FATIGUE

I hold maharishi in high esteem. It was the brand that advertised in mid ’90’s issues of ‘HHC’ and the pre-‘TRACE,’ ‘TRUE’ magazine with the hemp and zen connection. I remember it being prominent in the issue of ‘HHC’ that ran my poorly-written defence of KRS-One in the Biteback section from “GAZ One, Bedford” — my first moment in print since the ‘Bedfordshire Times’ claimed I’d called ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II’ “Turtletastic!” on exiting a free screening. But whereas so many other brands fell by the wayside, it evolved. It even managed to outlive the era of Sarah Cox and members of All Saints stumbling glassy-eyed out of the Met Bar in Snopants. The other All Saints would create rival militaristic trouser designs and H&M earned themselves a lawsuit over their “homages” but Hardy Blechman’s vision of a war-free re-appropriation of military functionality was one of the few great British streetwear brands.

Even their MHI spinoff, a more defined ground level takedown in comparison to maharishi, offered tees with camo stitching on the neck that was impossible to stretch (trust me, my head can stretch any garment’s collar) and breathable mesh armpits. We got the Henry Chalfant tees in train boxes, the DPM book and the Terminators, visited the Gonz and MODE2 exhibitions in the impressive DMHI store, then high rents and market shifts seemed to shake things up to the point where I pretty much stopped paying attention to maharishi or its spinoffs. Hardy Blechman remains a hero to me though for transcending what could have been an idealistic couple of seasons of itchy fabrics and sloganeering, and turning it into a lifestyle brand with a serious amount of substance, aided in no small part by that authoritative tome.

The Spring/Summer 2011 maharishi offerings, shown in 2010 on a circular catwalk hinted that the brand was getting interesting again, but the offerings for late 2012 that have been getting some tradeshow shine look great. Just as camo heads in cuntery towards levels of overkill akin to the wartime pattern overdose of 2006 (camo and tailoring will be in Primark by the end of the summer — witness the brown elastic chino brigade embrace the disruptive patterns very, very soon), maharishi is doing what the brand does best and seems to have Mr. Blechman back on board at a design level to riff on an encyclopedic knowledge of military function, textures and fabrics, rather than just diving into the camouflage patterns. The ultra-detailed cut-out overlays on tees offer some deep levels of detail, but the netting-theme based on the fabric blend of Personal Load Carrying Equipment tactical webbing is appropriately British in inspiration, but goes far beyond chucking a tweaked pattern on a slim-fitting jacket. It’s delivering what maharishi does best, and even the selection of athletic fleece basics looks pretty strong too.


John Wayne’s tiger pattern fatigues from here

But regardless of how much army fatigue I find myself suffering from, camo will always be cool to me. Tiger stripes will always maintain those deadly special ops connotations to me, steeped in a Green Beret mystique. No amount of misuse can take that away. I like the way John Wayne’s outfit in the much-maligned ‘The Green Berets’ is frequently referenced in Sgt. Richard D. Johnson’s ‘Tiger Patterns’ as “John Wayne Dense” and “John Wayne Sparse” — I always enjoyed that film as a kid, offering some irresponsible levels of violence on a Saturday afternoon, with an awesome theme tune to boot. Right-wing propaganda isn’t right, but it does make for some of the most fun action films Hollywood ever put out. In fact, ‘The Green Berets’ has an example of Skyhook in it too, which makes it doubly interesting (I wish there was footage of the original military tests on that system, using a pig that apparently attacked the crew after being “rescued”) One set of the Duke’s tiger stripes went on sale late last year and sold for just over $13,000. Owning those and learning the techniques displayed in this photo set from a 1985 issue of ‘Black Belt’ would make anybody at least 30% more excellent.

But forget the tiger stripes for a minute. Mr. Charlie Morgan gave me a heads-up on the existence of a replica of Snake Plissken’s strange asymmetric camouflage patterned trousers from ‘Escape From New York.’ Those trousers, with their strange front cargo pockets and low belt loops have been the talk of forums for a while, with users oblivious to the fact that, unless you look like Kurt Russell circa 1981, dressing like Snake will just make you look deeply camp rather than a growling badass. Is this the camo that soldiers battling in a dystopian future would need? When they’re not onscreen, in the cold light of day, the EFNY camo is a bit Cyberdog circa 1997 rather than the apocalyptic 1997 Carpenter depicted. Still, Macleod’s MODEL ‘1997 pant is an amazing labour of love that’s made using the Blu-ray edition of the film as a reference point for maximum authenticity. Mr. Morgan also put me onto Macleod’s ‘Mr. Bickle’ toy replica of Travis Bickle’s homemade gun sleeve — the perfect accompaniment to the Real McCoy’s Bickle-wear. To save you having to get in touch with Easy Andy, you can even buy a toy Colt 25 or 380 Walther to put in it to perfect your Travis in the mirror or avenging angel in army jacket routine. They even sell retro-style targets too — everything a crazed loner needs in their life.

And for no good reason, here’s another winter boot spread from ‘The Source’ — this one’s from the November 1994 issue aka. the staff walk-out edition that left the magazine a shadow of its former self from that issue onwards. I wonder if the Lugz and Skechers in there were ‘Zino’s fault too? Still, can’t fault those Vasques.

TECH

I’m slacking on blog updates because I just got back from NYC and I’m prepping to go on a stag weekend. I’m not used to actually living an existence — I’m more adept at forging one vicariously via the internet outside of everyday working hours, so it throws my WordPress routine and makes me twitch with OCD. I had something bigger planned for today, but the ground’s moving beneath me in pulsating waves — not good Max B wavy, but weirdo body clock wavy. Still, while London Fashion Week sounds dull so far, I’m feeling some new acquisitions that do an admirable job of taking something traditional and turning it into something technical. The thing about press trips is this — you can actually polish a turd. If you fly enough journalists out, make them feel special and present the turd to them in a glossy, bombastic fashion then thank them for attending, they’ll probably write a glowing write-up of the turd. What’s good for the karma is when you go on a trip to see an unveiling and you can gush about it because it’s genuinely excellent — Nike’s Flyknit is my kind of shoe. Beyond those of us who would take a man’s life for some shoes with a space scene on the upper, there’s those oddballs I identify with, who like moments in Nike eccentricity like the Alpha Project’s Seismic, 2008’s Lunar Racer (modern classic), Zoom Havens, Mariah PRs, Duelist PRs, the Woven collection that ushered in the ’00’s, Humaras and the entire HTM line that somehow linked Nike’s CEO, Mr Mark Parker to Tinker Hatfield and Hiroshi Fujiwara in a way that reeked of mutual respect and real-deal top-tier sensibilities.

Mark appreciates design (he really loves the Haven) and Hiroshi has a knack for elevating performance eccentricity. Somewhere down the line we became bogged down in variations on a theme, but the Nike GYAKUSOU range indicated that the future was top-tier performance rather than retros. It’s easy to assumed that HTM was always about premium classics in nice boxes, but the mid-cut Woven variation that was only an HTM release, first Macropus and latterly, the HTM2 Run Boot, indicated that is was a more freeform concept than that. That the latest HTM release debuted in a significant Track & Field trial at the start of the year rather than in the pages of ‘Warp,’ and that Mark mentioned the HTM project in his address to the global media is proof that there’s a conscious effort to push things forward that slapped me out of my footwear apathy.

If you compare initial whisperings about HTM from the Hiroshi interview from a Summer 2000 issue of ‘The Fader’ to the brief Q&A I had with Hiroshi and Mark that you can read here, there’s some interesting developments. Something went wrong in other sections of the collector-targeting offerings from every brand along the way in the interim, but HTM has always been an interesting experiment. I’m infatuated with the HTM+ Lunar Flyknit Trainer+ for that densely detailed toe, the threaded Dynamic Support eyelets (the Zoom Haven’s influence runs deep in these), the flipped colours on the medial side plus the way they feel like slippers on your foot, whereas the majority of attractive Nike slimline runners leave me doing the Verbal/Keyzer Söse hobble. A knit shoe can work like the Missoni Converse effort or it can be twisted into something even more cutting edge, and I imagine that in the wrong hands it could look like it was purchased at a craft fair from an earnest lady in a tie-dye skirt. Developments like Flyknit remind me why I like shoes. Seeing a Flyknit Air Max 1 or some such merger of classic and brand new technology would be a step backwards, but I’m not mad if shoes of the Flyknit Trainer’s calibre. I’m still waiting for the time when NIKEiD will allow us to submit an image or pattern for the Knit machine to add to the upper of our iD creations. For the time being, this colourway is a fine display of showboating the technology’s visual possibilities.

Today, vast conga lines of kids with Air Max 1s on slowly advanced towards the Supreme store doors and spent some serious bucks. I like the Kate stuff a lot – sneer all you like, but that official photoshoot stuff always delivers, yet the item I was most preoccupied with this season was the Taped Seam Coaches Jacket. It’s a basic look (Eazy-E on the ‘It’s On…’ EP cover wears a coaches jacket perfectly) and as a kid, from Naf Co 54 (the fake market store Naf Naf) and Spliffy to the cheapo faux-fur lined Raiders NFL-licensed efforts from Olympus Sports, they were a favourite. Supreme like to mess with the design, whether it’s working with Champion on collections of colours or giving them animal prints inside, but delivering a triple layer technical fabric jacket in the coach format is the kind of thing that those hype-wide eyes might miss during the feverish retail of the next few days, but with the nylon versions from my childhood being somewhat limited in their protection during blustering, inclement weather, this is tweaked to perform and look good. What’s often boxy has been taken in a little, and the teal variant is a killer coat, with an economic look that makes it versatile. I particularly like the contrast between the basic drawstring mode of fastening and the precise liner lines of machine-applied tape. The Champion variation in a similar shade eluded me a couple of years ago, so salutes to Angelo and James for their kindness.

SKIN

Every time my commitment wavers with regards to anything, I look to the berserkers who carved Slayer onto their skin for inspiration. Unwavering in their dedication, not led by trends and keen to go one louder than a mere tee with deodorant stained pits, the lack of curves in Slayer’s logo letterforms really lend themselves to sharp objects and skin. This is what separates metal fans from the H&M bought pre-faded replica.

This blog entry has been hindered by my escalating addiction to Hypebeast’s Essentials section and the wild comments it attracts. Good to see Mr. Masta Lee from Patta in there too, repping for Lexdray, a brand that makes bags with so many pockets and secret compartments that those of us without a sense of direction are liable to get lost in their own baggage during the packing process. I want to see a book of the images by the end of the year, provided that they include the talkback remarks too. S95s, MacBooks, firearms, Goyard goods and lots of Supreme box logos have all featured, but the layout, with the rollover crosses for extra detail, is impeccable. It sates a certain hypelust for details and gives keyboard Conans something else to vent about.

I haven’t seen anybody break out an Acer netbook yet, but it’s good to see that there are still some BlackBerry users out there — can people really type as fast without keys as they could with them? The sole thing stopping me from grabbing an iPhone is the way in which it would hinder my copywriting missions on the move. Typing anything substantial on my iPad is like trying to play a concerto on the FAO Schwartz floor piano. Scale that down and I can barely tap beyond the perimeters of a text message length before tapping out entirely. RIM fell off in a major way, but the vinegar faces of concentration on my friends, once so deft on the tactile keys of their Bolds, as they try to Instagram a wacky dog they just saw with an accompanying witticism puts me off entirely.

Eureka’s Blu-ray release of Alex Cox’s ‘Repo Man’ is further proof of their commitment to cult, and their newly remastered edition of the film ports some US special edition details over, but also includes the near mythical TV version, shorn of all swearing (like the legendary ITV ‘Robocop’ edit) as well. It’s such a sweary and peculiar film, that it’s perplexing that anybody would think to clip its wings to the point where “Melon farmer” would work as a suitable insult (word to Charles Bronson in ‘Mr. Majestyk’ though, because he’s one bad melon farmer). Just as Criterion block us when it comes to regional limitations, this is a Europe-only release, but at least Eureka had the good grace to put up a nifty little screen when it comes to failed loads for global ‘Repo Man’ fans.



While we’re talking 1984 punk attitude, this old ‘South Bank Show’ on Malcolm McLaren as his ‘Duck Rock’ phase went classical/R&B with ‘Fans’ is worth an hour of your time. The irritated interviews with Steve Jones and the beautiful Annabella Lwin, juxtaposed with remorseless quotable from Malcolm makes it classic, plus it reminded me of just how odd his solo work was, as he sauntered from zeitgeist to zeitgeist, letting the last movement burn as he threw himself into the next big thing.



Trying to remind myself of the joys of vinyl during a central London record shop visit, a costly Red Ninja promo in Reckless had me wondering what became of the mysterious Red Ninja? He was an act who had brief cult fame at my school with the dancehall and hip-hop fans alike. Red Ninja and Kobalt 60 were part of the soundtrack to a Fila F-13 and faux Chipie era in my hometown. I had no idea that there was a Red Ninja video, with a £100 budget that had a brief outing on ‘Dance Energy.’ Raggamuffin British hip-hop with dance moves stays winning.

Oh, and shouts to SAS and the Eurogang movement for the shout out on their ‘Tiffy’ freestyle. It took me back to days amassing CDRs of Dipset mixtapes. Props to Mega for that one.

Before the new issue of Oi Polloi’s excellent Pica~Post arrives, this interview with Shinya Hasegawa of Brooklyn-made Batten Sportswear, a former Woolrich Woolen Mills man who assisted Daiki Suzuki and has Woolrich chambray curtains in his home is worth a read. He namechecks the pioneering GERRY brand, as founded by Gerry Cunningham, rucksack and tent pioneer (read more about him here). Their ’70’s ads were amazing in terms of imagery and copywriting. Several who worked for GERRY spawned their own brands, including co-founder Dale Johnson, who went on to found DIY goose-down brand, Frostline. Somebody needs to bring the art of the homemade goose-down jacket kit back.

Lifted from a 1950 ‘LIFE’ feature, this image of a tattooed human skin, removed from the body (purported to have belonged to a gangster) by Dr. Sei-ichi Fukushi and put on display is both grotesque and amazing. the work looks amazing though. Knuckles and neck pieces are everywhere now, but at that point in time, it was a truly outsider artform and a mark of commitment. This picture makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’d like to see an exhibition of Fukushi’s supposed acquisitions.

SAUCE

I think this blog is becoming a receptacle for magazine scans of anything from the 1980’s or 1990’s and getting a little too bogged down in nostalgia. I could reblog the same pictures of the Kate Moss for Supreme posters that are around town at the moment, but every single blog on the planet seems to be chucking up the same shots. I’ll leave it to them, but I definitely need a copy for my wall. I’ve been trawling the archives for some information on one specific boot and the quest led me to old issues of ‘The Source.’ I can’t stress the importance of that magazine back when the closest place to get it was the WH Smiths in Luton’s Arndale Centre and people got angry because TLC were on the cover. Lord knows what they’d make of Nicki Minaj at the weekend, but I assume they’re probably dead of old age by now, which spares them the rage. I liked the specially shot covers back in the day (seemingly one of the final casualties of their shakeups over the last few years) and I haven’t picked up a copy for close to a decade, but I’m glad that ‘The Source’ is still going.

It was the militancy of older issues and the real reporting (I think Ronin Ro’s piece on Luther Campbell touring Japan, as reproduced in ‘Gangsta’ is one of the magazine’s most insightful moments) plus glimpses of products I’d never seen before that had me hooked. The November 1993 issue was an old school retrospective that taught my gun rap loving self a great deal (it included the Henry Chalfont shot above) and despite the frequently anaemic graffiti content, the four-page feature on legends like Dondi and Futura by Ricky Powell was a great moment in a period generally considered to be the magazine’s downturn and an early 1993 article on the new wave of streetwear brands that hit their radar the previous year was a moment when skate and hip-hop (primarily through Pervert) style really seemed to strike, championed by west coast MCs from the Good Life Cafe scene. I don’t listen to the music so much these days, but everything seemed to gel and broaden my horizons. I never found the boot I was hunting, but November 1993’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’ with the questionable inclusion of Hi-Tec, but including the glorious Iditarod Sport Hiker, Merrell Wilderness ($260!) and the ACG Rhyolite never fails to make me yearn for a golden era of invincible footwear.

The White/Cement Jordan IV eluded me in 1989 in favour of the other key colours — as did the reissue a decade later. The 2012 version feels like closure on that matter (I won’t cry myself to sleep over the lack of NIKE AIR). 2006’s IVs were of quality comparable to the plastic Michael Jackson cash-in slip-ons that some unfortunate kids still broke out at my school back when the IV debuted. The new version is marginally better in quality and after two days of wear, creasing isn’t critical, but the curried goat stain I attained today nearly led to a Buggin’ Out type scenario, even though I was the sole culprit. Probably best to go half a size down, and they still rub on my little toe. But what are you going to do? Grown men shouldn’t be getting so agitated about things they didn’t get the first time around. Plus they’re still the best looking Jordan ever.

ARCHIVES

Whenever I’m busy elsewhere, that’s when this blog degenerates into a load of late 1980’s or early 1990’s magazine content thefts to tide me over. This is no exception. I’ve been lost in the Thrasher archives, where covers between 1981 and 1988 seem to be accompanied by the actual content of the issue too. I took that as an opportunity to post every Stüssy ad I could. Then after stealing the images from the Thrasher.com site, I realised that the good folks of Skately.com had already done it for their tremendous ad archive, but I decided to throw them up here regardless. The Stüssy ads are something that had a huge effect on me growing up, depicting something different to the surf mag-centric ads that went before and introducing me to the brand through an aspirational existence rather than guiding my eyes towards any actual apparel. The marketing might have looked lo-fi, but it’s clear that Shawn Stüssy wasn’t just inspired by the logos of some high fashion empires, but studied the power of their marketing too. It might explain the homage to Bruce Weber – the man who defined both Ralph and Calvin’s idealised worldviews — in early 1990’s campaigns, and Juergen Teller’s involvement with the brand that decade assisted in bringing street and high fashion worlds together.

That self-assured aesthetic had me preoccupied in ‘Thrasher’s from 1987 to 1988 (the selection below ran between 1986 to 1988) when I used to get issues of that and ‘Transworld Skateboarding’ (inferior but way thicker during the skate boom) a month late for 75p in a St Neots skate shop/toy store. It didn’t matter that they were old, because it still felt progressive in my hometown. Those Metro Attitude Lows (there were a lot of adidas shoes in those shots) in the ads that I believe were shot by Shawn himself, with Ron Leighton shooting the 1986 images, felt naturalistic, whether it was some Laguna Beach looking individuals, the StüYork Tribe, with some familiar faces, or a cameo from Fishbone’s Chris Dowd. When I went to hunt it down round my way, I just found bootleg pendants alongside knockoff swoosh jewelry in a High Street store. That wasn’t even close to the magic realm those ads sold me. There’s too much in those ‘Thrasher’ back issues.

On early 1990’s trips to London I used to gaze at the mysterious Stüssy tape in stores like Bond. What was on it? Skate footage? I never had the money to pick it up and I had a concern that it might be one of those NTSC tapes that wouldn’t play on a UK player. Released in June 1992, Stüssy Vol #1 packaging promised “A Phat Phunky Loose collage of how we’re Livin’…C-Y-A” My fears about whether it would play were wrong – directed by the late, great James Lebon, it was pretty UK-centric down to the roll call of UK stockists at the end. Some are still going, while others are long gone. There’s plenty of pioneers in the building and it extended that desire to get that tribal existence into moving pictures. Profiling and posing to a Ronin records soundtrack in an assortment of hats looks appealing. Shouts to Roark74 for upping it onto YouTube.








On the mystery tape front, found footage flicks are usually an excuse for a Poundland budget and wooden attempts at acting natural. For every ‘Troll Hunter’ there’s a hundred post-‘Blair Witch Project’ trips to a murder house that’s not worth your energy. Even ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ — the daddy of them all — is barely watchable, despite being a cult favourite. Killing animals for shock factor is some low bahaviour. Still, at least that movie at least projected some doom. Lost tapes and faux haunting or exorcism documentations are a a curious phenomenon that are often much more cynical and pointless than that hated-on slew of post ‘Saw’ Achilles tendon slashers.

I’m interested in ‘V/H/S’ though, turning found footage into an anthology horror flick with a wraparound story. My love of Amicus productions, ‘Creepshow’ and ‘Grim Prairie Stories’ means I need to watch any multiple story horror, but the fact it’s helmed by young directors, including Joe Swanberg (and I have to concede that I haven’t enjoyed any of his films yet, despite their frequent sex scenes) and David Bruckner (whose ‘The Signal’ wasn’t as good as I expected it to be) gives it a contemporary point of difference. Despite my misgivings with the young directors and their earlier work, the time limitations of the anthology should minimise tedium, and I trust the critics who’ve been giving it a good buzz. Plus the promo posters (see below) were intriguing. With so much nostalgia in this blog entry it’s nice to report that one segment of the film is apparently entirely Skype conversation based and with BloodyDisgusting.com‘s Brad Miska as a producer, it’s evidently a very 21st century bunch of horror stories, despite the obsolete format it’s themed around.

I was slow with the ‘Thrasher’ archive and I was slow with the DJ History’s ‘Catch the Beat: The Best of Soul Underground 1987-91’ book. The culture of fanzine compilation is a beautiful thing — so much isn’t electronically retained and opinions then as opposed to today’s altered history as spread by nostalgia junkies like me and their second-hand smoke creates a culture of misinformation. It’s better to hear it from the paper sources for whom ad money loss wasn’t necessarily a concern. Tim Westwood in shades and the revelation that, “His favourite records are Rammel Zee, Be Bop (Sic) and Spoonie Gee, Spoonie’s Rap” is excellent, but there’s plenty more gold in those pages.

SPIKE LEE REVIEWS BASEBALL CAPS

I can’t actually wear caps because they make me look like a car thief, because I’m old and because my head is vast. That wasn’t always the case though — I used to have a Dodgers and White Sox hat (Ice Cube and MC Eiht inspired me) that I wore every day, until I saw a photo of myself with the cheap Starter hats perched high on my head, adding an extra four inches to an already sizeable noggin. That was that. But I’ll always respect the baseball cap. Some say it’s not British to wear one, but that’s usually strung-out rock stars and fashion advice gurus who dress like Paul Burrell. Their opinion doesn’t matter. They could counter my argument by pointing out that Jonathan King rocked a cap heavily on ‘Entertainment USA’ back in the day, and I’ll give them that one, but there’s a place for the hat in my heart, hanging in the affordable section of the sports shop, assisted by my mum’s 30% discount.

Before the reign of the fitted (my first fitted was actually an uncomfortable 1993 Hurricanes design in that glorious green and orange that lacked at least an inch in circumference), I was obsessed by Del’s peak in the ‘Catch a Bad One’ video from 1994. Just destructively folding the peak by that point was considered bad form, so I submerged the wool-mix test subject in the sink before fastening the peak around a length of plastic guttering using rubber bands and leaving it to dry. The effect was a temporary curve of at least 330 degrees, resulting in a long-term 180 degree effect. As you might have guessed, I was an odd teenager.



My oversized dome also led to shame on a purchase of a Stussy New Era a few years later, where shop workers frantically searched in the stockroom for a stray freak size fitted. It was like the time I witnessed a morbidly obese lady fail the turnstiles at Anfield and have to be let in a special door complete with dungeon master style keys. That deaded my personal relationship with caps entirely, bar my love for the Hundreds Starter tribute in 2006 that felt downright quaint in a world of 59Fiftys with spirit level straight peaks, complete with holograms and foil stickers. Who would have thought that the “snapback” (we just used to call them caps) would reign again alongside the 5-panel hat (another style I can’t wear)? Who decided that a fringe visible under the front of the hat was a good idea? Streetwear Dave steez in full effect.

Now I’m seeing more and more fitteds like the Our Legacy Ebbetts Field design, with plenty more Ebbetts creations from the hordes of imitators, but if it keeps a fine brand like Ebbetts busy, I’m cool with that. Is that a reaction to the snapback fever? I’m just glad that I never wore the Negro league Jackie Robinson cap I picked up all those years ago. I imagine it could have earned my pallid face some bruises, but I noticed that Starter are dabbling in those league designs again for later this year. I wonder if Chris Brown and Tyga will ever release a ‘Flexfit Back’ freestyle?

Back in 1990, ‘Spin’ magazine let Spike Lee, fresh from ‘Mo’ Better Blues,’ guest edit the magazine. Alongside excellent pieces on Public Enemy and Bad Brains, it also included ‘SPIKE LEE’S ALL-STAR B-BOY CAPS’ — two pages of Spike offering one-line reviews of his favourite caps, culminating in him decrying a man in a Celtics hat as an “Uncle Tom.” The images were shot by one Ari Marcopoulos and it’s an amazing feature. The Public Enemy piece has a nice picture of Chuck reclining in the white/cement Jordan IVs. He wears them well, though not as well as Hank Shocklee wore ’em in Glen E. Friedman’s images of the group.

While we’re talking big-name photographers in their jobbing days, before he was getting his boner out at any opportunity, Terry Richardson was shooting Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in Memphis to accompany a short Sacha Jenkins profile of the group (around the show that instigated the Three-6 beef?) before their cover story by Jenkins a year later. I’m in nostalgia mode, and the post signature wave of Karl Kani gear with the plate (I never saw the plaid shirt that Eazy-E wore in the ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’ video on sale) to elude bootleggers had me fiending in 1993/94 like the Ape Shall Never Kill Ape letters and Supreme box would have me hunting a few years later. Biggie, Keith Murray and Aaliyah made it look necessary — I got the hoody, but despite the plate being a fake deterrent, I ended up with fake denims. And just like that, they were uncool. Bone Thugs wore the plate hoody heavy in the Richardson photos and twinned with the vast cellular phone in a liquor store, it was particularly effective. FUBU, Mecca and the rest meant that Karl caught a bad one.

Farewell to Mr. Geoff Hollister, Nike employee #3 and a man who brokered an SMU for Elton John, created the Windrunner jacket, designed the Aqua Sock and created a promotional strategy for a struggling Blue Ribbon Sports. I never got the opportunity to meet the man during his visit to the UK to promote his book, ‘Out of Nowhere,’ but I heard nothing but positive things. Rest in peace Geoff.

It’s good to see that the Big Star documentary ”Nothing Can Hurt Me: the Big Star Story’ that got Kickstarter funding seems to be coming along nicely. This trailer’s promising. Teenage Fanclub taught me about this group, and with only one living founder member, it could get emotional. Some legends fall through the gaps, but the influence stays substantial.

A 44:21 MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH ERIC ELMS

I made few resolutions for 2012, but one was to up more interviews here. I’m a terrible interviewer — I spend much of my time talking over the subject if I get excited about something. Eric Elms is a good guy and an artist and designer I look up to, so I was keen to chat with him at the launch of the Vans OTW part of the pop up House of Vans space in Berlin late last month. This was meant to go somewhere else, but there’s barely any talk of sports footwear. Plus I cannibalized some quotes from it for Dazed Digital. The solution was to throw it up here. What it excludes is several minutes of conversation about Worldstar HipHop at the start (incidentally, I’m obsessed with the Wounded Dog dance now), but the rest is intact. It really is just a conversation rather than an interview.

Listening back to it, I really must like the sound of my own voice. Except when it comes to transcribing an interview, where I cringe at the ridiculous, nasal noise that emerges from my mouth throughout. You don’t need me to right-click from other people’s sites with regards to Eric’s work. Go Google it — there’s loads out there, or you can check his site or AndPress‘ sites out. Thank you to Eric for his patience. I know you’re supposed to give things quasi-intellectual titles and deep-thinking pull-quotes (ERIC ELMS: ARTISAN AESTHETICS or some such fanciness), but on this site, we don’t play that.

Me: Eric, what’s the advocate role at Vans OTW about?

Eric: I guess it’s kind of the lifestyle equivalent to the skate team. They just put it together to do interesting things represent the brand. We have a little input in the shoes and we do our own versions, but most of that stuff is done in-house.

Tom Cooke has a good eye for hardcore stuff.

It started out with Tom and Rambo the marketing guy. It started out small but it’s growing slowly.

They seem to have a good eye for decent creative roster. You can do a zeitgeisty “look! we’re eclectic!” thing…and it won’t necessarily work.

Yeah.

Wasn’t the RZA involved?

He just DJed at the party.

Were you there at the launch party?

Yeah.

We were in the lift with Amber Rose. I still don’t understand the hype. I didn’t expect him to play Black Eyed Peas. I expected him to play some dusted Memphis stuff or something and he played ‘Boom Boom Pow’…who was on the team then? But having Mister Cartoon on the team and I remember the Blackouts being on it too.

Yeah, me, Ato, Atiba, Dimitri and Mister Cartoon..

It was an interesting way of getting multiple disciplines there.

That group bonded super-well, because we were together for two years and I knew Ato, I didn’t know Atiba very well, none of us knew Dimitri and I’d met Cartoon but didn’t really know him.

He’s a nice guy, but he’s gnarly, right?

Yeah, super, super nice guy.

Did you go to his studio?

Yeah. It’s crazy.

Did you see the ice cream truck?

Yeah, he has a huge warehouse.

Maxime at Sang Bleu hooked it up so we went there with Estevan a few years back. I remember it being near a gun range.

Yeah. It’s just off Skid Row.

I laughed about that place then I saw it and was frightened.

They’re like zombies. ‘The Walking Dead.’

Like ‘The Walking Dead’ meets ‘The Shield.’ So they put you together A-Team, and what was the actual aim – was it to come up with creative concepts?

They asked our opinion on the general vibe and showed us the shoes to make little changes on them. So we’d each do our model of an existing silhouette.

I saw the Bedford and shoes like that with a partner name in the colour part of the boxes.

Yeah, you could do whatever you wanted.

It was refreshing that it wasn’t VANS X MISTER CARTOON or VANS X ERIC ELMS.

Yeah, you know how crazy colourways got or how crazy colabs got?

Did you ever get caught up in that?

For me it was always a double-edged sword. If an artist is doing whatever — a Vans or Nike or any object they’re always like, “I want something that reflects me and it’s like my art!” But then it ends up unwearable — a disaster visually, or you do something that’s low-key visually and wearable, but then people are like, “What’s the point of that?

To project an identity on a shoe is hard. With KR, he just has to apply the Krink and it’s recognisable but wearable, but when it comes to other artists it’s tough. Like the Kilroy work you’ve done with KAWS on a shoe might not be so good. Maybe it might work on a canvas shoe.

A lot of the original Vans had patterns, so it’s almost traditional.

Have you met Steve Van Doren?

Yeah! He’s super nice.

He’s awesome. I wish he was my granddad. He told us how people could bring in anything when his dad started Vans…you could bring in a duvet and they’d make a shoe out of it.

Oh yeah, me and Dimitri were talking about it. I don’t really collect shoes but the needle point ones are amazing. They’re the ones I liked — the girl’s ones. Supposedly they were for cheerleaders. He had the strawberries, the lady bugs…

He’s passionate. Just as he was telling us how Vans did Ronald McDonald’s shoes, my recorder cut off. He said something about them having a clown shoe division. So how do you make something that doesn’t look like a clown shoe?

Because I know that this is a longer relationship, like a few years long. I feel I can make something wearable. You know sometimes you do a shoes and you never talk to the company again? I know that the shoe will be supported. I know I have more images and artwork ALONGSIDE the project so it all fits together.

It’s nice that the environment we’re sat in now isn’t too contrived. (Note: We’re sat in a room of pennants made by Eric — one has a Brick Squad reference on it) Did you make these for the event?

Yeah.

Jesus. How long did that take?

Not that long. I just bang ’em out. I didn’t have to show them this stuff. The first time they saw it was when I was hanging it up. They’re not like, “Oh! It has to be like this!” I told them that I’m making some stuff and they were like “Alright!” I think they kind of trust me. I think. They asked if I wanted to print anything.

I like the ‘FTW’ stuff.

It’s so generic at this point!

Do you get approached for collaborations a lot?

I’ve done a million t-shirt graphics over the years and it’s cool to do, and it’s not something that I want to stop doing. It can get a little tiring though.

I like the whole Kevin Lyons behind-the-scenes tee design thing.

Kevin used to be one of my teachers when I was at Pratt. That’s how I met him. I started out helping him out.

What stuff did you help him out on? I love the stuff he did with Russ for SSUR for Supreme.

I used to help out Russ on stuff for Supreme.

Did you work on the Santana shirt? I love that one.

I think that was right before I started.

It’s such a perfect design.

That was a different time. Now it would be an official collaboration.

It’s a different time. It’s not a negative thing either.

There was a time when people would just take it.

Before it probably wouldn’t even be noticed by Carlos Santana’s people — but now Supreme is a big deal, so it would require some officialdom. Like that Hennessy stuff recently was licensed, so it’s a Mobb Deep repro that’s official…that makes it even more exciting to me.

Yeah!

There’s a whole era of design that feels like a different world.

I don’t think things are worse now — they just evolved.

I love Erik Brunetti’s stuff because he is a real artist — no Photoshop nonsense on those classic shirts. Were you a journeyman kind of designer, going from brand to brand? Kevin seemed to work for a lot of brands — like KINGPIN was my shit around ’94. Some of the designs look a little ugly now…

But there’s a time and place.

To put an image of ‘Mean Streets’ or Travis Bickle on a t-shirt now wouldn’t work, but then, it was crazy. Fuct did it with ‘Goodfellas and Supreme with the ‘Taxi Driver’ shirts.

In the 2000’s, things got so crazy that they got kind of unwearable.

But there’s a charm to the unwearable. I like it when something reaches breaking point.

It’s a moment in time.

How did you get involved with Kevin?

When I first moved to NYC I met KAWS and I was art assisting him while. That was before I met Kevin and I was just helping him paint. Everything happened and I just got lucky. Kevin was one of my teachers and I knew how to screen print. He was working on a show — I’m not sure where it was. I think it was Philly and it was one of Rostarr’s shows. It was one of those things. I was helping him screen print for that and he said, “Do you want to come along?” He was doing Tokion then and he was with Russ from SSUR, so I came along to his office to do stuff.

Did you have any real aspirations at the time?

At the time I was just making stuff. Making cool shit and meeting people. At that time, everyone came through the office — A-Ron and a steady cycle of downtown kids. I wasn’t even super exposed to that world at that point either. I was just getting thrown in. I worked for Russ on and off for a while, and was still in school. I think Kevin may have moved away for a little bit at that point. KAWS knew James (Jebbia) and he was asking him whether he knew any designers. He said, “Oh, you should talk to this kid Eric” and that’s how it happened. So I left school to work at Supreme. I was there a couple of years and then went freelance.

I like Supreme because they’re thorough. In this industry, everyone’s so vague and full of shit, but James and the team go in.

He’s on point at both sides of the spectrum. His business and taste levels are super high. It shows.

It’s still a Teflon brand to me. Any criticism that “Everybody’s wearing it!” is dumb to me. Everybody wears Polo. Polo’s still great to me. It always will be.

People get very possessive over things they feel they own.

People get possessive over things they got into very recently. That doesn’t mean anybody getting into something earlier is cooler than the next…I used to be like it with hip-hop.

My music knowledge is fairly low.

I remember trying to deny my love of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, back when we were all into that Mike Zoot stuff.

That backpack rap shit.

Really, I just wanted to listen to ‘Crossroads.’ It’s odd that everybody’s a critic, an aficionado and a curator these days in every other spectrum, but musically, if anybody plays ‘Thong Song’ everyone loses their mind. Nobody’s even trying to pretend to play it cool with that pop/hardcore ratio any more. We’ve dumbed down musically. I’m kind of glad.

I don’t care what music anyone likes unless they’re DJing. It turns into a judging contest. I mean, some people really like talking about it, but I’m not into that.

I hear you — it can get really muso. I’ve met some good friends through Three-6 Mafia appreciation. Hip-hop fanaticism is like having a second language. I had you down as a hip-hop dude — not because of some art and street cliche, but because you drop references in your work.

Yeah, a lot of my work is pulling from polarising worlds in a way.

You see the innate funniness of hip-hop.

Yeah, I grew up in San Diego so i saw that and skate and took in all these influences. It was cool to grow up there. Now I live in New York and there’s a lot of opposites. That’s where I got this dual thing. Looking at something in a context that’s different to what it actually is is always funny and more interesting to me.

I like the fonts and the letterforms. Do you have a favourite font?

It’s kind of corny to say it, but I like Helvetica.

I like Albertus MT, but you couldn’t work with it for, say, signposting…too creepy and gothic. It would be like, Subwaaaaaayyyyy or Nurserrrrrryyyyyy…too weird.

A creepy kid might want to go in.

Do you have a specific style?

I don’t have a specific go-to thing like KAWS, like a character….

With the Kilroy thing were you pushing towards like that.

But that character’s from way back when. I did that show but then I decided to pause on that. Not having a thing is like a blessing and a curse at the same time. It frees me up. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut, like a one-trick pony. KAWS does well, because he can flip it and revolve it, but some people are just stagnant.

He has that authentic graffiti background to back it up. Did you ever write?

I dabbled, but I like to stick to things that I’m good at. Like, I skated a little but I never wanted to be a pro skater.

I like hardcore, odd things. I fixate on JA or Worldstar or the self-destructive Baker guys. Do you follow the “scene” on the internet?

I look at things in the same sense you look at CNN — not in the sense that it’s worldly, important news, but just to see what people are doing. For keeping tabs. I don’t know if it stops things from evolving.

Fashion media and blogs can be very serious. When it comes to footwear do you hoard things?

I have to get rid of things because my girl yells at me. I have all these shirts that I never wear. Like, my drawers are full of things I don’t wear that I carry around from place to place.

In this culture now you can’t just put something out and be like, “laters!“— you need a viral video of you sat solemnly talking it through, going through the inspirations.

Yeah, I don’t have a case study, but there are things that don’t fit with me.

When you’re just doing graphics, then you’re behind the scenes.

Yeah, but that turns into design work that pays the bills…the studio stuff.

Were you a big Vans wearer before this OTW thing?

Vans is one of the very few brands that has lasted from when I was a kid in San Diego to now. I remember wearing them when I was in elementary and junior high.

In New York it feels like a very post H-Street movement.

Yeah, even of the last two years, that whole Tyler thing has meant we see a lot. Five years ago everyone was wearing Nikes.

Strange to see a backlash against Odd Future and their influence.

That’s the same kind of thing that we were talking about before though.

A kid came through and created a movement with his crew, with an openly gay producer and became a global sensation. That’s awesome!

At 20 years old. It’s crazy to get so famous in a year. That’s kind of cool. People want things to be theirs. Like, do what you want! Who cares.

And the flipside is people dressed like old men at trade shows. People wearing ties.

Dressed like they’re going to rob a stagecoach?

It’s like those sepia toned pictures in cowboy gear you can get at Disneyland.

People dress like bartenders. I think it’s a reaction. But it’ll change.

A collective reaction. And things seem to be going back to sneakers. Everyone is wearing camo again.

You know the crazy thing? I look at Hypebeast, and I see the BAPE stuff now and I think, “Those are nice!

People have short memories — they forget the thick stock and scarce supply of BAPE. I don’t understand how it became the whipping boy for an era.

But do people feel like that any more? I feel like it’s going to make a comeback.

It’s one of those rare examples where something seemed to hit London before it hit New York.

We were three years behind on that. But you guys had Goodenough and Footpatrol.

I think the blog explosion post-2005 put us all on level ground.

Before that it just seemed to be ‘Being Hunted.’

‘Being Hunted’ is my shit. That was the blog then. Then there was ‘Rift Trooper’ too.

I remember that!

I used to live a lot of my life vicariously through what Jorg at ‘Being Hunted’ was doing.

I remember meeting with Jorg for an interview.

They supported what James did at Supreme, what Kevin was doing and what Marok was doing with ‘Lodown’ and they had the ‘Relax’ fixation.

With those covers? Fuck. Those covers were…

I get depressed looking at those covers and how good they were. I wish somebody would do something like that now.

But would it work any more?

I don’t know.

I saw Marok yesterday. You couldn’t get those magazines in many places.

But everybody seemed to find the same things. Like, we’d post on the Mo’ Wax forums and everybody was there. Gravitational pull.

We were the last generation to grow into our teens without the internet. We had it, but when I searched on the ‘net, there were no web pages for what I wanted.

Do you use it as a research tool a lot? I find a lot of imagery from 1999 to 2004 has been eroded. Like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or something. It’s as if everything started in 2006.

A lot of people who started those sites seem to have taken them down.

I remember a lot of acts of site suicide where people were like, “I’m ending this site. Thank you for the support.” There was a certain integrity there. Remember GeoCities?

And Alta Vista?

A lot of movements are lost there. As if they never existed.

I guess it’s good though. For kids now, it’s just different.

I like being out of touch.

Yeah. I love it sometimes, like when I get a coffee in the morning and go through all the sites or whatever and there’s some gossipy stuff.

It’s expected that you know about you know everything. It’s quicker to fall out the loop but easier than ever to get back in it. When it comes to agency work, is there a huge difference for you. In this current realm, is there a greater understanding from clients and suits that what you do takes time?

It depends on the job. Some companies come to me for me and there’s a trust level and a little more freedom to do whatever you want. But if you’re working with a creative director or art director that you respect then that’s good too. You look back and constructive criticism is helpful. On the art and personal stuff there’s none of that influence, so I can just go off. On some things it’s close to what I do and other times it’s just straight up corporate. But I like both of them, because I like doing corporate identities. That stuff’s fun. A lot of the time it’s just problem solving. It’s really easy to make something look good visually, you know? That’s not hard. I like that stuff.

Logos are hard. Who are you a fan of in terms of graphic design?

There’s the classics…like Paul Rand. And the old classics. I don’t think I was directly affected by people I worked with.

The older generation of designers never had Google Images.

Those dudes like Paul Rand would never give options. He’d tell them that he’d go and do options but he’d give you what was best.

Do you still fan out when you meet certain people? It’s not a very New York thing to do, but you’re a transplant there.

It’s not Japan where it’s okay there. I grew up into the whole crew like Kevin Lyons, Michael Leon and Geoff McFetridge. For me, that was the generation ahead of me that kept crushing it. I remember how I looked at those guys when I was 20 years old. Kevin was older than me, but he was only around 29. When kids are looking at my work are they looking at it the same way? I’m just some dude trying to make some cool stuff. You don’t think about yourself in that same manner.

Did you sign autographs at the Japan show recently? Was that awkward?

Oh, super awkward. At the opening there was three hours straight of autographs. I was signing the bills of caps and taking photos. I was exhausted. I went to dinner then straight to bed. I didn’t party.

What does your family make of it all?

I don’t know if my parents get what I do. Even the kids from New York I know who were there just for the show were like, “This is fucked up!

But it’s nice.

Oh, it feels great. It’s for the work, not me. It’s not a reality show. It’s for stuff I made. It’s validating in a weird way but you never get used to it. It’s like doing interviews.