As an addict for print, I’ll get my fix by any means necessary. I’ll die when the stack of free publications I’ve amassed falls down and breaks my hip, leaving me stricken and starving. But in the meantime, I’ll still keep pathologically picking them up. The problem with the best free magazines and zines is that they were stocked in the cooler stores. Because those stores were cool inevitably, nobody else was in there beyond two shop workers, the smell of incense, and some esoteric mix wafting though the speakers. In that environment, avoiding purchase but grabbing a freebie was a definite zero eye contact and headphone move. I might have bought some twelves and mix CDs I never wanted to get hold of the ones kept behind the counter with customers in mind. A few years ago, hunting down the tactile pleasures of FRANK151 in London was a mission — since the pocket-size went to cargo pant size with issue #51 and carried a cover price, I’ve never seen it anywhere in the UK. It’s a shame, because the magazine has had some of the best content out there, and there’s plenty of images I’ve seen in FRANK151 that I’ve never seen since. If you want to get a little extra history on street culture over the last 15 years or so, go check out the magazine’s archive on issuu — you can flip though the lion’s share of the back issues (sadly, the ALIFE/Wu Tang edition is absent), going back to issue #1, when it was an Atlanta-based project with indie-rap and turntablist inclinations through to its switch around issue #10 up until some of the final freebies. All the content, without having to negotiate any moody employees of short-lived shops.
I’m interested in a few different things, and the graphic above from Goods by Goodhood’s Manifetstee sums up the best bits. Reading like the classic “you’re gonna wake up one morning and know what side of the bed you’ve been lying on” shirt (or the memorable Fuct list ad in Thrasher) without the negative stuff, and being on Goodhood’s own super soft Portugese-made custom-made blank makes it doubly excellent. Any tee that unites Cliff Burton with Patricia Arquette’s teeth, Insane Strawberries and a tribute to the defunct Dr. Jives is my kind of garment.
I could sit and watch bargains being sold and bought on Discovery Channel shows and YouTube thrifting videos all day, and I find the same spirit in Richmond VA’s Round Two and their homemade creation, Round Two: The Show. There’s something compelling about watching people get their shoes priced up, and this crew-owned spot seems to be more interesting than anywhere else. Official accounts are overrated. I don’t visit shoe-centric stores too often because I know exactly what’s on their shelves, and I can safely assume that everyone else with legit accounts has the same stuff too. I’d visit a store like Round Two to see if anything unexpected appeared, and the quality of their regular video production beats anyone else’s online content. While the popularity of the Air Huarache NM leaves me confused, there’s some good footage in Round Two’s GaLlery space, which basically replicates the shoe stores of old and seems to have replicated the complete wall of a shop back in 1997. The kind of space that has an Air Zoom GP on the wall is my type of thing. Crazy that a second-hand store has managed to create the best videos of any retailer, as well as holding down a substantial showcase space with a tremendous collection stashed in it, but that’s the power of a passion project.
There’s a lot of people whose worlds peaked when Bizarre Love Triangle released. They’ll talk of nothing but defunct Manchester nightclubs and daydream about Hooky’s low slung bass. They’ll sail of a wave of revisionist history that crashes in their heroes fake DJing at a student union, and get angry at any whippersnapper who dares to comment on their teen idols, positively or negatively. Dancefloor veterans telling you, “You weren’t there maaaaan!” But beyond the angry old men, most of the music is still fantastic, and the art direction on those Factory releases is magnificent. Peter Saville is name checked repeatedly with good reason — not only is his work memorable from a graphic standpoint, but there’s a thought process at word that makes him an interesting interview subject. Saville spoke with Lou Stoppard at SHOWStudio recently, and they’ve upped a 99 minute uncut version of the conversation. Every second of Power, Corruption & Lies or Closer is still essential, and much of what Saville has got to say has something to give to a new generation — his pro-research sentiment about the epiphany of realising the amount he never knew (mentioned around the 45 minute mark), and the subsequent bliss of stumbling upon the vastness of context is a call to learn, rather than the actions of a time-frozen curmudgeon. Everyone with a new brand making homages of homages who wants to be around in 24 months might benefit from listening — even if it’s just for 12 minutes.
This Canadian documentary from 1993 has just appeared on YouTube via Barnaby Marshall. 10-20: Berlin provides some rare footage of the first Cycle Messenger World Championships that took place in Germany. William Gibson makes an appearance, on the back of his novel Virtual Light being based around a courier in a post-earthquake SF, and there’s also a brief chat with Futura 2000 (who was once a messenger himself). Despite the early 1990s Real World style presentation, there’s some superb soundbites in it.
It’s been a minute since I bought a regular rap magazine, but I’m still buying hip-hop related books like a fiend. Scarface’s recent autobiography was an ultra-downbeat read, but a worthy one (I was pleased to see that have hated the cover art to Geto Boys’ Da Good da Bad & da Ugly as much as I did) that’s a fine accompaniment to Prodigy’s book (still the ultimate hip-hop bio) and the Q-Tip, Lil’ Kim and Benzino memoirs seem to have vanished from the release schedules after a on-off wait of almost Rawkus Kool G or Heltah Skeltah-like levels. The one that I’m ultra hyped for is the Nas autobiography, It Ain’t Hard to Tell: A Memoir, which, according to Amazon and the publisher, Simon and Schuster, drops later this year, on November 10th — four years after its announcement caused some brief blog fuss. Rap books get delayed even harder than the damn albums, but if Nasir Jones opts to make like P and pull no punches, it’s going to be a classic. In the interim, I’ll probably pick up the Luther Campbell, Buck 65 and Kevin Powell books in coming months, but there’s one extra volume with some serious potential — Rap Tees: A Collection of Hip Hop T-Shirts 1980-2000 by collector and connoisseur DJ Ross One, which drops on Powerhouse in October. Promising hundreds of promo, bootleg and concert shirts representing Sugarhill, EPMD, the Wu, BDP, 2Pac and everyone else, the Screen Stars style cover art has me sold on it already. This kind of archive is my idea of heaven — if somebody gathers the rap promo sticker collection of an OG like Jules Gayton and publishes it, I’ll be in heaven. On the Scarface front, the impending existence of a 33 1/3 book completely dedicated to The Geto Boys, thanks to travel writer and New Yorker contributor Rolf Potts, is something to celebrate too.
My updates here have been sporadic due to work distractions. For that, I apologise (I actually need to get this basic blog template redesigned at some point soon too). A couple of pieces I wrote are in the new 032c. It’s easy to become jaded in a world where much of what you love has become cyclical cultural mass, but that’s how you become so embittered that you render yourself unemployable. I still manage to get hyped about things like this. As somebody who’s an admirer of ACG, 032c and ACRONYM’s work, I was excited to see the All Conditions Gear article we put together in the new issue, plus an extract from a conversation I had with Toby and Sk8thing from Cav Empt. There are longer versions of the interviews that might find their way online too. Shouts to Joerg for letting me get involved. Go pick up issue #28, because it’s still the best magazine of its kind on the market — the What We Believe piece is bold and brilliant, plus there’s a rare spot of Supreme print advertising in there too. There’s an 032c clothing line coming soon that, going on the strength of some brief IG previews (and knowing that they don’t do anything by half), will be good.
On the magazine front, upping the seminal Ruder than the Rest article from an early 1991 issue of The Face half a decade ago amassed a lot of interest at the time, with this period of real London streetwear barely documented or celebrated. The logical follow-up to it was Norman Watson’s Karl and Derick styled New Skool shoot (mentioned on this blog a couple of times before) from later that year (which includes Mr. Charlie Dark as a young ‘un). That piece united skatewear, streetwear and sportswear perfectly — Nike Air Max and Huaraches worn with Pervert, Poizone, Fresh Jive, Anarchic Adjustment and Insane, plus haircuts by Conrad of Cuts and Rollin’ Stock. It was incredible — the look that dwells in the Basement and gets hectic in Wavey Garms now, but back when it really seemed to take form for a wider audience to watch from far, far away.
6:77FlyCreative have put together an exhibition called Ruffnecks, Rudeboys and Rollups that gathers imagery from this pivotal era of style in the country’s capital, with submissions from the likes of Normski. It runs from a private view on Friday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 24th at 5th Base Gallery at 23 Heneage Street in east London, with some very appropriate sponsorship from Supermalt. I’m looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it’s the start of something even bigger.
Linking every topic above again, something interesting is happening with The Face archives by the looks of things — Maxwell Logan and Nick Logan have started an Instagram account called THE____ARCHIVE that showcases me gems from the magazine’s vaults for its 35th anniversary, like these logo prototypes from Steve Bush. This outlet, plus Paul Gorman’s book, should provide some extra insight beyond the fancy design and memorable features. It’s the 35th anniversary of the very much alive i-D this year too.
With it being the three-year (which has flown by, as if to remind me how much I’m wasting my life) anniversary of the legendary MCA’s passing early last week, it seemed relevant to have a hunt for something with a Beastie connection. The House of Style interview with Adrock and Mike-D from June 1992 is fairly well documented, but I hadn’t seen the full version of the interview before. I’ve mentioned it here before at some point, but the Porkys1982 YouTube account is one of the very best channels dedicated to a band, and they upped a near 10-minute long version of a Check Your Head era chat about X-Large (in which nobody seems to have told the boys that the Gazelle preempts the Campus) and a certain era of clothing that resonates with them. It’s a great accompaniment to the MTV Sports appearance from the same year, Adrock’s 1995 Valentine’s shopping trip, the 1994 X-Girl fashion show segment, or the 1995 X-Girl film that Nowness unearthed back in 2013 (Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band has some good background on X-Girl too). This Pump It Up interview is also something I hadn’t stumbled upon before. It’s important that the whole Beastie movement’s subcultural role is reiterated time and time again, but it’s also worth underlining how important they were in defining streetwear as we know it now.
On that mid 1990s note, a shoe I saw then completely lost track of has made a reappearance on shoe-selling site, Klekt. I’m not down with blowing up eBay auctions because it’s ungentlemanly, but I’m not sure what the unspoken rules are with Klekt. The Friends SMU of the Air Edge completes the trinity (I know there’s actually more — like the gear created for the Martin cast — but trinity just sounds nice) of Nike TV specials that Nike created in the mid 1990s. The Nike Binford for Home Improvement cast and crew and the Air Seinfeld version of the GTS for Seinfeld cast and crew aren’t as nice as the 2nd Season edition of the Edge specifically for friends of Friends in 1995, even if Friends and Home Improvement are trash compared to Jerry and company’s antics. This is extraordinarily rare. A gentleman by the name of Joe is currently taking offers for these.
Because I like trainers, and it’s relatively well-documented, it’s assumed that I’ll be keen on anything that’s trainer-related that isn’t actually a pair of shoes. During a boom time, most stuff that isn’t from the actual brands is just cash-in tat, and I’ve had a few emails from people scheming some ill-fated sounding documentaries. Your documentary will run thusly: footage of queues (with a few interviews with excitable individuals ranting about resellers), at least one dude standing in front of a wall with a legal piece on it, dull footage from some kind of convention, some bloke in a sparsely shelved boutique, interviews with the same bunch of “influencer” dudes who are pretty much omnipresent anyway, a footballer who bought a load of shoes at a mark up (plus a couple of fakes) during the last 24 months, a depressingly token female collector, a rapper collared at some kind of store event talking about Jordans with excess background sound, and a quick collage of some guys with rooms full of Nike boxes from the last three years, complete with a Drake instrumental in the background. Feel free to prove me wrong, and if I am, I’ll almost certainly write something excitable about it for you somewhere. My guess is that it’ll be a shitty Just For Kicks knockoff. Why not just single out a solitary subject and run with it? I want to see a film dedicated to the dwindling state of mom and pop stores, about the Adi/Rudi rivalry, or on the golden age of the British sporting chains.
On the latter topic, it’s crazy how the shops that reached every provincial town, where most of us saw our first Air Max, ZX or Air Jordan haven’t just shut their doors or been assimilated into a bigger chain they’ve vanished from the digital landscape too. Their boom times were back in a time when only boffins had the internet, so there’s only slivers of information online.
Brits in their late twenties and above might recall a time before the scattering of trend-led spots with exactly the same sets of upper-tier shoes. Back in the 1990s, there was Olympus Sport, First Sport, Allsports, Champion Sports, Cobra Sports and its spinoff Cobra Frontier, Intersport, Sports Division (which, as I recall, took over Olympus shops in the mid 1990s before JJB bought them). But to Google them, bar LinkedIns pages of sport industry veterans and snippets of business and marketing archives, it’s as if they never existed. Olympus — a store I spent hours in, staring at shoes and asking for leaflets and catalogues — has just vanished, despite its colossal contribution to the trainer obsession that became a monster. Some of them were still standing until the mid 2000s. It’s understandable that they faltered and fell, due to bad business decisions, stiff competition, rapid expansion and takeover bids, plus the internet’s ascent as the shopping method of choice, but it’s unusual that they barely left a note for us to remember them by. Perhaps it’s better that they vanished completely, than become a sickly imitation of themselves like Regent Street’s Lilywhites, which went from selling Italian sportswear and the kind of specialist gym equipment that oligarchs would buy to Donnay shoes and Dunlop luggage in a couple of decades. Going there is like visiting your formerly high-flying friend, only to find out that he’s been sacked, disinherited and is living off Nurishment and the occasional Pork Farm product.
For a while, I found myself assuming that Cobra Frontier was just something I dreamt up. I could at least find a picture of a flagship Olympus Sports (nothing else though). I know my more learned friends will be able to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure Frontier started as an instore section of Cobra that traded in Timberlands, adidas Adventure, Merrell and Nike ACG, before it became a set of shops (that I’m sure, outlasted or took over standard Cobra Sports doors). Then I found this gloriously basic short film online that looks like it’s from early 1998. Looking like a college project and full of music and the occasional slo-mo blur that defines the era, beyond the skate park footage and obligatory graf, there’s a whole section filmed in a Cobra Frontier branch, with a wall full of Air Max and Terra gems, from a time when B-list celebs wandering out the Met Bar in a yayo daze made trail shoes seem like they’d supersede runners. Sarah Atkins, I salute you for making a trainer documentary that’s almost certainly better than any more ambitious production for those few minutes alone.