MENSWEAR

I made it. I’m officially a menswear blog. Shouts to Complex for spotlighting my nonsense though. It’s a highlight of this week, like finding out that Michael Cimino came up with the story for Heaven’s Gate while, “…researching the history of barbed wire in the West” (cattle barons used barbed wire to block off grazing land, but settlers cut it in retaliation), or R Kelly’s ‘Soulacoaster’ revealing that Kells watches ‘Avatar’ frequently (Aziz Ansari wasn’t too far off the mark), hits up McDonald’s for a coffee with 6-sugars when he’s feeling sad and had rose petals dropped from a helicopter as a romantic gesture (in fact, the WSHH of Kelly singing an unruly member out the crowd is proof that he may be the most interesting person to walk the earth).

It’s easy to sit from a distance and fetishise the gun posing and scowls of LA gang photography, but hard living makes for great portraits. While all eyes were on South Central, the ‘Rolling Stone’ piece on V-13 in Venice Beach’s Oakwood area from early 1988 (‘Death in Venice’) had some of the best photography I’d ever seen back when I was 10 years old. To accompany the story by Mike Sager (one of the greatest journalists ever), Merrick Morton’s black and white snapshots looked like the coolest thing ever — needles, hand ink (back when tattoos on your hand were a sign you probably weren’t to be messed with, unlike hand tattoos in 2012, which are pretty fucking menswear) and weapons. 24 years later, they seem futile and grim, underpinned by the assumption that everyone in them’s probably dead by now. This was reality, but Merrick Morton also acted as a still photographer for ‘Colors’ and ‘Blood In, Blood Out.’ Everyone loves the fancy cars, the fully buttoned Pendletons, the hand gestures and the locs, but take them to the barrio and they’d stain their Dickies. Strange to think how gentrified the area got in the decades that followed, even though gangs remained operational.

‘Pretty Sweet’s Gino quotient, all the Supreme AF1 hype this year and Julien at Nike reminded me of the perfect supplement to the skating in Timberland piece I upped here a few years ago. Skating in wheat workboots is defiantly anti-boardfeel, but Gino Iannucci rocking canvas AF1 Mids in his 1996 ‘Big Brother’ interview (around the time ‘Trilogy’ was released) photos is classic. I actually meant to make this a whole blog entry about skating in Uptowns, but I stumbled and flopped. I still love the quintessentially east coast act of deliberately handicapping yourself in an act of one-upmanship to prove you can.

K.O. CRACK

“So, okay, okay, okay, y’all can’t fuck with me, no way/Jose or Héctor Camacho/Tech blows and watch yo’ chest close and tacos”
Juelz Santana, Diplomats ‘Gangsta Music’

“And I’ma go so opposite of soft/Off the richter, Héctor Camacho Man Randy Savage/Above status, quo, flow, so, pro”
Lil’ Wayne ‘Mr Carter’

Farewell, Héctor Camacho. You were my kind of fighter. Seemingly boxing forever, Puerto Rico’s own macho man and king of the reverse rat tail ‘do gave not one single fuck. Six losses in 30 years of professional bouts, mastering some bizarre modes of pre-fight mindfuckery, defeating Julian Solís, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza and Julio César Chávez, plus aging incarnations of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, plus all manner of wild behaviour outside the ring, including getting his dick tattooed and whipping it out for Playgirl when he was pushing 50, burgling an electronics store while high on ecstasy and starring in a Latin reality show, where women compete to date Macho (‘It’s Macho Time’) all added to the legend. You can’t deny Héctor didn’t push it to the limit. Slain by a mystery assailant, he’ll be missed. With his shift to Islam after his own controversies it’s unlikely that Héctor Camacho Jr’s boxing career will be as storied as his father’s, but those hip-hop name checks (including a Cam’ron line on the ‘S.D.E’ album) keep the legacy alive.

Ed Davis’s The Heavy Mental site is one of my favourite places to lurk. The interviews and original work on the site are relevant to my interests and he seems to have myriad affiliated projects on the go and on the low, whether it’s participation in Ralph Bakshi screenings, these patches and tees (that reaper design is serious) and affiliations with Sydney’s excellent Supply store (10 years old this year). Because Ed can design very well indeed, his new S.O.H. collection is looking good too, steeped in thrash and doom imagery and letterforms, with the Southern Lord references (word to Sunn O))))) and Voivod logo homage for a shirt with Supply. S.O.H. launches with four designs and a lookbook titles ‘Expendable Youth’ with blunts, fireworks, firearms and Jeff Fotocar behind the camera. Fuct has a lot to answer for, in the best possible way — between these designs and Julian Consuegra’s Stray Rats, with its hardcore frame of reference, Erik’s uncompromising attitude is present, but the vision is the creators’ own. It’s rare that I get hyped about tee designs beyond the usual suspects, but these are great. Between Ed’s work and Perks & Mini’s designs, Australia does it better than the majority. There’s more pages to that lookbook too and I have no idea where these are dropping, nor can I find a website, but I’m sure a launch is imminent. I admire the vagueness. Most people have teased their tees to death by this point and dropped two Vimeos already.

A few Nike curiosities from the 1987 era below — Bucks player Sidney Moncrief promoting the mysterious Nike Rugby Union designs that seem like a response to the bolder Polo, Coca-Cola and adidas apparel creations around that time. That colour blocking and abundance of embroidered detail makes these interesting and the Bengals’ “Boomer” Esiason mean-mugging in Lycra to plug the recently released Air Windrunner is part of the same restrained campaign that ditches the shouty Futura Extra Bold of the time for a more gentile approach. If you want it bolder, then the cheesy Nike Apparel ad from the same era that’s pushing bicycle-wear via a campy-attired courier. The approach to clothing at this point in time lacked the confidence of the footwear, though an appearance from Agassi in one of the campaign shots hints at a brighter future, both literally and figuratively.

GRAFFITI WITHOUT GRAFFITI

For the most part, graffiti magazines aren’t very good at all. It’s all well and good documenting the temporary, but the internet does a damned good job of logging ups in realtime. Plus I’m embittered at the £10 a time I spent in Tower Records on luridly logo’d foreign language, sporadically published ‘zines that were just scanned photos. You can do a lot more with a magazine than much of what’s out there and it can be done without dry snitching or lapsing into street art tedium. I’m more interested as to what goes on in the minds of the weirdos addicted to damage and On the Go (which is also the name of “Toronto’s #1 Commuter Magazine”), 12oz Prophet and Life Sucks Die all delivered their own unique interpretation of the hard-core nature of the scene. Now the UK’s own Hurt You Bad has stepped into the arena, their “Graffiti magazine without graffiti in it” mission statement is bound to make traditionalists slate HYB with their own “art fag” slur, but it’s actually a great read. No drips, no posed entries through holes in fences…none of that. But there is plastic surgery on a pig’s head, a really good SMART Crew interview, a chat with a writer who’s inside for cocaine trafficking, lots of good photography, Horfe’s work, me talking about the Beastmaster poster and a really big explosion at the very end. There’s extremities and obsessions at the core and you should pick it up. The digital world is spilling onto paper in one big inky gaping yawn in an effort to prove that it’s “for real” but more often than not, a Richey Edwards style self-harm episode would be more engaging. HYB however, has an agenda, chapters with fancy titles (fancy titles require fancy coffee) and all sorts of grown up stuff that proves they’re about more than just blog slander. It’s worth supporting.

While you’re supporting Hurt You Bad and anything else that benefits from everyone’s favorite miserable subculture, spare a thought for those inside for it — OKER’S 24 month sentence means his family won’t have him around for Christmas. Pure Evil Gallery is selling these prints and pieces to fund his nearest and dearest over the coming months. Murmur don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time all you like but bear in mind that burglars get equivalent or lesser sentences and a man (already on a suspended jail term) who punched and paralysed a man in an unprovoked assault got 34 months. Punishment’s part of graffiti you need to accept — especially if you’re a grown up, but there’s better uses of cells than filling them with people with a pathological predilection for writing on stuff. Fairey deserves more substantial sentence for that piece of shit opposite Nike’s 1948 store in east London and whoever was involved in that godawful Microsoft mural that recently went up — from the PR company to the painters — should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. A crackdown on street art and on-the-spot fines for tourists standing in the middle of the road with iPhones held aloft taking snaps of street art should be implemented, with doors kicked in and devices confiscated for containing street art tour apps.

Thanks to my buddies at First We Feast (best new website of the year) put me onto the 2013 opening of a Shake Shack in Covent Garden. There’s room in my heart for that place’s concretes, burgers and dog biscuits in a London setting. Seeing as the NYC branches are hardly cheap, I’m assuming that the dollar to pound conversion won’t be as startling as say, Chipotle, when it arrived on these shores. Crinkle cut fries stay winning too. This and Balthazar (when brands are paying for breakfast) will make this tourist trap area worth the effort spent swearing at the living, grinning, faux chirpy living tunnel of flesh that is the gauntlet run of charity predators on exiting the train station.

There’s a new Larry Clark film out and you can watch it right now, because Larry and the studio system don’t get on (lest we forget, Clark ended up choking a man who was meant to bring Ken Park — never released in the UK — over here). Having read some reviews from the Rome screening a couple of weekends ago, I expected the usual distributor limbo, but we have access to it immediately. Marfa Girl has skateboarding, woozy amateur performances, topless teenagers, an awesome babbling bird, some sex scenes, an interesting soundtrack, a gratuitous female toilet sequence (Clark’s own kind of streaming), some restrained melodrama, guns, a cast of unknowns and some beautiful cinematography (from David Newbert). It’s curious that, given free rein to do as he pleases without industry interference, everyone’s favourite documenter of casual deviancy, doesn’t make something particularly explicit (well, by his own jazzy precedents) and instead focuses on spirituality and very small-town eccentricities. You can watch it for $5.99 (which lets you have access to it for 24 hours) right here as a stream. If you like Larry’s work (does anyone else think James Woods’ performance in Another Day in Paradise is a career high?), you need to watch it. If you don’t, it’s not going to convince you. I liked it. This NOWNESS interview with the Larry Clark is well worth watching too.

BEARS

Farewell Ralph Lauren Rugby. You confused me a little, with your slightly cheaper takedowns of Polo pieces that seemed to be simultaneously on sale at the Polo store, but your skull-embroidered shorts were the truth. Just as one division winds down, RL Vintage gets a push. This wing of the Ralph empire brings back some old pieces in vintage form including the Flag SSweater that Lauren had specially made for his LIFE cover in 1989 as well as a wild hand painted lambskin jacket (price on enquiry). What’s in the store at the moment is old west-themed (a familiar reference point) but where it goes thematically is anyone’s guess. There’s also the promise of some fan voted reproductions of classic Polo too, with the return of the Polo Bear sweater looming and the opportunity to pick from a quartet of well-dressed beasts. The street-level fandom of that particular piece almost certainly fueled that decision to retro it, but the collector profiles (showcasing some interesting gear) and the shots of New Yorker Divine Bradley — who starred in a 2003 Polo Jeans print campaign — and his “suicide” ski jacket, P-wing gear and Snow Beach jacket might be the closest I’ve seen to an acknowledgment of those pieces and the urban audience who popularized them. Are we going to see Snow Beach sold as a vintage piece through an official Ralph Lauren site? Will we see a retro of those coveted designs? Incidentally, I root for the bottom right bear that’s currently losing the vote and is doomed to stay dusty and never return from vintage limbo. Did somebody at the company clock the blog love for unturned stones in the Lauren archive? They’ve even started an official Tumblr that seems to be a response to the volume of Polo fetishism being pumped out via that mode of blogging. It’s interesting to see where this project goes.

That wasn’t enough to justify a Sunday blog update — I’m embroiled in Nike and Complex matters. As an apology for that, here’s a couple of strange celebrity sportswear endorsements from 1987. New Edition could have done a lot better than mess with the always-terrible LA Gear (those ‘Can You Stand the Rain’ outfits have aged better than any LA Gear effort), but that Le Coq Sportif Kool & the Gang co-sign was too unexpected to criticise. Who brokered that one?

FOOTWEAR

This one’s for the shoe weirdos only. When it comes to online retail, once a fearful domain where my bank details disappeared and I was left waiting for months for product to arrive (or not arrive in some instances), it’s curious that I should get nostalgic, but most men’s fashion retailers are fucking dull online. It’s the same stock as everybody else, a blog tagged on with brief features as an afterthought and I can’t get excited at all. Sports footwear’s even weaker — exactly the same options, pretty much globally, where once the US got some unexpected SC releases and co.jp was a mystery, now it’s all the same.

Staggered releases, but ultimately the same old stock. That’s why I pine for the grey retailers of old who actually had the untethered power to surprise a customer. Now we know what’s coming in advance and shocks are few and far between. If you lurked on the internet for Nikes between February 1998 and 2001 (though it started in 1996 and was online until 2010), you probably came across Shoetrends.com, with its mix of older and newer releases, import colourways and no-frills looks, plus the biggest amount of Air Max 95s, Dunks (a couple of years before their wider release and hype burnout) and Jordan retros the majority of us had ever seen in one place. It was riddled with some of the worst clip art ever, appalling fonts and other strange touches, like this:

…but the stock that passed through the store’s inventory was pretty spectacular. ACG and Terra fans were well served indeed, as was anyone with a thing for visible air. Sure, a ton of the good stuff was always sold out and while the secure server of the store with the Cerritos, CA P.O. Box address felt safe, the import taxes purchases incurred were often brutal. The basic looks and mind-boggling stock beats a million sites padding out mediocrity. To this day, Shoetrends is one of my favourite sites ever. After an early ’00s dalliance with consignment selling, those terrible looks remained until at least 2007. In early 2011 when i went to visit, stock had been liquidated and it sent me to DeadstockShoes.com — the new Shoetrends,com.

In honour of the greatness of this site and because I’m too lazy to write much this evening, I’m retroing http://www.shoetrends.com circa 1999 and 2000 as a reminder of the greatness it peddled. Note the ’99 Air Jordan IV Black/Reds sitting around. If this gets you hyped, you’re probably a likemind. Waaaay before Nike Sportswear, that SC abbreviation had retros on lock. Look at this and try to tell me colourways weren’t better in 2000. Women still got some amazing variations back then. In fact, I wouldn’t begrudge you if you find yourself sitting there, silently weeping, pretending to buy navy and orange 97 by clicking blankly on the screen.

This had to go up, because I get the feeling that pre 2004 footwear imagery is being slowly eroded (this content has been gone for nearly a decade) and the ’95 and Terra Humara fans might get a kick out of it. Those Uptempos are no joke either.



On the nostalgic wave, salutes to T-Shirt Party for celebrating that market knockoff era of Spliffy, adihash and the mysterious Naff Co 54 (Naf Naf for tramps, basically) brand with their latest releases. So widespread that they were, undisputedly, British streetwear for those without expendable dough, T-Shirt Party are shifting them as a three-pack. Those from the UK and of a certain age will get the reference — it was never good, but it sure is evocative.

CANINE CLOTHING

After a visit to Discover Dogs this weekend, there’s no way this blog wasn’t going to be dog related. Adding to the jacket talk a few weeks ago, the Dunhill design above is a contender — well, it would be if it wasn’t pretty morally reprehensible — because it’s such a dizzyingly flamboyant creation. Oran’ Juice Jones’ thirty-seven hundred-dollar lynx coat (that spared his wayward partner and her lover a bullet) is a significant sounding piece of fur, but this? This Cam’ron-esque creation is the next level. If you’ve been Tweeting, Instagramming or Facebooking your supposed “swag” levels, please don’t approach me unless you’re wearing this or you’ll be a walking letdown. A Siberian Wolf Coat had performance qualities too — weather-defying wolfed properties. I’m not too sure that it’s “most distinguished” in its looks though. Going on some chart I found online and taking the guinea down to the pound, I think 19 guineas circa 1910 translates as around £9,500 in today’s money. That’s about 6 times as much as Jones’ fur. This coat is mind-boggling.

Vietnam war Snoopy patches are another current preoccupation. At base level, there’s no real mystery to the iconic beagle’s appearance on patches across infantries and roles in the conflict — with Snoopy just nine years old when the war began, throughout the 1960s, Peanuts merchandise and imagery was everywhere, making Snoopy a strong representation of the U.S.A. Plus, flying a plane against the Red Baron in October 1965, Snoopy had seen some conflict himself. Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz had fought in WWII (as a machine gun operator) but never took a life himself and was anti-war in his opinions — the airborne Snoopy could be seen as a reaction to the realities of battle (the siege of Plei Mei occurred a few days after that first strip ran). By the end of the war, the WWI fantasy Peanut plots seemed to come to an end.

Unofficially, Snoopy found himself in helicopters over unsecured zones, giving war-opponent Jane Fonda the finger, drinking heavily, dancing (my favourite Snoopy imagery), urinating, patrolling, flying a syringe, dodging missiles, in Joe Cool mode and rollerskating. His flying ace attire features prominently and the heaviness of the situation the wearers were in makes these a presumed spot of light relief at a time of hopelessness. There was actually an Operation Snoopy in Vietnam, based around a device that sniffed out the enemy (developed in 1965) by picking up on effluents unique to humans. That started in a noisy backpack form for foot-based missions but, because of the noise emitted from it (not useful against an enemy skilled in stealthier forms of combat), it was operated from a helicopter for sniffer patrols — the Operation Snoopy patch features Snoopy with a propeller on his flying hat (you can see it as an accompaniment to this essay). Even Supreme played with the Vietnam Snoopy concept this season with the unlicensed “sitting Snoopy” pin design on a hat. This boonie hat right here is still the ultimate hat with Snoopy on it.

COKE BOYZ

“I’m in the ’88 Candidates, paisley’d out, in them Coca-Cola rugbys, two bitches, with a front in my mouth” Ghostface Killah, ‘Wicked With Lead’

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Heavy D’s untimely passing, so, given his early association with Coca-Cola clothing, it felt right to look at the origins of that brief craze for sugary liquids repped on rugby shirts as a tribute to the big man. Salutes to Simone for reminding me of the Coca-Cola vest sighting in ‘Paris is Burning’ too. With the Brazilian Coca-Cola Clothing company pushing some high-end catwalk looks that are a long way from the brand’s 1980s clothing output, they’re still pushing their brand from beverage to wardrobe item, striving to be more than a promo item sent in exchange for a fistful of pull tabs, but there’s only one moment in time when Coca-Cola apparel felt right, and given that the original recipe contained coca leaf, they’re not the only clothing brand to have been founded on yayo money either.

Coca-Cola gear, alongside Benetton (seriously, why hasn’t that brand capitalised on its rugby shirts and glasses and their role in street style?), is a curious moment in style that’s not explored enough. There’d been plenty of Coca-Cola merchandise; promo tees, hats and plenty motor, but nothing that you wouldn’t pass onto an elderly relative or only wear wash the car in. In the early 1970s, they made some even more curious sartorial decisions like afro wigs (with a styrofoam head form and vinyl case) for $8 with proof of purchase and $2.98 beach pants (which are actually kind of excellent). None of it was a particularly serious proposition.

In 1985, Mohan Murijani’s Murijani Corporation (responsible for the Gloria Vanderbilt denim line) unleashed the fruits of their licensing deal with Coca-Cola — a full collection of clothing that made no secret of the brand affiliation, screaming it across apparel and bearing the familiar colours. The head designer was one Tommy Hilfiger — the Murijani corporation was a backer of the new Tommy Hilfiger signature line after Tommy’s tenure at Jordache, and it launched around the same time as Coca-Cola apparel did. In the early 1990s, bold rugby shirts bearing Tommy’s name rather than a soft drink would become a hip-hop staple.

There was no soft (drink) launch here — Coca-Cola arrived as a fashion line with shirts, jeans and plenty more, but the hats, rugbys and sweatshirts seemed to sell the most units. “Coming soon to a body near you” “It’s popping yellow” and “It’s bubbling blue” were the teaser taglines on Peter Max illustrated ads (Max was a frequent Coca-Cola collaborator, but he also worked on a famous 7 Up campaign — a drink owned by arch rivals PepsiCo outside the U.S.) and to buy the clothes at the Fizzazz Columbus and 73rd Coca-Cola Clothes shop buyers chose their clothes on a monitor from “videodiscs” then had their clothes delivered by conveyor belt.

If the description of the flagship Fizazz store setup isn’t the most ’80s thing you’ve ever heard, you obviously never caught the launch promo for Coca-Cola Clothes — a music video for a singer called Barbara Hyde, who disappeared as quickly as she arrived, called ‘Creatures of Habit,’ which acted as an ad for the brand. It was recently taken down from YouTube, but it’s directed by the man behind Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram’s ‘Somewhere Out There’ (shouts to Fievel the mouse) and is the most 1985 thing you can possibly imagine.

Despite plans for over 50 Fizzazz stores globally, that rollout never happened, but a Tokyo store opened in late 1987, with smaller sized gear for the Japanese market. A Fizzazz opened on London’s Oxford Street too. Strong sales were reported and in 1986, Apple attempted a similar line (complete with Patagonia and North Face collaborations) that bellyflopped. By the end of the 1980s, after craze status for several years, Coca-Cola Clothes went flat.

The Coca-Cola Clothing venture should have been a laughing-stock — a relic of an excessive time, but that visual excess and pop cultural blend (are we allowed to use Warholian, or has that term been revoked due to lazy use in every A$AP Rocky broadsheet feature ever?) was undisputedly hip-hop, worn in the ‘Mr Big Shot’ video by perennial early adopter Heavy D and his crew and operating in tandem with the explosion of Polo at street level — the Puba-esque uniform of a block coloured rugby and blue denim spent several years as a rap video staple. Coke on the streets and Coke on cotton too. The brand also gave Tommy his break too. It’s a story of enterprising branding and a new approach to retail (shades of Apple Store to the experiential aspect) — that late 1990’s relaunch as Coca-Cola Ware doesn’t count.

Here’s to athletic-themed apparel based on a soft drink with vegetable extracts.

NB: As a sidenote, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the brand rivalry, but Pepsi attempted to launch a Pepsi clothing line in 1987 that wasn’t nearly as good as Coca-Cola’s apparel output.