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CRIMEA

August 27, 2014

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Gosha Rubchinskiy’s whole aesthetic intrigues me. The patchwork creations, occasionally oversized fits and recurring logo in next year’s collection — as previewed a couple of months ago — look incredible and the Russian youth skater theme throughout is a familiar attitude imported from somewhere genuinely gnarly. Rubchinskiy’s photography is excellent too, and the COMME connection has yielded Crimea / Kids as the start of IDEA Books’ (A.K.A. your favourite Instagram account) publishing venture. Ten quid — 80 pages, future classic. This is gritty, and bear in mind that these shots were taken pre-crisis too. Right here, I support any documentation of youth culture beyond the same square miles in supposedly key cities.

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East London’s Wayward Gallery is important, because it’s skater-run, ultra creative and a perfect hub for the elements that make London skateboarding important — the beauty of the scene being that it’s strewn with skate rats, sportswear and a scattering of arty types raised in bad weather. This Kickstarter is to keep the rent paid so they can keep the rent paid after a recent increase and keep putting on good stuff. No signed posters, animation cells or DJ gigs in your back garden as incentives, but there’s a tee for 20 quid. If everyone who wears Supreme and Palace chipped in they’d be doing alright — if everyone who wore a brand that jacked a bit of Supreme and Palace’s aesthetic chipped in too, they’d also be able to build a vast platinum ferris wheel on the roof after the premises were paid off for eternity.

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Just because it should always be online somewhere, this Bally ad from 1983 is the definition of #luxuryexcellence — only the wealthy and dodgy could own these shoes back in the day. The Competition doesn’t get seen enough, despite being name checked by those who wanted or owned a pair decades ago. That Court sole is some Tiger or adidas style traction, but that Runner silhouette is incredible too. Alongside the 1984 Gucci tennis silhouette are these the greatest luxury sports shoes ever? Better still, this ad ran in Runner’s World, so you really had to be caked up when it came to looking for a training shoe. Corner boy and country club style in a set of shoes.

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RAYMOND

August 24, 2014


Looking at the preview from Warp magazine (shouts to Highsnobiety where I borrowed that image from), there’s a cop-related Supreme collaboration with Raymond Pettibon on the horizon. I always wondered when there would be a Black Flag collection, but after the Jello-free Dead Kennedys and the post 1995 Misfits being terrible, the curse of the ageing punk band seems to be continuing with Mike Vallely joining in with the Black Flag karaoke. Did you see the cover art for What The? The only thing from Black Flag that still maintains its aura is Raymond Pettibon, who wisely distanced himself from his brother’s band many, many years ago. Pettibon’s Twitter is fun (I’d buy a book of his Tweets accompanied by loosely related sketches) and his interviews, with their deliberate lies about raising dogs for fighting and getting a swastika tattooed on his back, don’t disappoint. I almost got the opportunity to interview him five years ago, but it fizzled out — I’m sure it would have been gratifyingly awkward, but if I’d known that he was such a Lil B and Gucci Mane (my role model when it comes to a work ethic, rather than non-work related capers) fan, I would have had a more interesting line of questioning drafted. The conversation above has thoughtful pauses so vast that you can go cook up some instant noodles and make a cheese sandwich before Pettibon makes his point, but, having worked with him before, Jonathan Lethem seems to enjoy the process. I’ve been trying to link the two through other means and there’s a tenuous 3rd Bass connection — Lord Scotch A.K.A. KEO A.K.A. Kid Benetton, Pete Nice’s original partner in rhyme (you can see him spit right here in an excerpt from The Writing on the Wall) is Lethem’s brother and Henry Rollins played Vanilla Ice in the Pop Goes the Weasel video. Despite those rock and punk artworks, Pettibon is pretty fucking hip-hop.

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OLD MAN TALK

August 20, 2014


It’s going to take a lot of nostalgia offsetting to make up for this one, but a video of a decent BFI Q&A from James Lavelle’s Meltdown to coincide with their screening of 1988’s Bombin’ is online, with filmmaker Dick Fontaine (who also directed 1984’s Beat This! — a huge influence on a generation who are currently tutting at the culture like their parents tutted at them when they sat down in front of the TV back in the mid 1980s to watch it for the umpteenth time), Lavelle and Goldie in conversation. Obviously the usual Bambaataa/Flash chatter is there but Goldie makes some good points about obtaining objects of clothing that are a Google search away now and the almost otherworldly power they carried, after the quest to hunt them down. It’s worth watching and Bombin’ is always worth watching — having only ever watched it on copies of copies, I never want to see a remastered version. It would take me out my comfort zone, like watching Seinfeld in HD (I revisited Under Siege 2 in HD recently and could see the dust on Eric Bogosian’s PC monitor.) I find the fuzz comforting. These days, we 30-somethings have split into factions — the ones so desperate to remain relevant that they’re feverishly trying to be on any trap slur mix tape thing first, even if it’s no good whatsoever, or the ones stuck in the 1987-1994 loop. I believe that there’s a middle ground. Shouts to archivist, photographer and Goldie’s former manager, Martin Jones for uploading the first hip-hop thing I ever remember seeing on TV — the Supreme Rockers from Birmingham and B-Boys from Wolverhampton (the Midlands seemed like a British Bronx to me back then) on the otherwise terrible Saturday Starship one Saturday morning in late 1984 (so I can thank Bonnie Langford and Tommy Boyd for my love of hip-hop somehow.) If you’re under the age of 30, apologies for the old man talk I’m dropping on you here — I don’t expect you to care.

DOCUMENTARY

August 17, 2014


I was happy to help out on some stuff for Will Robson-Scott’s The Best of adidas tribute to the adidas Equipment range. The end result is an 18-minute documentary (you can see part one here) that features a few folk I respect that you don’t see on video too often — Peter Moore (who, between the adidas performance logo, Air Force, Jumpman and McEnroe logos defined the look of sportswear from the 1980s to the 1990s, even if he’d concede that he’s not much of shoe designer) is a hero of mine for his branding and marketing skills, and seeing behind the scenes at mita in Tokyo is pretty cool too. It all goes out next week to coincide with the reissue of the fan favourite EQT Guidance (the 1993 version, not the 1991 edition.) I’m super impressed with Will’s work. I genuinely hate a lot of modes of marketing footwear these days. I understand that attention spans are precious and that long-form copy isn’t the solutions, but a lot of comms folk would do well to understand why their brand is excellent, rather than some corny crap in the name of engagement or because a budget needs to be blown. You don’t need to be regressive to stay true to your strengths. I like this video because it feels adidas to me — it isn’t the same fucking faces pretending they ever cared about the shoe in question and I think there should be a documentation of the EQT project’s essence, because most bloggers and advertorial magazine dudes aren’t going to tell it. Speaking of pure adidas attitude, this Oi Polloi piece where Nigel breaks down his favourite adidas trainers is excellent — Hans Bitzer’s Viennas are probably the best bit.

ROBIN IN GORE-TEX

August 13, 2014

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Twitter is swarming with links to Robin Williams tributes, and with good reason — the handful of people I know who met him found him to be a class act and it’s a testament to his versatility that while I never found his standup particularly side-splitting, he was one of the ultimate actors when the script was right, as was the case with Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King and Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad. Williams was a man with an inclination toward some of the brands and cultures discussed here — FTC (his local spot), Slam City and Supreme were all apparently regular haunts and the BAPE and Viotech combo has become a message board staple.

Some ill-informed characters would jeer at that gaudy combo a few years back and discuss it as if it was the death knell for those brands, but the fact is, Williams was most likely on it before it hit the radar of a new breed of cynics. Williams was even up on Acronym, picking up pieces from San Fran’s Darkside Initiative store. He was up on Raf Simons shoes back in 2009 too. Now, if a semi celebrity wears some easy-to-find Jordan IIIs, the internet starts quaking — back in the mid 2000s, this was unique. Between that , the video game obsession and Questlove’s tale of an encounter that indicates that he might have been a hip-hop fanatic too. There’s too many layers and degrees of separation to even begin to dissect here, but his loss is a tragedy.

In these situations, I clocked a few of the social media voices of unreason complaining that we mourn celebrities more than we do victims en masse in a war zone — that’s because it’s tough to fully grieve when there’s no face to put to the deceased and, given his admirable work ethic, Williams’ mug was a familiar sight. The sad reality for the complainers is that some poor kid thousands of miles away that strayed onto a landmine wasn’t in Fast & Furious 6 or Jumanji. It’s human nature. Are the going to start picketing our uncles’ funerals next because we’re not getting angry enough about Syria? Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt We’ve been given the emotional depth to be upset about both things.

But anyway, forget all the sentiment — the image above from 1990 (jacked from Getty and the LIFE archives), around the Cadillac Man era in Williams’ career, wearing the GORE-TEX North Face TransAntarctica coat indicates that, long before he got himself an Acronym, he understood the power of great outerwear. Robin Williams was unique on every level and he was doing the brands long before the blogs too.

If you never got a copy of the Nike Genealogy of Innovation book from the project I worked on and your browser is too weedy to look at the website, here’s a video that the good people of Golden Wolf put together that animates 200 Nike shoes from 1972 to 2014 in chronological order. Crazy that the lists I was writing in iPhone Notes during a train journey ended up looking like this — it looks like the inside of my mind.

VAGABONDS

August 10, 2014

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What do you know about tech penny loafers? Borne from a decision to launch a casual line of men’s footwear, the Nike Vagabond is a weird shoe — pure dad wear, this loafer was released in 1982. Part of a collection (shown here) that seemed to be a response to Freizeit styles from the Germans and was, according to lore, a decision made over targeting the aerobics explosion. Cambrelle lining, the Octo-Waffle spin on Bowerman’s traction patterning and, best of all, a full-length Nike-Air unit in the sole, this design and the Bedouin didn’t sell well. In fact, the Vagabond’s existence seems to have been forgotten completely. That’s a shame, because this model is so ugly that it’s actually memorable. I doubt that there will ever be a reissue of this obscurity. After Nike acquired Cole Haan in 1988 they flirted with some similar cushioning concepts — in fact, they put Tensile Air in their shoes — which included slip-ons — from 1990 (dropping the technology in 1992 to shift from rear and forefoot units to a full length version in 1993), half a decade before Tensile Air appeared in Nike products. Tensile Air would be renamed Zoom Air by 1996, making those earlier formal CH designs pretty pioneering. I always assumed that the delay in launching Zoom Air as an athletic technology was down to a focus on visible, bombastic forms of cushioning back in the early 1990s.

SHARP

August 7, 2014

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I didn’t know a great deal about Australia’s sharpie scene other than it involved short on top, long at the back hair and that “Chopper” Read was a member. I picked up Tadhg Taylor’s Top Fellas at the Ditto Press space — a reprint of a book published a decade ago — and it’s a fascinating read. A history of this mod and skin affiliated cult and its boom times and renaissances, it follows the narrative and first-hand tear up tales combination that seems to have served terrace storytelling well for the last few years. Sharp outfits, with their focus on fancy cardigans, aren’t particularly appealing compared to the attire that the history books at least, have attached to other subcultures, but it’s all curious enough to give their world a real character and something that just seems quintessentially Aussie. Even as the thing of theirs faded in the early 1980s, the vast nature of the country made it possible that sharpies could keep existing in small towns, ready to pounce on the unwary and oblivious to their extinction elsewhere — it’s in those strains that the kind of culture mutations that don’t get a book emerge. With their folk devil status in the local press, I wonder if any of the tribal kickings luridly described informed a big export like Mad Max — it definitely made its way into Bert Deling’s cult favourite, Pure Shit, as mentioned in Taylor’s book. Australia has given us a lot of great cinema and that rapid-pace junkie drama (which I’ve seen on YouTube and torrent because the recent triple DVD special edition is hard to find) deserves much more attention — Drugstore Cowboy and Gridlock’d at least feel like they took notes from that obscurity. I urge you to watch Pure Shit if you can and if you’re even vaguely interested in the sharpie movement, pick up Top Fellas soon, because these kinds of things tend to become unavailable pretty swiftly.


The Malcolm McLaren Let It Rock exhibition that ended yesterday as part of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair looked interesting. Paul Gorman worked with McLaren’s estate to curate it and made a good case to GQ regarding how he and Vivienne Westwood helped forge fashion as we perceive it — his influence on street wear is colossal, but that extends to retail spaces too. This magpie approach to design is echoed in today’s referential t-shirts, hats and sweats. Opinions of McLaren’s business practices are mixed to say the least, but his ability to get a notion manifested into something interesting is undeniable. Paul’s piece on a Little Richard tee design is interesting and seems relevant to the Let It Rock stall back in 1972 at Wembley Stadium. W Magazine‘s coverage takes a look at some key pieces in the exhibition with Malcolm’s partner Young Kim. I still need to see the 1993 Vive Le Punk documentary where the clip above is taken from in its entirety.

The World is Yours is a documentary on the internet’s relationship with redefining hip-hop’s marketing and distribution in recent years. The new kind of self-made artist and their distance from the old system has created something that’s worth exploring — this one’s being funded through Kickstarter and contains some familiar faces and case studies that led us into a realm of struggle A&R acting punch drunk enough to give anyone with a million views a million dollar deal. Still, I’m fascinated by this stuff. Shit, I’d watch a three-hour documentary on the whole Charles Hamilton saga given half the chance.


I think I need Tony Rettman’s oral history of a scene, NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 in our lives. That’s a colossal undertaking and one that invites bitching from anyone who wasn’t included — and it’s a scene with its own share of beefs — but in 450 pages it should deliver an onslaught of hard-living, tough-life, old NYC anecdotes. There’s been other publications on a similar topic, but hopefully this one’s going to be definitive — Rettman’s book on the Detroit scene from a few years back was great and Bazillion Points Books never half step. This arrives close to Christmas.

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