(Image by Ernie Paniccioli from Free Stylin’)
Watching Onyx carry on during The Breakfast Club as if the last 21 years never happened, with Envy’s important question about them firing blanks during their Source Award appearance cut off by some haggard mad facing reminded me of how much I wanted an Onyx hockey shirt or black denim jacket back then— I never saw the official Slammin’ Gear versions of the quilted vest in the UK. While April Walker’s contribution to the industry is well-documented, I feel that it should always be reiterated whenever possible — we all know about Walker Wear (whose hoodies seemed more minimal than anything else on the hip-hop brand side of things) which was on the back of any thug rapper of influence, back when a giant mustard waistcoat with fireman jacket fastenings was a thing. The Walker Wear logo was incredibly effective on chests and heads and her connections got it everywhere, but April Walker’s styling work was incredible too — she was key to putting Starter and Nike on in Another Bad Creation, R Kelly and LL Cool J album covers and videos, but her decision to put Jodeci in Hi-Tec Magnum boots (possibly the only legit moment in Hi-Tec’s history) was pioneering in bringing rugged looks to R&B. She also designed Onyx’s mad face logo — this piece from last year is still essential.
Naughty By Nature always seemed to have the best rap merchandise pre Wu-Wear (bar Public Enemy, NWA, Run-DMC or those Sleeping Bag jackets that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars that were advertised in the EPMD sleeve) and for reasons unknown, I was preoccupied with getting some Naughty Gear denim in 1994. Treach, Vinnie and Kay Gee set the brand off in 1993 and opened a store in Newark, New Jersey the following year. Building on the “Down with O.P.P” tee and Naughty by Nature underwear, plus a knack for merchandising since the New Style era (the connection to master merchandisers Tommy Boy probably didn’t hurt either), given Treach’s patronage of Walker Wear, I’m certain April Walker played a role. This piece from Yo! MTV Raps back in 1995 (recorded in bad quality but essential nonetheless) showcases the store as well as a trip to a hardware store to get chains, plus a Timberland mission too. In that video, Vinnie reveals that Naughty Gear jeans were made by Ruff Era, a frequent advertiser in The Source, who sold stiff, voluminous jeans. Savvy choices of collaborator and Vinnie’s decision to build the brand beyond just local screen printing paid off, but when the band started beefing in the late 1990s when urban wear really started popping, their licensing deals to make Naughty Gear, Inc. more profitable suffered. I’m not saying Naughty Gear was classic, but Naughty By Nature’s visual identity very smart indeed. Now Naughty Gear looks a little more basic.
South Beach colours on a Wildwood should be the worst thing ever, but these impending versions are decent. Still the greatest all-round All Conditions Gear shoe of all-time — the mystery of why this Pegasus remix existed around the time that the Pegasus ACG and Pegasus A/T were sold remains, but this always seemed closer to Escape spirit.
During a recent chat regarding the documentation of youth culture, a few issues came up: sure, we have Tumblr, IG and the rest — a constant feed of DIY documentation — but the self-taken shot can often lose spontaneity. Will the selfie hold up as a document of subcultures? Is anyone taking shots of real life? Are we still not seeing the woods for the trees? Are we assuming that a few square miles of London represent reality for a majority? Are normal human beings still out of the picture, despite a sense of social-media assisted democracy these days? How does street style photography of the denizens of an action sports and street wear even work? Are destined to always overlook the characters, nuances and eccentricities that define British culture because of some ill-fated assumption that youth culture as a whole as become a homogenous blob that unites hip-hop and art while wearing black, slim-fitting drop-crotch tracksuit bottoms from Zara?
Thankfully, there’s a few outlets that present reality beautifully and the biannual LAW (Lives and Works) is one of the best. They even seem to be branching into clothing, but issue five of the magazine — which is usually well worth the twelve quid or so it costs — is free at a selection of stores and galleries around the country. Even the propaganda-style ads displayed in a classic lost pet style are beautiful. The promo video for the new issue explores the life of the bookie at Peterborough dog track — not your average spot to use for promoting a publication and pleasantly devoid of the 1994-era Blur romanticism of working class pursuits. LAW taps into something that a lot of other media outlets seem to ignore.
While I’ve never managed to grab a copy of Neville Brody and Kez Glozier’s The New British magazine (is there actually an issue in existence beyond issue #0?) despite waiting almost three years to get my hands on it, they’ve been busy in the interim and produced a 25-minute film called RELEASE that’s directed by Glozier and dedicated to the UK shuffling phenomenon that seemed to divide club goers over the last couple of years. The film explores the connection between this and old world jazz dancing (which connects to the British jazz dance scene of the 1980s), with screenings in early August. Here’s a (non-embeddable) trailer.
Whoa. Did Apple just acknowledge the obligatory Supreme box logo sticker on a MacBook that’s the Hypebeast Essentials equivalent of a Scarface poster in an episode of Cribs? That’s an interesting corporate co-sign. Things have come a long way. Personally, I think that it’s a 19th anniversary salute to Lord Nikon in Hackers, the Supreme sticker on a laptop OG back in 1995 who slapped a box onto a Toshiba Satellite. In a film that seems to be Apple sponsored, Nikon was one of the few without a chunky Powerbook, meaning he never quite brought the worlds together entirely, but Laurence Mason’s character is still the father of that rectangle you carefully applied to expensive hardware to fake not-caring. Unless we’re Dutch, we’re not listening to Urban Dance Squad, wearing shades to hack in strange digital cityscapes or whizzing around on rollerblades, but Hackers got one prophecy on point.
The whole Genealogy of Innovation project I worked on for Nike has been collated in a book by Sneaker Freaker and it’s very good. Weirdly, I put a book project on hold to write that website copy and now it’s a book, but there’s extra copy in there, all the shoes, all the stuff I wrote, some interviews with Nike football folks I did, other interviews with famous people and about 230-something pages of stuff. The packaging is bananas with the Magista (and Superfly) colour contrast on the slipcase. I still wish I’d written THIS IS THE ORIGINAL MARIAH AND NOT THE MARIAH PR after my Mariah copy all those months ago, but it’s a minor (and it’s correct on the site). I know quite a few were produced as promo pieces, Salutes to Woody, Ryan and the team on this — ridiculously fast turnaround and a very impressive product.
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.
There’s a lot of freeloaders out there. I’ve seen people skirmish and bruised friendships over the Gollum-like effects of shoe envy. Tell grown men of almost any financial background that there’s free footwear out there and they’ll start scheming to make sure that they get their size, a size down, a size up, their girl’s size or something just to avoid feeling left out. It has that kind of power. Back in May 1989, Lincoln, Nebraska’s police force created a fake shoe store setup with the worst hand drawn signage of all time to dupe several alleged crooks with outstanding arrest warrants into thinking they were going to get some free adidas or Avia shoes. And, like Homer Simpson turning up for a sting to get his free boat, they turned up at the ‘Grabar Athletic Footwear Inc’ — a play on the old prison nickname ‘greybar hotel‘ and a proto popup store of sorts — to get their tennis shoes and even filled out an athletic needs questionnaire that was actually their arrest paperwork in disguise. There’s some good footage of the sparse and suspect looking store space and gullible victims in this HLN YouTube upload. I thought this kind of thing only ever happened in comedies, but it’s all very real. In 2014, I’m inclined to think that Air Jordan giveaways in a reopened Grabar could still pull in a few fugitives. One day, somebody should turn this into an Argo style movie adaptation.
I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to miadidas before, because it always came off like a weaker, under-utilised rival for NIKEiD, but the photo print app is some next level entertainment. It works like Instagram and the end result is solid — the open mesh Flux didn’t do a lot for me when it debuted because it sailed too close to the Roshe in my eyes but the wave printed nylon variations had me hyped. I’ve heard that numbers in the low thousands and IG-style filter systems are going to weed out any schemes to create some genital pattern one-offs. Shoe collaborations are duller than they’ve ever been these days — promiscuous and biased brand behaviour has meant every weekend is strewn with conceptual limited edition mediocrity — and this technology means that the individual can create a shoe that’s a lot better. Seeing as I’m a huge nerd, I lazily chucked a repeat print of a German catalogue page from 1990 onto the shoe — those Torsion inclusions in Kays catalogue back then were cause to beg to pay weekly for some ZX 8000s and the bashy rudeboy days of the technology deserve to be depicted in OTT fashion. From a Q&A with the mighty Peter Moore for a forthcoming project, I was unaware of how much the Torsion designs underachieved in America — they were a driving force in EQT’s creation because Moore really disliked the look of the system. We Brits always seemed to love those early creations and I believe that I’ve created the geekiest shoe ever made in its honour.
I’m taking part in a discussion this Thursday on documenting youth culture with Ewan Spencer, Nina from What We Wore/The Cut (whose book drops soon with an intro by the don Ted Polhemus) and Clive Martin from Vice. There’s more information on it right here.
If you’re UK-based and struggling to find anything good on Netflix, Matt Wolf’s Teenage is 77 minutes well spent, bringing some visuals to some of the more interesting tribes explored in Jon Savage’s book. Having failed to attend a screening last back and hunted for another showing to no avail, I was surprised that somewhere that’s often so bereft of anything I want to watch was housing it. Like the curse of the Amazon Prime trial, nobody ever cancels Netflix on time — even if they DIY tattoo the final free date on their hands and eyeballs — so you may as well watch something that’s worth a month’s payment on its own.
It might have been online for a couple of years, but this video by Eli Morgan Gessner that edits together footage from 1986/1987 is a tribute to much-loved OG Shut crew member Beasley who passed away in the early 1990s. Loads of New York legends, Beasley street planting wearing the Iowa Dunk Hi and the Mr. Magic premiere of Nobody Beats the Biz blared from a boombox around the time it happened makes this footage priceless. I was slack with the updates this week. I promise I’ll try harder this weekend. Just watch this instead.