BIG

I’m far too old to be getting all hyped about things and kicking off if I don’t get it free, yet I still seem to get caught up in the mob mentality over limited edition gear. With the much hated and much-anticipated Nike Air Yeezy 2 in my clutches (cheers, Nike), I feel a curious sense of relief at ownership that I can’t fully explain. I hate the whole “sneakerhead” genre — I hate t-shirts to match footwear, talk of “kicks,” one-dimensional resell-centric babble that never delves beneath surface level and quite a lot of things that start with “Sneaker.” On the flipside, I hate the punishing lengths people will go to prove that they’re a “real” collector or that they aren’t a “sneakerhead” or “hypebeast” (apologies for the abundance of quotation marks — in the real world, I’d be doubly twatty and do them in the air with my forefingers). Almost everybody born in the latter half of the 1970s and early 1980s was keen on classic adidas and Air Jordans — that doesn’t make you the member of some veteran’s squad and engaging in some Pachanga “…these new kids nowadays, man, they got no respect for human life” style talk about young ‘uns just makes you look doubly old and embittered. The whole thing is unnecessary.

Still, I found myself anxious about owning the new Yeezy iteration because I felt that somehow I needed to own it. It looks like Andre Agassi’s shoe as reimagined by HR Giger, but somewhere down the line, the mix of Huarache (in the lining), Tech Challenge, weirdo space Egyptian ‘Stargate’ cues and Bo Jackson created a wave of hype that picked me up and carried me down river. That leather lace disc is no match for the rubberised ‘Y’ of part 1, that smaller fit based on the Air Royal (not my kind of shoe — just as bland shoes like the GTS Canvas never did anything for me twenty years ago), isn’t like the Air Revolution fit of its predecessor, the metal lace tips are awkward and the anonymity of the beige box is like awaiting the second coming and the messiah rocking up in a blue Datsun. But for all that, I’m relieved to have them because I’m a weirdo. The fact it causes such a fuss makes them a form of event footwear, and the angrier they make people simply amps up the appeal — in a world where people want handcrafted brown leather goods that develop a Tumblr-friendly patina, these seem like the anti-everything.

This shoe thing is out of control for me — the minute you’re vowing “just one more time” and repeatedly reneging on that vow, you’re showing some classic addiction symptoms and I am addicted to sports footwear, from plain Rod Laver (Supers only though, not the earlier slimmer versions) to NB 998s through to these monsters. That relentless box stacking is unlikely to ever stop, but the original March drop of these shoes was meant to be a moment of closure for me – the last big score before a birthday that officially rendered me too old to get excited about this kind of thing, but delays sent it over into a new age. At the current rate, I’m destined to be found dead beneath shoeboxes, unseen by neighbours for a fortnight and half eaten by a household pet. But what exactly does a grown up wear nowadays? The kids in their early twenties that aren’t in tracksuits or dressed like flabby rent boys with the scoopneck and TOMS combo seem to be dressing more sensibly than my dad ever did. Once you’ve bought a few pairs of shoes that last a lifetime, caught up in the romance of a handmade brogue’s scope for cobbler-aided immortality, there doesn’t seem enough places to take that addiction if, like me, you’re adverse to laceless creations, whereas sports footwear just gets goofier and more over-the-top. Still, I think the Yeezy 2 release represents the end of an era for me — the realisation that I’m becoming that old person trying to maintain a youthful state through big shoes (anyone else remember Jonathan King wearing Reebok’s The Pump in late 1989?). Time to wind it down a little, cease with the thirst for hype and make way for the next generation. Until the Yeezy 3 turns up, that is.

Looking at my fixation with big shoes, I can attribute it to three factors: 1. Being denied shoes over £17 in 1987 because my feet were still growing, and eying up some (what I believe to be) Team Delta Forces, leading to a silent vow to own everything one day, 2. Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys in Metro Attitudes and Conductors, and 3. Metal’s frequently unexplored love of shoes as extreme as the speed of the music. Talk Audio Two all you like Dave Mustaine and Nick Menza may be the only people to ever make the Air Pressure look good. In fact, Dave wore the Tech Challenge II (on which the Yeezy 2 is based) with skinny jeans the first time round. Incidentally, I was late to the greatness of Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew’s ‘Murder in the Front Row’ though — a truly incredible tome, with some of the best Bay Area thrash imagery ever amassed in one place. For Testament showing off their matching demonic ink alone, it’s worth having on the bookshelf.

HIGHER LEARNING

This blog has kind of fallen off, self-sabotaged by its attempts to not be a sports footwear-centric WordPress, but then dwelling on the subject matter a little too often. But self-indulgent talk often echoes the day job and in that job shoes figure heavily. Right now, the heat and a lengthy flight from the west coast to the UK has killed my creativity stone dead, but I was energised by a trip to Nike’s WHQ for some work. From my early teens onwards the notion of visiting the Nike Campus sounded like some Willy Wonka business, minus the sinister wig outs on boat rides or bi-polar freak outs that Gene Wilder unleashed on Charlie and his benefit fraud grandfather and having been a few times now, it’s a fun place to visit that seems to deify the same kind of nerdery I tend to celebrate here.

Of course, the work and what lies behind doors remains secret, though the Innovation Kitchen, Nike Sports Research Lab and archives are impressive — in fact the archive is basically a geek ground zero that proves, no matter how much you think you’ve swotted up, you’ve only seen the tip of a dusty, yellowed, PU and nylon based iceberg. Having been lost on campus twice (to get from the Michael Jordan building to the canteen involves walking by a 7 minute saunter by a lake, football pitch and over a bridge), been chased by a goose and slashed my nose open on a low hanging metal lampshade in the archives these last few days, I’ve suffered for my art.

Even if you couldn’t care less for shoes, the scale’s still impressive, but if you follow Nike history, there’s plenty to stare at at — even in the receptions of each building. Bill Bowerman’s waffle iron, the 1984 NBA letter regarding Jordan’s fines, prototype Prestos and AJ1s…it’s a lot to take in. Buying Lunar Montreals and NFL shirts by the trolley from the Employee Store was a good use of dollars too, and ultimately — for the casual visitor — the whole setup’s pretty much a sportswear theme park. For several employees, I’m sure it’s simply a place of work that’s frequently disrupted by gawping idiots like me wielding iPhones.

Because I need sleep, I’ve sold you short here, so here’s three bonus images chucked in because they look cool; one of a 1989 plea to get people on NYC’s subway post graffiti cleanup, one from a 1970s ‘New York’ article and a 1982 Timberland ad.

In the name of nostalgia (because it’s mostly either excessively indulgent or unremarkable in the rap stakes), the same person that uploaded the 1998 ‘World Wide Bape Heads Show’ has uploaded the 1999 one too. It takes me back to a time of attempting to justify wild prices, the Mo’ Wax BB, thick cotton on tees and deranged mark-ups on used gear in Camden market. Musically, I think I actually prefer the Omarion-in-the-lookbook era.

BLACK & WHITE

I’m sat in a Portland hotel room watching CNBC documentaries on Whole Foods, Costco (kings of the white t-shirt) and awaiting the J Crew documentary on personal hero, Mickey “Helloooo” Drexler — one of the greatest micro managing CEOs ever, before heading out to order a burger from an eatery staffed by people in thick framed glasses, bearing knuckle tattoos. In the time zone confusion, I forgot to update this blog with things. Other than watching retail-based TV, there’s a few other things I’m into at the moment. The gents at the increasingly bootlegged Palace brand are making power moves of late and their whole Fall lookbook has a VHS fuzz that’s appealing — I was amused to see the Palace Surf “sub brand” within the range, complete with the all important colour fade in the script and stonewash cotton fleece to evoke an appropriately surf-centric look. I think the crew are amusing themselves with memories of the lurid gear we used to break out back in the day — surfwear birthed street and skate wear as we know it anyway. That Tri logo is slowly taking over and I’m looking forward to seeing the less lurid shirts and trousers too when they eventually materialise.

On the subject of Londoners making power moves, Kyle and Jo at Goodhood’s ‘Unloveable’ lookbook is a winner too (as is their ‘How Soon is Now?’ women’s collection shoot). There’s no men in OBEY sauntering round a local park here — good food and beverage accessories, crisp photography, black and white and apparel picks worn right. I’ve mentioned it a lot here, but the R Newbold and Goodhood gear is some of the best collaborative clothing on the market. This season’s college football shirt gets a look right — something that can get a little too Superdry in the wrong hands. Crucially, this imagery makes me want to go and buy shit from them (which is kind of the point of the project) rather than feeling like some obligatory action to get a couple of thousand apathetic blog impressions and significantly less click-throughs. This is the kind of thing you get when designers are in charge rather than copyists. Cassavetes’ letting his team roam free might feel a million miles from Drexler’s tightly run retail empire, but both visions are quintessentially American in their own unique, driven ways. There’s lessons to be learnt from both characters.

Now Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk are all improvising together in the afterlife, it’s always worth taking another look at a ‘Life’ magazine issue’s shots of the production of ‘Husbands.’ I’m a Cassavetes fan, but I’m not a huge fan of this film, yet I love the documentation —1970’s ‘Omnibus’ on the movie and this May 1969 collection of photos capture John’s emphasis on creativity and personal expression. Now when an actor juggles mainstream movies and their own indie flicks, it usually signals kooky self-exploration and tedious soul-searching, but Cassavetes did it with an unsurpassed integrity. What a guy. From suits to sweatpants, the mid-life crisis addled trio look cool between the yelling and drinking.

TOOLED UP

I’m too distracted today, so it’s a brief update. One distraction is the wave of voyeuristic “everyday carry” images flooding the internet — Hypebeast is going in with some celebrity hauls and it was good to see both team WAH and E-40 repped on the Fader’s ‘The Things I Carry‘ section, but the sheer wave of gun and knife related forum threads asking about an EDC are staggering and with Tumblr and Pinterest seemingly hungry for blades and firearms, it offers a wealth of imagery for internet gangsters to right-click heist. These forums (sample topic “I shot at a human being multiple times…”) are full of daily pocket armouries and the ever-popular www.everyday-carry.com is particularly knife-centric, but I like the focus on a murdered out aesthetic balance to these tools and the editor’s commentary on each entry. HB talk backers who obsess over Mr. Ben Baller’s weaponry would lose their minds at the hauls showcased elsewhere. I hope these folks don’t absent-mindedly try to get these EDCs through the metal detectors next time they’re off on holiday.



I blogged about the misfortunes of Akinyele last year (as well as a ‘Vagina Dineakinyekle.r’ reissue that hasn’t happened yet) and quietly worried about the current status of Ak, having exited Interscope and Jive and been missing in action musically since the early 2000s. So what’s he doing? Slinging CDs outside stores in NYC, despite less and less individuals having a CD drive in their possession? Talking about a comeback? Nope — Akinyele is apparently rich, having backed the Lollypops strip club in Las Vegas and taking $5 million in its first week. It’s not quite as vast a switch in occupation as Tracey Lee becoming a Lawyer, but as with Lee’s departure from music, it’s enough to slap the smirk off anybody giving them the where-are-they-now? milk carton treatment. As an Ak fan, I’m happy to hear that there was a happy ending (not that kind of happy ending — at least I don’t think it’s that kind of establishment) for this artist.

Post ‘Boardwalk Empire’ there seems to have been a green light on period gangster flicks and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. I’m not anticipating a boom in period clothing cues and a wealth of 1930s/40s and 50s themed magazine covers, product designs and promo materials (Crista Flanagan in ‘Playboy’ was excellent but the wave of 1960s themed things that followed for subsequent ‘Mad Men’ seasons became increasingly wearying) that will probably pour out nearer the release dates.

Representing for the depression era John Hillcoat’s ‘Lawless’ arrives in August and adapts Matt Bondurant’s excellent ‘The Wettest County in the World’ with Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce with a haircut you could set your watch by. It might have had lukewarm Cannes reviews, but the fact somebody compared it to an early 1970s Roger Corman crime flick is no bad thing – Scorcese’s ‘Boxcar Bertha,’ anybody? I’m expecting some gangster gothic visuals with bursts of ultra violence, even if Shia LeBeouf has yet to convince me. ‘Gangster Squad’s trashy looks and all-star cast reeks of De Palma’s ‘The Untouchables’ (a good thing, incidentally) with ‘Zombieland’s director, Sean Penn pulling faces and the increasingly excellent Nick Nolte in a post-war battle of good and evil.

It’s strange to think that a 2012 adaptation of ‘Cogan’s Trade’ is the first Hollywood adaptation of a George V. Higgins book since 1970’s ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ (one of my favourite crime films, as documented several times on this site alongside my respect for Steven Keats and his sunglasses in it), but with Andrew Dominik directing (apparently the original cut was 150 minutes, which comes as no surprise, given the length of his earlier film, ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’) but the lack of Nick Cave on musical duties this time (though he scored and wrote the ‘Lawless’ screenplay for fellow Antipodean, Mr Hillcoat) and crappy name change to ‘Killing Them Softly’ isn’t a strong look. As I understand, the Boston setting remains, but I’m not sure whether a tooled up Brad Pitt will be cracking skulls in a 1974 setting like the novel. We’ll find out when the film arrives in September.

Despite the test footage floating around for a while (I posted it here well over a year ago), it looks like ‘Ice Man,’ the Richard Kuklinski biopic is still going ahead with Michael Shannon, James Franco and, um, David Schwimmer involved. Presumably it’s a 1970s and 1980s period piece, but I’m not up on director and co-writer Ariel Vromen’s work. A couple of posters have appeared but little else. Done right, this film could be uneasily brutal and a mob flick that veers into horror territory, to rid us of the wacky, chatty post-Tarantino hit man altogether. Or it could be a straight-to-Blu-ray affair. I find it difficult to comprehend that even the loosest adaptation of Kuklinski’s “confessions” could be anything less than watchable though.









On a more sombre note, I was sad to hear of the passing of my Nottingham Trent University housemate from 1996-1999, Mr. Lee Davies. A kind-hearted guy and fellow Smiths/Morrissey fan who often attempted to convince me that ‘Maladjusted’ was underrated, made me a bizarre birthday meal of tinned octopus once and taught me that Gibraltar wasn’t a city in Spain, the very fact he came to check I hadn’t choked on my own vomit during a food/alcohol poisoning bout of sickness in late 1997 remains appreciated, because it’s the little gestures that define character. My thoughts are with his wife, daughter and family — this one’s for you Lee.


THE WEST

Since Nick at Classic Kicks put me onto a video of Eli Bonerz showcasing the X-Large store in 1992 on MTV’S House of Style, I’ve had dusty adidas Campus and Conart on the mind. We have tendency to sidestep a few brands when it comes to street wear retrospect, sending graffiti-inspired brands into some kind of rap-addled nowhere zone that’s neither skate nor street enough for some folk. That’s bollocks of course, because Conart and Third Rail created their own lanes back in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Now, tag and burner covered cotton isn’t necessarily what I’m wearing, but flicking through old issues of ‘The Source’ and ‘Can Control’ I’ve seen ads that had me hastily researching (pre-internet) the world of international money orders to at least lay my hands on a catalogue and stickers.

Third Rail’s expansion into different elements of apparel (I don’t recall hearing the term cut and sew back then) and Conart’s spin on a classically west coast small front logo and graphic explosion across the back with the oval chest lettering belying the graffiti characters mean-mugging on the shirt’s reverse all blew my mind in my early teen years, and while I knew the legendary RISK from reading ‘Spraycan Art’ until the binding broke and was aware that he was a key mind in the Third Rail empire, it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I realised that Conart’s Ash Hudson is Slash’s younger brother. It’s odd how some brands don’t quite get the shouts they deserve, but Conart and Third Rail cemented LA’s position as the birthplace of street wear as we know it. I’m sure every brand making gear elsewhere, be it New York, Tokyo or London, would concede the power of west coast labels inspired them to make their own power moves, fused with their local aesthetics, trends, movements and attitude.

These two brands made full use of the merger of style, airbrush custom culture, long legacy of Cholo style letterforms, technical flare and everything else that differentiated LA’s graffiti from other regions. As far as ambassadors for other coasts went, the moment Biggie wore a Conart tee to wield a machine gun, a certain immortality was cemented.

Conart’s current site seems to be down, but the above image of a 1989 ad from ‘URB’ is taken from their Facebook and RISK’s blog upped some old ads last year — this post is well worth your time.

Taken from RISK’s Third Rail post






This December 26, 1994 ‘LA Times’ article captures a certain moment in time (even if it seems to misspell RISK’s real name):

He once took spray-paint cans and made the city of Los Angeles his imagination’s canvas, but Ash Hudson has now turned a third-story Rampart Boulevard loft into a studio where L.A.’s biggest vandalism problem is a business success story.

A former graffiti vandal—or tagger, in the vernacular of the streets—Hudson turned entrepreneur in 1989 by founding a firm called Conart. He has turned it into a clothing distributor that designs graffiti images for T-shirts and caps and boasts of 1994 orders totaling $1 million.

Conart (convict and art) now employs half a dozen paint-can-wielding staff artists and provides free-lance work for others, helping to focus their creative energies into a lucrative business.

“We’re occupying so much of their time that they don’t have time to go out on the street,” said the 22-year-old Hudson, a native of Culver City.

Taggers have been dreaded and hunted in major cities since urban teens began vandalizing buildings, subways and freeways in the late 1970s. The term refers to the vandals’ tags, or personalized signatures, they attach to their handiwork around the city.

But out of this illegal pastime have sprung legitimate graffiti artists, claiming a niche in the contemporary art world as well as in the clothing industry.

Dozens of graffiti clothing companies have started in big cities throughout the country, particularly in Los Angeles and New York and mostly by former taggers, said Robert Christofaro, a graphic designer for In Fashion, a trade magazine in New York City. Many of the companies have found it hard to stay afloat.

“A lot of them can’t manage to stay open . . . it’s a hard marketplace,” Christofaro said.

But for many, graffiti has become an avenue to opportunity. The clothing designs have attracted a large following of young adults who grew up fascinated by the genre.

“All the people that are most successful in the graffiti scene have expanded but held on to their graffiti roots. . . . The whole thing is being innovative,” said Kelly Gravao, another ex-tagger, who now owns Third Rail, an alternative clothing company in Boyle Heights. Third Rail also began by selling graffiti designed T-shirts and caps, but has since expanded its clothing line.

Gravao, 26, was arrested on many occasions and even shot in the leg when he tagged “in the wrong neighborhood,” he said.

Third Rail has grown 300% in sales since it opened in 1990, not long after Conart, Gravao said. He has one retail clothing store, Crazy Life, and is about to open a second in Hollywood. He said his focus has shifted from graffiti to various other clothing designs, targeted at surfers, skateboarders and snowboard enthusiasts.

Conart, he said, is one of the survivors in the graffiti-clothing business, benefiting when many imitators fell by the wayside. Today it sells to 470 accounts at specialty stores across the United States and as far away as Japan, where graffiti designs have become very popular.

“In Japan they’re not doing Japanese letters, they’re doing American letter schemes,” Hudson said.

Conart does half of its business there, where its designs are sold out soon after they are sent out, he said. He has even heard of bootleg Conart T-shirts being sold around Tokyo.

“(Graffiti) has become a big thing now with rap. . . . In one week everything (in stores) is sold out,” said Ken Kitakaze, who has coordinated Conart’s distribution to at least 50 stores throughout Japan for the last four years.

Conart is “the original maker of the graffiti street-style T-shirt,” said Paul Takahashi, a buyer for Extra-Large, whose clothing stores in Hollywood and New York were among the first to carry Conart’s designs. The market was saturated with imitators as soon as Conart’s designs hit stores, he said.

“We carry Conart because we try to keep the more original stuff.”

Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, New York marketing-trend consultants, said that recently clothing targeted to young adults has been dull. In the clothing industry the time is right for visually exciting pieces, like the ones graffiti artists design, she said.

The T-shirt designs are colorful and mesmerizing, but at the same time they often touch on social issues—and take a controversial point of view.

One of Conart’s depicts a Ku Klux Klan member holding his infant son, who is also dressed in the white garb of the organization. At the bottom it says: “Future Police Officer.” Another shirt is a caricature of two black men, one holding a gun and the other waving a flag that says: “No Justice No Peace.”

Hudson, an African American whose dreadlocks dangle to his chest, didn’t expect any of this success. Big business snuck up on him and his “conartists,” as he calls them. It snowballed when he began selling graffiti designed T-shirts in front of high schools at age 16.

“(Conart) was a hobby turned business,” he said. “I saw the connection of putting the imagery on clothing.”

Dammit, internet. You’re supposed to keep me updated on everything that happens, yet the launch of Foot Locker’s Europe-only (allegedly) rollout of Nike Huarache LEs wasn’t brought to my attention until they were all over eBay. The Huarache is the shoe that changed everything back in the early 1990s (you don’t see kids embracing modern silhouettes any more on these shores), then had a second wave in the early 2000s at road level again alongside a swathe of monotone Huarache Trainers too. Apparently these Black and Tour Yellow 2012 reissues are just the start of a summer-long rollout. I can’t get down with this shoe when it’s sat on a Free 5.0 sole and while I’d prefer some mesh in that toe box rather than Durabuck type fabric, these are pretty banging.

If supplies had been more plentiful (thank you Tan for the hookup), I think the streets would have been flooded with them once again. Instead it felt like the Foot Locker Limited Edition hangtag days of old. I’d like to think that it was a connoisseur backlash to the Free editions that led to the re-release, but I think ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and Wiz Khalifa are the entities that got these signed off. Still, in an era where every element of sports footwear is previewed, given closer looks and even the opening of a box is broadcast, that a release like these could come and go in relative silence is kind of odd.

Drop 3 of Our Legacy’s Splash collection appears online tomorrow. Serious looks, animal print Cosmo Kramer style shirts and Riri zippered designs with constellations printed on them? As I’ve mentioned before, this brand is untouchable at the moment. Defining the rollover basics at ‘Rollover’? Good move. The Oi Polloi exclusives, contrast armed Great Sweats, tracksuit bottoms that bring a refined edge to the uniform of the unemployed and pretty much everything they make appeals to me without being mired in the beige pixel world that so many other upstart menswear lines are. Tres Bien also still have the best blog of any store, bar maybe the Hundreds.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN FOAMPOSITES

This is a blog entry for the sake of it. Google Patents is pretty useful, even if you’ve only got traces of geek tendencies, and the selection of shoe-related stuff on offer is pretty impressive. The downside is that everything’s got a lofty, literal title rather than the consumer-friendly name it went to market with, making it tricky to isolate a specific product. Then there’s the hefty gap between the filing and issue date to make searching trickier — but once you’re there, nerd Valhalla awaits. Via the Overview section you can trace the original reference points too and it’s here that a lazy blogger like me can dig up enough material to pretend I’m creating content. As an example of how the creativity trail can unearth the background of some of my favourite designs, I was hunting the original Nike Air Footscape design by Toren “Tory” Orzeck for another project and it eventually sprang up as just “Shoe upper” (submitted Dec 6th 1994).

From there, I noticed that it references the side-lacing Converse Odessa (submitted April 24 1985) and Padmore & Barnes’ Lugger silhouette (submitted January 28 1983), which also led me to the patent art for the legendary Padmore & Barnes Weaver (submitted October 25 1977).

But what really impressed me was Mr. Orzeck’s involvement in the development of the Foamposite project (alongside several others, including John Tawney who also worked on elements of the Footscape project and Eric Avar who actually designed the shoe) as part of Nike’s Advanced Product Engineering team. With Orzeck’s background at GE Plastics and an ex-Ford man on the team too, there was a strange mix of Nike’s early hints at hippy idealism fused with absolute function in pieces like the Air Moc and Footscape, but even if you’re a Foamposite hater, you’ve got to concede that the production process was one that broke new ground. Looking at the “Method of making footwear with a pourable foam” patent (filed on August 21 1996) you get a strange step-by-step into the creation of a shoe that became a performance phenomenon years before it went global and became the line in the dirt that split fanboys and girls.

It’s as bizarre, difficult and intelligent a design as the Footscape and Rift from those APE days, but contemporary basketball never quite slipped into the Japanese selvedge and Subware uniform of a tribe pretending to like vocal-free hip-hop like the division’s running output did. DC, Baltimore and New York kids were on it from the off, but were more liable to be enjoying NORE, DMX, Pun and the LOX than DJ Krush. What would get you laughed at outside the Tunnel might be accepted outside Bar Rumba, and on the flipside, strutting into ‘That’s How It Is’ in big basketball shoes might not be considered cool.

So if you’ve got some tensile air bladders, a foam material in a viscous state at around 80-55 degrees centigrade, a mould with specific measurements for each size, inner bootie, outer and sole unit pieces, plus a series of “super gases,” and thermoplastic urethanes, you’re good to go. I recommend following these simple instructions to make a pair at home. It’s good to see that a bizarre shoe has an equally odd production process.

On a loft clearance mission, I found a stack of magazines I believed to be long-gone. Was ‘The Downlow’ magazine the most stylish rap fanzine ever? At a point when Brit-rap’s aesthetic was particularly unappetising (and it took Trevor Jackson getting Donald Christie and Dave McKean involved to make it look slick again), Mat-C and the team made things so stylish, they took the Neville Brody spirit and got busy on Quark. In fact, the magazine won a Design Week Award in 1995, beating ‘The Face’ after its 1993 relaunch in a gloriously difficult mass of alternate fonts and horizontal and vertical paragraphs converging. I remember ‘The Downlow’ being involved in releasing ‘Tried by 12’ in the UK before those dull remixes dropped a couple of years later and a compilation CD that was pretty good that may or may not have been Streetsounds or Profile affiliated. After doing the ‘Blues & Soul’ rap column, he launched ‘Fat Boss’ was on a BBC reality show for a minute then went on to perform as Jaguar Skills and get BBC radio and Jade Jagger co-signs. Who said UK-based rap journalism always ended in a return to the call centre?

“THERE’S NO BUDGET, BUT…”

“There’s no budget, but there could be scope for bigger things…” has long been drip-feeding into my Gmail account as some half-arsed incentive to do anything. Fortunately, I have a day job and any written work on the side is little more than hobbyist nonsense — I think I crave corporate relationships to fill a gap somewhere in my psyche with written word promiscuity. I care about getting the job done yet I have little to no interest in being a writer and I have even less inclination to enter the world of journalism. Journalism used to have a function — not to enlighten, expose injustice or change the world, but to get free CDs and records. Then everyone stopped caring about vinyl and you could download the content of a CD. With that, any journalistic impulses in me eroded and I swiftly sold my soul. I was a crap music journalist too — I used the word “sonics” too much and would bestow full marks so liberally that it made ‘The Source’ at its absolute 5-Mics-for-Lil’ Kim nadir read like Tom Paulin in full misery mode. I have no plans to return to that realm and I’m unsure as to whether music journalism has benefited from being ridded of freeloaders like me or simply been populated by dickriders who don’t want to lose their press trip privileges or be spotted by label PRs during their regular trawls of Google Blogearch and Twitter. I try to keep out of it.

Yet I still feel a certain kinship with the ripped-off writers of this world. Everybody gets shafted at corporate and indie level when they’re trying to get a name for themselves, but words don’t seem to be valued as much as images (and I have the greatest respect for photography — especially when everybody thinks they can do it and can’t) or even styling — which in the hands of Petri or Foxton is an art, but in the hands of many is just editing an existing edit and assembling them in an unexceptional manner. Nobody gives you a bunch of those word fridge magnets and says, “Assemble me some paragraphs!” Maybe it’s because copy-paste culture means nobody needs to edit the crap copy a PR company blasts out there. I’ve long found that there’s scope for bigger things, but it’s important to stick up for yourself by reminding those who’ve conveniently forgotten that their job is — like mine and many out there who take things far too seriously — utterly irrelevant beyond a square mile or so and a handful of outlying towns and villages where people might pick up a style magazine, imagining some magical realm and visit London to get ripped off too. It’s all bullshit.

I write for fun and when I see somebody exploiting that, it leaches the joy from banging out freeform paragraphs laden with run-on sentences. I hate the culture of aggregation too — mostly third-hand smoke and mechanically reconstituted information under the guise of content creation. If you can’t write, create, photograph, design, edit, raise funds or inspire, why are you getting involved in a creative industry? I respect the crew culture of strength in numbers, but why advertise for blog contributions? Build it and they’ll come, unless you’re just another clone of an existing site operating to get a free t-shirt from a rookie PR. I feel bad declining blog contributions elsewhere, but one joy of digital democracy is that I can up something wildly self-indulgent, unedited, unstructured and unproofed up here right now without a deadline, an editor or any external force hampering it. Why do I need to write for you?

Some would argue that democracy is what’s wrong with the internet, but it isn’t — where once, fanzines required workplace misuse, spent printer cartridges and photocopy costs, the internet lets that spirit roam free. It’s not as tangible, but it there has to be some compromise. I’m extremely happy that my friends at Hypebeast (some have assumed I’m anti Hypebeast, but that’s a fallacy — I’m still losing sleep over the Yeezy 2 drop) occasionally syndicate copy from here onto their vastly more successful site. If you have a blog….sorry, “online magazine” why can’t you dip into design, create your own shots and do all your own writing? Why do you need to start recruiting from day one? Did you learn nothing from Boo.com? If you’re into something enough, you can broadcast it and from there, the world is yours. Don’t let the leeches steal your shine. The internet is full of po-faced conversations with anybody who’ll constitute “content” and short video documentaries about pretty much anyone. It’s just one big crowd smelling their own farts and claiming they’re iconic. The time is right to just do your own thing. If you’re going to work for free, just do it for yourself.

Just to contradict my pro-digital ramblings above I’m a little more drawn back to writing for print at the moment, just because it’s the only way I can convince my mum that I have a job and because just as your moment of glory goes live online, too often, it’s swiftly washed away by wave after wave of the same old information. Click throughs are far uglier than physical pages too. One key element is seeing the snub of no Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook shares. With a piece in print, ignorance is bliss, but online, elements of your failure to engage an audience are there for all to see.

Where did that rant come from? I needed to write something for this blog, my inbox just pissed me off with budget-free promises of a media takeover and the teasers for this documentary – ‘Salad Days: the Washington D.C. Punk Revolution’, reminded me that once upon a time, “There’s no budget but…” used to be an asset and a harbinger of impending creativity. Between this and the ‘Bad Brains: A Band in D.C.’ (with an appearance from the late Adam Yauch) film that recently got a poster, indicating that screenings beyond SXSW are imminent. It’s all about D.I.Y — forget the begging letters.


For my fellow John Carpenter fans, AintItCoolTV just upped this video of the ‘They Live’ panel from Texas Frightmare with Roddy Piper, Keith David (in skintight neon mode) and Meg Foster. Plenty of trivia in just over 15 minutes.