The beauty of the current craving for content and storytelling is that it means tales get told that are well overdue. Some of that is down to the older generation taking greatness for granted and not putting it down on video or paper, some is down to ignorance and some is just the assumption that there was already a documentation of the thing in question. It’s baffling to think that all these years have passed without a John Simons documentary — he has been mentioned in many key texts, but his is a story of working class kids absorbing overseas cultures with a discerning filter that turned dressing up into an artform in itself is amazing. Simons has long been the gatekeeper to a world of well-dressed yankophiles where the little details were the secret signals that connected club members — something as small as the roll of a collar could get the nod. But it’s far more than that, because even for us scruffs, Simons brought over Pendletons, Golden Bear and was searching for the perfect sweatshirt long before blogs. He’s one of the original obsessives, setting trends since 1955. I’ve long wondered what the difference is between a mod and a modernist, but from conversations with those better dressed than myself, the modernist preempted the mods — a sharp reaction to popular styles of the time and the groundbreaking movies and music released then and, while I’ve long assumed art’s modernist works of the 1950s and 1960s were something very different, the hard-edged geometric abstract work of the era seems to complement the attitude and a connected appetite for more avant-garde sounds and literature, but contrast with a love of natural shoulders on a jacket. Putting the majority of the #menswear brigade who get wowed by the sight of a pocket square and tie-pin to shame, John Simons knows and (longtime garment and culture connector) Jason Jules and friends have put together this Kickstarter to raise funds to make a full-length documentary on Simons’ history and legacy called The Neat Offensive. Between this and the Kickstarter-funded Duffer project, it’s good to see the kind of things the BBC would be unlikely to payroll can come to fruition.
The adidas Equipment line has long been a preoccupation of mine because there seems to be so many stories behind the whole collection. I remember the bags and sweatshirts being popular around my way (and Common wearing the sweat when he was Common Sense) after adidas seemed to be solely discussed in old school terms. Over time I appreciate the shoes as pieces of industrial design, but it’s a collection that brings arch-rival brands Nike and adidas together like never before. Peter Moore, who was brought into the Nike fold by marketing man Rob Strasser, was a key part of the team (as Nike’s creative director) to fight back against Reebok’s reign over Nike in 1984 by creating the Air Jordan I and its related campaign.
Moore was also half of the design team (with Bruce Kilgore) behind the less successful (but brilliant) Air Jordan II, a mastermind when it came to selling visible Nike Air and he designed the Jumpman before he and Strasser left Nike in 1987, leaving the design duties on that line to a former architect he recruited called Tinker. For those achievements alone (and it’s worth noting that Moore himself doesn’t consider himself much of a shoe designer), immortality in the industry was guaranteed to some degree. Leaving to start their own company (and apparently making an attempt to get MJ on board too), Sport Incorporated, with Benetton, Taylor Made and PF Flyer as clients, they took on the inner-city market targeting VanGrack brand, that used MC Shan as a frontman for a promo video. Then Rene Jaggi — chairman of adidas — got in touch in summer 1989, asking for a meeting.
In the era of technology wars and brand battling, adidas was suffering. Now, designs like the ZX 8000 are considered classics, but beyond core European markets who were 3-stripe loyal, the brand was losing money and found itself in an unfocused situation that had killed its visibility in the USA. While Reebok’s position at the time was strong (this was the year of Pump) the very things that Moore, Strasser and Mr. Hatfield had created had done some serious damage to adidas’s share of the industry.
The situation was grave enough that the Sport Incorporated team, leaving Portland for onetime enemy territory in Germany, proposed an anti-glamour, pure performance, no-bullshit approach to the top-tier products with a name that was defiantly fashion-free, Equipment (“The best of adidas“). Every discipline would get its own flagship shoes in a new colour palette with a new logo that was created with Moore creative directing and legendary adidas designer Jacques Chaissaing (creator of the ZX 500 and Forum) bringing them to life. Cottons and nylons on apparel and bags would be picked for their quality and the notion of the ultimate didn’t mean extra technologies — one of the tenets of the original designs was to use the 3-stripes as support features whenever possible so they actually functioned. This wasn’t heresy — it was an attempt to bring the spirit of Adi Dassler’s vision of sportswear as a tool back to the company.
Moore never seemed to have much love for the fairly recent Torsion Bar technology, but it was present in the original March 1991 rollout and first few seasons as part of the original Guidance, Support and Cushion, but would be altered dramatically in the next year for the new interpretations of those three shoes (named, appropriately matter of factly, after the main purpose of each design). EQT (which even released its own jeans) seemed like a retaliation to ACG’s then-popularity. There was EQT football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton and much more — each linked by a certain refinement and advertised in a particularly no-nonsense way.
That adidas were willing to let the colours get switched (reds and blues would be added over time) was significant but letting the man behind the Jumpman change the logo from the trefoil to the stripes was an indication of how open they were to solutions as a new decade started. Moore and Strasser felt that the trefoil represented another new category they’d been discussion — Originals, which would be upgraded lifestyle versions of classics that capitalised on an interest in classic adidas at the time. Sadly, Rob Strasser would pass away in late 1993, but Moore would stay with adidas until 1998, and remains a consultant to the company.
That gap between Originals and Equipment would, in the decades that followed when what was once a shock of the new became the stuff of nostalgia, stop the series from being retroed, bar a scattering of shoes. How could Originals put out the product that drew that line in the sand that determined that it couldn’t be Originals? It’s good to see that issue resolved, just as it’s good to see the shoes brought back in an appropriately no-bullshit way.
One of my favorite things about the Equipment line is this video from 1990, cut to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel and assailing the viewer with a montage of Nike, Reebok, ASICS, Geraldo, Mr T, Tyson, Rambo, Madonna and much more. Made for internal use to give either employes or potential retailers a sense of what EQT was meant to be a reaction to.
Patta is ten years old. That’s quite an achievement, because between 2004 and the present day, plenty of stores and brands have fallen by the wayside and the squad have proven that Amsterdam, like Paris, can do the hip-hop thing — from leather goose downs to two-finger jewelry — and maintain the culture’s sense of style without lapsing into herb territory. Edson, Lee, Gee, Tim, Danny, Malvin and the rest of the family are folks I look up to. Except when I see them I always look homeless by comparison, because their swagger is unholy, so I should keep it strictly digital to avoid them highlighting my lack of style. Just as their own brand started popping, Precinct 5 and Patta closed in 2012, but they promised a return and reopened. To do what they’ve done and not sell out (and I know all about selling out — it never ends well) is impressive and this year is going to be big. After the London pop-up, they took it to NYC this year. Setting it off with Stüssy and Pigalle, plus Italian-made running shoes (which sits perfectly with their worldview — they too once looked up to the guys with illicit dough and the obscure, expensive shoes). I believe that there’s a lot more coming too. Does anybody else remember the 2005 mixtape that called in some old Fat Beats affiliates? Shoe related (nearly) everything can eat a dick, but that Non Phixion freestyle over the Run beat that makes a lot of references to running shoes still works. Happy birthday Team Patta.
Watching the Drew Struzan documentary at the same time that I’m writing this, I was reminded of Mr. Charlie Morgan‘s compilation of shoes as they appeared on Struzan’s poster art. There’s Vs, Terra T/Cs, Reeboks, Airwalks and the Sk8-Hi in the mix. Drew knew shoes.
Continuing the dewy-eyed Soho nostalgia trip from a couple of weeks back, Sofarok upped the early 1990s (1992/93?) Bond International catalogue onto his Flickr account that @rdadub kindly took the effort to supply and scan. Between this and the 1997 magalogue, there’s more imagery of Pervert clothing than I’ve ever seen online (and there’s a little more information on Pervert right here). Newburgh Street was the spot — Rhyme Syndicate merchandise, Insane, Ben Davis, NFC, Stüssy, Goodenough, Carhartt and Tommy Boy were all in here with a nice global concept that indicates that they put in work. Anyone interested in notions of streetwear and London’s role as a hub for interesting brands beck in the day should check this out.
The internet has been spitting out jewels this week — if you’re interested in shoes and don’t mess with the Air Humara, Terra Humara or Air Minot, we can’t talk. Those are Peter Fogg designs and he’s one of my favourite footwear designers ever and this Sole Collector series of videos where Nick chats to the people behind the shoes is cool, with some gems coming out of the conversations — the Terra Humara is apparently based on a brake disc from a motorbike.
I also never knew that Steve Van Zandt (one of my heroes) pulled a real-life Silvio Dante move and saved Paul Simon from being assassinated. This Jocks & Nerds piece on Mo’ Wax by former Straight No Chaser man Paul Bradshow is a great read too.
Idiot Twitter was afire with Pharrell hat jokes this week, but it was good to see some discourse on the Buffalo hat resulting from that. There’s none more b-boy or b-girl than that headwear in all its Peru-inspired glory and the fact that, like Bond International, it’s a British creation with overseas connections has got me feeling unexpectedly patriotic right now.
Apologies for the lack of good updates on the site right now. We started 2014 so well then tailed off into rush-jobs. I’m currently working on a book project and some other things so I apologise for the dearth of anything substantial here (and an increase in nostalgia on what was already a pretty nostalgia-heavy slice of the internet). I would be too scared to ever submit my day-to-day goods to Hypebeast (apologies to Rav) for the scrutiny of the angriest men on Disqus. But if I put up the selection from a late 1999 issue of Vibe, they’d all fall back. Nobody should leave home without a Sega Dreamcast, Helmut Lang sunglasses, some adidas fragrance from Target, a T18z Ericsson phone and accompanying Ericsson Mobile Companion Flightposites, Sony Minidisc and some Joel Schumacher Batman & Robin looking Prada boots, all carried in a big Samsonite case. Beats a MacBook with a box sticker, token Submariner and Goro feathers, but that entry-level Vuitton bill holder was obligatory 15 years ago too.
Nothing to see here tonight, but if you’re strange like me, you should head over to Jonathan Gitlin’s Flickr account and look at the tenth anniversary Bond International “magalogue” from 1997 for a little primer on how things were in London back then. The product offering at the 10 Newburgh Street (pre 17 Newburgh Street) spot was ridiculous — Pervert, Gimme 5, Droors, Pervert before it exited the shelves, Union and their forgotten Polo tribute, Union Sport plus some brand with a box logo — phoning up back then to ask about the box tees and good Zoo York stuff always used to be fruitless, because that stuff seemed to fly out. With the passing of The Hideout, this is a welcome throwback to time when Soho was a destination to take that student loan money for the purposes of spending it on things that were two sizes too big and I wanted DC Clockers as much as I wanted some Humaras. Shouts to Mr. Gitlin for taking the time to up those images.