodyguard for Kenneth Cappello in 2005 and since he rocked up at RapFix in head to toe Fila ahead of the release of this year’s Fly International Luxurious Art album (which promises to be a celebration of the gear he’s worn throughout the years), this guy still seems on it, even if the more eccentric outfits of his younger days seem to have been jettisoned for the F, the C and the man on a horse.