THE JEFF PHILLIPS TRAGEDY

My MacBook just died. It contained some things I was going to blog about, so I resorted to a backup plan. When in doubt, just recycle an old article that isn’t already on the internet. I see movements accelerated by online outlets to the point where they burn out in mere months and while it’s easy to chuckle at what’s no longer on trend (and we’re currently in a realm where 48 hours after anything arrives online requires some form of self-conscious “late pass” talk), there’s victims in any defunct element of a declining subculture.

Skateboarders love gossip as much as rap fans and graffiti nerds. They love tales of fatalities, misbehaviour and “where are they nows” more than most, and a key catalyst for misfortune was the transition from vert to street. Superstars plunged from grace as a new breed emerged, and the old guard had to evolve or die – of course that was meant literally in terms of diminishing careers and funds, but in the case of Texan skate legend Jeff Phillips — a childhood hero of mine —
the change in the culture’s physical landscape and personal problems led to his suicide on Christmas day, 1993.

We all know how Gator and Hosoi dealt with their problems in the early 1990s, but whereas Mr. Rogowski was afflicted with a douchebag streak, Jeff just came across as a guy who loved what he did for a living.

That enthusiasm was infectious. I recall meeting Joe Lopes (with my dad actually, who constantly made reference tour meeting with Joe until he too passed away – I think he was either trying to embarrass me or impress me with his memory. In the former, he failed and in the latter, he succeeded) in 1988 during a Circle-A tour of local skateparks. He seemed like a good guy (I’m sure he and his team mates were handing out pornography) and I was saddened to hear that he died in a car accident in 2002. I also remember a thinly veiled tale that pertained to the man in an issue of ‘Big Brother’ too, but this isn’t the time or place.

I’ve seen few truly progressive movements in my lifetime beyond skating, so I guess those left behind during its most significant leap. For that reason, stories like Jeff’s affected me a little more than the macabre tales Google frequently spits at me. I haven’t bothered with ‘Rolling Stone’ in a long time. Does it still take itself seriously, ’Almost Famous’ style? The last good article I read was a piece on straightedge gangs a few years back and before that the “bugchaser” piece in a 2003 issue. In 1994/5 they were still publishing some great material.

Kevin Heldman’s JA and GHOST trailing ‘Mean Streaks’ in the February 9th 1995 is a classic, but there’s a few more notable non-music assignments from around that time too. Peter Wilkinson’s ‘Skate Till You Die’ — a six page piece on Jeff’s last days — ran in the September 8th 1994 issue. It was sensitively handled and enlightening too, exploring the complexity of his depression. I miss excellent journalism.

INFAMOUS

“Bout to do a photoshoot for supreme…that skater brand.. Freeedom is great!” (Prodigy via Twitter a month ago)

I need to confess an act of hypocrisy. After mocking the notion of e-books as “robo books” I had to buy one on iBooks. Waiting two weeks for Prodigy’s ‘My Infamous Life’ in the UK was a step too far and my hearty appetitive for rap trivia meant I had to catch this one early and it doesn’t disappoint. Prodigy’s on his usual form when it comes to talking shit, and in a realm where even constructive criticism constitutes “shots,” his appetite is doubly refreshing. Having been a Mobb fan since the first album, back when they were referenced alongside Da Youngstas and god forbid, Another Bad Creation, its been interesting to watch P and Hav evolve as an act. Prodigy’s a complex character and he’s got stories for days. If you relished his ALL CAPS listings of what he invented and who’s wack a few years back, you haven’t seen anything yet. Rap autobiographies are usually patchy, written in a self-conscious style, pulling punches and overblown in their execution.

This one might not be pretty like Jay’s ‘Decoded’ but it’s vastly superior simply because while Jigga stays media savvy, and calculated, P’s hot-headed ways mean nothing’s unguarded. Sure, there might be some “Never get the truth get in the way of a good yarn” Chopper Reid type theory at work (see the debate over his Capone and Noreaga tales, but we learn plenty about the man — his mother was in the female vocal group, the Crystals, his friends Nitty and Killer were the kind of guys you wouldn’t want a run in with, he had ways of getting guns and razors into the Tunnel (Prodigy was a big fan of knives and guns), Mobb were actually affiliated with 2Pac’s crew, he’s no fan of Keith Murray or Saigon (he calls Def Squad “Deaf Squid” but there’s not Tru Life talk), he got the dragon hand ink when he was very young and his relationship with Nas is particularly complex. He’s seen UFOs too. There’s few who could top this one in terms of content. Between this and Dan Charnas’s ‘The Big Payback’ the bar for rap-lit has been raised significantly.

Havoc is depicted as an exasperated creative partner, frequently infuriated by his friend’s aptitude for personal chaos, and rumours of crack and the scale of the Bars N Hooks beef are confirmed. So you trivia-junkies and hip-hop gossips know you need it, but lest you think it’s merely one for the rap weirdoes, there’s a strong narrative of severe illness, incredibly bad behaviour, revenge, karma and a redemption of sorts (on P’s own terms) underpinning it all. Rappers can be one-dimensional and few could put out something this deep — though I’d like to see a Scarface autobiography — and it’s smartly timed to remind us why this relatively young veteran of the industry remains relevant. Let’s face it — you need any book contains the line, “(we) chilled in Wu’s hood, smoking angel dust blunts with Rae and Ghost and two white kids in a silver Benz.” Thank the stars for beaming down this intense kingpin of Beemer-driving bleakness and that big mouth of his.

You know it’s time for multiple asides though, right?

Despite their breakout from that brief spate of young ‘un rappers talking that proto-thug talk, the recently sample decoded ‘Shook Ones (Part II)’ changed everything for me with regards to the Mobb and rap sonics in general. I recall hunting for the mysterious promo double vinyl ‘Nudder Brudders E.P.’ (what was up with the Alkaholiks ‘Daaam’ fragrance too?) from Loud in late 1994 for the aforementioned track and its prequel, obtaining it and marvelling at the Helly Hansen jacket themed artwork. Mr. Steve Rifkind did some work with Helly Hansen that popularised the brand with his pioneering street level marketing approach, and like Tommy Boy’s Carhartt commissions , I’ve never been able to track down one of the promo Helly Hansen jackets made specially for the Loud team (these pictures are from an eBay auction I missed out on). I’ve never seen the jacket depicted on the ‘Nudder Brudders’ sleeve beyond that record but I’m sure it exists too.

Reading the book also reminded me of how much I liked Live Squad back in the day — Live Squad affiliate and Queens rapper E Moneybags (gunned down in 2001) recorded a fine recorded a fine record called ‘Regulate’ with a guest spot from Prodigy in 1999 as a bonus track on the ‘In E Moneybags We Trust’ album. Like MobStyle, there’s a realer than real feel to Live Squad (Stretch was slain in 1995) and their finest moment is the ‘Game of Survival’ fifteen-minute mini-movie. Pre empting Master P’s grimy ‘I’m Bout It’ by five years, this ultraviolent trio of music videos with a basic rise and fall of a killer theme is a favourite of mine.

It’s low budget, but it’s well made, laden with bloodshed and bullets to the head — the ‘Murda Muzik’ DVD couldn’t compete with this VHS rarity that got a DVD release a few years back before descending into obscurity. To this day, I’ve never seen such a violent hip-hop video and there hasn’t been a better visual depiction of gangster rap’s brutal excesses circa 1993 (when this was released) either. Signed to Tommy Boy in 1992 when ‘Murderahh’ and ‘Heartless’ were released as one single (both the videos make up the bulk of ‘Game of Survival’) and the title track was released as a promo in 1993.

Just as the Almighty RSO’s ‘One in the Chamba’ got them dropped from Tommy Boy during the ‘Cop Killer’ fiasco, Live Squad’s brutal video (complete with a cop killing) and lyrics meant the ‘Game of Survival’ soundtrack was shelved and the group sent packing. Shouts to Majesty and K-Lowe. Most people remember this as the mind-bogglingly ignorant video where a baby is chucked to its death to the lyrics, “Well the job is done — now we can go.” “What about the baby?’ “Throw it out the window.” Best of all, the end titles list ‘Intellect’ as the man who plays ‘Baby Killer.’ That never fails to amuse me. Because I couldn’t find this significant proto-Worldstar oddity on YouTube, I just upped it in two parts. Watch it and tell me that it isn’t one of the most entertaining rap videos you’ve ever seen.





Even in early Summer 1992, Bonz Malone knew that the Mobb was coming.

While the spinning G-Unit efforts, Twista’s egg timer with diamond dust and Flocka’s Fozzie Bear are grander gestures, Prodigy’s Virgin Mary pendant (I’m weak with religion, so feel free to correct me on that) from 1994/5 press shots (as seen far above) is my favourite piece of rap jewellery. I recall seeing this piece on several artists at the time, but when ‘ twinned it with Carhartt and a Newport, he created one of hip-hop’s strongest looks. I was saddened that it never made an appearance in Miss Info’s excellent ‘Bling Bling’ but in ‘My Infamous Life’ the foundations are set back in the Poetical Prophets days as, “At the Coliseum Mall near Jamaica Avenue, I bought Havoc a big gold link with a Mary Mother of God pendant with a big ruby in it. Hav was happy.”


All this gold talk is reminding me how much I want to see ‘The Devil’s Double’ — this poster beats the plainer Sundance one I upped here earlier in the year. Nobody’s even matched this one on a mixtape cover, and it reminds me of Homer’s lottery daydream again (“Oh, I know what it is. You’re the biggest man in the world now and you’re covered in gold.”).

ALBAM ARE STILL TRYING TO CREATE THE WORLD’S BEST SWEATSHIRT

When any piece of writing about your brand commences with “It might be a cliché…” there’s a fair chance you’ve really made it. It might be a cliché to gush about the greatness of Albam, but they get a lot of things very, very right. I’m unlikely to rush out and start wearing a neckerchief or waistcoat, even though Albam sell those items. I’m equally unlikely to swan around calling things “shirting” but I respect how they’ve maintained their initial mission statement to perfect basics in addition to some more technical pieces — the Alpine jacket for instance — and continually tweaked them seasonally. There’s a definite performance streak that runs though several designs (a climbing/biking fixation?) that stops the brand’s output from ever descending into dandyism.

It’s 23 degrees in the daytime at the moment, so what better time to start banging on about thick cotton fleece again? Fuck it. Sweatshirts are always relevant.

Not content with attempting the perfect t-shirt from their launch in late 2006, (itself a very subjective thing — alas, as a less-refined oaf, I favour something with more bulk and a thicker neckline, but their Egyptian cotton creation is admirable), their quest for the perfect crew-neck sweatshirt has been visible over the last couple of years. It’s curious to see Brits recreating iconic American styles from scratch, but there’s a certain obsession that’s unique to this country when it comes to clobber and music and one that can transcend Japan’s preoccupations. I loved the 2009 incarnation of the Albam crewneck (there’s a rant on here somewhere about it), but in its current form, it can totally take out the import, Americana-fetishist short-arm, short body efforts at half the cost too (£77). The fit seems to have become a little more forgiving and the elbow stitches, flat locked seams, cuff and waist rib details that remind me of Polo rugby shirt sleeves give it its own identity.

The UK and Portugal make something that’s not another Costa Rican made fat suit fit, with the 50-inch chest, There’s plenty of details in the mix (inner pocket stays winning), but as is Albam’s way, it’s assigned an identity of its own without a fussiness that makes it gimmick gear. In Saffron, it works very well too. The current store offerings (despite a dearth of sizes 3 and 4s due to popularity) are tremendous — the Artisan Shirts (winter’s red chambray version was phenomenal) and Ring Snap Shirts (green wins) are some of the best yet, but I feel that with our yankophile ways, we’re more swayed by the impending UK arrival of J. Crew, whose recent presentation looked hyper-awkward, and whose offerings lately (bar New Balance) look a little too college-jerk/middle-management for my tastes. Albam is doing a far better job, with better build (I haven’t heard too many moans about quality since the loose buttons on the original cagoules talk) and more logical price structuring.

I feel Albam was partly responsible for a quiet revolution in men’s clothing down south. Every apparel designer from any brand I’ve spoken to visiting London since 2008 has carried a scrap of paper with “ALBAM, Beak Street (Off Carnaby Street)” on it or had the address lurking on their BlackBerry.

I love residing in a town outside London that pays little attention to trends that aren’t Ed Hardy, Full Circle or All Saints, but even in Bedford I’m seeing the parka, cuffed chinos and work boots creep in. And bear in mind that when I first broke out the Fisherman’s Cagoule a few years back (second generation with the white buttons) I was the source of much amusement — I got “Yarrrr” in a faux sea-captain voice, plus some freestyled sea shanties from more creative members of my peer group. Now I see them clad in Albam-lite, purchased from High Street spots with designers taking hefty “inspiration” from the Albam inventory and blog realm in general.

One joy of living somewhere detached from any Google Blogsearched notion of cool is that any sighting of a look there is the ultimate barometer that a trend has transcended any notion of tastemaker to become a full-fledged phenomenon. As long as Albam keep on dropping seasons like the current one, I remain a fanboy. Props to Mr. Shaw and Mr. Rae on almost five years of strong work — and congratulations to Jude on the new addition.


I hope one day the Fisherman’s Cagoule comes back. Mine is so covered in scratches that it makes me look homeless. And not in a cool Doug Bihlmaier way either.

Total digression, but what’s the story with Glenn O’Brien’s Wu-Tang themed broom in the Life + Times site interview the other week? It’s amazing.

VINTAGE INTERNET HYPE

I hate the overuse of of “street culture” as an umbrella term for what blogs frequently promote. I’m sure as fuck not “street.” But I can concede that the big overpriced, overhyped brew that fills blogs and expensive magazines has gone overground in a major way. That’s not to say that the blog realm hasn’t been a major topic in boardrooms globally for years, but the Art in the Streets exhibition at MOCA and Jay-Z’s Life + Times portal site feel like some big-budget crossover moments to tether multiple zeitgeisty moments. If you’re still deluding yourself that a Supreme tee on your back and pristine boutique-bought Dunks make you part of an “in the know” secret society, you’re misguided. That look has blown the fuck up.

Pharrell buddying with NIGO, Lil Wayne with the BAPE belt, Dilla in Stussy and ‘Ye in Supreme in Vibe’s November 2003 issue were just the beginning. Lupe’s ballistic nylon Visvim backpack, Bun-B’s streetwear fandom on the Weekly Drop and MURS talking Undefeated circa 2006 gave way to a limited edition lifestyle becoming the norm. That Jay would get involved (after all, he’s a business, man) was an inevitability. It’s something bigger than street culture — it’s the new face of aspiration across-the-board. The definition of what constitutes hype is gradually spreading to keep pace with the hyperactive, OCD minds of the consumer – chairs, electrical goods, business matters, luxury goods, supercars, big budget movies, pencils and architecture are all contenders now. They don’t need a screenprinted or pleather tie-in tool to justify inclusion, because things done changed.

Just as popular culture has appropriated the hype, the hype is picking from popular culture. It’s a good move too, because I was becoming increasingly jaded by the five-brand circle beat-off that created a rut that nobody could be bothered to queue for. I still can’t see much on the Life + Times site that Hypebeast, Complex, A Continuous Lean, High Snobiety and Selectism can’t fill up my RSS or Twitter timeline with. Casting my mind back to Slam X Hype, Hypebeast and High Snobiety’s early days, it’s mind-boggling to see something that started purely from fandom become the prototype for every attempt in the quest to win the hearts and minds of a particularly sophisticated audience — you can’t just stick lurid colours on something and tell them to wait overnight for it any more.

Jay’s move is a more intelligent echo of Damon Dash’s (as an aside, I love what he’s doing with Creative Control) America magazine release a few years back. Dame knew there was something there to harness beyond the voluminous denim and hefty fleecewear, but it got derailed by an ego trip. Shawn seems to have lifted elements of that halfway-there business plan in his predictably calculated manner. The site deserves some credit for creating content rather than aggregating it, unlike those curious bottom feeder URLs that lift from the blogs. Bear in mind that Jay’s “little brother”s much-feted blog started life happily heisting content from the likes of High Snobiety without a credit. I liked the shot of Jay’s Margiela sneakers too, but I’m in no doubt that Madbury and Street Etiquette were screengrabbed into the Powerpoint presentation to secure funding for the site.

So if a lifestyle portal like Life + Times represents some sort of neo-hype megabudget, mainstream movement and the blogs we check regularly are hype in its traditional, easily-digestible form, what about the proto hype outlets that helped to inspire a whole movement? They deserve a little more credit than they get.

It’s curious to think that hip-hop was one of the last subcultures to truly embrace the internet, given its power on Trending Topics nowadays (witness the recent afternoon of Earl Sweatshirt awareness), but the notion of looking at rap on the internet seemed downright goofy and at odds with the “keep it real” culture of the time (though these 1993 alt.rap entries are a charming reminder that folk have been saying “hip-hop’s dead” for almost two decades — even during a perceived golden age). Platform.net was a pioneering site on its creation circa 1996 – a proto Complex.com in some ways, that got plenty of corporate interest from the likes of Sony back when the internet scared brands the first time round and everyone threw money at unprofitable business models.

Platform offered, well…a platform for record labels and clothing brands, plus original content that sometimes talked to me like I’d never heard of hip-hop, but let me hear Ghostface’s ‘Apollo Kids’ (RealAudio, yo) for the first time, while hosting HAZE, Strength, Trace and Triple 5 Soul‘s online presence…or something like that. It was a particularly overdesigned site, but I used to visit frequently. It had vanished by 2002, but the site’s founders, Ben White and Tina Imm were part of the original Complex team in 2002. It was an ambitious move at a time when online hip-hop consisted of white men arguing about Atmosphere on message boards or sparsely designed online stores, but it pre-empted the culture’s ownership of the web.

Relax, Street Jack, Boon, Lodown and Mass Appeal provided plenty of paper content circa 1999, but it was also the time when plenty of sites began offering collated information in an English Language format. My respect for Being Hunted and RTHQ is substantial, and something that’s been covered here before several times. 1999-2001 felt like a silver age of online hype culture. Both Being Hunted and Rift Trooper HQ were utter fandom — otaku levels of interest via Europe (Germany and the UK respectively) and the blueprint for the blog realm.

Spine Magazine’s London-based mixture of sneaker, skatewear, sticker and magazine fixation, plus extensive hip-hop content is the reason I do the job I do now, but it felt utterly fresh on its debut, offering the same excitement that Phat magazine offered seven years earlier (also involving Mr. Chris Aylen too) — it also spawned online store Crooked Tongues in late 2000 (that model of sister sites would become more ubiquitous later on down the line) and even had a Recon collaboration. Now, anyone might be able to have a blog (Crooked and Spine had Blogger functions — one of the first times I ever saw the word mentioned) but it currently feels like a collection of vaguely overlapping, cliquey closed circles. Back then, simply registering an interest got me involved (big thanks to both Christophers, Steve and Russell).

Nike Park was a good source of Nike news during the Alpha Project days and a purer time when brands were a little more apprehensive of internet fandom. That would lead to Niketalk in late 1999, and Nike Park’s spam-filled message board came to a close in early 2000 — shouts to Collie, who supplied plenty of Euro exclusive images to the Nike Park and Niketalk back in the day. Fat Lace deserves props for maintaining since 1999 too (not to be mistaken for the UK-based rap ‘zine which also deserves props).

Online stores like the Tokyo-based resellers Concept Shop (Simon from Concept Shop seemed to be a frequent poster on a number of forums), Streethreds (now Hanon Shop) and Shoe Trends with their enviable collection of Air Max and FrontPage ’98, clip art laden site fill me with a certain nostalgia for electronically window shopping.

Mo’ Wax may have been struggling between 1999 and 2001, but their bulletin board proved pretty damned influential. Just as the label let cultures converge (with varying degrees of success), as with the Crooked Tongues forums, plenty of friendships were forged between likeminds on that site, with its noisy intro and black background for extra migraines. Splay seemed to operate alongside it. By the way, if you’re assuming that forums are redundant, bear in mind that Hypebeast’s forums were a breeding ground for Street Etiquette, On Award Tour and OFWGKTA (plus the Celebs Rockin Heat! thread is one of my favourite things on the internet). I remember Futura making some very gracious visits to the Mo’ Wax site too, long after the launch of his labyrinth website and around the time of the Booth-Clibborn book launch. At least I assume it was him, because anonymity on that site was a piece of piss. Superfuture and Tokion seem to slot in alongside those sites too. A fair amount of users spilled onto FUK as well.

My Internet Explorer (what can I say? I was saving for a Mac) bookmarks seemed congested at the start of the 21st century, but in retrospect, there was barely anything out there. Nothing. That’s why I feel the original obsessives deserve a little shine. I don’t think they knew how far things would go — from blindly navigating a collection of quotes and Lenny’s scanned-in photography and sketches, to a pair of Futura AF1s on Rozay’s feet. Worlds most definitely collided, and a fair few who deserved it got paid. Those who didn’t get paid deserve to be remembered too. Proto hype sites, I salute you. Internet pre-2005 seems to be gradually disappearing from memory and from Google search (I’m blaming defunct hosts too), but the dead links and missing in action images form the unassuming backbone of a snowball effect in the years that followed. Gotta love that old-world web design.













SELF PROMOTION

I’m packing for Paris, so this is being written in between haplessly trying to fill a Supreme rucksack with everything I need. There’s a few slight changes to the site because the old theme was too limiting. This serif font is a bit too folksy for me and belongs with those who read “journals” instead of magazines and “curate” rather than steal. Once I figure out Typekit, those serifs are out of here. My good friend Charlie Morgan made the Ben Davis Moomin after a Twitter conversation about my love of Moomins and Ben Davis goods. So I pilfered it and made it a logo. That is, until Tove Jansson’s goons come and get me in a headlock.

All I can offer the interwebs is an assortment of things I’ve just done. I just finished transcribing this conversation with Eddie Cruz from UNDFTD and Adam Leaventon aka. Air Rev — one of the trinity of sports footwear Jedis alongside EMZ and Chris Hall. Those guys represent the good side of sneaker obsession, but the conversation was interesting — how do you sell a classic sneaker with history to a 15-25 year old audience who couldn’t give much less of a shit about your cast-iron heritage and ‘80s subcultural props? Nostalgia is just for weirdos like me, and it’s not particularly profitable.

That’s day job talk though.

I’ve seen the fruits of a few freelance gigs appear online and on shelves lately. My hobby is copywriting. Some people run, some make model planes and others maintain a drug addiction while their colleagues and friends remain oblivious to their activities. My hobby is writing stuff and engaging in the process of altering it to the point where a client’s happy. For about five minutes I thought about it as a full-time occupation, but I had visions of having to write excitable promo tomes for Jack Wills and Superdry in order to make a living, so I prefer to work with people and product that I actually like. Insincerity is tiring – probably more tiring than a gym addiction, and I haven’t got the energy for it.

I remember leaving higher education with wild, idiotic dreams of being a scribe for the numerous cooler-than-thou publications stacked high enough to make the floorboards creak. That was back when I assumed that you got paid to write for anyone cool. Instead you get the school-leaver reply to money talk; “It doesn’t pay, but it’ll look good in your portfolio.” People are still using that one too on the assumption that more than fifty people in the whole world read magazines any more. Fair play to the industry for tricking itself into thinking it’s still important though. I don’t keep some portfolio either — I just have some bags of magazines in a garage sealed up by hand in a hapless attempt to shield them from rain and insect infestations.

So for me, writing is merely a hobby to stop me from becoming agitated outside of the workplace. Seeing as I don’t keep much of a record outside of Linkedin (and can recruitment consultants stop getting in touch about “retail opportunities”? I’m shit at retail), I figured I would celebrate some good things that I’ve been fortunate enough to write about.

GYAKUSOU for Nike Sportswear S/S 2011 was one thing I worked on for Nike— I just spotted the lookbook on Hypebeast. I salute Jun’s work for this stuff. It’s mostly too smedium for me, but it’s defiantly progressive. As a merger of what Mr. Takahashi does at high-end with something a little more accessible, it’s pretty much unbeatable. Anything that includes skeletal, barely-existent jackets with moisture-wicking pods is cool with me. I recommend the long-sleeve tees: the ones from the first season are some of the best I’ve ever owned. I can’t remember writing a blurb, but it looks like one of mine, so I’m assuming it is. The branding on that stuff is bang-on. After concerning myself that I may be getting typecast as “shoe wanker,” it’s been fun, albeit odd, to suddenly be writing about incredibly technical apparel. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write about anything ordinary.

The new issue of ‘Arena Homme+’ under a new editorial team is pretty good. Mr. Rory McCartney’s Art Direction is excellent, and thanks to Sharma and Rory it was pleasantly odd to see myself listed as a Contributing Editor even though I only contributed one thing to it – in stark contrast to futuristic footwear and jackets that look like androids, it was a piece on the fine work of London-based Antenne Books — a distributor of fanzines, magazines and books who put in sterling work. Shouts to Marius and Sherman. Max Pearmain and Ashley Heath have given the magazine a new personality, and while their editorial shakeups meant we get the S/S 2011 edition a little later, it was worth the wait. I also recommend the new ‘DAZED’ too. How many other style magazines would have a four-page feature on Frank Henenlotter? If you want to survive in print, there’s far worse examples to follow in the magazine department than these two.

On the t-shirt front, now that T-Shirt party is done, where else could I go? Andrew Bunney’s British Remains is a fun press materials project. Only Andrew would create a brand that has a handkerchief and t-shirt set. Mr. Bunney knows more about everything than pretty much anyone else I know. He’s an amusing person to exchange feedback with too and with BR moving into brothel creeper inspired footwear soon and set for sale on Honeyee, Andrew seems to be pushing he and Daryl’s project forward in a way that only he can. As an anti-monarchist I have to concede that I approached this one under the belief that the wedding was April 2012. My shirt is very much upside down.

Finally, Arc’teryx Veilance’s Spring/Summer offerings are out, and they’re typically amazing. Everything’s significantly lighter for the warmer months, and the lookbook coming in its own GORE-TEX envelope (like the trade show press invites last year) is a great way to see some writing displayed. I like this project a lot and writing about it is a fascinating exerience — Conroy at Arc’teryx is a genius in his field. If that sounds like dickriding, I suggest you go check out the product in person. I’m smitten with my putty-coloured Field Jacket LT. As GORE-TEX dirt magnets go, it’s a thing-of-beauty.

That’s my self-promotion quota filled for the year.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME…

Dominic Stansfield has officially ended his Stansfield brand. It’s a shame. In a world laden with repro, pseudo old world efforts, he’s a standout character who really understands design, bizarro reference points and the power of imported 1990s skatewear. Stansfield was one of the best brands this country — and his Rushmoor line before that remains underrated too. It’s important to celebrate the masterminds who’ve weathered trends and reached Jedi levels of garment overstanding like Dominic, 6876’s Kenneth MacKenzie and Garbstore’s Ian Paley. I occasionally feel that I don’t celebrate the work of UK brands enough, but I feel the majority are piss-poor. After maharishi seemed to take a nosedive a few years back, I’ve had little luck connecting with any Brit streetwear lines at a similar level. Print tees with Brooklyn Kid fonts? Give it up. If you’re lucky, UPS or Royal Mail might be hiring.

Stansfield made some fine outerwear and shirts. The car coat was particularly amazing, while the jacket above seemed to channel the reference point blend and bring something new to the table — the solitary fireman’s jacket clasp evokes memories of the jackets Treach would wear in 1993. His blog was a fascinating insight into the mind of someone utterly obsessed with their work. Some of the military and film reference points were stunning and the gear that emerged reflected that obsession.

The blog carried a final message a few weeks back where Dominic explained, “I think its time to move things on from this over-saturated wax jacket, heritage, workwear etc. bore fest.” It looks like he’s set to go technical with some projects primed for 2012. It’s a shame that the reverse weave sweats he mentioned a while back (that I’d heard about from multiple sources) never appeared, but perhaps the impending American sportswear themed brand he mentions in that post will be the outlet for them. Salutes to a mastermind who knew when to bow out and reinvent.

Dominic’s decision doesn’t seem to be affecting the direction for some other brands (In fact, I know for a fact that a rep for a brand recently announced that they were moving from sportswear in favour of “workboot styles”) and if the workwear movement continues, I hope a dearth of ideas ultimately leads them to August Sander’s ‘People of the 20th Century’ or Irving Penn’s ‘Small Trades.’ Sander documented some great characters across classes in those books, but I want to see wax-jacketed farmers and chore coated railroad types superseded in cool-guy hotspots by looks taken from Penn’s cheese seller, deep-sea diver and best of all, the steel mill firefighter look, which oddly, reminds me of the flame-making protagonists of some grindhouse favourites like ‘The Exterminator’ and ‘Don’t Go in the House.’ I hope the 1951 steel mill firefighter look hits streetwear and trickles down to the Superdry/Top Man consumer.

In all the excitement over Visvim’s zillion pound Native American themed collection for a SENSE photoshoot earlier this year, I hadn’t realised how good the new Tenderloin range was. For some reason, I find myself feeling a little more sentimental for Tenderloin goods than the majority of other Japanese repro brands, simply because they remind me of working within proximity of the Bond International store, and the sheer volume of tattooists from spots like Frith Street who proved that good gear just doesn’t date. I’d been led to believe that Tenderloin had reached its final season. I’m not sure who’s running it — Kei left, but I’m assuming that Koji and Nishi are still on board.

That sentimentality is amplified by the brand’s roots in London and Los Angeles circa 1997 and the fact the brand maintains a certain mystique – even in an era where every stitch visible from blog to blog in high resolution. The cushions and shirts in the range are great, but that deerskin jacket is a thing-of-beauty. I recently read up on a meat market and deli in Minnesota that does a sideline in affordable deerskin gloves, even though we fawn (pun intended) over it as a premium fabric, but the design of Tenderloin’s jacket is extraordinary. Then I found out that 176, 400 Yen translates as 1,269 pounds before shipping and tax. I’ll leave this one in the dream coat wishlist for the time being.

(BEWARE: TOTAL DIGRESSION AHEAD)

It’s been interesting to see hip-hop’s reaction to the Mister Cee story all week. dream hampton’s Tweeted revelation that Biggie’s boy Mann (as seen in the classic Timbs and dice image that’s adorned many tees — I first saw that shot in Cheo Coker’s ‘Unbelievable’ book) was gay. Remember 2Pac bodyguard Frank Alexander’s tales of ‘Pac getting greeting kisses from Gianni Versace in ‘Got Your Back’ finished with Alexander’s comedy disclaimer, “…I don’t play that shit — even with Versace”? Couple that with the fact that several of the culture’s pioneers were gay or on occasion, “gay for pay” according to some very reliable sources (and I’m not going to dry snitch), it throws hip-hop’s age-old homophobia into a state of fresh debate. After hunting the “gay rapper” since ‘One Nut’ ran their story, it’s all turning gay — like the steelmill/Anvil nighclub from ‘The Simpsons.’ Anything that infuriates screwfaced puritans is alright with me. Hip-hop needed a group outing.

THE SHOE ABOUT NOTHING


1994’s ‘Air Seinfeld’: a canvas Nike GTS from 1994. These sold for $25 on eBay a week ago.

“The first house call anyone can remember the Nike Lady making was to the Seinfeld set. Her impact was immediate–especially on the show’s star, who apparently had an unambiguous sense of entitlement. Seinfeld’s appetite for free sneakers became legendary. His office overflowed with shoe boxes, and one ex-writer remembers Jerry emerging “like Evita, tossing extra sneakers to the staff.” In time the staff members too became hooked, and for them Tracy provided a catalog in which they could check off whatever they wanted. “It was everything–running shoes, hiking boots, sandals. People were taking up extreme sports just to get the shoes.” (From ‘Sneakers In Tinseltown’ by Garry Trudeau —  Time Magazine, April 1998)

Back in 2010, during an email back and forth with Mr. Carbone and Mr. La Puma at Complex, I suggested that a top 50 sneakers in Seinfeld would be a good thing. “But it might need some research!” I wrote. No shit. If you look at Complex’s analytics, presentation and timeline invading social media savvy you know that they’re not dreamers like me, content to put an idea out there, then leave it in a ponder state for a prolonged amount of time. They’re doers. And thus it came to pass that they requested the guide last month. And I was ready, albeit not quite ready for the scale of the screengrabbing task at hand.

Especially when VLC stops working on some discs and I have to resort to screengrabbing by entering a code on Terminal each cap to do it on the MacBook’s notoriously by-the-book built-in player. But I always wanted to do this one — I was going to do it on here, but I got discouraged by the prospect of uploading images. So here it is, on Complex.com. Shouts to Dan in the Department of Nike Archives for his patience in clarifying some of the more mysterious entries too.

But because I know some of the folks who visit here like trivia, I made a few more discoveries along the way. I never really noticed that Jerry puts his Nikes (Driving Force Low) in the picture from the slightly crappy 1989 pilot episode onwards. I assume it’s because he is a bonafide Nike fan, but I’m sure he was aware that a spot of product placement would help his case. Bear in mind it took until the third season to really breakthrough (when Jerry’s at least 25 screen shoes deep) and faced the axe up to that point. It’s no mystery that Nike did flow Jerry product (there’s even articles that mention his love of seeded footwear, taking delivery of vast piles).

Between seasons one and six he wears a ton of Nike footwear, from ACG to Jordans. Then suddenly it comes to a halt just prior to episode 100. Around 1992, ‘Home Improvement’ (word to Tim Allen’s Hot Lava Tech Challenge II) and the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ were laden with lengthy scenes with a prominent swoosh or Jumpman. Jerry’s frequently tarred with the assumption that he’s a tennis shoe wearer — that’s certainly the case for a substantial amount of episodes, but I’d argue that he’s more of an Air Trainer and Cross Trainer man — technically those can be utilized on the court (and looking back at the crossover concept’s 1987 debut, John McEnroe was the face before Bo ever knew) — when Jerry could evidently afford his own tennis court, he seems to opt for some extremely technical performance designs built for that sport.

Did FCC regulations crack down in 1994 to stop excessive product placement? After that comes the “brown shoe era” wherein Jerry rarely wears sneakers unless he’s in a sporting environment. ‘The Race’ represents a parting shot for the product placement, with him swooshed from the neck down, but after that, spotting a sneaker on him is reserved for tennis scenes, softball or gym scenes and some scenes surrounding them. He sneaks a Force-branded holdall in periodically, but his crafty Sampras shoe (the Repete) in ‘The Understudy’s (the finale of the sixth season) opening is the sole throwback to the earlier showcases of classics.

After all the Jerry having 500 pairs of white shoes rumours and the 1998 ‘Time’ article that depicted LA-based sneaker giver to the stars, Tracy Hardy-Gray flooding primetime with product, it’s strange that Jerry seems to curb his enthusiasm four years prior. It’s actually the least sporty who don their sneakers the most in subsequent episodes — George remains committed to Cortez (though he actually wears Reebok in the earliest episodes — possibly a GL model of some sort) and curiously, Newman gets his money’s worth out of a pair of the mighty Structure II. For a workshy postal employee to wear such an advanced performance piece with the Foot Bridge technology) may have been part of the joke.

It’s reassuring to know that when Lloyd Bridges’s Izzy Mandelbaum enters the scene in the final two seasons, we’re going to get a flash of white leather and a swoosh as a subsequent shot, but for some reason, Jerry opts for some Vasque-looking boots, wheat Timbs (in just a couple of shots) and most commonly, some bad Rockport looking moc-toed shoes with a rubber sole that make Larry’s Simple shoes look advanced by comparison. End of an era. I loved the days when even Frank Costanza’s cape-clad lawyer walked on Air.

I have to admit that it’s not entirely complete. A few shoes eluded me — the mids with the black swoosh in ‘The Barber,’ the white shoe from ‘The Old Man’, the mids in ‘The Wife’ and the all white upper tennis-looking designs from the same season (five) are all mysterious to me. Any identifications in the comments section would be much appreciated to put my mind to rest because I had to tap out on those models. Sadly there was no room for more than a mention of the mysterious Air Seinfeld shoe – a canvas Nike GTS with a Jordan homage on the heel, given to the crew in 1994 as a holiday gift, possibly as the 99th episode wrapped and the 100th episode was edited. ‘Home Improvement’ got a shoe (I believe it’s an Air Edge II SMU) for their 100th episode in 1995 too.


The 1995 Nike ‘Binford’ ‘Home Improvement SMU: possibly an Air Edge II

While we’re talking ‘Seinfeld’, kudos to the bootlegger who knew that all whiteys look the same. ‘Frasier’? ‘Married With Children’? Nobody would ever know the difference…




George in Reeboks


Newman in Structure IIs


Unidentified shoe


Unidentified shoe


Unidentified shoe (Possibly a Sonic Flight?)