“THE MAN ISN’T HUMAN…”

This one is definitely dedicated to fellow fight fan Waz  on his birthday. I’ll watch any boxing film. I don’t care if it’s Brian Dennehy inexpicably rocking some kind of mankini to rock the spiky-haired kid from ‘Twin Peaks’ in ‘Gladiator,’ John Garfield as Charley Davis in ‘Body and Soul’ or Stacy Keach and Bridges on their way up and down the rankings in ‘Fat City’ – high art, low art, factually correct or mind blowing in its exaggeration of the sweet science, as sports go, none can match the pathos, tension, politics and violence of boxing. It’s built for cinema. In fact, given the dire state of the sport, fictional depictions could prove to be more engaging than the real thing.

I just finished reading (and I’m late to the party with this one), ‘The Killings Of Stanley Ketchel’ by James Carlos Blake – like Nick Tosches’ ‘Night Train’ did, it affords some artistic license to an already gripping, grim real-life narrative – bizarrely it was the mighty Jason Dill who put me onto the Ken Burns ‘Unforgivable Blackness’ Jack Johnson documentary recently, and re-reading some Hemingway short stories, the incorrect recounting of the ‘Steve’ Ketchel story, later corrected by another character in ‘The Light of the World’ indicated that I was destined to take a further look at the life of Stanley and become, as is my custom, to become briefly preoccupied.

it’s odd that there hasn’t been a Johnson biopic, but it’s even odder that Stanley Ketchel hasn’t been immortalized on-screen. It wouldn’t be particularly glorious, but it would be an absorbing narrative. It’s no surprise that Ernest took an interest in the machismo and eventual downfall of this young middleweight, who according to some sources was a drinking companion of Jack Johnson and the frequently racist writer Jack London. An overview does him little justice, but this Michigan (between this, and my last blog entry, I seem preoccupied with the place from 1900-1920) born brawler was destined for greatness, with a ferocious style, a wide open lack of defence and phenomenal punching power.

Any fighter who psyches himself up by fooling himself that the opponent insulting his mother as Stanley reputedly did, is my kind of sportsman. This of course, would explain the look in his eyes, and the sheer onslaught he’d unleash. The Joe Thomas bout from 1907 remains the stuff of legend, with he and the the ‘Michigan Assassin’ going toe to toe for no less than thirty two rounds.

Ketchel’s 1909 bout with Jack Johnson is riddled with associated myths – the titular quote above was apparently muttered by Johnson repeatedly between rounds, but stranger still, the height and weight difference between both fighters was substantial – bear in mind that Jack was a heavyweight, making this an oddball exhibition fight. Most seem to believe in the more convenient notion that it was intended to be playful, until Stanley made a serviceable attempt to knock the champ down in the twelfth round sending him to the canvas, causing Johnson to eventually rise and deliver the mother of all right crosses; 212 pounds in a blow delivered with such gusto (or rage) that even Jack goes off-balance and hits the ground.

The truth is that they both seemed intent on attaining bloodshed from the opening rounds – that Ketchel could even rock a great in his prime, despite their physical differences made him a true force to be reckoned with. And the tales of embedded teeth are an exaggeration too. Teeth were doubtlessly lost (seriously, check the footage of that knockout blow) but it’s blood that Johnson wipes off.

Drinking, whoring and all that other good stuff took its toll in the following months, and on October 14th 1910, through a strange duplicity, an enraged Walter Dipley, with the help of his girlfriend Goldie Smith, set Ketchel up to be robbed and murdered, with a weak alibi and a lie about Stanley attempting rape. Ketchel died of a gunshot wound to the back that travelled through a lung. His final words were reportedly “I’m so tired. Take me home to mother”  – a more sensitive, spiritual approach to his maternal figure than as the victim of an imaginary slandering that guided those fists, as he passed away the following evening. Johnny Depp was reportedly told by some hack spiritualist that he’s the reincarnation of Stanley Ketchel. Nonsense of course, but if that chancer’s prediction causes Depp to use his clout to get a biopic rolling, then I’m happier than the proverbial porker in excrement. I live in hope.

The way boxing was marketed in Ketchel and Johnson’s era is attractive to me – huge levels of detail, appropriately punchy imagery and a fair dose of the literal. Photography wasn’t rare by any means, but illustrated accounts of fights, elaborately detailed, often with a fair amount of satire, cropped up time and time again. Below is the build-up to the Johnson bout, plus cartoonish descriptions of the 1909 O’Brien knockout, the 1908 Sullivan fight and Billy ‘the Illinois Thunderbolt’ Papke’s questionable 1908 victory – earnt through blows at the handshaking stage in the match, and dealt with two months later when Ketchel annihilated him.

Additionally, I owe ‘Ring’ founder Nat Fleischer a lot – a heavily updated copy of his ‘Illustrated History of Boxing’ instigated an obsession for me, and introduced me to the old style newspaper reportage of the early legends. He first championed Johnson and considered Ketchel to be the greatest power puncher and middleweight of all time. He later downplayed some of Ali’s achievements, but while some considered that a little salty, his opinion was often impeccable. He was prolific as editor and writer, releasing several beautifully packaged boxing guides and fighter biographies. Looking for early editions of his books, I also spotted a Tommy Burns/Jack Johnson tin toy that I wish I owned.

CARHARTT PRE-1920

“She’s got charm, a firearm to match mine/Goin to the movies packin his and her nines/Wearin’ Carhartt and leather, motherfuck the weather”

Writing this from a sickbed because I’m a drama queen, keeping an eye on a media schizophrenically disposed towards both a novelty sized iPod Touch and human suffering on an epic scale, I wasn’t in the mood for blogging. but do you know what? That’s loser talk. Shit, Eddie Futch would probably slap me if he heard me whining because of the man flu. As discussed and noted by all who’ve left the country lately for any mass gathering of thin people in glasses, chinos and Woolrich standing around taking in the whiff of sixty pound scented candles, solemnly talking Horween factory output, over familiarity is lurking into the frame when it comes to the heritage brands that were once a glorious mystery to you. From a personal point of view, one brand represents more than passing trends – Carhartt.

From getting real close to the Panasonic with a skittering pause image of MTV Raps acts to decipher the fat-arsed ‘C’ to the first Carhartt and workwear boom in the UK, with American Classics and Camden market spots shifting the kind of cord collared canvas and denim attire one could fell a burglar with, it’s never really lost that magic for me. Duck canvas is a thing of beauty. I don’t need the fancy stuff – i’m not into wearing it in, the current selvedge pants from Carhartt Europe are ace, but it’s not something to fuss over too much. When one blanket lined item perishes, it’s time to restock during a US excursion. I can trust the union-made stuff; not from some tired preoccupation that those in the factory are Whistling Dixie and dancing around, but because I’ve never been let down by the brand’s core creations. For the money, the Mexican-made sweats are fresh too, though from experience they lose some serious length after a wash. Brown duck is a non-nonsense design classic, and that square patch confers legend status.

James and the crew at Carhartt Europe’s UK office are even more preoccupied with the line, so my onetime wariness of the localised Carhartt’s intentions proved utterly unwarranted. Seeing as Carhartt have been doing this for as long as they do, I’m looking forward to the seeing the fruition of the duck pieces I spotted in the books late last year. US-made coats in fits that aren’t best suited to Terror from ‘The Wanderers’? Very necessary. I was just doing some speedy research on Carhartt’s early days, and with the passing of onetime Flavor Unit linchpin Apache last week, the brand’s been on my mind.

Apache’s solo album hadn’t held up as well as I hoped on a tribute listen (‘Smooth Yet Hard’ on the Flavor Unit compilation does what the title suggests though, his posse cut contributions were strong, and ‘Do Fa Self’ brings back happy memories) – but despite wearing his duck brown vest to the point where he had a touch of the General Zod cosmic villainy going on, he was a strong ambassador for the brand, and one of the first rappers I ever heard namecheck Carhartt. RIP. In tribute, here’s a hastily compiled collection of pre-1920 Carhartt newspaper ads, stories and job-related talk. The earliest is from 1897, and the latest is the strike saga of August 1919 that appeared to blow up and conclude over the space of just four days.

KICKBOY FACE

We’re not grooving on the same vibes any more. We’re grooving on different vibes…ugly vibes.

Magazine editors can be a real disappointment. You want intensity – wild-eyed maniacs hurling submissions into the air in a rage, phlegm flying in the faces of critics taking potshots at the publication, interns beaten to a pulp for ballsing up the coffee run and artists ordered out the premises with fists raised. The reality is duller. Most of them are normal people – too normal in fact to inject their own personality across the pages. As everyone decides that they can create a readable rag on the regular despite rudimentary writing skills and life experience in regards to the lofty subject matters faked via Google, editors will become even more tiresome.

The first time I ever paid attention to the running of a magazine was back when I was left alone one in front of the idiot box twenty years ago, back when terrestrial TV scheduling was significantly better post-11pm. Not only was I faintly disturbed but impressed by the underrated and deeply eerie ‘Little Girl That Lives Down The Lane,’ but I got to see Penelope Spheeris’s ‘The Decline Of Western Civilization’ parts one and two over two consecutive nights on BBC2. That’s where I was introduced to the genius of Claude Bessy, whose wild-eyed rants, rockabilly dress-sense and out-and-out intensity as one of the main characters behind ‘Slash’ gave me the notion that being an editor could be an occupation worth pursuing, seeing as my wonky-handed illustrations were gradually deading my dreams of being the next Frank Miller.

Best of all, Claude would loathe this blog entry. He appeared to hate mediocrity and sycophancy, and was deeply critical of the music industry, and notion of a ‘new wave’ – payola, ad-money and all that other profitable stuff mixed with a lack of any in-depth know-how means that most of y’all bloggers aren’t saying a damned thing, and magazines are wall-to-wall advertorial. That wasn’t the Bessy way.

As an exported luminary of the L.A. punk scene in the late ’70s, Claude’s legendary ad-libbed rant tops the most memorable quotes from my other favourite documentaries like ‘Salesman,’ ‘The Animals Film,’ ‘DOA,’ and ‘Style Wars’ –

I have excellent news for the world. There is no such thing as new wave. It does not exist. It’s a figment of a lame cunt’s imagination. There was never any such thing as new wave. It was the polite thing to say when you were trying to explain you were not into the boring old rock ‘n’ roll but you didn’t dare to say punk because you were afraid to get kicked out of the fucking party and they wouldn’t give you coke anymore. There’s new music, there’s new underground sound, there’s noise, there’s punk, there’s power pop, there’s ska, there’s rockabilly. But new wave doesn’t mean shit.

The bile, the turn-of-phrase and the sincerity blew me away then, and it still resonates today, applicable to any fly-by-night movement, and the inevitable mass exodus to be down with it. The best part of it is, he really, really meant it. Brendan Mullen, LA punk promoter and friend of Bessy’s passed away last October, ten years to the month since Bessy died of lung cancer, but after Bessy passed, in his eulogy he wrote,

No one was sacred from his barbed wit, not even myself (and I liked to think of him as my favorite drinking crony), and certainly not the major record companies, who’d frequently find their full-page ads adjacent to an editorial review mercilessly trashing the record.”

That’s the spirit we still need. Relocating himself from Normandy to Los Angeles, Claude founded ‘Angeleno Dread’ – the county’s first reggae fanzine.That explains his choice to give himself the nom de plume, ‘Kickboy Face’ after Prince Jazzbo’s on wax attack on I-Roy; ‘Kick Boy Face,’ complete with a particularly bombastic face to foot interface on the record sleeve. Just in case that seemed too standard a career path, he also had a brief foray in acting, playing musician ‘Frenchie’ as ‘Claude Bessey’ in a 1977 Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew ‘…Meet Dracula’ crossover special. Yep, that is ‘Phantom Of The Paradise’s Paul Williams camping it up there – Claude is behind him, and that’s teen sensation Shaun Cassidy on the right. Elton’s boy Bernie Taupin is just out of shot. It’s a televisual oddity.

Entering the fray at ‘Slash’ he was a truly inspirational writer, unleashing elegant but brutal polemic like Rimbaud in a Seditionaries suit, lambasting the fly-by-night fakes and bullshit, and championing the Germs and X. The preoccupation with Lester Bangs is certainly justifiable, but while Bangs gets an affectionate portrayal in Cameron Crowe’s ‘Almost Famous,’ a dramatised depiction of Kickboy in the middling Darby Crash biopic ‘What We Do Is Secret’ is more of a sweary caricature. Both scribes are linked by a vitriol that’s the byproduct of the frequently disappointing quest to find the curious romanticism at the core of don’t-give-a-fuck rock’n’roll attitude. Finding true outlaw spirit is like hunting dodos, so you can allow the writer his frequent typewriter vents.

And then there was Kickboy. Slash’s main writer was originally from France; he had the deep, melodic tone of his countrymen, a lopsided grin, and eyes that found humor in the most mundane of things. There was also a grizzled quality to his face…one that spoke of long nights spent with friends, debating the ironies and paradoxes of life. Kickboy clearly did not suffer fools well, so it’s likely that the waves of hero-worship wafting across the waiting room in his direction just irritated the hell out of him.” Aimee Cooper ‘Coloring Outside The Lines: A Memoir’

Kickboy fronted his own band, Catholic Discipline, who, despite ‘Slash’ ultimately founding its own record label post-paper (bear in mind the magazine only lasted from 1977-1980) that once housed Faith No More, never made it to wax. In 2004, a CD of compiled live recordings was released. Showcased in ‘The Decline…’ they’re actually pretty good. Disgusted by Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, Bessy left America and moved to the UK where he took a role at Rough Trade as a minister of propaganda, penning press releases. Inevitably he also crossed paths with the Factory crew and worked making scratch videos for the Hacienda and appearing underground in FACT 125 – a 1984 VHS giveaway, and the ‘TV Wipeout’ tape of the same year, repping for IKON – Factory’s US-based video division. He evidently had an instinct for tracking the zeitgeist. What went down with Rough Trade remains a mystery, but he’s the voice on Sonic Youth’s ‘C.B’ on ‘Walls Have Ears’ where he’s recorded introducing the band before a show on the 30th October 1985 with a lengthy rant condemning the label for attempting to censor the cover of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ which has a collaboration with Lydia Lunch, who also worked with Bessy in 1989.

I’m the emcee, um… so I’m supposed to be saying “let’s hear it for Sonic Youth, all the way from the states”. Except uh… actually I’d like about two minutes of your attention. Shut your fucking face, I want just two minutes of your attention, I have a very interesting little story to tell you. Two minutes, not very long, right? And it’s a… it’s a very instructive little story. Um… Sonic Youth, um, are a band.. shh shh shh… Uh, they’re about to put out a record in this country except their record company has decided to put a no-no on the record. Because of, uh… the cover which is offending some people at Rough Trade. And now, it’s not.. I mean it’s not very offensive cover, it’s uh, it’s got a naked lady, a naked Puerto Rican lady, it’s not very obscene, she’s not doing anything weird. Uh… it has nothing to do with.. you know, in this day of AIDS, an uh.. and all that shit, uh, you would think the major alternative record company would have better things to do than worry about the shape of our bodies. So, I thought I’d let you know, uh, so… um… next time you go and buy a record, and you think you’re really alternative and groovy, and uh, everybody is in… is into the alternative charts, remember it’s just like the other side except it’s a bit, a bit stranger, you know… but just remember, it’s not uh… there’s no fucking culture there, you know. There’s just as much censorship among people our age, or you know.. than anyone else.

It figures that he’d continue his work within the video medium with one William Burroughs – the beat influence was all over his work in the most positive way – taking the root cause and making his own mark across a number of disciplines rather than becoming mired in clone bohemian-lite pretension. Still, the nomadic spirit continued and England in 1987, at its yuppie peak must’ve been as repellent as Ronnie’s new world order at the turn of the decade, so he left for Spain, where his life ended twelve years later at his home in Barcelona. The role of Gitane puffing, louche bar philosopher might be a hefty Gallic stereotype (shit, I even assumed the cigarette brand on account of Claude’s nationality) but it’s a beautiful one.

“First we had no intention of sneaking out of the back door like adulterers in the night, we’re not done with the incomprehensible propaganda yet and there was such an overload of information to lay on your frail intellects, such a gorgeous display of terminal confusion and unexplained phenomena to report and inflict on your village sensibilities as well as much local cliquey foulness to deposit on your elegant rug and offend your world-conscious sophistication (we welcome all types – even the proxy thrill seekers who go slumming thru our X-rated binges), there was so much to give and share and communicate (oh what a sense of duty) that even Jah Jah the old tea head himself couldn’t have stopped this cultural apotheosis. A man with a mission delivers the goods, and when many are involved and they all come thru (take a bow boys and girls) watch out, timber, the impact might kill you. Potent stuff everywhere, droogies, a panoramic scope without equal even if it occasionally blurs out, stunning absence of manifestos and editorial unity (meaning respect in the reader and a stand still at the office), obscure beliefs exhumed from the tomb, cover symbolism (Indian land and punk music meet with…) that doubles as a fashion exclusive. No one asked for it but we can’t resist showing off, there was more but you can only take so much of a good thing. And you ought to know when to stop. Like now?” Kickboy Face editorial in ‘Slash’ Vol. 3, No. 5 (The final issue)

Further information:

www.laweekly.com/1999-10-28/art-books/thees-ees-zee-reel-shit

www.angelfire.com/nj2/cdrsmclub/kickboy.html

www.art-for-a-change.com/Punk/papers/slash.htm

‘CHOLO STYLE’

Ladies De Aztlan, Santa Cruz

America’s multicultural brew gave us some of the most stylish looks – when it gets too white, you’ve got imbeciles prancing around in pastel and bow ties pretending they’re dandies in higher learning. Fuck that. It’s a shame that at present time, core American brands are in, but they’ve been pushed back to American consumers by Japanese and European interests – crazy to see so many Red Wings in New York, but it’s odder to discover that the current boom trickled from Europe and the far east. Acting a follower on your own goods? Strange. Sometimes you can’t see the trees for the lumberjack felled quasi-woodsman style. I expected to see the next shit. Instead,  I just saw dudes dressed like their dads.

Since the days of ‘Dance Energy’ I’ve seen Cholo-styled shoots capturing the stance and pride in Chicano culture. It beats the beard and buffalo-check look, but boy; has their culture been jacked. Chucks, Dickies and a white tee? Untouchable. On you? Not quite so good. Just wearing the outfit ain’t cutting it. Take a look through Estevan Oriol and Robert Yager’s (showcased here on the Selvedge Yard) work for starters and see how much deeper it goes. It’s been a minute since I saw a latino figure in a lowrider during a video, and that subculture’s their creation. People love to pick from the barrio aesthetic, but few want to put anything back again.

If we’re going to dwell on the aesthetics, the west coast’s proudest taught me how to deify the basics – there’s no excuse to not look fresh when your dresscode is built on making something out of nothing – pressed khakis and tees, Ben Davis shirts and Converses make for a sturdy collection of reappropriated staples, treated with reverence. Pinning back pants to avoid ruination by the lack of “back” on a pair of Cortez? It’s all about the little details.

Outsiders peering into any subculture will pick, choose and romanticize as they see fit. That applies to the previous paragraph, and it applies to photographers looking to shock, intimidate or defy stereotyping with their depictions too. An insider’s perspective certainly won’t lack an agenda, but for authenticity within a realm that’s been alternately demonized, robbed, recycled, parodied to the point of racism and frequently misunderstood, you need an inside man or woman. That’s where Reynaldo Berrios enters the picture.

If you’ve ever mourned the demise of even a fraction of your magazine stacks, or just missed out on a full fanzine run, decisions to compile in book form can only be something to celebrate. The recent ‘Boy’s Own’ compilation was a perfect example, and the ‘Sniffin Glue’ collection was strong too. Similar ones for ‘The End,’ ‘Dirt’… even annual ‘The Source’ compilations up to 1993 would be welcome. The possibilities are endless.

2007’s ‘Cholo Style’ book compiled the strongest articles from ‘Mi Vida Loca’ magazine, edited and mostly written by Rey Berrios, and frequently illustrated by Victor A. Spider, whose detailed but occasionally crude illustrations gave it a unique appearance. For the hood, by the hood and sold in the hood, it didn’t travel too much outside its target spots, but for a decade it documented Raza life in detail, with the editor risking his life to get a story written, seemingly for the love of it rather than any Pulitzer opportunities. Now that’s what’s real.

If you pick it up expecting a guide on how to wear a Pendleton properly, go elsewhere – there’s a trove of imagery from the inside present, but the uncompromising stance of the reportage and points raised might alienate some. Conscious of the whitewashing of his community’s legacy, Berrios talks about the cowardice of drive-bys, prescribing punishment for those engaging in the activity, makes trips to other areas interviewing the younger occupants about their hopes and fears, talks Che and Aztlan history race relations, cars; including an Oakland police lowrider, community organization, prisons and self- empowerment. ‘Cholo Style’ makes no effort to provide you with a learning curve, context or spoonfeed you a way of life, but it proves totally absorbing from the preface to the hand-drawn “a message from our sponsors” ads at the back for barbershops, boutiques and corner stores that stocked ‘Mi Vida Loca.’

Naturally, themes of machismo arise, but one of the best collections of images accompanies the feature ‘A Focus on the Homegirls,’ with submitted female crew photos capturing some strong looks and stances for the camera – true hometown pride. This is the stuff that stylists can’t emulate. What became of the showcased Ladies De Aztlan Redwood, San Mateo, South City, East Palo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and South Hayward is never documented, but it’s a great moment-in-time captured. Importantly, Berrios caught the essence and diversity of his subjects – it’s not just about sending the photo editor the gun-toting shots of the most loco exhibitionists – this is the side of a lifestyle and culture rarely seen.

Feral House’s hit and miss approach to publishing the obscure, taboo, or rarely documented is always something to salute. For every couple of conspiracy-laden titles, there’s a ‘Lords Of Chaos, ‘American Hardcore,’ ‘Prisoner Of X’ (Allen MacDonell’s account of his time working for Larry Flynt at ‘Hustler’) and ‘Cholo Style’ – if the first two can get films made, the latter definitely warrants a documentary. Self-publishing against some heavyweight levels of adversity.

www.myspace.com/mividalocamagazine

www.feralhouse.com

Ladies De Aztlan, South City

Ladies De Aztlan, Redwood City

Ladies De Aztlan, San Mateo

Ladies De Aztlan, San Jose

Ladies De Aztlan, South Hayward


UNDERGROUND LITERATURE

The blogging today is briefer-than-usual, as I’m abroad and rushed off my feet like a motherfucker. Looking around New York, one thing’s abundantly clear – from a publication point-of-view, things are a little flat. Whereas I’d usually be stuffing a bag with goodies from Universal News, it just wasn’t happening this time. Same with clothes. Sure, there’s some okay gear – got to love cheap ‘Lo and Champion,  but when the general choice is either lairy tee prints or potted histories in a button-down, I tend to go into autopilot. The food is as great as ever, but it’s strange to be in this city and not be impulse-buying from borough-to-borough.

Wait. Let me put ‘Jerusalem’ on the iPod for a second, because in terms of magazines, the UK is still banging out gems unexpectedly. Two of the most interesting, defiantly British in their approach yet hugely diverse in content are Barnzley’s ‘The Daily Terror’ – the paper wing of the ‘A Child Of The Jago’ brand and store; now on its third issue, and totally free, and ‘Dodgem Logic’ – Alan Moore’s new magazine, determined to resurrect the spirit of underground magazines.


There’s no point releasing the usual torrent of hyperbole with regards to Moore. Trying to keep it succinct, he’s one of the greatest living writers of any medium, but despite the Teflon cult legend status, he probably isn’t celebrated enough. There’s probably a whole ‘nother mini-essay to be written about the impact of ‘Watchmen’s smiley face on UK street culture in the late ’80s, which, just to tie these two publications together with a neat subcultural bow, was Barnzley’s doing during his stylist days.

The fact Moore dwells in Northampton rather than the nation’s capital gives him a healthy distance and reinforcement of my theory that being out of London can be good for the imagination – that’s celebrated in the magazine he’s just launched – ‘Dodgem Logic.’  “Colliding ideas to see what happens” it even comes with a CD of local bands. The sense of underground on offer here isn’t the naivety of the slew of rags from the ’70’s talking tokes and titties – it’s the whole timeline of underground press, and Moore provides and excellent essay on the medium’s history, as well as a strip illustrated and written by himself. There’s focus on comedy, politics and much more from some strong writers too. All for £2.50 too. And not a shred of chambray in sight either

‘The Daily Terror’ launched in late 2008 with some great content from Mr. Jason Jules, bringing back a politically minded underground feel, with a healthy dose of outrage in the mix – not dissimilar to the Jago attire aesthetic, and a punk spirit that’s authentically edgy without descending into mohawked fiver-a-photo Watty-lookalike plastic anarchy.

Issue two was okay, but wasn’t on par with issue one, despite some good Link Wray related content (in fact, issue one and the Jago lookbook are readable right here), but Chris Sullivan, of Wag Club, The Face, and any significant UK style movement or publication, brings the ruckus, particularly with a Studio 54 and disco feature – bear in mind, Sullivan actually went there rather than living vicariously through Google (like me) that alongside Lisa Robinson’s piece in the new ‘Vanity Fair’ could be part of an amyl and re-edit renaissance. The piece on Paul Hartnett proves that snapshots of street style might be rinsed by any clown with a G9 now, but it ain’t nothing new. A fine read, and best of all, free of charge.

www.achildofthejago.tumblr.com
www.dodgemlogic.com

NO MAS APPEAL

Edit – This Chris Isenberg interview by A Silent Flute’s Nat Thomson is worth your time.

Somebody make it stop. More PR blurb bouncing from blog to blog like a paragraphic echo over a 48 hour period, with loving descriptions of leather goods and other such gentlemanly matters, and the new spurt of non-groundbreaking sites pointlessly telling you how to dress in a shirt and a nice coat could have someone reaching for the Baxter of California Double Edged Safety Razor with thoughts of an afterlife.  Did some kind of poison gas leak causing mass delusions of stylist-credentials? Saddled with information to the point of apathy, stockpile your Rogue Status and Campbells tins, lock yourself away and pray for the next coming of the all-over print. Seriously, it’s no less excruciating from the outside looking in than those dark days. The “cool kids” are putting a time-limit on timeless. Yet some lines get slept-on in hypesville, but just keep on bringing it in terms of solid product, intelligently executed – like No Mas.

American sports that aren’t pugilistic can be a tough global traveller, undeniably exciting, but so steeped in stats and history, that they can prove impenetrable to an outsider looking in. The gear, megabudgets, the lurid presentation, glamour and frequent rap references make it hugely appealing though. There’s an aspirational quality to US sporting activities, from seeing Lil’ Wayne in human ESPN mode to the humble sweat in a generous jock cut. No Mas embrace sport culture, and at a global level, in all its forms. Scandal, rap references, the next generation, true legends treated with non-ironic reverence…all of it.

Like the west coast’s UNDFTD, always consistent on the design front, team No Mas channel their locale’s legacy, attitude and aesthetic perfectly. They had gems on Digital Gravel, but during a trip to the Union sample sale in L.A, where Chris Gibbs knew what time it was with the sample Stussy world tour varsity at £44 in UK money, seeing the No Mas ‘Former Champion’ project in the flesh, instantly created a No Mas fan. The brand’s name, seemingly riffing on the second Duran and Sugar Ray bout was cool, but stitching disgraced sportsmen’s names on the back of US-made Champion Reverse Weaves and  hand stitching  ‘Former’ before that familiar lettering felt like the fruits of a high-five laden bar conversation brought to life. They even added their spin on the original Champion tag. Now that’s dedication. The Dee and Ricky assisted collection of bags made from old ‘Starter’ jackets, retitled ‘Finisher’ was  clever too.

For the most part, we tend to skirt around the sporting origins of those grey fleece garments you’re rocking now by looking too close under the microscope (guilty as charged here your honour) at the direction of the stitch, the collar the cut and the authenticity or recreation rather than the utilitarian reason for being of, say, a sweatshirt, or a t-shirt…dwelling on day-to-day lifestyle instead of ever breaking a sweat seems to lose sight of the bigger picture. Chris Isenberg and Dan Larzelere founded the brand in 2004 based on pure passion for the subject matter, and the No Mas brand has grown into a media outlet too, whose updates are always worth your time – more on that later. Oh yeah – have a look at their guest-edited Frank151 from a few years back too for the ‘Illustrated History of Recreational Drugs in Sports.’

Like Supreme, the tracking down of relevant figures and official licensing dodges the cheapo pitfalls that left most streetwear brands floundering a few years back – currently, their use of the Wiffle Ball licence (an item recently marvelled over by a limey contingent in a Cleveland-based Dick’s store for its striking logo) on tees looks great, a collection of Ali shirt reproductions in association with Worn Free that aren’t tainted with the Superdry-style wack of so many other cotton garments bearing the man’s name, shirts dedicated to stubborn refusals to accept new ground names, and their sponsorship of Golden Gloves winning heavyweight Tor Hamer means tie-in gear too. Even after recent events, it’s tough to beat a ‘TYSON VS. GIVENS’ lettered zip-up.

The haymaker in the collection is the hookup with Everlast NY, and the reproduction of the EVERLAST NY t-shirt worn by the legendary Floyd Patterson during training. This isn’t bullshit nostalgia – this is a labour of love, seemingly made for the handful who know the deal with both fighter, and a legendary brand. It’s a shame it seemed to go under the radar, as it’s one of the most perfectly executed collaborative creations in some time.

Before this blog entry hops off the dick, back to the visual treats; the No Mas ‘Rumblevision’ project let James Blagden, David Rathman and Jerome Lagarrigue interpret key elements of the “Rumble In The Jungle” through animation. Victory is celebrated as often as misbehaviour in Isenberg and Larzelere’s world, but even the most non-sporting can appreciate Blagden’s visual interpretation of Dock Ellis’s LSD-addled antics. Seriously, just check out their YouTube channel.  If you were a fan of ‘Ben Younger’s fine debut, ‘Boiler Room’ aka. ‘Wall Street’ with added O.C. on the soundtrack, watch his ‘Hammer Of Tor’ Hamer documentary for Playboy TV in association No Mas. If your boss calls you up on it, just say you were clicking on it for the sporting documentaries.

www.nomas-nyc.com

SKATING IN TIMBS


“The Timbo hits with the prints underground/Timbos on the toes, I love the way it’s goin’ down”

This was originally going to be a study of supposedly MIA Dogtowner Chris Cahill, until I realised there wasn’t enough information for me to add anything to the Cahill mythos that wasn’t already out there. Ah, if only more bloggers out there threw in the towel when they realise the extent to which they’re out their depth. Still, there’s a blog to be written, skating lore is on the brain, and you can’t beat a good pair of Timbs on the feet.

I kind of liked Timberland when they were accused of racism – at least they weren’t haplessly trying to crossover, meaning that in a curious way, their longevity was guaranteed, and people were foolhardy enough to think that throwing on some Lugz or North Faces instead was the answer. Wrong. The brand’s vastest misstep lately has been to embrace street culture a little too whole-heartedly, some might say, over-compensating for their earlier attitude, with a plethora of lurid colours, rolltops and varsity fonts. The Workboot should be kept clean.

Alife know what time it is – their version stuck to the wheaty script (their 40 Belows were bananas too, and true to the original), Colette knew the correct colour to maintain; they didn’t paint ’em black like George Costanza (though they used leather akin to the 2003 anniversary variations), and the David Z joints with a fleece lining were inspired. That’s as far as modifications need to go. At present we’re assailed by work and hiking boot talk – hand stitched soles, made in the USA, Japan-only line…yada, yada, yada…you’ve all sent me full circle. Fuck it. Give me a sweatshop-made staple. No fuss. No availability issues. Minor break-in time. Iconic design. Thank you. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the wheat Timberland 7-hole boot. Some deride them for being so ubiquitous. That’s the point…they’re a staple. Build quality isn’t what it used to be either, but yo, that’s applicable across-the-board. If you’re living in a new-build home, you can probably hear next-door’s hamster snoring through the House-Of-Miyagi-thin walls.

Skate shoe styles may have become theatrically wide – padded loaves of bread with tubular laces in recent years prior to a necessary pare-down, but nothing tops the legend of folk skating in workboots. Before discussing the tree-logoed Massachusetts brand,  think back to a more innocent time, when a vert skater like New Zealander Lee Ralph could appear from nowhere, as if he were a defrosted caveman, shred it, invent some tricks and spend a whole contest wearing full-height cherry-coloured Dr. Martens on his feet. Consider the sport’s embers of non-conformist attitude burning at the time, and that punk rock spirit, and while they’re a strange choice of performance shoe, they made a curious sort of sense on the late ’80s. At the turn of the ’90s, nothing had the level of impact on street skating that H-Street’s truly unshackled ‘Hokus Pokus’ did, and Matt Hensley defined the style of the decade to follow with that hair, mid-cut shoes like Vans Chukkas, the shorts and socks, chain wallets, and occasionally, skating in a pair of Dr. Martens shoes. A bold move, and while everything else got cloned, the shoes seemed impractical enough to avoid cloning.

Laughing in the face of board feel, a Dr. Marten isn’t the ideal skateboarding shoe. Air Wear and oil resistant soles aren’t built with that occupation in mind, and to wear them to skate is showboating; self-inflicted footwear adversity that still can’t hinder your footwork. Sit the two together, and the Air Wear number is a Vans Era compared to the bulk of the Timbo, and that weight that makes you feel like you’ll have Popeye forearm calves within a week of wear.

Tales of Tom Penny brought the Timberland as a skate shoe to my attention. Hearing tales of Oxfordshire-born Tom ripping it on a mini-ramp in Timbs and a leather jacket fired my imagination. Tom was a practitioner of baggy garments, but this was next level. Maybe it was all the magic mushrooms, but it seemed like the behaviour of a true style master – which is actually the case. But alas, along came Mr. Don Brown and Franck Boistel in a 2007 issue of Transworld to rain on the parade, by rendering the Timbo-talk moot with some brand facts. Tom’s supposed Timbo turned out to be a different brand, and if tales are to be believed, on close inspection, they were more akin to the moc-toed City Escape efforts that the 6in Boot…

All the while, Stateside, rumors of Tom’s whereabouts and exploits circulated like old wives’ tales. One such rumor, which in fact turned out to be true, was Tom’s decision to send a torn and tattered Timberland boot to éS as the model for what was to be his first pro-model shoe. Apparently, Tom had taken to skating solely in the same pair of Timbos for nearly a year-obviously, much to the amazement of those around him. Don Brown, senior VP of marketing at Sole Technology explains, “Penny went through one of his many vanishing missions in England, and eventually he was spotted at South Bank in London, kind of raggedy looking and rocking a pair of Timberland boots with a small heel. He basically closed down the session and left everyone in typical Tom Penny amazement-not just from his amazing lazy style and perfection, but from that fact that he did everything in a pair of Timberland boots!”
After being repeatedly asked by Sole Technology for some direction on his first pro shoe to be, Tom eventually sent in one of those very boots. Former Sole Technology Designer Franck Boistel elaborates, “For the record, I think Don Brown brought the boot to us. We were asking Tom if he wanted to design a shoe for years. Then we got this beat-up Timberland that Tom obviously skated in. You could see tons of tear and wear on the ollie area and the bottom was falling apart. We nonetheless did come up with some sketches.” The craziest thing about it all? That forever-rumored and all-over-the-message-board lore proved wrong. It wasn’t even a Timberland at all-it was a Columbia hiking boot.

Fuck it. Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. Tom’s technical éS model still had shades of Timberland in the mix. Watching ‘Deathbowl To Downtown’ features some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it real-deal Timberland skating in the mix. It’s an NYC and Washington DC thing. Champion sweats were as integral a piece of skate attire as they were hip-hop, and even skate kids in the north of England were jocking ACG sneakers beyond the board. While some clueless marketeer will leave a snail trail in excitement over the notion of a crossover, there certainly was a meeting point perfected in the ’90s. It seemed pleasantly fitting yet functionally illogical that Timberland would be skated – fuck, they’re hard enough to keep crispy at the best of times, but ollied and kickflipped? Maybe that D.M. punk spirit hadn’t forsaken skateboarding at all. There was Pepe Martinez (R.I.P.) rocking a pair for a whole section in Chris Hall’s 1996 ‘True Mathematics’ video, and witness Kyle James ripping the Brooklyn Banks in a pair of butters circa. 1997.

Other occasional exponents of the world’s flyest, yet utterly inappropriate pick of skate shoe include Drake Jones, Greg Stewart, a pre-prison Ali Boulala and Brian Wenning. Ah yes. Brian Wenning. After being ejected from DC, he appeared on a clip a year ago rocking Timbs and a cycle helmet at a park – the helmet may have been a gag we weren’t privvy to, but initial perceptions saw the helmet negate the inherent gnarliness of the boots, making the whole act pointless. As is the 21st century malady, there was too much information as Brian went on homemade internet video talking brand beefs, smoking a cigarette like a blunt and bragging about skating in Timberlands. There lay the mistake. Not the slow nicotine tokes. Not even the helmet, but talking too much about his choice of footwear and killing the mystery in one outburst. Cheers Brian.

While Timb-alike Uptowns are a given, don’t forget the skate shoes that carry elements of the boot as the key to their appeal; from the light brown Airwalk NTS (tenuous), to the 2002 SB Wheat/Bison Dunk Hi, Globe’s dull mid-cut effort, the ill Dunk Mid that took a more direct makeup lift, to DC and Situationormal getting their beef and broccoli on, but for all the fuss, the best lift came in the shape of a special colourway of Chad Muska’s Skytop – that size makes them feel like a direct descendent. As soon as Tom Penny decided to return to skating, it’s telling that he picked his friend Chad’s Supra brand as his footwear sponsor – while his pro-model is arguably the simplest in the whole line (and a low-cut), those February 2008 ads with him in fine form promoting the lofty Vaider silhouette, it all made a certain sense