Kickstarter culture, an anniversary celebration of no significant number for pretty much everything important, hunger for content and anyone coming of age during the 1990s getting their expendable income together means that things I’ve discussed here before are the subject of movies, documentaries, big books and exhibitions. It’s a great thing too. The current Larry Clark print sale at Simon Lee Gallery meant that I could grab a piece of the shoots that informed how I dressed back in the day but it was also an excuse to buy some smut too (which Instagram’s all-seeing eye snatched from my feed). Apparently there’s still a few good shots up for grabs in that wooden crate. I read about The Kids Film a few weeks back – Hamilton Harris‘s documentary on the making of the film and its aftermath (encouraged by the popularity of Caroline Rothstein’s Legends Never Die), with Clark helping as a producer and The Screen Feed ran an interview with Harris about the project last week that’s worth reading.
Soon, orgies of unofficial branding on tees will be fully played, but Boiler Room and Young Turks went in with this collection of logos akin to the late 1999 labels feature from The Face. That grid depicts plenty of Sports Direct favourites — once exotic and prized, but now licensed out for twenty two quid a pop. There’s a couple of ones that kept the flame burning in there too. If you caught the Budgie episode of Boiler Room’s Collections broadcasts then you’ll know that this 45 King episode is going to be heavy too.
Edson is the connoisseur’s connoisseur when it comes to music and clothes and he’s out to cause a baby boom with Luffie Duffie 3 — the last two instalments went in with the slow jams and this one is MOP inverted — smooth never rugged. That Parra cover art is serious too. This goes out on the 5th and you know the Patta squad will christen it the right way.
The Hiroshi Fujiwara fragment retrospective on Rizzoli is pretty good. If you grabbed the Sneakers Tokyo and Personal Effects books, surprises are going to be minimised, but if you haven’t, it delivers the goods. Over the years I’ve heard the, “Hiroshi Fujiwara of (insert country/city)…” mentioned whenever it comes to isolating cool guys, but the majority exist as alpha individuals who are still followers who made the most of a digital world. Hiroshi laid down roots through an obsession with exploration and isolating personal picks and his taste is impeccable — more a McLaren-style figure than a blog-wonder. That’s what makes the difference, and for all the use of taste maker in the industry, there aren’t a great deal of them out there. The Fader article from 2000 is a good complement to this one and much of his travels outlined in this Interview piece help fill some gaps which aren’t fully explored in this publication — I’m still fascinated by the trips to London and NYC (and there’s some good examples of his Seditionaries and Westwood archive pieces at the close of the book), Soul II Soul connections, Tinnie Punx/Tiny Panx Organization, bearing witness to the Wild Style tour and all those Last Orgy articles (an English translation of Masayuki Kawakatsu’s biography Tiny Punk on the Hills would have cleared up a lot of that period from 1982 onwards). I want to know about the things that don’t necessarily translate, but the man behind the brands is fully aware that too much information can ruin the bloke as a brand. It’s good to be able to isolate the genesis years of Goodenough, Electric Cottage and A.F.F.A. and John C. Jay’s intro is a particular standout— as long as folks are calling themselves influencers on Linkedin, we’re unlikely to see another character make an impact like this. Not bad.
Northerners are the reason a lot of us fetishise coats and sportswear like we do — Oi Polloi’s progressive approach to something that started on the terraces is a great deal truer to the original energy than strutting around in a replica track top. Looking like you just got out of prison after 31 years in solitary confinement or dressing in a gang bang of anachronistic retro garments defeats a hard-to-define purpose. The new Pica~Post (free) and Proper (seven quid) put most competition to shame: a long discussion on sweatshirts with the Good Measure team and talk with an elderly ultra marathoner are the kind of content I mess with.
This edit from Dan Magee of a ton of classic and rare footage brought back memories of skateboard attacks at the end of the Right to Skate tape as well as some happier recollections. It’s a good use of two hours and seeing as my day began listening to Kid Capri tapes on YouTube and ended with this, my post about shutting the fuck up about 1993 a few years back has reached new heights of hypocrisy.
I’m backing any brand that does outerwear right and ALL THAT IS LEFT has a good pedigree. I know this new line will be putting out a full range beyond jackets that seems to include denim and leather goods, but this orange GORE-TEX shell creation with a Pertex shelled lining that contains Canadian Hutterite down looks bananas (read here for a primer on fancy feather insulation). It looks like it launches in September and my expectations are sky-high.
Despite lasting for over 104 episodes before it was canned, The Word was treated like televisual Super Noodles by critics and establishment figures alike for half a decade. We, the target audience, appreciated it though, and 19 years after its final episode screened in March 1995 (watching Strike’s performance of You Sure Do from that broadcast this evening had me emotional), there seems to be a worthy amount of nostalgia for those 808 State soundtracked opening credits and the lawlessness that followed. As those reviews preempted online coverage, their toxicity has deteriorated, so we’ve forgotten the disorganised outside broadcasts and hopefuls munching on plates of dead skin, emptied colostomy bags and filtered the best bits into those memory banks. What was good was great — like live performances by artists who, in a concerted bid to show no respect to the live format, made classic TV, or George, Zippy and Shaun Ryder getting acquainted — but there was a lot of rubbish in the mix. It was sometimes like the contents of an issue of The Face being bellowed from the stage during a nightclub PA, but that was part of its appeal — sincerity shuffled self-consciously alongside humiliation and irony. We watched that thing religiously as its excesses elbowed it from a tea time slot to the post-pub position. It was there that a generation planning to go harder the following night would exit the pubs, get home, skin up with terrible hash, crack open more beers and watch it alone or in a heavily populated front room. The Word was great group TV every Friday around 11pm.
The two segments that stayed with me weren’t the usual suspects either. One was a late 1993 segment where Mark Lamarr investigated Desert Eagles and chatted to the Franklin Avenue Posse and Steele from Smif-n-Wessun about it, before a return to the studio where Terry quizzed forgotten rapper K7 (of Come Baby Come fame) on the subject of firearms. The second was a February 1994 piece from the same episode where Rod Hull attacked Snoop Dogg (mentioned here a few years back) on Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight’s son Travis back when he rapped as Chilly Tee (he now heads up LAIKA). Where else were you going to see stuff like this? Beyond these clips, it’s worth noting that The Word Appreciation account on Dailymotion has at least 17 full episodes uploaded — there’s all kinds of misses in there, but the gems remain and it’s best streamed late in the day and under the influence. Just like it always was.
I’ve covered Phat magazine on this blog before (though, by using Imageshack back then, all of the imagery has since vanished — something I’ll rectify.) This was actually written for Ala Champ Magazine, but a format issue rendered it vaguely Burroughsian with a cut and paste approach to narrative. You should still buy issue eight of that publication though because it’s excellent. Here’s the article in its full form.
“There are those who are not happy about handing over our beautiful country to these ignorant hoodlums.“
(Auberon Waugh from The Daily Telegraph in a discussion about Phat magazine, 1993)
Nothing screams a certain early 1990s naivety like phat. Phat beats. Phat denim. It was still a mainstay of po-faced anti RnB rap-night flyers until the end of that decade. Then somebody decided that the extra letter was a waste of consonants and spelt it correctly again, but some phats are harder to shift than others.
I was witness to a failed coup on paper as a bored teenager on a trip to Devon in summer 1993. As a magazine obsessive from an early age and far from privy to any industry politics, I was perplexed as to why R.a.D magazine — a seminal British skate publication — had become little more than a pamphlet, but the appearance of a R.a.D-like UK-based title called Phat on a village newsagent shelf had me intrigued. Those glossy, easily damaged pages hurled multiple topics together — movies, girls, video games, music, skate and BMX — during the boom time for Pete Rock productions, In Utero, big clothes and World Industries that still causes misty-eyes in thirty and forty somethings, plus legions of premature nostalgics wishing their twenties away.
Phat spoke to me. Loaded wouldn’t set the lad-mag movement off until Easter the following year, though Phat had the spirit of that magazine’s more literate early intentions with Gavin Hills — who wrote for both R.a.D and The Face before his tragically early death in 1997 — as editor. Whereas the male-orientated successes following in Phat‘s wake would celebrate the lad mentality, Hills’ editorial would sneer at the “Kev” everyman characters whose attitude was at odds with its target readership — an in-the-know 13-16 year old male audience.
Speaking for the newly formed C12 Publishing, ad-manager Laurence Stubbs told the press that this was a project, “…aimed at the pre-Face and Arena reader.”
America had the fabled Big Brother magazine (which had caused its own outcry for a suicide article in 1992) that no store in my hometown stocked and around the same time I discovered Phat, Sassy‘s little brother, the BMX-centric Dirt (helmed by Spike Jonze and Andy Jenkins) would crop up in a comic shop packaged with a copy of Silver Surfer. All three shared the same attitude and, like Phat, Dirt would be short-lived too.
Operating as multiple fanzines in one, Phat‘s modular approach to editorial, irreverence, information overload, celebration of consumerism connected with every subculture I’d ever fixated on. Riffing on R.a.D‘s early life as Skate Action — a BMX Action Bike magazine insert in the late 1980s — this was that approach amplified.
Much of Phat‘s staff were former R.a.D crew members, down to the stewardship of UK skate ambassador Tim Leighton-Boyce. A last-minute buyout of R.a.D — which had been subject to a number of ownership changes in its lifetime — by a publisher known more for windsurfing magazines after Robert Maxwell’s death at sea left the magazine a slim shadow of its former self, with Phat reading more like a reboot of what its predecessor could have been.
According to Leighton-Boyce, the purpose was simple, “Phat’s original intent was to do whatever we needed to do to keep a decent skate magazine on the streets of Britain.“
The genesis of the magazine was fast, “Phat came into existence in a great hurry. We rushed around, raised some money and got organised to take over [R.a.D]. But someone else was also interested and they presumably offered to pay more. So, suddenly we found ourselves with everything in place to carry on with the magazine, but no magazine to carry on with.“
It’s curious then, that issue one (preempted by C21’s giveaway PSP Phree Skate Press newsletter to preview the project and explain the situation) relegates the skate content to free supplement status once again, but Phat’s breadth of content was a strategy to get it on shelves, “The potential distributors, rightly, suspected that what we wanted to do was launch a skateboard magazine, for which there was almost no market in those days. ‘This isn’t a skateboard magazine, is it?’ was their big question.“
“TEENAGE GANGSTA!” “PHWOAR!” “BOUND & GAGGED?”
With its “Hot Stuff for Hoodlums” tagline, Phat‘s chapters included C21, a screen grab laden section documenting cult films, graffiti, the paranormal and even including some business advice from a young James Lavelle, Buzz, with its shops, clubs and classifieds, plus Produx, with its onslaught of street and skate wear from the likes of Droors, Pervert and Fuct, shoes, record reviews and loosely related gadgets and toys.
Chris Aylen, who contributed to R.a.D and Phat, taking that spirit to the launch of influential website, Spine Magazine (as well as giving me my break) sees that launch time as a pivotal one, “At the time Phat was launched it was clear that the boundaries between skateboarding, hip-hop, graffiti and street fashion were blurring. Skating in old-school trainers — primarily because they were cheap, not necessarily because they were ‘cool’ — was more in line with hip-hop than skate rock, and we started hearing rap and more funk-based soundtracks in skate videos, which led to an interest in associated activities such as graffiti and buying records.“
Leighton-Boyce recalls it being passion project, “I don’t think we ever included anything that someone in the group wasn’t really into. I think that shows in the quality and density of the content. Although there was no master plan, what circumstances led us to do was to fill up a magazine with loads of stuff which we thought was interesting or exciting, or funny. That’s not something you can easily fake as part of a marketing strategy.“
And what about that strange-sounding digital stuff? Phat’s editor was quite the early adopter, “We [Phat] did try to lead readers towards the skate world online, but we were too far-stretched to do anything more than that at first.”
Phat ran pieces on newsgroups and treated email as a viable mode of communication when we were still assuming it was a gimmick. In fact, BMX Action Bike had a preposterously long Telecom Gold email address in the magazine as early as 1985. In 1994, State51 was launched as an early agency of sorts for clients like Virgin Records to dip their toes in the nascent world of the internet.
R.a.D‘s The Wall was a section dedicated to recommendations of small-town hookup spots for skating and socialising like some proto-forum, which would eventually become the early crowdsource project, knowhere.co.uk. Leighton-Boyce already knew how to engage with low attention spans, “If Phat had survived it would have blossomed online immediately. We were always passionate about making the magazine as interactive as possible — the aim of The Wall was to make it easy for readers to get material into the magazine without having to do something formal like write a letter, let alone an article.“
Sadly, the magazine’s fate was sealed from the very beginning, a victim of its own appetite for controversy and the dangerous assumption that reactionists would take the time out to read the content before forming an opinion. A gun on the cover of August 1993’s inaugural issue, previewing a provocatively written anti-firearm article, would lead to newspaper columns, radio show phone-ins and Parliamentary debates on corruption of young minds and gang culture’s supposed rise — a precursor to the nation’s alarmist attitude toward any youth in a hoody a decade later.
All publicity might be good publicity, but when it causes nationwide retailers to boycott it and for big-name advertisers to back off, that’s a significant problem. Two more editions would follow in September and October and then, nothing. A few write-ups hinted at a resurrection while the team — now, without a designer — tried to find a lifeline, albeit in vain.
In a parallel universe without firearm controversy, could Phat have sustained? Aylen felt that the editorial approach was almost limitless, “I think that Tim, Vernon Adams, Gavin Hills, Ray Calthorpe, Simon Evans, Steve Hicks and the rest of the editorial team kept the theme of the magazine loose on purpose, which led to a number of really interesting articles.“
For Leighton-Boyce, there were early signs of trouble in that the sales weren’t high pre-controversy, “It may have been ahead of its time in that people did not buy it in sufficient numbers even before it started to be pulled off shelves.“
He also faced some questions regarding the sheer amount of topics each issue covered, “I recall that when we were trying to keep Phat going by trying to sell it to other sympathetic publisher, the publishers of Viz questioned whether we would ever be able to carry on generating such an amount of good content each month.“
Flicking through Phat‘s pages, the layout is very much of its time and not every piece of writing has held up particularly well, but that’s beside the point — it reads like the predecessor of the lifestyle blog, with its escalating clusterfuck of cultures and disciplines in one place, existing in a realm where every WordPress is deemed a lifestyle magazine. Phat was an experiment — to some it was just another dud launch, but for many who did pick it up, the impact was immeasurable.
Nowadays, corporations want to claim their own terrain in the skate world by any means necessary to win the hearts and minds of the same teen audience that trio of magazines was looking to engage with. Leighton-Boyce and team Phat’s smartly-executed subterfuge of their actual intentions reiterates just how much has changed in 21 years, “The impression I get now is that all manner of things try to attach some kind of ‘skate’ label to themselves and to mix in some skate content as a sales point. We had to deny that we were a skate magazine.”
The covers here are borrowed from the excellent Vintage Skateboard Magazines site that should make my fellow victims of motherly magazine culls get a little weepy.
Nothing new to report, but this BBC documentary on Levi’s 501s is interesting. Part of the Design Classics series from 1987 that also featured entire episodes dedicated to the Volkswagen Beetle and Barcelona Chair, the footage of Peter Blake in a Canadian tux and rare chat with Willie Gertler — Levi’s first British agent — sheds some light on how jeans became popular in the UK. Of course, at the time of the programme’s broadcast, 501s had slipped in terms of detailing, with selvedge scrapped in 1985, but their popularity was escalating, thanks to some smart marketing. Back then, even Pepe were seen as a threat to the company’s market share. Salutes to Emile Durkhelm for that upload.
Shouts to magCulture for putting me onto this Longreads list of links to lengthy pieces on the creation of some of the greatest magazines ever. You could get lost in this collection. The Awl comes through multiple times with superbly researched articles like the recent one on Entertainment Weekly‘s declining fortunes and last year’s Wigwag retrospective.
The Mo’Wax Urban Architecture exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall wasn’t quite as grand as I expected (newcomers to the label should pick up the book for some background), but the densely packed cabinets should make the visit worthwhile if you’re interested in early 1990s hip-hop and it’s connections to London and Tokyo. While all eyes might be on the canvases, these displays are full of elements omitted from the tie-in publication — James Lavelle’s business card hoarding seems to have paid off. I hadn’t even thought about Yankee Peddler since the mid 1990s, when he had the ads in toy magazines that promised a veritable emporium of action figures and made me wish I owned a fax machine so I could get a catalogue. That Major Force card gives me Patrick Bateman levels of envy too. I’m not sure how many casual browsers passing through the Festival Hall would care about this kind of thing, but I certainly appreciated it. Shit, I’d gladly pay to visit a show that was entirely 1985-1999 hip-hop business cards and if you’re similarly geeky, go check it out before it finishes later next week.
The only marketing I’m interesting in right now is these urgent adverts from 1995 pirate radio stations like Shockin 90.0 and Dream FM 107.6. Defunct Kingston clubs, tape packs, and things that only Brits of a certain generation will be able to comprehend, are just part of the announcements recorded here. This beats your carefully mapped communication strategy.
Port magazine‘s cover story on Ralph Lauren by Donald Morrison makes the most of a rare opportunity and it’s refreshingly free of the sycophancy that I would have brought to it (though the celebrity soundbites are full of superlatives). I was trying to fathom the influence on Mo’Wax the other day, which was influenced by Stüssy and the Beastie Boys, who were presumably influenced by the Clash who may well have taken inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s work. It’s tough to pinpoint a solitary influence in things I love, but I know one thing: Lauren’s company is the brand that every streetwear brand wishes it was, even if most of us are chasing the little pony rather than aspiring to ride a horse on a ranch somewhere. Nobody sells a lifestyle like this guy. The world density map of stores is a nice touch (there’s 474,951 square feet of Ralph Lauren stores in the States) too.
This entry is short and Nike heavy. Seeing as a couple of things pertaining to the swoosh went live over the last 48 hours, I may as well direct you there. First up, there was this quick chat with Mark Parker about HTM (I had to include my dud attempt to get him to compare the Presto Roam to the new Superfly. He was too professional for that) for 032c. Not included was a quick conversation about the Nike Internationalist (which I was wearing) — Mark actually designed that shoe as well as a few of the V-Series, the Epic and the Escape among others. Nice guy and great to get the opportunity to talk about specific shoes with him. Then there’s this Genealogy of Innovation site right here which I’m proud of. I worked with a bunch of talented project managers and designers (salutes to R/DA for that execution), with invaluable help from Nike’s DNA department to get this done — the way they laid this out (provided that your wi-fi is strong and your browser ain’t out of date — otherwise you might want to pass until it’s on paper) as a site is great. Displayed like this it’s basically a simulation of the inside of my head. I wish we could have gotten our hands on the cleated versions of the Air Match models and hasn’t omitted the Air Fire due to circumstances beyond our control, but bar the Air 180, they’re all original shoes. It could have easily spilled into 500, 600 or 800. But it didn’t. Maybe next time. If you like some of the nonsense I put up here, you might find something to like there.