THE VHS & BETAMAX AESTHETIC

Horror film posts on this blog go triple plywood, but it’s Halloween, so something pertaining to scary movies is obligatory. The challenge is to create something obnoxious enough to alienate people I don’t want to communicate with, but to create content that at least five people might appreciate. That’s the mentality behind this site. I was going to talk about Jack Nicholson’s Margaret Howell jacket from ‘The Shining’ but its been covered elsewhere before to the point where it got a re-release in a slimmer cut. Film jackets alone could fuel a blog for years, as the Film Jackets forum proves. I like the blouson, windcheater style with the Harrington-style pockets in that plum coloured cord. Jack himself insisted on wearing the original, but with Stanley Kubrick insisting on eleven more reproductions, I’ve never known if they were made by Howell or by the wardrobe crew. Given Kubrick’s obsessiveness, I imagine the replicas were made to an equal standard and with a couple going up for auction over the years, does anybody own the original one that Jack himself favoured?

Having spent too long in video stores as a kid just before the Video Recordings Act made British tapes have to carry the same certificates as their cinematic brethren, the sight of a terrified Shelley Duvall on an oversized ‘The Shining’ box with a cracking plastic puffiness that indicated it had seen a fair few front rooms was just one of the few covers that’s etched into my consciousness. That, ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ and ‘The Beast Within’ were obsessions, but there was plenty more to pick from and some boxes promised so much carnage that they had a genuine menace about them.

This was when the British home video realm was like the Old West and nobody was policing content. Family friendly comedies, cheap actioners, splatter and porn alike all lacked formal certification, with warnings or ’18’s on tapes applied in an unofficial manner. Going to the home of friends with negligent or irresponsible parents could mean a screening of both ‘Condorman’ and ‘Nightmare In A Damaged Brain.’ Nobody seemed to care too much. Then the byproduct of the “Video Nasties” scare of 1982 kicked in and the fun was over.

I watched some of ‘The Human Centipede 2’ this weekend simply because of the BBFC’s daft decision to ban it. I imagine that I’m not alone and curiously, Google has reinstated that sense of old video store lawlessness again. Despite the film’s clever conceit, playing up to the allegations of moral rot from the first installment and getting all postmodern with it, the sweaty torture scene and scatological gross outs had me giving up after an hour. I don’t feel especially corrupted though. But that ban gave it an illicit feel that had me nervous from the start as to what lay ahead – the same way that those old VHS and Betamax horrors promised hell on earth to the point where just hitting play felt like the point of no return.

Of course, 98% of the time (the other two percent is mostly Lucio Fulci films and anything with Tom Savini on makeup), they delivered cheap, ponderous sights with periodic blasts of gore, yet the weird synthesised soundtracks and doomy film stocks gave them an effortlessness sense of dread that’s lost in the internet age. We get the dull lost tape documentary look or the stationary paranormal investigation video, the self-referential slashers and the CGI vampires. Then there’s the attempts to channel the early 1980s look and feel minus the menace.

Thank god that remakes are flopping this year though. ‘Hellraiser: Revelations’ is a whole new depth plumbed — even the Cenobites wouldn’t go down to those hellish depths and this was such a bad film that even the fictional Alan Smithee wouldn’t have wanted his name on it (though he got it on the not-nearly-as-awful, ‘Hellraiser: Bloodline’) as proof that something’s gone horribly wrong. This witching season I’m appreciating the more accomplished horrors of the last decade — Frank Darabont’s fearless and peerless ‘The Mist,’ Alexandre Aja’s ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake and foreign language masterpieces like Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Devil’s Backbone,’ Alexandre Bustillo and Julieno Maury’s nightmarish ‘Inside’ and Muguel Angel Vivas’s ‘Kidnapped.’ Each is a lean, mean machine in the scare (and more often than not, the bloodshed) department with phenomenal technical ability too.

In the pre-cert world, the booming home video market put pound signs in the eyes of a generation of aspiring distributors. Before the film even began, the company identities would indicate that you were a long way from the big studios. Some British companies seemed based as part of grocery store chains, some were based in glamorous places like Dorset and others were European or Stateside operations. Some were set up just to feed the nation’s porn habit and some would focus on sports. Some would go on to be more famous than others- Vestron and the notorious VIPCO were bigger than the likes of Cyclo, Intermovie, Scorpio, Wizard and many more who’d welcome you to the show. But the identities were often non-static, with animation that made Dire Straits’s ‘Money For Nothing’ promo look like a Pixar production by comparison.

Some titles would be written with a Pepysian style disembodied hand while others would throw in a word like “Distinction” to look classy. They were an eclectic bunch that reek of Portakabins and industrial estates, but they really tried with their fonts and graphics, despite obvious limitations. Even if they were pirated, their name still spread. If I ever had a brand, this would make up much of an inaugural moodboard. It’s good to see that the first season of Sk8thing, Toby Feltwell and Hishi’s C.E. line went back to VHS Argento (primarily ‘Suspiria’) for the imagery, before the brand goes off in a completely different direction to shake off any sense of nostalgia.

For those odd enough to care, here’s 67 pre-cert video company identities culled from the excellent ‘Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide’ DVD extras:

THE HIPSTER HALF HOUR

Copywriting season is upon me, so no 1000 word wanderings from me today. Apologies if you were looking to get lost in a rant. I’m guilty of hypocrisy when it comes to HBO’s ‘How To Make It In America’ because I keep watching it. I watch it on Megavideo, so I assume I don’t add to the viewing figures, but I’m talking about it here, so even the piracy equals promotion. Louis Guzman, Larry Clark alumni James Ransone, Eli Gessner on consultancy and Joey Pants as a guest star, plus that Earsnot cameo are all winners. Gina Gershon is still beautiful plus there’s plenty of casual nudity, but it’s all so douchey. There’s only a very thin line between print tees in limited numbers, hand-wringing blog hustles and the fixation with the material things, and Ed Hardy tees, flip-flop clad hi-fiving, bootcut denim bro-isms. The industry’s douchey. It just thinks it isn’t because it owns some Medicom toys. The show is a Sex in the City that uses Google reader and wears Dunks. Viral videos! Pop up stores! It tries to use credible reference points creating a jarring clash between realism and cartoonish lead character plots — like Bob Hoskins and Roger Rabbit or Pete and his Dragon.

It’s fluff, but why spend all that HBO loot but base it around two chancers peddling designs that look like TapouT? Sixteen years ago, you’d get giddy at a split-second Supreme or Zoo York shirt sighting in Larry Clark’s ‘Kids’ (itself a heavy-handed parable, but an endlessly quotable slab of big city grimness that could be a skatier Jack Chick tract) or the stray box sticker on the ultra-dated ‘Hackers’ released the same year. Now the brands and locations are all over your cable channel and monitor. Shouts to the consultants — shame about the show. Like ‘Entourage’ it’s just dopey life lessons clad in a hipster uniform — ‘Highway To Heaven’ in loomed selvedge denim. On the ‘Kids’ topic, to pad out this anemic blog entry, here’s the Lynn Hirschberg (Courtney Love’s favourite journalist) ‘New York’ magazine feature, ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ from June 1995 that profiles Larry Clark, Harmony Korine and their relationship with Miramax at the time of the film’s release. I wish I’d kept the Daily Mail cover story call to ban the film.

There’s a whole essay to be written on Steven Seagal’s jackets, but during his zen eco-warrior phase his outerwear reached its apex. This Buckskin jacket from a cinematic game of slaps that just trumps Goldblum’s humiliation in ‘Deep Cover’ — the beating of a rowdy bigot in ‘On Deadly Ground’ for his bullying of an area native — sold last year for just $1,216 dollars. it was was pointed out to me by my buddy Dave, that’s it’s at least third cheaper than an RRL version would be. There’s tassels and embroidery aplenty. According to the auction, it was a gift from Seagal that might not have been the one used during that bar room altercation, but fuck it. For that money, the scope for waddling around, squinting, quoting the “What does it take to change the essence of a man?” line and abusing friends and family into spiritual change was worth the risk. This is heritage looks and the boom for native American prints on a hundred, thousand zillion.

RIVALRY

I don’t want to hate things – it’s just in my DNA. I’m British. If it’s successful and we’re not getting a piece of the pie — or if it’s different — that’s grounds for hatred. Hate’s such a strong term too, thrown about by the kind of people who would shake the object of their hatred’s hand face-to-face, but call them a prick behind their back. Most of the time, I don’t actually hate something — I’m usually responding to middling things that I’m ambivalent about with a half-hearted negativity that’s not nearly as potent as hatred should be.

It’s an unhealthy thing to carry around, yet it awakens a certain build-em-up-then-talk-shit patriotism in me. Overexposure to the internet and underexposure to the real world can breed it — the internet for example is 30% porn, 10% rap tweet reactions, 10% eBay and Amazon, 10% Mediafire and 40% mechanically reconstituted Hypebeast and Selectism masquerading as “LIFESTYLE MAGAZINES.” That’s filler’s some solid hate fodder. Historically, British youth culture was a hotbed of hate. Individuals bitch, but group them and fuel their tribal instincts, and it can lead to fisticuffs.

Mods, Skins, Teds and Punks were frequent foes despite the stylistic crossovers and behavioural similarities and it’s good to see Andrew Bunney and Daryl Saunders’s BRITISH REMAINS line pay tribute to the joys of sloganeering, a post-war history of working class style and inter-gang attitude. For the record, I feel greater animosity towards the typified contemporary incarnation of the mod more than the other three — skins seemed to merge some mod and ted swagger and in its picture postcard form, punk feels like the bastard son of all three previous looks. Why would a mod be wearing the ‘60s uniform if they were authentically mod in spirit?

The Camden mohawkers with the Exploited-style do’s have become the nonconformists again through their unwillingness to change from the early ‘80s fad and skins have had such bad press through supposed racist associations that to dress in the skin style could bring them trouble and there’s a joy in seeing the fifty and sixty-something teds who saw no point in any other way of dressing. But mods? I suppose the real mods are the ones that you wouldn’t even recognise as a mod now, bar the attention to the details that are strictly for those in the know. The Weller-ites with their target logos were presumably never cool in the first place.

It’s always fun to write stuff for BRITISH REMAINS because I can enjoy those flashbacks to A-level Sociology and Dick Hebdige’s work. Plus seeing my babbling words typed is a more exciting experience than the usual flat fonts, SEO friendly structures or compromises to copy-paste.

On the font subject, I finally got my hands on a copy of the last Rig Out magazine last week, where Glenn and the team printed my Polo article on four pages that, combined, are the size of a small apartment. Andy Bird’s design is amazing.

Team Proper’s new issue is top too. The writing and content in the new issue is impeccable. The ’20 Albums You Don’t Own But Should,’ Private White V.C.’ competition, Our Legacy interview (the Ethnic Arrow shirt is great) and the Robert Wade-Smith interview is worth your time, taken from that ‘Northern Monkeys’ book that seems to have been in development forever. I love Proper Magazine.

After publishing deals fell through, friend of Proper, Mr. James Brown (via his Sabotage Times site) and adidas Originals have allied to put out the compilation of fabled fanzine ‘The End’ just as DjHistory put out the ‘Boy’s Own’ book a short while ago. The book’s available to order now and looks like it’s a Sabotage-only purchase. There’s no substitute for accounts at the time rather than the retrospective tint when it comes to casual culture. While it was a far glossier an accessible proposition, I’d like to see a good compendium of ‘The Face’s greatest sub-culture articles too.

‘The Face’ prompts memories of religiously consuming ‘Sky,’ iD’ from WH Smiths and ‘The Word’ and ‘Passengers’ on Channel 4. I once wrote about the Chilly Tee/Nike segment on here, but the video was pulled down, but The Word Obsessed has upped plenty of golden yoof’ TV moments. Maligned at the time, I maintain that it was a necessary lifeline for us provincial types. This clip from early 1994 is a great TV moment. Could Terry Christian’s voiceover be any snider?

http://www.viddler.com/explore/thewordobsessed/videos/20/

And here’s John Lydon showing off his Jordan Vs with a Bart Simpson hanging off them in 1991.

Some kind soul also upped ‘Subway Cops and the Mole Kings’ from 1996, which I caught in an impaired state as a youngster on Channel 4 and assumed was lost forever.

Banks Violette channels the doomier side of youth culture nicely with his pop-art-takes-a-death-dive aesthetic. The immersive nature and emphasis on thrashy, sludgy sonic assistance, plus the sheer scale of his works is always worth the detour. NOWNESS — a site that has the rare ability to grab my fractured attention span with an uncluttered sense of focus — just upped a video interview with him.

What’s happening with Meatwagon (contrarians can keep on jocking brioche buns, bone marrow and an abundance of foliage elsewhere, but it’s still the best burger in the UK) after it leaves the Peckham Rye in a week’s time? The www.meatliquor.com site with a mysterious 111111 doesn’t give too much away, but there’s a central London Meatwagon-spinoff opening soon that’s currently recruiting. Central seems to be getting exciting again.

I’m surprised that people still try to shill CDs on street corners internationally in the MP3 era, but what’s the alternative? USBs in novelty crack vials? Waka Flocka Flame’s new mixtape however, warrants a physical purchase just to gawp at the insane cover art. I spend an inordinate amount of time on www.mixtapewall.com looking at artwork, but www.f16artsworldwide.com and their work for Lebron Flocka James is crazy. They seem to be tight with Trap-a-holics and are also the facilitators of Juicy J and Lex Luger’s bar-geeked vision. In a world where cover art is no longer a main feature, I salute the minds still throwing the kitchen sink onto a 12cm by 12cm surface and these guys seem to capture the gunshots, wild boasts and relentless drops of the most prolific mixtape practitioners with ease. Just when you thought Pen & Pixel’s spirit or Phunky Phat Graph-X (RIP Tracy Underwood)’s excesses couldn’t be topped, someone is trippy enough to put their whole crew in a cup of purple drank. That right there is why I still love hip-hop.

DISTRESSED

Denim has pretty much been ruined by individuals who, if an aspiration to be in fashion hadn’t intervened, would be down Games Workshop banging on about orcs and invisibility capes. The joy of denim is its resilience and unfussiness, yet people want to muck with the formula. They want to up the weight of jeans to the point where they stand alone without being filled with a human, stood near your bed, plotting your downfall as you sleep. They want to studiously look at the chemical makeup of the detergent you use if — god forbid — you ever wash them.

They want you to stand over a bath containing your jeans, partially submerged in a couple of inches of light blue water and sodium solution to seal in the leaking dye. To be honest, they just seem to be making it up, smirking behind their Superfuture accounts. Jeans are jeans. Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss would be perplexed to look at how seriously folk take denim preservation. Beyond all the nonsense, the aim is simply to wear out a pair and move onto the next ones. I’ve annihilated Levi’s, visvim Fluxus, 101Bs and Rescue Raws — not to the point where they looked charmingly worn-in, but far beyond that, to the point where they simply made me look homeless.

One of my first copywriting gigs was to write a guide to denim preservation for a big brand. It was called ‘Let It Bleed,’ which I thought — barring the Rolling Stones unleashing their legal team — was a very clever name. I studied and studied the art of denim preservation, pored of Mister Denim in ‘Lightning’s do’s and don’ts and read page after page of internet debate. There was the aforementioned, plus a million other rules and theories, but the quest for validation via a “Cool fades bro” on a message board seemed to be the eventual aim. People talked about the glory of “whiskering” too, and after reading it, I realised that it’s all bollocks. Just disrespect your jeans.

The never-wash theory in the quest for the perfect finish is by far the most bizarre — to break the no-wash rule was as frowned upon as being the first to visit the toilets during an all-dayer with particularly boisterous friends. There’s encouragement to discourage dirt by hanging jeans outside or freezing them or — best of all — just to Fabreeze them in order to mask the scent, effectively creating the sartorial equivalent of a baby-wiped whore’s bath. The selvedge preoccupation is nothing new either — broadcaster and occasional irritant Robert Elms managed to annoy Geordies by calling them, “northern scum” on ‘The Tube’ in the 1980s for being ignorant to the sacred strip’s aura.

To cut through the conjecture, here’s a fact: If you wear denim all year round and never wash them, they will smell of piss and sweat. That’s fine behind an artfully shot jpg, but women won’t be seduced by your manly scent. You simply have the lower half of a local oddball. Just with nicer shoes. I wear jeans every day. I’ve only worn Levi’s Vintage for its unfussiness. I trust Levi’s. I also buy into one notion of the denim realm — it’s a fabric that works with the wearer, taking on shapes and characteristics and pleasantly mutating with every wear and wash. I’m also very lazy, and if there’s an excuse to live in the same jeans, I’m all for it. Putting on a new pair is irritating, because the break-in process has me walking like an android and giving sofas a navy hue wherever I choose to sit. It takes me out of my comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. But while I’m not participating in rodeos or working on a ranch like some kind of Lipschitz fantasy, I seem to wear a pair to destruction every 24 months through the most mundane of tasks.

I’m about to retire these 1933 501s due to damage. Not cool damage – motorbike seat wear and tear or oil marks. Just mundane contemporary scuffing and ripping. This isn’t Minoru Onozato or Doug Bihlmaier’s discerningly sloppy clothing-with-tales timelessness. I’ve simply rendered them hard to wear and given them an aura of poverty. Using the coin pocket to carry notes rather than a wallet caused some wear, two BlackBerrys (one in either pocket) over a prolonged period — even when sitting — caused two strange, holster-like markings that look like a smartphone Turin Shroud. Sitting between train carriages, cross-legged on the floor during an overcrowded commute wore the cinchback strap away to the point where it simply fell apart and it made the keys in my back pockets cause holes that rendered them unusable.

Deadliest of all, the regular rubbing of a bag on a daily walk from station to office caused the pocket area to rub away completely, exposing both my pocket and boxer shorts — cotton denim met cotton twill for a daily confrontation and twill won, emerging entirely unscathed, bar a permanent blue bruise where they made regular contact. The 1933 cut’s one of my favourites, eschewing any semblance of fit with that almost-exaggerated seat (which proved functional from all that sitting) and offering a slightly lighter, softer denim in its raw state than some later models. It served me well.

But when it comes to the thorny subject of pre-distressed denim, how many commercially available washes come close to real wear? Who gets that contrived and controlled pocket and ankle fray, with the lines symmetrically appearing at the thighs? It’s tethered destruction. The real thing’s much more freeform. I’ve got more respect for the patchwork creations, merging sloganeering with faded and dark denims that one might see in a provincial nightclub than the cop-out wash imitations feigning the look of a month on the body.

I actually got these jeans after the denim guide was completed a few years back. In retaliation for the information overload, I didn’t listen to a word I wrote. So these jeans tell a story. It’s just a shame it’s such a dull one. Still, at least they were partially destroyed on the railroad — even if it’s not in the manner that Strauss and Davis might have envisioned.

UNRELATED STUFF:

I’m feeling this raincoat by London’s UTILE crew a great deal for all-out cleanliness. No fussy business, dumb branding or irksome points of difference for the sake of it. It’s the right length and it’s made by people who know. www.utileclothing.com

If there’s one good thing to come out of our preoccupation with the past, it’s the creation of amazing merchandise like this homage to Greek Street’s legendary and long-gone Groove Records (as seen in ‘Bad Meaning Good’). Based on the shop’s carrier bags, it’s appropriately yellow. Style Warrior UK is putting out some unlikely but admirable British hip-hop designs. www.stylewarrioruk.wordpress.com

GANGS

Every time anybody compliments me on my blog, I’m not sure how to react. It’s kind of like being complimented on your jacket…what are you supposed to say? I’m grateful to anybody who takes the time out to read it though. It indicates that I’m not alone in my obsessions with the unnecessary. It’s also kind of strange to see me described as a creative director online because of an in-joke made on camera last month. Once you take an in-joke out, it’s often misconstrued. I’m not a creative director. I’m too preoccupied with what’s already been to do much creatively, but as misinterpretations go, it’s better than being wrongly accused of wifebeating or burglary. So I’m not going to make a strenuous attempt to clear my name from allegations that I’m a director.

This is another of those blog entries where I throw down anything on my mind at this moment rather than dwelling on a solitary subject. Browsing Hostem (one of London’s best stores and an oasis of creativity away from Oi Polloi copyists) I was thrown by this mastermind Japan Beanie Hat. Sure, it’s cashmere and mastermind has long been an expensive brand. Not in the exhale at the RRP kind of way — we’re talking cartoonish double takes. Masaaki Homma is somebody who truly understands luxury (and getting a Goyard collaboration is no joke), but if you can afford to lay down 1065 GBP on a beanie, then you’re truly balling.

Twin it with the mastermind Japan Rabbit Fur Flight Jacket for 13,745 GBP and you can dress like Jim Jones or Max B for oligarch money. While I’m opposed to the use of rabbit fur, the fur skull and crossbones is a strong look and the stud version of the logo on the beanie completes the high-end goon look. V-neck tee, YSL belt buckle, wallet chain and concealed firearm are optional. There’s something about laying down that kind of dough (and the yen is out of control) on clothing that fires my imagination and makes me wish that I was some kind of art director who could hurl money around like Matthew ‘Scar’ Allen. The best Max B photoshoot is the Angela Boatright ‘Vibe’ one from early 2009, with some bare-bones lounge waviness and I only recently found out that Biggavelli shares my exact birth date. That makes us practically related.

Beyond some fuzzy jail phone freestyles, Max B’s (thanks to newmaxb.blogspot.com for constant updates) and appropriately amazing artwork, French Montana and Juicy J have been holding it down on the mixtape circuit this year. The Juicy J ‘Stoners Night’ video from August with the ‘Drive’ font before ‘Drive’ and an unlikely-looking video vixen was one mixtape favourite gone visual, but this week’s ‘Wasted’ video (with Chinx Drugs) via French’s official videographer Heffty was an unexpected treat, reinforcing Maybach rumours with those guest spots — this week I’m all about the lo-fi black and white videos with the twitter handles at the end. I’m re obsessed with the History Channel’s ‘Gangland’ again.





I actually experienced what I believe to be total happiness after returning from the Nike campus last year and eating a vast pastrami sandwich the size of my head with potato salad, a litre of ice tea and the ‘Gangland’ on Larry Hoover on my hotel TV. The MS-13, Logan Heights, Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings and New York Bloods episodes are all fascinating. The programme should really be called ‘GUNSHOTS AND RECAPS,’ but I could watch it all day via any of the many YouTube channels peddling episodes in fifteen minute chunks.

On the subject of Harlem crews, Soul Jazz’s new book ‘Voguing’ compiles Chantal Regnault’s photography of the 1989-1992 ballroom voguing scene. The fact it was a gay scene will almost certainly alienate a few folk, despite Kanye’s crew infamously standing in full executive realness mode (discussed on this blog before a while back) with briefcases, a preoccupation with high-fashion (Margiela, Lagerfield and Mugler rap namechecks are on the up) and that there’s plenty of hip-hop attire echoed in current trends in the book’s images. Funny that plenty of folk want to be immersed in fashion but still carry a whiff of homophobia.

On a tenuous gang topic, there’s unlikely to be a ‘Gangland’ on the Socs or the Greasers — and I still don’t understand why everybody wants to dress like a Soc — after over a decade of waiting for ‘The Outsiders’ to not appear as a UK DVD, despite two US DVD versions, we’re getting compensation of sorts in Studiocanal’s UK Blu-ray at the end of this month. America’s been left behind on this one, but this British release looks like a port of the director’s cut with the altered soundtrack and extra 22 minutes. It’s a ’12’ rather than a PG now too. It’s melodramatic, but it’s still my favourite film ever. Hopefully it’s not a DVD port in terms of sound and visuals — it’s a beautiful looking film that deserves the extra remastering.



More tenuous tribal links? I never realised that someone kindly upped the rarely seen (apparently director John T. Davies lost his archive in a fire) documentary on late 1970s’ Belfast punk rock — 1979’s ‘Shellshock Rock’ onto YouTube. Don’t complain about the tenth generation video quality. Just be grateful that it still exists.


Art Wednesday
‘s free (and ad-free) publication, ‘Art Wednesday Editorial’ just dropped. You can get a little preview of it via this link, but it looks like something that warrants a tactile look, feel and smell above any digital medium. Finding it sounds like a case of being the right person in the right place at the right time. I like Art Wednesday’s jollier approach to the subject than the sterner outlets. And in a curious way, that jollity tells me that they’re confident in what they do too, which makes me like the site more.

COLLABORATING

Apologies for sports footwear related posts two blogs running. This was supposed to be a sanctuary from that subject matter, and if George Costanza’s “Worlds Colliding” theory is to be believed, this could end in me getting upset, but it’s been one of those weeks thus far. So you get sneaker talk here as well as elsewhere. I’m very fond of athletic footwear. I’m not remotely athletic, but I’ve always favoured the shoes — I’m not talking the sensible suede and gum soled training favourites that characters a generation above me lose their minds over, but the silly post-1985 techy stuff. The oddities and the commercial disasters are extremely relevant to my interests.

I don’t consider myself a “sneakerhead” — I loathe the term even though I’ve been known to use it in meetings, presentations and mumbling video interviews — simply because I associate that expression with lazy journalism from folk acting as if they’re hardened hacks looking for a major press award on missions to cover this new phenomenon, opening with creaky-old Imelda Marcos references in their witty lead paragraph under the misapprehension that they’re Martin Amis when in reality they’re simply exhaling seventh-hand smoke. I also associate the term with t-shirts that make reference to “Kicks,” irritatingly positive god bothering individuals, caps at funny angles and a serious yet curiously un-scholarly approach to the topic despite the po-faces. How can you sit poker faced while talking about a shoe on a webcam? Sneakers are a stupid subject so it’s worth getting playful with it all. Fuck a blog dawg — I’m fascinated by an SMU/Custom Nike Air Ship being the real banned Michael Jordan shoe, contrary to history rewrites making it a Jordan I. Sneaker conspiracies.

So it’s good to get an outlet from the good folk at Complex (Russ, Joe, Nick and the crew understand that sports footwear can be fun too) to go too far and really geek out. This time it was ‘The Top 50 Sneaker Collaborations of All Time’ (well, my top 50 — I can’t speak for everyone else) and I deliberately minimised any buddy-buddy footwear Illuminati inclusions between friends who design shoes, anything I’ve worked on, as few Dunks as possible (that story’s been told a million times), well-regarded collaborations that just copied prior ones or whatever didn’t age well. But it’s clear that collaborations had a golden age between 2000 and 2005. Much of what happened over the subsequent six years is just pumping and squirting lovelessly, going through the motions. It just got dull. So what I included is plenty of interesting and offbeat pieces that weren’t just lame retailer rollouts.

Fuck comment section democracy and calls for feedback — I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of that rundown. But I’m sad that in the list whittling process, the following shoes were excised: Parra AM1, SNS Goatskin Suedes, fragment Footscapes, Geoff McFetridge Vandals, Simpsons x Vans collection, Crooked’s Confederacy of Villainy collection, Ben Drury AM1, KR Air Force 1s, Sophnet Internationalists, IRAK Torsion EQTs, Futura FLOMs, DPMHI Terminator Hyperstrikes, United Arrows NB 997.5s, Packer Fila FX100, Wet Look Dunks and plenty of Vans Syndicate releases.

Inevitably, Nike take the lion’s share of that top 50, owning the market in the dual-label concept’s heyday. It’s interesting studying what legendary individuals like Nike’s Footwear Marketing Manager and Global Footwear Director Drew Greer instigated between 1997 and 2001 that changed the course of sneakers and redefined the collaboration for the brand. From the City Attack NYC swoosh Air Force 1 regional releases in 1997 to the Wu Tang Dunk (check out this Complex feature on Wu Wear with Power talking about bringing another Wu Dunk out and a shot of a Wu Beach Polo beach homage) and in 1999 to the Alphanumeric Dunk Lo Pro B in 2001, Drew and his team wrote the blueprint from the decade that followed. It seemed fresh when they created their Easter egg hunts with minimal numbers. What was unique then rapidly became an industry norm. From that, sprung apathy. That’s why everyone’s in brogues nowadays. adidas’s Consortium concept and Nike’s Clerk pack remain equally aped too. Through those imitations, the collabortion was created.

Long before those synthesised markets were generated, adidas had come over here in a slow trickle of wheeler-dealers, connoisseurs, savvy shopkeepers and good old-fashioned thuggery. Most documentaries or films with ‘Casuals’ mentioned are liable to be unwatchable, “You saucy cahnt!” fests that are simply cash-in exploitation of idiots for idiots. Less casual, more blokes in shit reissue sportswear fabricating fight stories. But the ‘Casuals’ documentary looks interesting, with an appearance by shoe Jedi Mr. Gary Aspden. So I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. Plus it involves a man who really, really likes Keglers. to the extent where he’s wielding a big framed picture of them.



Fast-forwarding to a world where we’re not solemnly looking at things from 1979 and 2002, Errolson Hugh’s DISÆRAN line with United Arrows now has a lookbook right here: disaeran.com/FW1112-slideshow/DSRN-FW1112.html — technical goose downs, apparel designed ergonomically, the humble marl grey fleece track pant redesigned, slim silhouettes, a font that looks Avant-Garde, space age surplus, and some old utilitarian favourites taken back to the monitor for fresh insights plus that underlying sense of stealth promises big things if Acronym and Stone Island’s new slew of Shadow isn’t enough for you. It’s probably safe to assume that it won’t come cheap, but UNDERCOVER and Uniqlo doesn’t arrive until next year, so dressing progressive on a budget could prove fruitless for the immediate future.

MAKING STEVE JOBS’S FAVOURITE SHOE

The internet seems to amplify tragedy to the point of vulgarity. Social media seems to have created — or at least enabled — a realm for grief junkies to network with other oddballs and Steve Jobs’s passing has instigated a predictable level of ghoulish hyperbole (shouts to Jenny Owen for that one) that seems to undermine the character they’re deifying in death. Mr. Jobs was a great man — his public speaking skills, vision, bluntness, absolute aversion to mediocrity and one-word way with emails to whining customers are all inspirational traits.

He never seemed like one for weeping in shop doorways.

Steve Jobs’s Stanford address and 1985 ‘Playboy’ interview are magnificent — hopefully the impending official biography will be equally as essential, but to pay homage to Steve, blogging about his taste in shoes seemed appropriate in its nerdiness. Other than some lapses into the mystery black shoes, the turtleneck and denim of Apple addresses were frequently set off with the grey New Balance 991 (I believe he also broke out the 992 and — when the 992 was superseded and deleted — the 993 in 2010) running shoes. Sure, Steve wore Nike Moires in 2006 for the Nike+ announcement and looked awkward in adidas over a decade prior, but he’ll be fondly remembered for prowling the stage, half Milk Tray Man, half casual dad in those New Balances.

For all the aesthete tendencies and focus on curves, it’s curious that Steve would opt for what’s arguably one of the ugliest shoes in the NB armoury. I’ve got a lot of love for the 991, but it’s the quality, the comfort of ABZORB and the shoe’s performance credibility rather than slick looks that make it appeal to me. The ‘USA’ panel is an awkward detail on a busy upper. Then it all makes sense — Steve had plenty on his mind and he didn’t need his shoes to cause any issues — the New Balance 991 is undisputedly trustworthy. Geniuses don’t want to deal with nonsense.

After taking some pictures of the New Balance 991 production line in the UK factory in Flimby earlier this year, my appreciation for the shoe increased significantly. I wasn’t sure where they should go, but it made sense to up them here in their entirety. I’m sure there are some like minded oddballs thinking differently who’ll enjoy geeking out over this kind of imagery. That afternoon we only caught the navy variation being put together but we saw the preparation for the greys that Steve favoured. Whether the big man preferred a Made in England or Made in the USA variant remains a mystery, but it’s long perplexed me that even UK-made versions of the 991 still have the ‘USA’ text on them. It’s unlikely that Apple would ever let anybody shoot inside their factories either, but that transparency is what gives New Balance its own rabid audience — one unlikely to switch brand allegiance and willing to cyber beef with critics too. Brand loyalty’s a powerful thing.