THE BOX

I love contemporary hip-hop. I love the tweet alerted, spur-of-the-moment instant fix that eliminated your boy in the States having the hookup. If you’re a late-to-bed European, you’re pretty much privy to the next thing at exactly the same time as your brothers across the Atlantic. Rap got globalised. Of course, some would criticise the fast food nature of projects as the boundaries between mixtape and album (do people even make “street albums” any more?) blur and touring makes the money. To stay on top of what’s dropping is a challenge, but in 2011, its been amusing to see the same rap download blogs that once delighted in goading the lumbering major labels stumbling when it comes to the next wave.

Odd Future made the majority (Hypetrak, Madbury and Street Etiquette aside) look pretty vacant when it came to their work and team A$AP were another crew that caught them sleeping. Where next? Is Chicago’s King Louie the next to instigate a mass late pass hand out? Now Tyler’s only got to Run His Mouth On Twitter in jest and it’s a multiple blog headline in the lust for greasy talk and its consequences. How relevant is the hip-hop blog if these guys can handle their own tweet, WordPress and Tumblr mouthpieces for people who like to call themselves cultural curators (I prefer the term press release regurgitator) to reassemble?

The only regret for me is the lack of joy in a brand name check nowadays. I blame Lupe Fiasco. Once, to see an item beyond the usual high-end boast brand, oversized Avirex, XXXL Source ad fodder (word to Maurice Malone) or utilitarian military or re-appropriated logger yard surplus was a startling moment that was genuinely memorable. Kanye in Supreme in ‘Vibe’ circa 2003 (posted on this blog a while back) was unexpected. Retro killed the interesting shoe mentions (Nore’s “Yo, I loved the Bo Jackson’s, the orange and blue…” Air Trainer SC reference on ‘I Love My Life’ was one of the last truly great sneaker namedrops, but Wale mentioning as many Jordan retros as possible doesn’t count, because that’s just a tactic to keep him on seeding lists) and streetwear lines on a rapper’s back have gone far beyond Nas’s Crooks & Castles namecheck and ALIFE’s excellent patio party projects to become ubiquitous.

Now, every Sendspace MC and his crew are Supreme down, but it’s more humorous that Supreme gear might be at the core of the OFWGKTA/A$AP static. Long before Mac Miller could cover ‘Billboard’ without a major label, we spent money on big plastic discs that usually consisted of the following — white MCs self-consciously trying to out psycho each other (the fathers of today’s breed of white rappers who pull lots of funny faces and act self-consciously jokey on WSHH interviews or rap about goblins and secret caves to nobody but the disparate band of characters who still frequent UGHH) or some Tribe-lite jazz rap that aged horribly.

The majority of my 1996-1998 indy rap purchases are gathering dust, unless I encounter a sudden urge to spend an hour listening to wearying Mike Zoot twelves, but there’s exceptions. The goonier, Premier-endorsed no-label dudes who never got round to a full length album, anything Mike Heron affiliated and the works of Non Phixion, who made conscious ignorance an artform and tore out the backpack bracket through sheer aggression. ‘The Future Is Now’ was an obsession of mine from the moment I got an internet connection at home.

Company Flow fit in here somewhere, but I have to concede that their Norris McWhirter with a stopwatch, syllable and simile-cramming hasn’t aged quite as well with me beyond ‘8 Steps To Perfection.’ Despite that, supported by ‘Ego Trip’s glorious mix of metal and hardcore, tunnel bangers and grimy obscure label support plus frequent plugs for a certain 274 Lafayette Street institution, Company Flow’s Bigg Jus wore the Supreme box logo back in 1997 for that middle-fingered ‘Independent as fuck’ press shot (though, with Murdoch money at Rawkus, I’m still waiting for Kool G Rap to testify at the Leveson inquiry) and it made an impression on me as I harassed Bond and Dr Jives by phone in the quest for a tee.

Ill Bill’s Supreme 1999 box cap with the Swedish-looking camo mixed with hood basics like Timbs and vast Iceberg denim for a Ricky Powell shoot (circa 2001?) that appears in ‘The Future Is Now’ (the “goons at Supreme” even get a thank-you) captured Supreme’s hood/skate/top-tier straddling appeal. It’s a notable moment in the union of rappers and skatewear (though almost a decade earlier, Y’all So Stupid, who’d later crop up for the indie boom as Mass Influence in Vans and FUCT on the Pharcyde’s art direction represented a strong left coast aesthetic). I wonder how some of the now-forgotten old JanSport guard would have fared with current DIY infrastructures in place — would they thrive in the MP3 market, or cave under the relentless mixtape workload expectations?

On the subject of backpack-rap, there’s more backpack talk in the second part of the piece I wrote for the homie Frank. There’s something similar on Forums coming too for those who care about that kind of thing and understand the power of that shoe.

Big up the Germans too. Because I have the sense of direction of a post thunderstorm feline, I couldn’t make it to the Arc’teryx press meetup this morning, but I did wander the Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern listening to Juicy J and the new Vado before heading to a meeting with some German associates. I’m large on the Straße. On that subject, shouts to the circular knit types at Merz b. Schwanen who are creating loopwheeled cotton treats in Germany as part of a brand founded exactly 100 years ago but recently revived and whose style 221 button border shirts come Cabourn approved.

And big up Criterion and Janus for restoring Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 sci-fi flick ‘World On a Wire.’ The DVD and Blu-ray, with Sam Smyth (who also drums for Ben Folds) — the man behind some outstanding Criterion cover and poster design — responsible for the artwork. It drops in February 2012.

BOOSTED

That London RRL store on Mount Street has got me wanting to spend. The navy dip dyed stuff, deerskin hunting vests, Cordovan shoes which — like many Japanese repro merchants — make use of boxes of deadstock Cat’s Paw heel units, and an awesome N-3 snorkel parka made with Buzz Rickson are all expensive but beautiful. Somehow everything on this blog manages to revert to Polo talk. Last week I heard somebody remark that Polo had gone “commercial.” It was curious to see a complaint like that leveled at a billion dollar business, but we’ve all had that moment in time where a brand feels like our own cosa nostra, oblivious to its history and just how many folks got there before we did. One thing’s for sure – with the Independent and Guardian Facebook apps spitting out old articles and dry snitching on the reader via that loose lipped little column on the right, the British broadsheets only got round to discussing the Lo Life “phenomenon” this summer. Then that UK Lo-Life documentary embarrassed the nation.

Going back almost twenty years, ‘The Face’ was there relatively early, typifying what made the magazine so essential under the Sheryl Garrett administration with the October 1992 (when in doubt, pillage ‘The Face’ archives — please, please, please can somebody make a DVD set of issue scans or a pay-per-view database of that magazine’s halcyon years) feature, ‘Living The Lo Life’ by Steven Daly. It’s a memorable feature for a number of reasons — the gear is fresh rather than tinged with not-as-good-as-it-was nostalgia, the footwear isn’t reissue and it answers and creates a few questions along the way. Young veteran Superia is an interesting focal point — dismissive of Lauren himself, applying a sense of activism to his crusade for fresh rather than reverence for Ralph and annoyed at Harlemite group Zhigge’s Polo gear until it’s revealed that they’ve got a Brooklynite in the crew.

We find out that JanSport is out and that Boostin’ Kev has been discredited too. Beyond that, the photography is excellent — David Perez Shadi (who’s worked with Supreme, BBC and ALIFE as well as being the man behind House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ video) took some incredible shots (the bandana is particularly memorable). What was shot but left out the feature? I’m keen to see the out takes.

The list of brands mentioned is interesting, with Tommy, Guess and Nautica joined by Duck Head – presumably only in vogue for a minute, but a curious brand that started life in the late 1800s as O’Bryan Bros workwear, selling union-made Duck Head overalls in the early 1900s, kitting out several country music artists in the 1960s and ending the 1970s with a surplus of 60,000 yards of khaki fabric that was bought by a mill operator, leading to the preppier incarnation of Duck Head that rose in popularity throughout the 1980s and early 1990s with a middle class audience, offering a kind of Polo-lite. They closed a Monroe, Georgia factory in 1996 and shifted manufacture abroad, floundering a little under new ownership and being purchased in 2003, leading to its current position as a merchant of fairly nondescript, low price dadwear. Still, it’s interesting that it once shared racks with Carhartt — another company given some unexpected innercity reappropriation at the same time Polo gear was sneaking past security.

I try to offset nostalgia here, but it seems we can’t avoid 1992’s tractor beam of bold labels and powerful pricetags. It seems to aggravate a few purists that rap’s golden era is a subjective thing — kids losing their mind to ‘Shot Caller’ right now wouldn’t want it any other way, no matter how many times you bang on about ‘Funky Child.’ Consider it a work in progress. But hip-hop attire always seems to hark back to exactly what Superia and his boys were preoccupied with. I’d love to see a publication with ‘The Face’s knack for prescience. Shit, I’d like to see a Friday night show that had segments like this James Lebon filmed piece on Shyheim for ‘Passengers.’

STANCE

Forget that never not working mantra. I’m not working this week and it feels good. It’s nice not to be writing an excess of shoe-related talk for a change, but guess what? Even during time off, I’m drawn to the subject. It’s a curse. Mr. Jeff Staple wasn’t lying when he mentioned that sleeping giant of footwear addiction that can’t be shaken off, even when you’re no longer in a brand’s target demographic (face facts, my over-30 brethren — you know that’s true). I even found myself making plans for Nike-related projects unconsciously on my BlackBerry earlier today, but it doesn’t feel like work — it’s normal, forgettable no-brainer behaviour.

Putting on a jacket and leaving the house isn’t something notable  either — it’s something I just tend to do thoughtlessly, though I do see increasing numbers of photo shoots wherein a shirt and jacket combo as lumpen and ill-fitting as the clothes I throw on every morning is apparently “styled.” And lest we forget, I’m just a sagging shitbag when it comes to my dress sense, Styling is a noble artform (the attitudinal and brash trickle down of Ray Petri and associate’s Buffalo work fired my imagination as a kid and continues to be a pinnacle aesthetic in my eyes), but just putting some everyman attire on dudes with public school hairdos doesn’t look that difficult. Doing something different seems tougher.

Maybe these folk are doing it so well that they just make it look easy. Maybe I’d sever a finger buttoning up a shirt, or break a leg adding a millimetre to a turn up I know a few photographers who get a little touchy about the fact a license to do events and product shots seems to come free in the box of any SLR, so I imagine that plenty of stylists with a vision are a little perplexed about the tidal wave of chancers. I guess everybody has to start somewhere, but would it too much to ask to see bland
worn differently?

Seeing the video for Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ again at the V&A’s ‘Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990′ exhibition reminded me of how besotted I was with her and her whole swagger when I was a kid. I’m sure I recall entering a competition on BBC 1’s ‘Going Live’ to win a signed pair of adidas Metro Attitudes (the rare-as-fuck ones with the reptile print). Capturing a brilliant collision between high fashion, high art and popular culture and laced with brash branding that caught the eye of a new breed of expensive label magpies, drawn to anything they couldn’t afford that screamed its price point with every wear. What a lady. It’s an endlessly repackable style too, from the bolshy videos, to her lack of pregnant pause when it came to performing live.

In 1992, her seemingly non-styled (but nicely shot by Jean Baptiste Mondino) ‘Homebrew’-era (the album with ‘Buddy X’ as remixed with a Biggie appearance that led to Neneh getting a shout out on the ‘Ready To Die’ sleeve) is proof positive that Jordans look better on ladies. As the week ticks by with internet hype stripping the Jordan III’s cool away, let’s not forget how amazing a Jordan can be when it’s worn without giving a fuck, minus the tiptoes and twitpics. Neneh’s Military Blue IVs were old by the time this issue of ‘The Face’ went out (it’s dated October 1992), but the look of them is enough to make me forget that they were easily available in a plastic replica form for as little as £17 a couple of years ago. We’ll have forgotten about the reissues when they’re released again next summer, but the Jordan IV in that shade of blue hasn’t aged as well as Neneh.

I also forgot about Neneh Cherry recording with Hiroshi Fujiwara in 1994. You can hear ‘Turn My Back’ right here and it sounds like 1994 had a tendency to sound.

Inspiration and nice guy Nikolai put me onto Melbourne-based www.itsonlyatshirt.com who are putting out officially licensed horror film related tees in old style VHS box packaging. If the name ‘Patrick’ rings a bell, then you’ll probably lose your mind over this project. The frequently screened Oz b-movie about a terrifying telekinetic boy in a coma used to be a BBC late night staple, but I haven’t seen it in a while. I recall a jump scare at the film’s conclusion that once made me scream in a cowardly manner. In the Ozploitation stakes, ‘Patrick’ and ‘Long Weekend’ seemed to crop up with a certain frequency (often around holiday periods, when bedtime wasn’t a concern) and to see it celebrated like this is tremendous news. In this interview, it’s alluded that a ‘Raw Meat’ (aka ‘Death Line’ with the amazing soundtrack) shirt, based on the equally troubling 1973 classic is at brainstorm stage with this brand.

Look at these early 1997 Wallabee options that were featured in ‘New York’ magazine. Was that a post Ghostface reaction? The oranges are beautiful. It’s a shame that they were probably the post-87 North American market ones that were China made. Still, nice colours and composition. And if anybody knows who was behind the Killa Shoe Co. Padmore & Barnes made Wallabee-alikes from the early 2000s, I’d love to know.

This Erik Brunetti interview on the Heavy Mental is awesome, “Los Angeles, at least to my knowledge, is too caught up in ‘street art’ and hype-driven openings, which produce the worst piles of shit I have ever seen. Just dreadful to look at.

Lest I forget, the homie Frank has just upped some of my musings on bags and outerwear history on Boylston Trading Company’s site to coincide with the Lexdray drop. My stuff is typically meandering, but I suppose if you’re talking about the outdoors, you’re allowed to ramble. It’s split into two parts and I think the second part is going up at some point this week. Good peoples and the Boylston Forums that are dropping in early December are killer.

Emptying the contents of a memory card, I found more images from the New Balance Flimby trip a while back. The original 670s are tremendous and the Kawasaki 993 is interesting. It’s still not quite as amazing as the Harrods New Balance M1700 from many years back (those Harrods NB images are swiped from homework4h38.blogspot.com and Parisian New Balance collector par excellence, Jay OneTwo’s images). Those shelves of UK-made goodies caused a few flashbacks and there’s a few samples there that bore striking differences to the production product. The mita croc skin 1700s from 2007 are underrated.

TECHNOLOGY & OTHER STUFF

Sometimes it’s nice to break away from the WordPress logger look and wear something a little more progressive. The best work comes from those with a more nebulous approach to clobber than just remaking past triumphs and Mr. Dominic Stansfield is one of those chaps who knows clothing design inside out, displaying otaku levels of interest in military apparel, but grew bored of the fixation with all things waxy and quaint. As has been reinforced here and elsewhere, the best things come from the minds knowledgeable enough to get playful. They’re not the Muppets banging on about curating or tastemaking, but rather the ones quietly getting shit done in the background. Rushmore and Stansfield were doing the stuff that everyone’s into now a while ago and swiftly moved onto the next thing after suffering an attack of reverse nostalgia. Stansfield’s work was already playing with existing design rather than being some kind of repro-facilitator, so what would happen if he was given an almost limitless supply of manufacturing resources? You get UVU.

While we wait for Mr. Stansfield’s sweatshirt project (bearing in mind he appreciates a Reverse Weave or two), the UVU collection is shaping up nicely. Notions of everyday performance sound nice when they’re reeled off in a brainstorm for the easily impressed, but when they’ve got you looking like some kind of angular future cop from the waist up once they’re on your back, the novelty swiftly wears off. That’s why real performance needs to be the driving force of technical apparel somewhere down the line. That’s why I love Arc’teryx, ACG and Rapha. Bear in mind that even Hiroki Nakamura learnt his craft at Burton before he started emptying your pocket with those beautiful boots and jackets.

UVU is made by KTC, who know performance manufacture inside out and it shows in the samples. Just as there’s evidently room in the market for a hundred old Sierra Designs-alikes, there should be room for several technical contenders when that bubble bursts. Hopefully the explosion should usher in the next rather than some neo-heritage twattery. This interview with FreshBritain main man Bob Sheard on the KTC site, discussing breaking down costs, brand integrity and notions of authenticity is excellent, as is the piece on Chinese manufacture. Like most people, I feel the urge to kit myself out with gear that could perform. That’s not to say I’ll ever put my Lunar Eclipses or Arc’teryx Alpha SV through the paces that they’re built for, but it’s nice to know that in a pursuit situation, or should I find myself stranded on a hill somewhere, I might survive an extra quarter of an hour before I’m stabbed or eaten by a bear. That’s what made wearing the UVU North Pole Race Jacket to commute to work these last few weeks amusing.

I can’t say I put the jacket through its paces, but I enjoyed the experience, despite being a little thrown by the pockets zipping upwards. That’s the kind of thing I would probably appreciate if I was legging it in sub-zero conditions where time wasted equals fingertips. Intact fingers crossed, I’ll never find myself in that situation.

At an un-athletic, luddite level I appreciated the olive accents and reflective ‘U’ details, plus the way the hood protected my massive head from rain without sending me sprawling across a car bonnet when I was crossing Euston Road. There’s your performance review. Set to offer casual counterparts to each part of a hardcore, cold running layering system, you can expect water resistant fleece sweats and shirts (that’s shirting in bellend parlance) with bonded seams that don’t make you look like you’ve just fallen from space — again, to create wardrobe staples that can perform without getting tackily techy from a visual standpoint is quite an achievement. I’m interested in seeing where UVU goes in 2012.

I’m also interested in seeing what Mos Def, Chris Gibbs and Alyasha are cooking up collaboratively for 2012 too. Did they meet up as some secret society for the really fucking well dressed?

Other things on the internet that are far more interesting than this blog include the Martorialist interviewing Mob Style’s Fred Flak and Loomstate covering the opening of the London Ralph Lauren RRL store on Mount Street this week. Dapper looks abound in those photos and the Deadwood theme to some pieces reminded me of my regret at not bidding on the Deadwood wardrobe when the show was officially deaded (I think I blogged it here somewhere). Now Al Swearengen’s suit and underwear will set you back $7000, which is probably how much a similar RRL set would cost. Just as Très Bien have started stocking Alden’s Cordovan leather goods (the frequent object of my affections), RRL London has its own black, limited to 20 pair, take on the brand’s Cordovan Madison boot. Europe’s horse population should start panicking, but I imagine it’s the ones near Chicago’s Horween tannery that are really shitting themselves.

Rice-tranced rap god Riff Raff’s twitter antics are easily the best of any rapper doing social media (“TALKiNG ON MY iPHONE SMELLiNG LiKE A PiNE CONE”) and he’s also alluded that he’s selling a copy of his alien chain with an “Ain’t nothing important to me except …codeine over ice” cup. Riff-Raff is a good advert for codeine misuse, and his twitpic group shot of chains (sadly excluding his Slimer effort) is inspirational in its riced-out glory.

Searching for some old West Coast punk footage for one reason or another, I reacquainted myself with ‘Urban Struggle: The Battle of the Cuckoo’s Nest’ documentary, but I hadn’t seen this footage of Gary Panter and Penelope Spheeris being patronised by Stanley Siegel in 1981. The heavy metal kid in the Hawaiian shirt is a true boss.

WANKER HERITAGE

After the blitz of ACG related attention, I feel an urge to pander to popularity. But then I remembered that this blog has a duty to alienate. There’s a lot that’s wearying out there – there’s the hipster douchebags who feel that they’re above the other hipsters by self-conscientiously pointing and laughing at them via WordPress, Tumblr and twitter. They’re oblivious to the fact that they’re far, far worse. There’s nothing worse than a hipster doofus who thinks he’s evolved beyond the common garden variety – like the ones chuckling at Dalston mock reality shows and songs about being a dickhead. It’s like Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ but with far more vacuous wankers than Warren Beatty or whoever pissed Carly off.

We should do a little dance every time an independent store opens during a recession, but there’s too many stores out there with a homogenized buying policy of chunky-soled brogue boots, US-made jackets, Pendleton, the smell of incense and some olde world wooden fixtures. It’s not that I don’t want you to succeed and it’s not a criticism of the items you’re stocking, but when the “McDonald’s 1955 retro burger effect” makes identikit heritage crumble like a house of cards, I fear for your Ralph Lauren-lite retail space. What are you going to do? Start selling futuristic suits made of space age fabrics overnight? Unlikely. Top Man can ditch the Nigel Cabourn-lite overnight and be onto the next one, but smaller brands eating off Cabourn’s considerable swagger (a knowledge attained by more than 24 months of ‘Free & Easy’) are going to catch a black eye. Then that Americana fetish will scuttle back to Japan where it never gets corny.

But (almost) worse than all these characters is the heritage trickle down. When I see takedowns of looks that London bellends bred in my hometown, I know they’re done. Scoop necked tees on pallid chests, white Vans Era copies, Kasabian playing through Beats by Dre headphones and worst of all — the cuff chino. Once, the pinroll was the preserve of kids who’d check your pockets with a gruff “What have you got for me?” query, accompanied by Argyle socks. Then it became the totem of the significantly less threatening sneaker dude — same shoes as the rudeboy, but significantly weaker. That spread via track bike to a certain breed of buffoon who’d cuff their chinos for anything, showing their wacky socks off to feign personality and revealing brogues and plimsolls. It was the devolution of cool. Not everybody is Nick Wooster — even if they buy the same camo blazer. It’s worth mentioning that the scally and provincial town phenomenon of young men (and occasionally women too) wearing their football socks over tracky bottoms is amazing and exempt from this criticism, one of those authentic looks that seems to spring up organically without media interference (was it born of post-kick around necessity?) though I wonder if it had any bearing on the cuffed look’s national sprawl.

Thanks to “stylists”, a new breed of reality show runner up boy bands and some high street retailers and growing online entities decided to sell the chinos ready cuffed. It’s curious to see a bunch of “oi oi saveloy” beer boys dressed in drop crotch, ankle exposing trousers, because it’s a convergence of almost avant-garde and lumpen twattery that convinces me that the ground is ready to swallow us up into a fiery pit any minute soon. The wearing of cuff chinos was almost certainly mentioned somewhere in the Book of Revelations.

Flicking through Michael Allen Harris’s awesome ‘Jeans of the Old West: A History‘, (published last year and necessary if you’ve got the faintest interest in denim’s many, many incarnations during gold and silver mining times), when Michael’s not puncturing frequently told tales regarding the development of the jean, he’s showcasing some early duck and denim designs. A pair of Hettrick Manufacturing Company American Field Coats duck pants from the end of the 19th century have a leg cuff on the rear ankle and escalating cut on the thigh that brought to mind 2011’s breed of twat-pant. That bulbous cut is almost Chipe-esque. Perhaps that pant’s original owner was the forefather of today’s fast expanding breed of chino bellend.

Salutes to Carhartt for doing this heritage thing right though. The six brand books form an interesting brand history (I love the slogan, “Honorably Made for Honorable Men“) for hadn’t seen gathered before and the homie Sofarok put me onto this Carhartt ad that’s currently on US TV. I like the cool-guy free message a lot. There’s a lot of scope for shameless myth making and blue collar sentimentality in that realm that should outlast any fads.

ALL CONDITIONS

For those that actually look at this blog, I hope this material brings a little sunshine as your weekend concludes. I love Nike’s All Conditions Gear division and I know a fair few who are equally, if not more, psychotic about the product they’ve pumped out over the years. Even those speckled, beige boxes have us babbling incoherently. I’m constantly haunted by turning down an ACG trip in Utah back in late 2008 (I had my reasons) where I could have nerded out by campfire. ACG is bigger than sneakers to me — the colours and resolutely uncommercial nature of the range always struck me as a labour of love rather than some cash-in, with several key Nike personnel enjoying steep gradients in the name of fun. That ACG aesthetic still resonates in contemporary product and 1989-1995 was one of the best times to be a little peculiar about offroad product. The colours on the apparel at the time of ACG’s 1989 launch are particularly interesting.

From 1981’s launch of Magma, Approach (complete with GORE-TEX) and Lava Dome to the Escape runner and the rugged pieces in each subsequent catalogue (Son of Lava Dome, anyone? Bring that back) and the Nike Hiking line pre-ACG, the mix of muted and some brave blasts of pop colour, trail styling was a significant influence on my perception of good design. It’s a good thing that I found myself working alongside folk who appreciated it too. It’s no surprise that Japanese collectors appreciated ACG’s odder pieces (like the Moc) a little more on their debut, but the work of Tinker Hatfield, Sergio Lozano, Tory Orzeck, Peter Fogg, Carl Blakeslee and Robert Mervar on the silhouettes is appreciated round these parts. Salutes to Nate VanHook for his work on ACG via Nike Sportswear too — seeing the Lunar Macleay on an inspiration board at Stone Island HQ in the new ‘INVENTORY’ proves that shoe made its mark in terms of innovation as well as nods to old Nike favourites.

Of course, there’s the “what if?” factor too. Geoff Hollister was set to launch Nike Aqua Gear (with an emphasis on boat activity) around the time ACG was launched — a watery Nike sub-range to work alongside the Aqua Sock. It could have generated some brilliantly lurid garments and further footwear, but sadly wasn’t to be. Later ACG releases made to work in and out of rivers and streams carry some Aqua Gear spirit, while the Sock stays classic.

Over the last few years an emphasis on retro has distracted us from some of Nike’s brilliantly polarizing ACG releases. The Tallac, debuted in 2003 was a classic piece of strange and 2009’s Zoom Ashiko was excellent too. This seasons fine Zoom Meriwether feels like the intelligent offspring of the former footwear. My buddy Frank the Butcher (not to be mistaken with Mike Reid’s wheeler-dealer recently tweeted a picture of some black-on-black ACG boots that piqued my interest. I enjoy the Nike boot’s status as an inner city orientated release masquerading as an offroad design.

Nobody’s going up a mountain in Goadomes, but they stay classic — the mystery shoe carried a faint aura of the DC and Baltimore favourite, but minus the Frankenstein’s Monster factor. I love this Laced interview with Mr. Blakeslee about the genesis of that shoe, how it was a Timberland response and how Udi from Training Camp was involved. Frank’s boot had me losing my mind — GORE-TEX, a slightly Bakin shape (presumably built on the same last as the ACG Foamposite Bakin boot) and even an air of old personal favourites like the Max Uptempo were all in the mix. Except this looked to be built like a brick shithouse, The model is the Air Max Prime and it’s an expensive one at $200 (only $25 cheaper than the insane Superdome model was in 1992) and it’s available in spots like Eastbay now. It looks built to last, with that centre eyelet, carbon-style heel counter, swoosh and ‘ACG’ on the Max Air being particularly effective. I’m sure the majority will loathe it, but that just makes them more appealing.

This article in the April/May 1981 issue of ‘Backpacker’ was published shortly after the original Nike hiker ads with John Roskelley and crew ran, and discusses the rise of GORE-TEX, sneaker hybrids and a lighter breed of hiking shoe. It’s fun to see GORE-TEX treated as a flash-in-the-pan by some, but there’s some good material in there on how it was placed in performance product.

Then there’s the ACG and Nike Hiking marketing. Merging a rustic breed of beard-friendly gear with state-of-the-art technologies and a fair amount of whimsy that probably wouldn’t make it to publication in other divisions, some really smart W+K copywriting and design shines through in each of these ads. The Air Azona one (what’s Nike Outdoors though?) is particularly excellent in breaking down the ACG formula.

HEAVYWEIGHTS

Two of my heavyweight heroes have passed this week, and it breaks my heart. The retrospective reels depicting Joe Frazier’s greatness are a stark contrast to the sorry state of the heavyweight division these days (though Kirkland and Angulo’s Super Welterweight bout at the weekend was a throwback to a happier time). Anybody blinded by Ali-mania and some salty exchanges of words is a clown. Frazier’s vicious style and heavy hitting makes him a god. It’s a tragedy that he seemed to spend the last few years of his life in a different place to a formerly demonised Ali opponent like George Foreman who came out the other side (after a period of depression) a happy human being. This 1973 Playboy interview is worth a read ahead of any eulogies and the forthcoming documentary ‘When the Smoke Clears’ about Joe, Philly and the closure of his gym is promising too.



Then there’s Heavy D.

It was surreal watching the onetime Overweight Lover on Westwood.tv, pondering the excellence of ‘Blue Funk’ and thinking about how ‘You Can’t See What I Can See’ was up there with ‘Dwyck’ in the b-side stakes, only to hear of his passing. Hip-hop loves to wail and shout “whyyyyyyy?” to the heavens via social media and rap tribute during any passing, but Heavy D deserves a substantial mourning period — see that Drake album that’s been weeping salty tears from your iPhone screen since monday? That mix of macho bars and the soul stuff is the byproduct of the big man’s work, where a Teddy Riley production settled alongside the hardest of Premier beats without a single murmur of complaint. And that was during a time when Wreckx-N-Effect’s boys got vexed at Phife’s anti swing sentiments and EPMD were decrying R&B crossovers. Heavy helped make Puffy the man his is today, and Puff’s influence — regardless of your opinion of the Ciroc wielding ego — on pop culture as a whole is gargantuan.

Heavy D knew early on that there’s no such thing as selling out, provided that you do it right and that Sprite campaign pre-dates a slew of multi-national flirtations with hip-hop. Better that that, ‘Nike’ on the ‘Living Large’ LP in 1987 is an early ode swoosh with a Teddy Riley on co-operation that’s so shameless that Heavy even apologises at the end before angling for a promo deal. On the ‘Chunky But Funky’ cover, the Jordan IIs quantities are on the level of Heavy D’s scrawny opposites, the Skinny Boys. It’s a shame that one of the Boyz forgot his Italian-made classics on the morning of the shoot.

On a loosely related nostalgia note, Trevor Jackson and Richard XL’s live Ustream video construction of a UK rap mixtape the other day plus this 1986 DJ Mek footage of London Posse in Dublin as highlighted by the Hot As Balls crew brought back some memories of Mr. Jackson’s Bite It! work under the Underdog alias. Had his Playgroup album dropped in the MP3 blog era, the world would have collectively ejaculated tweet plaudits about it and the new generation of quasi-artistic MCs would hop on the productions for their Mediafire mixtapes. But the world wasn’t quite ready for that one and his Output imprint closed in 2006. Under his Underdog guise, Trevor dropped some bangers, at a time when the UK re-rub was a reason to skip a track. It’s interesting that he frequently downplays his musical ability at that time, indicating that treating the sonics the same way as graphic design, with a patchwork approach was the key to his sound.

While some Underdog work might have been lumped with the post-Muggs, THC-haze there’s an ambience and knack for psychedelia in the mix that could be fully appreciation when it was free from the distraction of comparison with beloved originals. On the Brotherhood’s ‘Elementalz’ it was out there. Some of the album might sound a little naive now, but the little gothic touches and lavish yet abstract art from Dave Mckean indicated that someone had taken their time putting it together in contrast to the graffiti fonts and barely Pentel tag fonts of rival British releases. It never set off a movement and as a nation, few lessons were learned and UK rap moaned and stagnated. Now the real appeal is in a hastily recorded road rap sound that’s too agitated to bother with lavish inlays.

This interview with Jackson is brutally honest at a time when many swagger around as one-man brands on a Klout score mission. He downplays a little too much of his work, but it’s clear that the graphic design and typography is still his first passion (check out Cynthia Rose’s ‘Design After Dark’ for some sleeve and clubland designs that typify the late ’80s to early ’90s, including some of Jackson’s Champion and Gee Street work). His site has a good cross section of his works so far, but Bite It!s street-level take on the Suzuki rhino and the attention lavished on some otherwise forgotten 12″s with Donald Christie’s photography.



Little Pauly Ryan EP’s been on here before, but it deserves a second appearance alongside Scientists of Sound and 100% Proof releases too. Who else was doing anything like that in 1992? He still works with Donald on video projects like this. That sloganeering should be memorable to ‘Phat’ readers too. I can’t help but think that that one-man, money’s-no-object (rarely the key to longevity in the recording industry) crusade against mediocrity deserves inspection from a wider audience as we champion some right old sh…actually, to honour Hev’s ‘Don’t Curse’ plea, it can get censored…shameless rubbish.