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.
Huaraches have been ruined by appalling colourways and weird shapes, plus the fact they’ve been rereleased in one of the least imaginative periods in recent history. But not everybody shares that opinion. In fact, the shoes offer almost Jordan levels of traffic if you’re looking for click bait. My friends at Complex asked me to write a brief history of the shoe (excluding the pre-release situation when the shoe was scrapped) in the UK. That’s a good excuse to put that murky, lo-fi photo of the best way I ever saw the shoe worn (sans laces too) from The Face back in 1991 back up here. No time to do much of any substance on this blog today, so head over there if you want something a little longer. This nation did the shoe thing better than anyone else back in 2000. Now? Not so much.
Ed Piskor’s work is excellent. Hip-hop and comic books don’t always sit together too well (see, Nine Rings of Wu-Tang), but his well-documented work with Fantagraphics to create the Hip-Hop Family Tree — with book #2 having just dropped this week — is a thing of beauty. Taking its sweet time to explore the origins of the culture — significantly more than any hatchet job documentary — with Piskor’s painstaking approach to art and shedding light on the unsung (plus the challenge of filling the gaps to create dialogue and an engaging narrative) and putting out 200 pages to reach 1983, I’m in awe. His dust-addled Russell Simmons needs his own spinoff graphic novel. The forthcoming box set comes complete with an issue #300 that switches appearance to an early 1990s Image aesthetic to look at the connection between comics and hip-hop, as best demonstrated by Spike Lee’s 1991 commercial for Levi’s starring a then red-hot Rob Liefeld. Everyone who looks at this blog will find something to love in this project, if they haven’t already invested in it. While it’s aimed at my generation, I envy any kid picking it up and getting educated without the feeling of being bellowed at by intense old-timers in South Pole denim.
The aforementioned Wu-Tang effort was bad, but their former collaborators Onyx put out something equally weak with their Marvel book Fight back in 1995. We’ve discussed the Jive comics like the 1994 Crustified Dibbs one that came with the promo tape, the Casual and the Extra Prolific editions, but RA has gone on record discussing the effort that his name was attached to and one of the packs was on eBay fairly recently (see below.) Given RA’s encyclopaedic b-movie knowledge, it could’ve been great. This Dream Warriors comic from Canada is also from 1994. Speaking of that strange year for rap funny books, I’ll always defend KRS One’s Marvel Break the Chain “Psychosonic Comic” with Kyle Baker on art, plus an accompanying tape — shouts to Big Joe Krash. Issue #40 of Rock N’ Roll Comics from 1991, covering the career of NWA was a glorious oddity too. Nothing came close to Percy Carey’s Sentences: the Life of MF Grimm until Piskor’s work arrived — both deserve to be on the shelf if you’re a rap trivia fiend. This one-hour interview with Piskor from earlier last year explains a little of this labour of love.
Hip-Hop Family Tree could’ve been abysmal, but it’s one of the best books on the subject ever.
Minimal update today because I’m working on some Nike Basketball stuff. Staying on that theme, here’s an ad I’d forgotten about that I haven’t seen online. This one advertised Nike Air Jordan kidswear in 1990, back when anything with the Jumpman on was necessary, even if it was some questionable apparel (shouts to the shell suit fabric/faux leather/mesh hat I used to wear) or a bootleg chain. You had to be seriously spoilt to be getting the children’s gear though. The Batman theme was doubly relevant because this arrived just after Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight wore specially modified Air Trainer SCs (A.K.A. the Air Trainer III) in the 1989 Batman and Jordan VIs in Batman Returns.
That’s your lot. I’m heading back to the editing process.