No blog content again, but here’s a super-corporate mini-documentary on Champion and the Feinbloom brothers that founded it. It looks like it should be playing in a foyer somewhere, but there’s a few informational gems in that narration, plus some interesting imagery too. These gents patented plenty of sweatshirt-related things we take for granted as well as some processes in appliqué lettering. I’m all out as far as words on Champion go, so I’ll stop now before I end up hating fleece wear.
Still no proper update right now, but if you’re not suffering from Visible Air fatigue, there’s a shit ton of nerdery over here for your viewing pleasure and it might be more appreciated by the audience here than over there. Nowadays, marketing wants to rise above the shabby glory of the efforts above and below but somehow falls short of these thirty-second masterpieces. I like to watch these things to remind me why I like shoes when I’m suffering from the fatigue of PR people and communication folks taking the easy way out with everything and feigning love for product.That Sneaker Corner commercial from 1991 is tremendous (shouts to the uploader, wtcvidman) in its “Morrie” Kessler from Goodfellas style old-school salesman enthusiasm. It’s good to see that their Brooklyn spot is still standing — places like that are an endangered species. I’m not sure that Cal Stores are still open, but everything’s better when it has Oh Yeah by Yello on the soundtrack. I think Sneakers Plus in New Jersey is still going though. Salutes to the little guys — there are not enough of them or the grey importers around these days. Everyone sells the same stuff in exactly the same way. At least these folks made an effort.
No update today because I’m busy selling my soul elsewhere. With ‘Air Max Day’ (possibly created by Mayor Quimby) looming, for which I supplied some writing, it had me wondering why some Air Max models have never made a comeback. The AM1 has been played out for a minute, but there’s other chapters that deserve attention — Sergio Lozano (designer of the Air Max 95) had one of his finest non-95/Air Mada moments with the Air Tuned Max in 1999. I recall going to short-lived club Home late the year that these released and the hefty queue being heavy with Tuned Max. Then, despite having some of the best ads ever, the technology seemed to vanish. Those Alpha Project designs were ahead of their time. When the excellent Air Max Deluxe appeared the following year, the sole seemed to switch back to the 97 unit, which seemed like a regressive touch, but the Air Max 2000 and Air Max 2001 (or was it the Air Max Ecstasy?) brought back the five-dotted Tuned Air. Three years of the same unit seemed questionable. Then the overlooked Air Max 2002 got all progressive and dropped tubular Air on us. The failure of that instalment meant that the 2003 reverted back to a six-year-old air unit. That always seemed like an admission of defeat to me. I’m guessing that bringing back the Tuned Max unit wouldn’t be cheap, given the weird piston-powered, multiple pressure, multiple chamber nature of that particular technology.
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.
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.
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.
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.