I’m on holiday right now, so consider this my GONE FISHING sign. Normal service (well, longer rants) should resume at the end of next week, but I can’t stay away entirely. Catching up with Mr. Ronnie Fieg — a man who loves shoes as much as I do — we discussed whether kids who couldn’t give a shit about the things I throw up here still feel the innate credibility of a brand that had power back in the day as opposed to an old brand that sucked then and sucked now. ASICS is a good example: the Gel designs were worn by those looking for a break from the staggeringly obvious and their individual, Japanese approach to design has paid off at heritage level. Not enough people seem to recognise the Gel Lyte III’s groundbreaking approach to midsole densities and heel support beyond the strange Videodrome-esque tongue slit. Ronnie’s Dolphins colourway versions are powerful, taking me back to the days when I would have sold a lung for the Miami makeup of Pony Linebackers. Reading Pump Me Up, I got to look at a classic Glen E. Friedman portrait of D.C.’s D.I.Y. Def Jam legends, the Junk Yard Band and noticed that they’re repping the ASICS hard back in ’86.
I’m on holiday. That renders this blog unimaginative and hurled together for the time being unless you want a stack of filtered junk food Instagram images. Bar the guy working the airport taxi rank in Goadomes, what happened to any footwear point-of-difference? New York is awash with Jordan XIs, Foamposites and Roshe Runs — like every, single city in the fucking world. Curious to think that as a global fixation with sport footwear seems to escalate, it’s actually weaker than ever in terms of risk taking. More choice than ever but less free willingness to take risk is a strange paradox. The day shoes were designed for non-sporting purposes was the beginning of the end.
Sure, we always knew that, more often than not, they weren’t being worn for athletic purposes, but it was quaint that brands pretend that wasn’t the case. When you specifically target a shoe hoarding audience (several of whom are arguably pretty easily impressed, despite a propensity for getting angry on social media), the byproduct is destined to be mediocrity. When New Yorkers broke out the All Conditions Gear and Terra pieces, designed for tearing around hills, trails and mountains, it was one of the truly great moments of re appropriation. In 2013, nothing happens by accident.
Those swathes of colours and silhouettes are still unparalleled. Grand Puba busting out the OG Air Revaderchi on In Living Color is a classic moment. Alas, he never opted to wear the Nike Poobah cycling shoe (which, as I recall, was ACG affiliated), which is a another gem from the days of gaudy, glorious, rustic tech. But we’ve been through this topic before. Here’s a few low-res, undersized scans from 1987 (pre All Conditions) to 1995 for a quick reminder of why I never shut the fuck up about this line. The 1987 Traverse with the purple laces and the 1992 Air Traverse with the speckle and tribal print are two oft-forgotten moments that should be highlighted time and time again.
For those who work in it, fashion is very, very important — all eating disorders, catty emails, crying interns and 60 pages of ads before the content page. I would normally sneer at that kind of thing, but it maintains a certain seriousness in the face of triviality on a grand scale that I respect. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no less ludicrous than the way approach religion, but these houses of the holy contain more mystery. I’m also fascinated by it because I’m often in the no-man’s land of the non-fashion sporty or easy-to-wear side of things, which makes me an outsider. That means I have to imagine what goes on in the inner sanctums of the big houses. Being in the ASOS building frequently and dabbling in some Dazed & Confused writing I can’t help but become increasingly curious.
Until recently I never knew that there were degrees in fashion journalism. I assumed you did your work experience and withstood the withering glances and snide remarks until somebody paid you a tenner for 2,000 words one day. Incorrect. I’m just glad there’s a media-based degree that makes job hunting even more fiendish than my communications one did. But while the press release pasters get no respect, you’ve got to hand it to anybody who can bring something so visual and tactile to life in their prose — personally, I’d rather watch a documentary on the topic, but for those that do it well, there’s the Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards, with the main long and short lead journalism awards sponsored by Wave Gang favourite, True Religion. Isn’t that like Bernard Matthews sponsoring the Slimmer of the Year award?
While nothing touches the Men Without Hats meets Kanye power of Rusty’s outfit from the boutique scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, as far as real-world fashion documentaries go, YouTube is awash with uploads of them. Of course, those that stumble across this post in a few month’s time because I used a misleading keyword will find a load of pointless links to removed videos, but that’s just the way fashion goes, isn’t it? It’s fleeting like that. L’amour fou about Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge is there and well worth watching to see their homes and possessions, Valentino: the Last Emperor has the greatest pugs on a private jet scene ever and Wim Wenders’ Notebook On Cities and Clothes about Yohji Yamamoto is an excellent way to spend 77 minutes (click captions for subtitles) if you want to understand Yohji’s philosophies and how far ahead of everything he was in 1989 (remember when having a tiny television was the most aspirational thing ever?).
James Franco’s The Director — a documentary about House of Gucci creative director Frida Giannini — is an interesting prospect. Indiewire just upped the trailer. There’s a lot of interesting stories in Gucci’s history (Maurizio Gucci being killed by a hitman hired by his wife Patrizia “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle” Reggiani would be a great documentary topic too), but Franco shifting from starring in a film with a Gucci Mane cameo to creating an exploration of what makes a Gucci lynchpin tick is an intriguing move too. Hopefully this one will join the ranks of the best studies of the big houses which, thankfully, don’t do the whole transparency too-much-information thing that’s expected of all businesses right now. Without mystique, my interest in this whole realm would be slaughtered on the spot.
Seeing as it’s already midnight I’m just going to post that Daft Punk promo. I’m just fucking with you. There should be some kind of cut-off or late adoption aggregator that stops people posting the same goddamn thing just to get those page views from getting free shoes or press trips. I like all the people who call Daft Punk EDM now though, because the EDM term really reminds me of 1996′s perpetually delayed VHS embarrassment Vibrations (“Their love erupted from the electronic underground”) where the cool guy from Twin Peaks loses his hands, performs as a masked performing robot character (like Thomas and Guy-Manuel) called Cyberstorm, culminating in the best depiction of live dance music ever. I hate people that sneer about films being so bad they’re good, but Vibrations is like 1983′s Joysticks in that it feels like it was made as a parody of a craze cash-in and bears no resemblance to a human experience. Viewing it is like a sweaty flu dream — it could break into hardcore porn at any minute or descend into Nic Roeg-esque insanity. But back to Daft Punk, today I got retweeted by Paul Williams — as a Phantom of the Paradise, Smokey and the Bandit and Bugsy Malone fan, that was awesome. To hear that Williams is working on the new album made a lot of sense, because we all know that Swan, and not Cyberstorm, was the true mask inspiration.
You know what was better than any lookbook or careful photoshoot? Old skate magazine ads. I frequently cite fact as a vast inspiration on me and Erik’s Rizzoli tome will be proof of how good much depth the brand has and how good he is as an artist, but here’s some ads to pass the time. Back when the brand was World Industries affiliated I remember the more sexualized stuff in Big Brother (plus a superb Absolut parody) but after Erik split from Rocco, the ads from mid-1993 took the step of calling World Industries out for using fuct designs. Then, in late 1993, the next wave of ads kicked off in Thrasher, starting with that list of fuct’s favorite things. I remain a huge fan of Steve Rocco’s copywriting, but that fact Profanity is Profit ad, with the slick look and mass of labels, plus the dealers only and kids only contact details? Classic. Here’s a selection of fuct ads from late 1993 to early 1996 that includes sister brand Dorothys Fortress too.
Forgot to blog because I thought it was Tuesday, so you get this image-heavy rush-job. I’ve mentioned on this blog just how terrified that Bruce Davidson shot of a man at gunpoint on a train made me when I was younger, reinforcing every rotten apple stereotype that a childhood of obsessing over 1980s VHS sleaze that showed a city overrun by “wallet inspectors” who’d take you for everything you had in front of witnesses (thank you William Lustig, Abel Ferrera, Martin Scorcese and Frank Henenlotter).
That picture turned out to be a member of the New York Transit Police’s “Subway Stars” aka. the Decoy Squad — 24 undercover cops in a variety of disguises; like a crime fighting Village People, to take on the rise in packs of younger muggers hunting prey on the trains. The whole Decoy Squad concept sounds like the plot for a great b-movie and when the team assembled in 1985 in a post Bernie Goetz climate of paranoia, brutality and potential vigilantism (and Davidson’s 1986 Subway book with its glum faces in those tag swarmed surroundings indicates that the trains were no joke back then), it was the subject of plenty of media coverage, presumably for reassurance and political PR.
Bruce Davidson shot plenty of images of the crew at work for a June 1985 New York magazine feature called Hunting the Wolf Packs, with an incredible crew photo of everyone in their disguises, ready to “play the vic” or be a bystander ready to strike. Officer Lyons plays a sleeping Jewish lawyer, Officer Quirke plays a blind man, Officer Doran is a pizza maker returning from his shift and Officer Carter is the undercover man in the satin jacket, Cazals and baseball cap making an arrest in the photo that had me shook. Carter makes plenty more appearances in the images to accompany the article (the black and white images are from 1985 newspaper pieces on the squad), looking cooler than any real world cop has ever looked. It must have been slow, tedious work with quick bursts of intensity.
Entrapment via exposed gold chains and fake Gucci on people pretending to be fake yuppies, dozing Asian tourists, plus gang members looking like they stepped out the Bad video is present in this 1987 footage from a WCBS-TV 60 Minutes episode (scroll down). Allegations of the unit acting illegally with wrongful arrests ended the program in winter that year, but if you were amused by Stallone dressed as an old lady to take down a thief to a Keith Emerson soundtrack in 1981′s Night Hawks or Kramer being saved by a cop posing as a blind violinist on the subway in an early Seinfeld, you’ve got to love the whole Decoy Squad project. Three finger rings and backward hats were an interesting 5-0 uniform for a minute.
Yeah, Kirkland Sagnature have been discussed on here a lot but if you can’t be bothered with the brain drain of choice every AM, you can’t go wrong with a 6-pack of the white tees from Costco. In my eyes, for accessibility and replacement in bulk, this is the best white shirt on the market. You can hurl your suggestions at me (and my soft spot for the thick Pro Club and Hanes Beefy is still functioning, but they’re very different shirts — Hanes loses points for the wacky pricing after some store applies VAT and Pro Club seems to need a west coast hookup) with Kirkland, you’ve got the perfect summer weight — light without being blouse-thin to the point where your nipple hair is visible, a neck that my giant head doesn’t leave wave-like stretch marks in and the correct length on the arms and waist, with minimal shrinkage and no sense of smedium after three washes. And if you’re still prepping an argument against me, they’re £2.66 each, because a six-pack is £16. I always liked Puffy’s late 1990s cheap, throwaway white tee, all-white adidas Superstar and Rolex President combo and I can’t get down with any brand’s proclamation that they’ve created “the ultimate white t-shirt” as if they’ve found the cure to cancer – any white tee that’s over a tenner should be treated with suspicion. I want something that I don’t fear spillage on — in fact, in the event of a Ribena indecent or hot rock drop, you can live out your Dame Dash pre-bankruptcy fantasies for £48 and not even bother washing tees. Just throw them shits away. But if you choose to wash them, I can testify that Kirkland comes through too. Shouts to Sean at Urban Industry for having the cash and carry hookup.
While Costco are the kings of white t-shirts, Edwin PHADE Sacasa and the Shirt Kings crew are pioneers of the hip-hop print, If you wanted your blanks decorated with a firearm-wielding Roger Rabbit, you know who to call. More pictures from Dokument‘s Shirt Kings (complete with an intro by MC Serch) by PHADE and KET are out there to coincide with the book’s release and I can’t get enough of documentation of their custom creations. Mother and daughter Dapper Dan gear is particularly good. If you want to understand the foundations of street style, there has never been a better time.
Shouts to Adam Welch for putting my quotes into this Independent piece on high-end sports footwear. It was good to talk up Gucci Tennis 84s and Dapper Dan in a national publication — Adam did a good job too. The New Balance number nerds waiting to tell me that Kanye wore 997.5s need to fall back, because the message in this article was well handled and nicely written. Despite my strange cat analogy, it’s probably the first newspaper article I’ve been interviewed for that didn’t make me want to punch myself in the temple immediately after it went to print.
On the Gucci Tennis topic, I spotted this photo for sale on eBay a few months back, shot for a Miami newspaper in 1984. Wish I could find the article it was written for.
What the fuck is up with rappers and singers wearing Superdry? Gunplay’s pick of Supreme-biting brand was bad enough, but look at the images above, then look at what some rappers have elected to wear now. Ice T wearing it is kind of sad, Jay Sean is a Superdry kind of guy, so I’m not surprised. Pos from De La Soul broke out the wack polo, but it’s all good because he’s Pos and can do what he damn well wants with immunity, but the younger generation? The Martorialist pointed out the tragedy of A-Mafia wearing it late last year, but Mr. Pete Williams pointed out a sighting on Lil Durk’s latest 52 Bars chapter. Superdry does not belong on a Young Chop beat. There’s no excuse for wearing this stuff in a video — if it’s meant to match your shoes, then you may as well be wearing PUMA Discs on your feet. The only amnesty in the Superdry rap video situation is this model in Fat Joe’s Pride n Joy. She still would have looked better without the lettering. Rappers looking like they did a Karmaloop trolley dash is a good argument against streetwear on rappers, but high streetwear on them? Very strange.
Erik Brunetti’s Instagram is always interesting, taking in animals, artifacts, artwork and other awesomeness. He just upped the cover of forthcoming Fuct book (release date is September 3rd). Looking forward to picking this up.
With the Evil Dead remake ready for a UK release, it’s a shame that there won’t be any low-budget spots like this Evil Dead II one from 1987 that featured Sam Raimi and Jonathan Ross. I recall seeing this on Channel 4 early one evening and becoming immediately obsessed with Dead By Dawn. Ross, like Alex Cox, educated me in several matters of cult cinema. This Incredibly Strange Film Show Sam Raimi episode was a game changer for me and these ads seemed unlike anything I’d seen for a movie on these shores, delivering a nice dodge from showing any of the controversial content pre-watershed.
I generally don’t take product for paragraphs on this blog, but if anyone wants to send me books or magazines that are good it’ll save me some cash and I might up them here. I spend way too much money on reading matter and there’s some prospective greatness in the pipeline — Enjoy the Experience about private press vinyl covers drops on Record Store Day via Sinecure and it’s clearly necessary, with a limited edition version available on the publisher’s site. Earnest strangeness in its most irony-free form is the best kind of strange. Nina and Cieron’s What We Wore project is gathering true British style and error since the 1950s, with a book dropping next year that will be the antidote to simplified notions of sub-cultural style.
Everyone I ever see in iconic images of mods, rockers, teds, casuals and the rest seem to get it right — I want to see the sartorial misfires, tryhards and those who couldn’t afford the right stuff but had a go anyway. That’s what helped shift Spliffy garms — when you’re surrounded by style struggle, bad becomes good. Good books on sports footwear that aren’t Japanese language are thin on the ground — after the reprint of Bobbito’s Where’d You Get Those? at the end of the year, Slam Kicks: Basketball Sneakers That Changed the Game drops in February 2014, written by Slam’s Ben Osbourne and Scoop Jackson. I’ve wanted a sequel to Sole Provider for a while, so this could fill that bookshelf gap. In the meantime, go and pick up the Gonz issue of Huck, because pretty much everything in it is good.
I have no idea what the story behind these Cole Haan wingtips with Air Max 2013 technology is, but pebbled leather and speckles kind of works. Is this some response to the Prada Levitate’s AM97-esque look (Edit: Shouts to Todd Krevanchi for pointing out the resemblance between these and the Air Max Sentry which had the ’97-style unit on a sensible shoe design)? I assume they’re some internal experiment that’s destined to never release after the Cole Haan/Nike separation, but they’re avant-garde in their jarring trad-tech collision. These were spotted on Mr. Salehe Bembury’s blog with zero explanation as to how they came to be.
Speaking of big air (and I apologise for all the Air Max references in the last few blog entries — I was working on Air Max related Nike projects and became obsessed all over again), back when Lil’ Kim didn’t Vybz Kartel herself and wasn’t obliged to live up to the soft porn persona she created the following year, she made grape AM95s look incredible with Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Chaze from Grim Team doesn’t just produce extremely hard QB and Bronx hip-hop — he keeps to his French origins with some synth-led sounds. Grim Team isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty and Chaze’s This Was Your Town (featuring Casey Mecija) video is directed by Jay One and contrasts beauty with a heavily bombed Paris setting. Nobody does destruction like the French, down to the trucks — proof that there’s style in willful regression. Pretty ladies in camo coats who dig for vintage clothes and records is a winning addition to a promo too.