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DUKE

March 21, 2014

duke1

Way before spending twenty quid at the Japan Centre on 200-page publication dedicated to dungarees was the done thing, I was obsessed with workwear for different reasons (mainly this picture). My first forays into the brands I saw Apache, Mobb Deep and the other Havoc and Prodeje wearing came through Camden Market and — bound to a small town as I was — the Duke American Workwear’s mail order service. Ashley Heath’s workwear article in The Face around 1992 was a real eye-opener too. Seeing as we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web and I’ve done Shoe Trends to death already, the Duke’s site was one of the first things I ever saved as a favourite back in 1999 when I got the Internet at home. There was no e-commerce on it and the method of buying was roughly the same as it was in the Transworld and HHC ads years before — send a cheque. With a ridiculous amount of Ben Davis (for whom The Duke was UK distributor), an array of boxy Carhartt shades of duck, Big Bill, Walls, Pointer Brand and Dickies, the catalogues (complete with a ton of stickers) were an education in themsleves. Bill who ran The Duke (no relation to Bill “You know you done fucked up, right?” Duke to the best of my knowledge) based the business in Manchester but worked on oil rigs for a living (where workwear can be a life or death matter rather than something to profile and pose in. There was Peterman-eque prose on the site about the mail order service’s origins,

“The threads of this website were originally sown, in the South China Sea, twenty-two miles off the coast of Kowloon. Whilst I was sat with my size 12 steel-toe rigger boots, dangling over the side of The Julius Offshore Drilling Platform, which I was working on. Where could I get myself some hard-wearing, well made workwear similar to those worn by the American toolpushers who were also working onboard? The journey has at times been a rocky, twisting, badly eroded mountain trail and on other occasions a fast-moving, well-tarmac-ed interstate highway. Never being one to shirk from the necessary graft, the search was on, to track down some suitable American workwear brands.”

The Duke ended up primarily being a Ben Davis retailer by 2002 and I never saw any more updates after that, but his work deserves respect. That monkey on the chest pocket has been a big influence on me (check the logo above and shouts to Sofarok) and after all, workwear was the only gear you saw on MTV Raps that you could afford to acquire without breaking too much of a sweat. Happy birthday to the WWW and salutes to the Duke.

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GRAPHICS

March 16, 2014


It’s good to see that SK8FACE is happening — this is one of those documentaries I’ve been hearing about but assumed would never actually happen, because I saw the original trailer in summer 2008. It takes a minute before I give up on something, but I’ve officially called off the search on the Bunker 77 documentary about Bunker Spreckels’ life. This project however, charting the history of the skateboard graphic, is ripe for some good use of animation (The Man Who Souled the World did a damn good job with the World Industries aesthetic) and the Kickstarter that director Matt Bass launched the other week will turn 400+ hours of footage into a real contender. Having spent a few hours lately reacquainting myself with Sean Cliver’s books and this — which I still think is one of the most impressive home collections of anything, ever — I was pondering the lack of films on the topic. The video above indicates that Bass has managed to pin down the main offenders: Templeton, Phillips, Gonz, Mountain, Blender, Rocco, Cliver, Gessner, Schmitt, Lucero, Humpston, McKee, Kaupas, Campbell and several more.

Can I just apologise for the lack of word count in this year’s posts? I’m working on a book and an exhibition, plus a few other things and my lack of stubbornness in not chucking up the same stuff I keep seeing elsewhere means I’d sooner say less than up some shitty lookbook, or the pitch somebody sent me for a wooden bow tie. Actually, I should’ve posted something about that bow tie. After that I’m scheming to do something a little more substantial online so I’m looking to put together a team of UK-based writer/camera folks who are as nerdy as me and obsessed with similar crap to make something interesting. But I’ll talk more about that at a later date.

Salutes to bobgnarlybd for uploading this episode of FUEL’s Skate Maps show from 2003 (co-produced by Eli Gessner) that follows the Zoo York team on tour. RIP Harold Hunter.

#LUXURYEXCELLENCE

March 14, 2014

jordan2breakdown

I’ve written about it here before, but the last outpost of untapped Jordan greatness is the Italian-made Air Jordan II. A comparative commercial failure on its launch, Peter Moore and Bruce Kilgore’s creation is one of the best shoe designs ever. I don’t know if it was production numbers or the fact that Nike — stung after dropping 15+ variations of the first shoe not including the Air Jordan Knock Off edition — kept it a little tighter. Thus, the Air Jordan II has a little more magic to it. And the fact that none are wearable means you never see a pair on anyone’s feet, thanks to Polyurethane’s decay during dormant years in a box. Then there’s the near-mythical tennis shoes and KO edition that I’ve only ever seen pictures of. Apparently former Nike marketing kingpin made an exaggerated guess in 1986 that one in twelve Americans owned a pair of Air Jordans, which makes current hype look a little tame. While I’d seen the print and TV ads with IMAGINATION on for the shoe, I hadn’t seen the one above before and I never knew that the Jordan II was originally called the Imagination, back in the shoe’s early days. There’s little mystery around anything any more, particularly shoes we grew up with, but the Jordan II is a shoe with stories to tell.

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WARS

March 9, 2014


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.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT CAMO

March 7, 2014

roundelshirt

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.

UNDOCUMENTED

March 2, 2014

wwwhomepage

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.

RAT BONES

February 28, 2014

powellsweatpants

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.

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demobones

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?

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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.

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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.

stmoritzsupersoft

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