Malcolm McLaren is a polarising figure for his aptitude for making money out of any craze (I still want to see footage of him getting booed in NYC for the moment when he stood on stage and supposedly took credit for inventing hip-hop) and even having a damned good go at claiming genres until late in his life (remember his media appearances to push his discovery of ‘chip music’ in 2004?). But I remain a fan of a fair chunk of his life’s work (the whole Chicken saga falls somewhere between proto-Brass Eye satire and truly sociopathic behaviour) and see it echoed time and time again in quick thinking counter moves like this or hip-hop bosses and their frequent acts of cold-blooded hustle. During the early 1980s, he was such a bizarre, self-promoting character, that every interview I’ve seen with McLaren has been magnetic. A new YouTube channel has just upped a one-hour style history lesson with the man from late 1984. Looking like some publicity-conjuring pixie in his pink polo neck, hiked-up trousers and loafers, and setting off the conversation with a bizarre waywardness in his opening pose before he seems to regain some interest, it’s worth watching, taken from footage shot for an episode of the long-gone Rock Influence TV show. After this one, I recommend watching the excellent footage of fans in the parking lot before Lynyrd Skynyrd’s December 31 1990 New Years Eve concert in San Francisco. God bless the internet.
I sometimes do interviews, despite not knowing why anyone would interview me (it’s meant to be the other way around) and my respect for Silas and the Soulland squad is colossal that when he dropped me a mail about a Q&A, I couldn’t turn them down. So here’s a link to one of my favourite clothing brands out there interrogating me on the subject of shoes, collaborations and related stuff on their very beautiful website. Because of my camera-shy ways, the ultra talented Sine Jensen drew me hiding behind an iPhone and a spaniel, which might be my favourite thing of 2014 thus far. Shouts to Nikolaj Hansson. That intro makes me seem a lot more important than I actually am (though they’re right about me considering myself a fanboy) — I never co-founded CT, contrary to internet rumour. I just worked for them. If I didn’t deny that it would undermine the work of Russ/Steve/the two Christophers and the rest of those OGs. Trust me, if I was the co-founder, it would be looking a lot healthier right now, but I’m just a drone. Shouts to all at Soulland — Danish don-dadas who constantly inspire me with absolutely everything they do.
I think these shoe tattoos — as spotted by Mr. Charlie Morgan — might be some of the few sports footwear tattoos I respect. The sole exceptions to the rule would be that guy with the Trimm Trab foot piece (because I imagine he would smash my head in if I didn’t respect it), my good friend BJ’s photo realistic AM95 on his leg and the never-realised, but discussed plan by Nick Schonberger to get the oft-derided Air Jordan XV permanently marked under his skin. However, kids getting Air Max 1 flash on their skin at London’s Crepe City a year or so ago created something for them to hide from the grandkids. But as part of Dan Smith’s excellent 2011 compilation of straight edge tattoos, With the Light of Truth, this NB, Saucony, adidas, Vans and Chuck Taylor flash from Jason Anthony (of Phoenix’s Golden Rule) at least plays on the power of those objects within that culture where they’ve become potent symbols of something more than quite liking something for a few months. Maybe the key is being into more than just some shoes. In the book there’s a good One Life, One Choice Infrared AM90 piece too. At time of writing, I still haven’t seen an Air Jordan tattoo that wasn’t questionable, regardless of the tattooist’s skill — even hardcore and straight edge connotations don’t seem to make that work.
There’s too much nostalgia on this blog right now. I blame the history lessons I’ve been working on, but I can always trust Errolson and Michaela Sachenbacher’s Acronym vision, the Errolson-helmed Stone Island Shadow Project to look ahead rather than picking through the past. Both lines have videos doing the internet rounds right now, demonstrating that technical apparel can be its own martial art (I wish there was a class near me teaching Acronymjutsu, with a John Kreece type in a GT-J27PL hardshell yelling about mercy ) — these promos always make other shoots and videos for other lines look unappealingly static, while cutting through the cliches of presenting everyday performance as a tech-Mumford affair. I like my GORE-TEX garms displayed with the requisite balance of the clinical and the kinetic. But “standard” Stone Island is dong a great job of taking consumers through their individual processes — have you wondered why a Raso Hand Painted Camo Field Jacket will run you over a grand? Six-minutes edit of a lengthy set of steps from a simple-looking military grade cotton to the final, unique distressed-done-right appearance is showcased in the video above. Probably best not to try it yourself at home, because hurling corrosive paste on a bit of army surplus would probably lead to injury or breathing difficulties. It’s good to see actual innovation at work.
The new issue of Business of Fashion brought this interview with Karl Lagerfeld to my attention — Karl might be a veritable production line of soundbites whenever someone hits record on the iPhone, but he excels with this one, “I want to know everything. I go to bookshops nearly every day. You have to be your own Google. I have an unbelievable visual memory. I can remember everything and that’s very important…” I suspect that approach to research is the key to the appeal of Acronym and the longevity of Stone Island.
A while ago I was involved in some pitch for a book about the history and cultural relevance of the white tee. During some initial research, and labouring under the misapprehension that no book had ever been written solely on the topic, I found that not only did The White T by Alice Harris preempt our plan by 15 years, but I’d bought a copy on the cheap and forgot it ever existed. The moral of the story? Google harder before you get that presentation underway. Published in 1996, Harris’s book is decent, with some good archive imagery from the garment’s military issue early days all the way up to the 1990s, plenty of celebrity sightings and its place in gay and straight subcultures. The whole tabula rasa nature of white cotton shirts means there’s plenty of space to explore, but on its heavily stylised pages, The White T covers the key topics. With some proceeds going to GMHC and an intro by Giorgio Armani, who professes to be a white tee fanatic, this was a well publicised release in its day. I still managed to blank its existence from my mind. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. you’ll know about my respect for the mass-produced, non-nostalgia of the Costco Kirkland six-pack — between this book, some Japanese publications from the Lightning team and that time Dem Franchise Boyz reviewed tall tees for Vibe long before hemlines got wild, that’s as much a primer as you’ll need. The world doesn’t need another effort on the shelves.
I’ve been obsessed with basketball shoes since I was a kid, despite being completely incompetent on a court. I spent hours staring at new additions to Champion and Olympus Sports, but I assumed I might grow out of it — I certainly never expected Nike to ever come calling to contribute to a project based around them. Over the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege of doing just that. To coincide with the Basketball World Cup in Spain I got to work with London’s own Magdi Fernandes, Nike and the kind contribution of some serious collectors to create an exhibition that, selfishly, featured some of my favourite shoes ever. Taken down from a collection of 240+ shoes and after making those emails cry, we took it down to 86 shoes to coincide with the whole Search for the Baddest/Come out in Force campaign in Madrid. Nike and Rosie Lees created six custom cabinets (here’s a better shot of one) to deliver an overview of Nike Basketball, Air Force and Air Jordan from 1972 to the present day. Getting the Franchise, Air Force STS, Alpha Force Low and the 1996 Python AF1 alongside the crowdpleasers in there was indulgence on my part, but there just aren’t enough exhibitions with those things in them these days. I don’t think this one is going to go on tour, so I’ll hunt some more professional shots, but in the meantime, here’s some hastily shot iPhone snaps of some of my favourite shoes. Shouts to Nike for getting me involved.
I’m on my European sellout steez right now, so updates here are suffering right now. But why do you need to hear from me when there’s greatness out there that you might have stumbled upon. Every time I visit Japan I see the attention to detail that makes stores (though Goodhood’s new store evokes that glorious perfectionism) products and marketing materials look very sloppy indeed. GORE-TEX has a far cooler name than a membrane should have, making that breathable, protective addition to gear a brand in itself. In Japan, GORE-TEX evidently take the work of expensive, lower-case named brands like nanamica, nonnative and visvim seriously enough that they’re letting them be three of six storytellers in their Six Stories of GORE-TEX Products booklet. Hypebeast have already published each interview on the site, but the book’s right here. Plenty of insight into why, despite plenty of contenders to the throne, this is still the application of choice for some people who really don’t compromise. That they opt for it is the ultimate endorsement at fashion level and a great advertisement with an approach that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. I’d kill to get involved with creating something like this. This patchwork White Mountaineering is a thing of beauty — sweating the small stuff instigates power moves.
This interview with Foz from Heroin Skateboards from Vice is necessary too. His aesthetic defined an era and still represents a hardcore approach to skating.