To commemorate 140 years of the Levi’s 501 jean, there was a visit to London from archivist Lynn Downey. But nobody invited me to see her talk about the history of the 501, so I’m not going to write about the video and other assorted PR stuff here. That doesn’t stop me loving the 501 though. Back before forums came up with wild theories on how to maintain denim to get the fabled fades, LIFE ran a feature on denim’s style status as of November 1972, accompanied by some amusing images — retired cattle rancher Ben Cambron’s custom Levi’s denim car seats are the ultimate in mobile denim bleed proto swag and there’s plenty of talk of a Gallic love for denim and the de Nîmes connection – images of Johnny Hallyday in double denim, cool kids in Paris and a flea market stand shifting jeans. Paris’ first real Levi’s fashion show was apparently at the Crazy Horse Saloon and there’s pictures here to prove it. Peter Haas, Levi Strauss — HNIC for several years and an employee of the company from 1945-2005 — makes an appearance in front of a San Francisco factory workforce too. The piece also talks about a Russian denim line called Super Rifle, which sounds like the kind of brand that’s still lurking in the denim hall at a Euro trade show. Happy 140th to a shape shifting design classic and kudos to LVC and Levi’s for creating lookbooks and video content that’s actually worth a few minutes of your time.
The Hermès’ Festival des Métiers is also worth the energy you need to commute against a swathe of old money haired people in colourful corduroys as you brave Sloane Square to visit the Saatchi Gallery. I couldn’t give too much of a shit about factory tour videos (in fact, sometimes, that plexiglass aura of transparency makes me like a brand less), but I’m interested in the Hermès’ brand’s legacy of craftsmanship and it’s one of the few brands that emerged unsullied from Dana Thomas’ Deluxe. To watch someone set precious stones, make a neck tie, create a leather bag or put a watch together from close range is absorbing and goes some length to justifying at least some of the costs. I took (along with everyone else who was in the vicinity) the opportunity to take some obtrusive iPhone pictures to prove I visited. It’s curious to know very little about a brand’s workings and then see it in this context, so I recommend visiting before it leaves London early next week. The Hermès’ showcase’s gallery proximity to an exhibition that showcases Boris Mikhailoiv’s explicit depictions of Ukranian poverty was probably a coincidence, but it created a disorienting microcosm of a colossal gulf between rich and poor.
Finally, a cover for the Slam Kicks book has appeared. With Scoop Jackson on board, I’m hoping for something akin to Sole Provider, but there’s few details out there (the book isn’t published until early 2014) right now. I guarantee that none of the 2013 Jordans will age like a pair of 1985 AJ1s.
The Jordan II is the last bastion of mystery (other than the IE on the XI Lows which I believe stands for International Edition because we wouldn’t be able to take the patent toe looks of the original — but that could be bullshit) within the Air Jordan line. When a key selling point is your European place of manufacture, it’s clear that (bar that fairly recent dark leather Italian made variation that I can’t recall ever dropping) this has never been retroed with the original appeal intact. It’s unique selling point is absent and it’s a shame — an Italian-made Jordan II with the excellent box reproduced would be a thing of beauty and it’s one of the few editions that isn’t played out despite having a substantial hip-hop following (Skinny Boys, Heavy D and more wore it well) in its day. I always got the impression that MJ was never fully happy with a signature shoe until part III (though I always heard he threatened to bounce after Peter Moore left) and while there’s a name to a shoe each time before and after, I’ve never fully known if Peter Moore or Bruce Kilgore created the AJII (it’s generally assumed that they made it together — did Bruce take over the project? I know Moore exited Nike in 1987 and this patent from 1986 that cites a Gucci shoe somewhere has their names on it and is for the
Italian-made Taiwan-made (thank you Simon Trenholm) Nike All England tennis shoe from 1986 that had the Wimbledon box).
What wasn’t made in Italy (it was made in Taiwan instead) was the mysterious Nike Air Python from early 1987, that’s occasionally spotted beneath shrink-wrap in Japanese deadstock spots (it seemed to be a big shoe with collectors there in the late 1990s) but carried the Jordan II’s animal texture concept and took it a little more literally. Just as the Safari was once an elusive creature, this shoe is a lesser-spotted one — was it actually made for performance? Part AJII, part Air Force II with some high roller high-end cues, it’s just a strange, brilliant moment in Nike collector lore that’s the sum of two sequels. I wouldn’t be mad at a retro at all, seeing as the world seems to have caught up with this kind of weirdness. Between the Python and PUMA’s The Beast shoe from 1988, there was definitely something in the water back then. The 1996 AF1s in python (in the brown and grey that both colourways of the Air Python dropped in), plus the early ’00s Python pack seemed to nod to the Air Python’s cult following. The Nike Air Python is a key Look ma, no swoosh! moment, but MJ’s model deserves the props for that. For ditching the newly recognisable branding that seemed like so much of a selling point, the Jordan II is a breakthrough moment in shoe design. The Sports Illustrated piece on the Nike Air Jordan II above is a decent snapshot of the expectations of that shoe back in 1986, including some tux talk that pre-dates the XI by nearly a decade and the Jordan Brand plan in its early stages.
Back in 2006, Bootcamp Magazine seemed to drop from nowhere, to pick up at spots like Stüssy and The Hideout alongside TET’s sadly defunct Philosophy ‘zine. Largely wordless to demolish a language barrier, the quality of some of the shoots, the black and white, plus the old style binding was all striking. It’s also completely free. I haven’t heard about Base Control and their basics and slouchy beanies in a while beyond some collaborations, but I’ve long associated it with Bootcamp because of the ads they carried and Bootcamp Magazine‘s creator, Motoki Mizuguchi of Shibuya’s mo’design agency being the creator of that brand’s logo. I never knew this publication was still running until I heard about the release events in Japan, but v.12 is good. I picked it up while in Nepenthes New York while ogling that Rebuilt by Needles recycled vintage military jacket that still haunts my daydreams occasionally.
It’s great to find out that Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock is an appreciator of the legendary Abel Ferrera flick Fear City, but anyone who cites Eric Red’s Cohen and Tate as a pivotal moment of 1989 would get extra points from me. If you don’t like Near Dark or The Hitcher (both written by Red), I feel bad for you. If you don’t like Blue Steel (written by Red and similar to Kurosawa’s Stray Dog — a film that has had two official remakes over the years) Body Parts (which Red directed) as much as I do, I can understand. Red even got the opportunity to rewrite ALIEN3 (alongside the rest of Hollywood at the time). Cohen and Tate is an ultraviolent fairy story that sits alongside later personal favorites of this ilk like Freeway and Running Scared, with a smart kid taken by mob hitmen (the calculated Cohen played by Roy Scheider and the unhinged Tate played by Adam Baldwin) and subsequently playing them off against each other. It was apparently based on the far more innocent and light-hearted short story by O. Henry, The Ransom of Red Chief and according to The Guardian last week (which also mentions the tragedy of Red’s March 2000 car crash — an incident which reads like a less stylised but equally ambiguous and vicious script from the man himself), Cohen and Tate seemed to inspire the Kane & Lynch video games and it definitely inspired John Wrathall’s script for The Liability with Tim Roth in a Cohen-informed role. After Red put out some incredibly brutal deleted scenes from the film a year or so ago, Cohen and Tate is getting the Blu-ray treatment in July via Shout! Factory with extras and the kind of premium packaging it deserves after years in the bad transfer, bootleg and VHS zone. This is a video shop classic.
Shouts to Doubleday & Cartwright for making their feelings on NYC’s recent sporting acquisition very clear in t-shirt form. I don’t know if this is ever going on sale, but it’s a great design that’s up there with No Mas‘ bestselling protest pieces.
Everyone loves to gossip, and watching beef unfold digitally is an undeniable pleasure. Spectating on Splay back in the day or witnessing Superfuture rumour mongering and being a voyeur to some TMZ-esque talk of Downtown scandals was entertaining. Long before that, I liked the litigious post-exodus angry Steve Rocco era of skating, where Simon Woodstock could seemingly be erased from being through legal threats from a man who once worked those first amendment rights to the absolute limit.
The streetwear and men’s style blog realm frequently has slow news days — that means closer looks, a GQ photoshoot, another generic lookbook or a teaser for a summer blockbuster. So it’s understandable that the recent Supreme and Married to the Mob legal talk, claim and counterclaim has been dissected in order to get that precious traffic. I’ve been a little perplexed at the amount of people rooting for MOB in this situation though, painting a curious picture of the oppressed women against “the man” dwelling in his vast box logo covered corporate headquarters, because that’s not the case.
I respect Supreme a great deal for their ability to stay relevant and capabilities for keeping it thorough — that’s not to say that everything they put out is relevant to my interests, but they’re operating on so many channels right now that the old GAP for skaters summary is fully deaded in favour of a bigger picture. So I can understand why they’re trying to stop a trademark. If someone tries to jack your logo with a dose of witless misogyny at the end, you’re probably going to get a bit litigious — it’s a case of battling direct appropriation re upped to make some quick cash. Was Barbara’s name mentioned when the original Supreme Bitch shirt was put together? I wouldn’t know, but it only ever seems to get thrown around when things get negative.
Get popular by doing things well and schadenfreude is an inevitability at any perceived stumble. The problem with not talking too much is that it breeds assumption. Googling Supreme will bring up a mass of message board lore. Mythmaking is an inevitability, like the tale of Shortypop being paid off for the box homage (contrary to the occasionally distributed cheque image, that apocryphal payoff never happened) or Supreme not having the Supreme trademark, which dates back to a remark made in an Interview piece — since then they’ve obtained trademarks. Part of having a trademark is that you’re obliged to defend it — failing to defend it can result in losing it. Then there’s America’s right to common law trademark ownership. So what’s the big problem here?
Supreme have recently filed an answer to the counterclaim from Married to to the Mob and it makes for more interesting reading. Married to the Mob has put out some strong work solo and alongside KAWS, ALIFE, Colette and Nike (those Chanel references on that shoe are homage done very right) over the years. A female-centric streetwear brand is still a part of the market that could be taken by someone willing to be as fastidious as the luxury lines we like to ape, but it’s a market that has only been partially tapped. The Supreme Bitch tee was funny nine years ago for its “is it or isn’t it?” collaboration status (see also, Zoopreme) back in the Retail Mafia era when the online hype sector seemed significantly more niche than today’s big numbers and mass appeal. As its own line, it’s just a Supreme bite, eating off of the Supreme brand’s popularity. If you’re granted one loose collaboration, are you allowed to make a ton more on your own several years later and go to get the trademark for both labels?
People can raise the Barbara Kruger reference all they like (for she is the queen of Futura Bold Oblique and the key influence on the Supreme logo, though Paul Renner deserves a mention for creating the typeface in the first place), but when the majority of bland brands drop that font into a rectangle, they’re riffing on Supreme — if the assumption is that Supreme was entirely built on a bite then it’s worth taking one of those tiresome trips back to 1994 and recalling that the aesthetic of the brand and its pick of reference points was something very different when it debuted. That logo future proofed the brand and acted as a (probably inadvertent — over analysis is rife when you don’t give too much away) visual manifesto of sorts with regards to Supreme’s appropriately Downtown merger of skate and art.
Kruger is an artist, while Supreme trade in clothing, accessories and skate hardwear. MOB deals in clothing and accessories too, so their appropriation is something very different. The Levi’s Red Tab device was also an inspiration (later the subject of some legal issues over its inclusion on denim) on Jebbia’s pick of that red box — it’s an effective logo created on the back of plenty of retail experience. In 1994, plenty of skate gear and store branding was doomed to go wild with the graf letters or bigger-is-better literalism. That’s why they’re not around any more. It was some fortuitously out-the-box but in-the-box thinking.
I’m surprised that nobody has started bleating about the SUPREME in a red box Powell Peralta tees and stickers circa 1990 from the days when Billy Valdes was on the squad (who went on to join Menace alongside Supreme family member Javier Nunez and design for Stüssy and X-Large too). But nobody seems to remember that because we’d started to stray toward the new wave of street-orientated companies by that point that helped build Supreme in the first place.
Supreme has traded in the flip — that’s undisputed. But when the cease and desists or lawsuits came in, there was no righteous web rants or pseudo “Attica, Attica!” rabble rousing. LVMH, Levi’s, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein and the rest weren’t the subject of us against them fury. All parties came to amicable agreements that even led to future projects in a more official capacity. Nobody claimed it was a Class War issue or elitism. If Condé Nast came a-calling over Eustace Tilley’s appearance on cotton, the matter would have been dealt with without a battle speech. If Supreme had ignored a warning and attempted to trademark an image of Tilley engaging in a sexual situation or wielding a weapon, then there would have been a court case.
The longevity of Supreme has been down to a professionalism and approach that treats it like a world-class brand. That requires a certain cold efficiency. The hand-wringing hustler thing might be effective in the short term but it’s a 24-month hype life at best. 19 years is a long time to survive and it’s not down to fluke — the shouty blogroll brand approach is the spirit of the 2005 era when everyone had a formula and worked that formula again and again until the screenprint faded to a blank. Supreme’s decision to put the red box logo tee on ice around six years ago to avoid the one trick pony pitfall was a smart one. After the hype is gone, the bitching begins.
Back when Married to the Mob was married to FUBU (and I’m not gloating because I know the feeling of the corporate water down and fake promises pretty well), it seemed to slip off the map a little. 2012 was the year when the flipped logo became quick cash again and it was good to see SSUR get some money (after all, their weed trefoil flip in the 1990s has made a lot of loot for street corner vendors shifting adihash shirts) with the sudden burst in COMME des FUCKDOWN popularity that sparked some discussion on the subject. A lot of people have been getting some internet shine from bringing Canal Street to the digital realm lately. The COMME flip was smart (even if you’re too familiar with it now) as is the Channel Zero Chanel one, while the currently popular Brian Lichtenberg Hermès/Homiès and Céline/Féline shirts and sweats at least display a second’s contemplation over coffee in their execution. Nobody at SSUR would be crazed enough to attempt to trademark Comme des FUCKDOWN though, because it would end badly and contains much of the parodied logo within it.
Supreme Bitch? Not so smart. It’s a one-shirt deal in terms of appeal. It includes the Supreme name in it as a standalone and it makes the aforementioned Zoopreme rip seem downright cerebral in its wordplay, and sure as hell makes the old I like the pope, the pope smokes dope tourist staple of old seem like a satiric masterpiece. It seems more like a hop on the brazen bite bandwagon to get quick cash rather than playing the long game of brand evolution. Contrary to the counterclaim that Supreme turned a blind eye to seven years of Supreme Bitch, in the answer, it’s mentioned that it returned after a six-year absence with a little more detail on the discussions that took place:
(From Supreme’s recently filed answer to the counterclaim) “107. Counterclaim Defendant denies the allegations contained in Paragraph 107 of the Counterclaim except admits that it filed a litigation seeking damages and injunctive relief and further admits that in 2004, James Jebbia understood that McSweeney would be making a onetime sale of only a t-shirt bearing the words SUPREME BITCH and design. (See Exhibit 3 true and correct printouts of Counterclaim Plaintiffs’ lookbooks which show that Counterclaim Plaintiffs offered for sale SUPREME BITCH t-shirts in 2004 and 2005 and then not again until 2011. These lookbooks support Jebbia’s understanding that McSweeney did not offer for sale the SUPREME BITCH t-shirt in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 but instead had a one-off, limited production in 2004-05.) Counterclaim Defendant admits that Jebbia first became aware of the re-release of SUPREME BITCH items (which had now been expanded to include a coffee mug, a knit hat, a cap, a mouse pad and a beach towel) in December of 2012 when he saw photographs posted online of pop artist Rihanna wearing a SUPREME BITCH hat. McSweeney had not sought approval from Jebbia for either the re-release of the t-shirt or the expansion of the SUPREME BITCH product line. At that time, Jebbia also received inquiries concerning whether the SUPREME BITCH items were affiliated with or made by Supreme. At that time, Jebbia also first learned that McSweeney had filed a trademark application for the SUPREME BITCH mark (see Exhibit 1 showing application for word mark was filed on January 1, 2013) and that she was selling the branded items through national online retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Karmaloop. Shortly after receiving these calls and learning this information, Jebbia personally reached out to McSweeney who assured Jebbia that she would cease manufacturing and using the SUPREME BITCH Logo and agreed to provide information about her inventory. While Jebbia waited for that information, and in complete disregard of her representations, McSweeney filed a second trademark application to register SUPREME BITCH in a design form that wholly incorporates the famous and distinct SUPREME Logo (see Exhibit 2 showing that the SUPREME BITCH design application was filed on March 1, 2013). Thus, Jebbia did not “sit idly by for nearly a decade” but instead acted shortly after he learned of the re-launch and expanded use of SUPREME BITCH by the Counterclaim Plaintiffs, received customer inquiries and learned of the trademark filings. Jebbia also tried to avoid litigation by amicably discussing his concerns, personally with McSweeney and not through lawyers, that would have allowed her to not only sell her remaining inventory but also to use “SUPREME BITCH” in a design that was distinguishable from the SUPREME Logo.”
Playing the misogyny card and shouting about free speech and feminism suddenly is a little trite. If Barbara found herself sighing to see a red box housing the output of hefty average basket values after her stabs at consumerism, to see her cited in a case where Bitch equals empowerment must have been a real eye-opener. The Want me, Hold me, Fuck Me, Hate me Kruger homage is interesting too. Throwing down the misogyny card because Supreme used Terry Richardson, Tera Patrick and an extract of Courbet’s L’Origine du monde is made moot by the imagery cited in Supreme’s response documents — Cunt, Cunt, Cunt? Bitch Better Have My Money? Bitches Get Stitches? Will Fuck For Chanel? Come on. It’s fun, loud, shock factor gear, not some profound statement. Skateboarding as a boy’s club? Nothing new and a strange thing to be discussed in a court of law.
Much of the current court documents talk about MOB as the female Supreme, but a swift Tumblr search reveals that a lot of ladies like to wear (frequently fake) Supreme gear, regardless of its gender intent (Supreme’s answer also discusses Kate Moss, Lady Gaga and Chloe Sevigny’s recent involvement).
Misogyny is a heavy allegation — in a world where Malala Yousafza is shot for attending school, depicting a common-sense legal response to a novelty t-shirt as an act of oppression seems like a bizarre, tasteless bid for some P.R. What would Emily Davison or Marilyn French have made of this? Care to get Gloria Steinem or Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim to chime in on the power of a Will Fuck for Chanel shirt? Does it fit into a second-wave, third-wave, or some fourth-wave of sex-positive feminism? Dining off the work of a male-owned brand without a particularly smart subversion feels like the antithesis of feminism.
(From Supreme’s recently filed answer to the counterclaim) “121. Counterclaim Defendant denies knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations contained in Paragraph 121 of the Counterclaim. See Exs. 4 and 5 reflecting offensive merchandise offered for sale by Counterclaim Plaintiffs which plainly degrade and marginalize women rather than send a feminist message. The merchandise reflected in Exhibits 4 and 5 use shock value phrases that are not feminist but rather statements 6 that objectify women and perpetuate negative stereotypes (i.e. “Will F*ck for Chanel” and “Want Me Hold Me F*ck Me Hate Me”).”
It’s a prevention of one big mall grab. Just as the infamous truck clutch is derided, James Jebbia has disregarded the prospect of real Supreme being stocked in a shopping centre alongside perceived market rivals several times before. Avoiding the box logo’s spread beyond a controlled distribution has been beneficial. Married to the Mob is hunting that Urban Outfitters dough though, and that could dilute what’s been carefully steered over two decades. Why can’t Supreme Bitch operate without the box logo?
Through a favour turned into some spurious excuse to build a brand by alignment, not only is this case trying to place the Supreme Bitch as some kind of semi-official work, but it misleads idiots into thinking that Supreme is on sale at Karmaloop and does a spot of brand dilution in the quest for somebody else’s contact credibility and the dollars it entails. Letting too much slide isn’t the actions of a well-run company — it’s the actions of a fly-by-night streetwear brand that ends up wanking for change. That’s why the industry is paved with “whatever happened to?” chat about companies that were killing it before falling off and disappearing into the abyss.
Shit maybe I’m wrong and this will end up being made into a Silkwood or Erin Brockovich style flick in a decade’s time. This case has given publicity to a brand that had it going on, but it reeks of manicured nails clawing at a past glory in a competitive marketplace. “Because right now, it’s about more than just a t-shirt!” shouts Leah’s official statement and rallying cry. Yeah, it’s about mouse mats and mugs too. I’m keen to see Married to the Mob return to the status it had in 2008 without building the business on a novelty knockoff and fortunately, Supreme is also about more than a t-shirt after almost two decades (otherwise maybe they’d be scrabbling for attention too right now) — that’s why kids are still queuing for it.
If anyone out there is looking to copy anything from Supreme, steal the work ethic.
I don’t have much of an inclination to be a writer or journalist. If an opportunity arises, I’m occasionally keen to participate, but the assumption of free work and a brief period spent in the competitive wastelands of fishing for freelance work soured any keenness I once displayed. I still enjoy interviewing people and maintain a wish list of subjects I’d love to document a conversation with. On the writing front, I’d sooner write a brief piece on a product for a brand for money than waste my energy peddling glorified advertorial for nothing. I think out-and-out corporate copy is a little more honest.
Despite this cautious approach, I wanted to speak to my friend Maxime Buchi because he doesn’t deal in one-word replies and because he asked if I wanted to conduct an interview to coincide with the release of Sang Bleu #6. If you have common ground but never grew up together, it’s strange how much conversation discusses other people’s past and output without ever broaching personal stories. If you know Mr. Buchi, you know that he’s an intense individual with a multitude of philosophies.
After conducting this interview almost a year ago in an incredibly noisy branch of Byron Burger (where background sound and dense dialogue muffled by food munching made it hell to transcribe), our outlet to publish it made the decision to stop running features. A few other outlets were approached but they wanted it edited down, which we felt rendered it pointless (and made me give up on magazines that operate within the industry I work entirely) and a mismatch for Sang Bleu’s glorious sprawl. Another good friend, Nick Schonberger wrote a great intro, but still, we had no choice getting our doomed chat published anywhere – either digitally or on paper – so Maxime upped it on the Sang Bleu site a couple of days ago. I’m blaming Maxime for any typos too. Here’s an extract:
GARY: You’ve got a Gucci Mane tattoo. What incited that addition to your body?
MAXIME: Gucci Mane as a rapper is pushing what I think is postmodern. He represents my idea of postmodernism in rap. Even before the albums he was representing something extreme and new in the same way as NWA back then. If you listen to it now, late 1980s rap was so theatrical. And then in the early 1990s, tension started building up. If you listen to NWA going into ‘The Chronic’ and if you listen to Ice Cube’s solo albums you can feel that it’s getting more and more serious.
G: It reaches an apex around 1992.
M: With the LA Riots.
G: When’s the first time you saw tattooing in hip-hop? Tone Loc’s Crip tattoos were early. There were a lot of shoulder tattoos but Treach from Naughty by Nature seemed to be on forearms early.
M: You know what? I just remembered the other day, that the first rap tattoo I remember was a French rapper from the group NTM.
G: What was the tattoo?
M: It was a logo that MODE2 designed.
G: MODE2′s and Chrome Angelz’ work lends itself to a tattoo very well.
M: MODE2 designed that logo and it was the cover of their very first single. It was a mini CD. Joey Starr had it tattooed at the top of his shoulder. You can see it in the video of ‘Le Monde De Demain.’ If I remember well, I even got it as a sticker in on of the early issue of infamous french rap fanzine ‘Get Busy,’ I am not talking about the watered-down 2000 resurrection, but about the early 90′s photocopied ones. The first copy I got — the one with the sticker — had a MODE2 illustration on the cover too. I still have it. It’s amazing. I used to think that the first rap related tattoo I was struck by was in the Warren G ‘Regulate’ CD booklet.
G: The ‘Long Beach’ back piece?
M: Yes. It’s so good.
G: You grew up in Switzerland. What was the hip-hop scene like there? Is it like Germany, where people really get into things?
M: Yes. I have a feeling that hip-hop kicked off in France and Germany as a very serious cultural thing. Switzerland came early too. Bambaata used to visit. We had the Zulu Nation, of which I was a member. Those who could were traveling to NY as if it was going to Mecca.
G: If you can only get certain things sent over, you’re going to get serious. What got you into hip-hop?
M: Rap. I grew up in a very political environment and my parents were very left wing.
G: Were they bohemians?
M: Kind of. In a Swiss way, whatever that means! They had strong values. I read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ when I was a teenager. I declared I was a communist when I was 12. Obviously, I didn’t know what it really meant, but I could understand and agreed people should generally be more equal. My grandmother was an Italian Protestant. We had that obsession with America right out of post war Italy. And also because of the hippy culture my parents were into.
G: Did your parents have any interest in the Black Panthers?
M: Absolutely. My parents didn’t like punk. For them it wasn’t an option. It influenced me. For them rap was that fight in America for civil rights. Obviously, they couldn’t understand the lyrics – then they might have had another opinion. They might have had another opinion. The first rap I heard was Run DMC’s ‘Tougher Than Leather’ which was pretty hardcore. Rhythmically and lyrically it’s pretty tough. From then onwards I was only interested in things that were tough sounding.
G: Getting a backpiece as a first tattoo is a bold move. Don’t most people end with that?
M: In Japanese tattooing you start with your back then expand to your entire body and that’s totally how I approached it. I was totally ready for such a commitment. I had been considering my tattoo for a long time. That’s just the way I am. A backpiece is a personal and symbolic investment. It’s like having a good watch. Not a lot of people know, but those that know appreciate.
Jorg at Beinghunted has started talking about the origins of his site. I’ve long cited BH as a key inspiration on what I do and with the current array of content management tools, sites like that being updated in HTML makes them seem like something from another world. Ease-of-use 12 years later is staggering, but as the man points out, it still works. I remember seeing the Hideout version of the Nike Presto on there (see above) in late 2001 and desperately hunting them until they mentioned that they were a one-off a few weeks later. Were they made by Nike? I’ve never known, but that Jordan IV Cement theme seemed unique at the time. Bear in mind that these were the days when an Alpha Project shoe could appear in a major Hollywood production, like this cameo from the Zoom Seismic in 2000’s Hollow Man.
The Mo’ Wax Urban Archeology trailer shows that James Lavelle and everybody else involved seems to have plenty to dig through. This video was presumably meant to coincide with a Kickstarter link to raise book and exhibition money, but at least it’s happening. There’s plenty of Mo’ Wax music I couldn’t listen to in 2013, but the imagery and ephemera collated is something I’m keen to see. Will the Mo’ Wax Bulletin Board get a mention too? That was a key digital nerd meet up spot to see in a new century and wait for releases that never seemed to happen.
Because I’ve got nothing better to do, there’s not a lot of childhood nostalgia I haven’t ticked off to some degree. I’m still hunting the name of a movie where a wheelchair-bound man was terrorised by a computer that controlled his house and I want to know the model name of the mid-cut adidas shoes I owned that had a nylon quilting all over the upper, but other than that, everything else has a name, year and some kind of contextual place in my mind. On revisiting it, most of it wasn’t that good but the unknown can get sugar-coated by nostalgia rounding the edges and giving it a soft-focus. What I dId like was my adidas Pro Conference Hi.
Obsessed with the Metro Attitude (which I never saw on sale in my town), I ended up with these. I may have been unable to find a size 7.5 non-Air Nike (£39.99 or below before discount was the only way at the time) at the Champion Sports concession upstairs at Bedford’s Burton store in 1988 and grabbed these as a second-choice, but I recall wanting adidas hi-tops with the ridges on the heel and the Pro Conference Hi fitted the bill. Pivotal models from my childhood like the PUMA Jopper and Nike Bongo kids’ models are unlikely to be reissued (the Jopper was — kind of — a takedown of the California that has been retroed and the Bongo, as has been discussed here, was the junior version of the underwhelming Bravo model). These were my first adult sized shoes though.
Looking back, the Pro Conference Hi seems like a shoe out of its time — Decade style slimline tooling with the ’88 heel application, unlike the expensive Dellinger webbed, big tongued shoes of the time. My brother called them “ice skates” because they lacked the b-boy bulk that was desirable at the time and I wore them strangled with an early iteration of a mullet and hand-me-down denim with the back in the days (actually, the faded denim look remains). I wrecked them skating (like a true grommet) in a matter of months. It was odd to be reacquainted with the adidas Pro Conference Hi as a reissue (in the colourway I would have chosen if it had been available at the time) as a retro from Originals. Strange rubberised stripes and that angled adidas font gave me flashbacks — it’s an unlikely one to.rerelease (presumably the Decade’s retro makes it an affordable one to resurrect) but what was a budget offering at the time seems to look a lot better now and to have a shoe made of actual leather is a novelty. Shitty leather or pleather is the enemy of footwear memories.
The Rivalry Hi (which I chose these over as a sample) was a budget shoe too back in the day, but the array of colours it dropped in popularised it, yet this one resonated with me a little more. It wasn’t a French-made masterpiece like the adidas boots that took prime catalogue space, but there’s something about the Pro Conference that resonates with me in the present day. It’s a shame that the current shoe boom doesn’t have the cheaper takedowns that will spark similar memories for the next generations — I get the impression that the days of a shoe becoming a cult favourite because of its popular pricepoint are over, because people want the shoe by any means necessary. Compromise created some unlikely classics.
I’m still in NYC so this blog stays barren until I get back at the weekend. Just to prove I’m not dead and that this site hasn’t come to an abrupt halt, here’s a couple of shoe-centric images. My friend and favourite tattooist Mr. BJ Betts broke out these Gucci Tennis from 1988 at the weekend during a road trip to Delaware. He had these dyed black and requested the addition of a ripple sole from Dapper Dan in Harlem during an NYC trip back in the day and rather than retting a resole, that ripple has been glued over the existing unit to give them a running shoe/court/hiker appearance. Nice piece of custom footwear history from Betts’ insane collection and proof that he was stunting very, very hard while I was starting middle school. I miss the days when people engaged in expensive antics like that to avoid wearing the same shoes as the next man.
And continuing my occasional rappers-in-AM95s series, who could forget Onyx in The Source and HHC, promoting their second album in 1995 and acting all sporty for the photographers? Fredro Starr’s metallic windbreaker (which I believe was Polo Sport like Sticky’s hoody) and Air Max combination was this season’s tech-running look way ahead of its time. Interesting departure from automatic weapons and combat boots. He carries the facial expression of a teenager who just found he needs a code to look at porn or death videos on the family Dell desktop though.