What’s all the fussing and feuding for these days? I’ll never understand the people pretending that they emerged from the womb fully clued up, nodding sagely. Life is about discovery and evolving tastes. Got into something a year ago? Feel free to comment, regardless of what some old misanthrope who hopped on it five years prior tells you. Those who were really there at the start of anything, don’t sit and waste their time typing, blogging and dissecting them, unless they made a bad business decision and ended up on the outside. If something makes a few thousand kids YouTube Ninjaman or New Order, even if it’s just to get bragging rights over their online peers, then it can only be a good thing. then A brand like Supreme might not have been as widely discussed 20 years ago, but it was still fêted enough by the style press to warrant a page in The Face around Christmas 1995 — a magazine that was on the shelf of my local newsagent, with a then-circulation of around 113,000, back when mentioning anything in relation to Stüssy had us interested. Supreme was even on the shelf relatively locally at Dogfish in Cambridge for a bit earlier that year. It wasn’t necessarily a secret society then either — just a good brand, carefully distributed.
When you’re strapped for inspiration, YouTube is an easy way out for blog entries. Spending 30 minutes there puts you through multiple rabbit holes. Film trailers lead to documentary snippets that lead to lectures, before taking a sharp turn into timeworn VHS uploads of unsettling oddness. I always emerge enlightened but unsettled. Takedowns are so frequent that upping them here is destined to lead to black boxes and dead links, but having spotted the creepiest commercial I’ve ever seen, a manic Japanese commercial for the Goonies II NES game, the bloke from Limp Bizkit hosting a 1991 skate jam and a background reminder that Chicago team coloured Air Jordan 1s hit the sale racks with a vengeance in 1986 due to overproduction in the quest to find something I spotted a few weeks back and wanted to share here, I felt they all warranted a mention too. That video I was hunting was a 1989 commercial for Sports Fanatics, a store in Watertown, Massachusetts that specialised in sporting merchandise. This volume of team jerseys, sweats and hats deserved bars, and Sports Fanatics seemed to get the Saturday boy who owned an Eric B & Rakim tape in to spit half-arsed bars about replica hockey shirts long before Fabolous put out Throw Backs as a bonus track. Erie, Pennsylvania’s Play It Again Sports would try to play the goofy white rapper card five years later with Dr. Jimbo spitting about second-hand athletic equipment (with a Special Ed nod in there too), but it loses points for being too deliberately wacky.
My friend Steve Bryden is one of the folks who helped give me my “career” 11 years ago, and he and Ted’s Know Dibi Dibi show is one of my favourites from Know Wave’s UK division. Because they were strapped for guests, they let me appear and talk rap and shoes — in fact, there’s plenty of alienating trainer talk — with lots of points that just trail off in caffeinated streams of consciousness. There’s also loads of Lil Wayne, plus a Bone Thugs and Phil Collins finale. Shouts to Professor Bryden for the invite.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett’s first Vintage Showroom book is a goldmine — all the joys of a combined Lightning, Free & Easy and Mono on a good month, but with the bonus of informative texts in English. This London institution has a spectacular archive, and one volume wasn’t enough, so Vintage Menswear 2 releases this November. Hopefully this will be another trove of eccentric but brilliantly functional attire that’s rarely spotlighted. I’m intrigued by the early 2016 release of a book by Mark McNairy entitled F____ Ivy and Everything Else on the Harper Design imprint too, but I need to see more information on that one.
If you’re in London with an hour to spare between now and July 19th, you need to go and check out the Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s exhibition at the ICA. It’s a compact collection of artifacts, documents and imagery that charts the pre-legal days of Kiss in its five years as a pirate station, as well as several other seminal DIY broadcasters that never went straight. This was the second London exhibition with a snapshot of Groove Records in just over a month (the great little gathering of London record shop history that popped up on the rapidly perishing Berwick Street was the other one), and from a style perspective there’s nuggets there in the browsable (as in aper format and not some iPad simulation) fanzines with their 1989 ads for the seminal Soul II Soul store in Camden. This is isn’t just a showcase of radio culture — given the connection between music and the streets, its was an important chapter in helping define what wear too. Don’t let my abysmal iPhone photos put you off paying it a visit.
My friends at 032c have moved into creating their own garments. If you grew up reading i-D and The Face, you’ll remember the occasional apparel offerings towards the back of the magazine. The ever-thorough 032c’s clothing brand starts with a short-sleeve sweatshirt (a challenging format that reminds me of the Jordan VII-era thick-tees that gave you heat stroke) with a long, slim unisex cut. Joerg and the squad aren’t basic enough to set things off with a print tee, and the Portuguese-made Stealth Varsity Logo Sweatshirt’s flock tonal lettering and anti-pill polyfibre and cotton construction is some wilfully contradictory summer wear. It’s in their online store right now and they’re promising further projects over the coming months.
I’m interested in a few different things, and the graphic above from Goods by Goodhood’s Manifetstee sums up the best bits. Reading like the classic “you’re gonna wake up one morning and know what side of the bed you’ve been lying on” shirt (or the memorable Fuct list ad in Thrasher) without the negative stuff, and being on Goodhood’s own super soft Portugese-made custom-made blank makes it doubly excellent. Any tee that unites Cliff Burton with Patricia Arquette’s teeth, Insane Strawberries and a tribute to the defunct Dr. Jives is my kind of garment.
I could sit and watch bargains being sold and bought on Discovery Channel shows and YouTube thrifting videos all day, and I find the same spirit in Richmond VA’s Round Two and their homemade creation, Round Two: The Show. There’s something compelling about watching people get their shoes priced up, and this crew-owned spot seems to be more interesting than anywhere else. Official accounts are overrated. I don’t visit shoe-centric stores too often because I know exactly what’s on their shelves, and I can safely assume that everyone else with legit accounts has the same stuff too. I’d visit a store like Round Two to see if anything unexpected appeared, and the quality of their regular video production beats anyone else’s online content. While the popularity of the Air Huarache NM leaves me confused, there’s some good footage in Round Two’s GaLlery space, which basically replicates the shoe stores of old and seems to have replicated the complete wall of a shop back in 1997. The kind of space that has an Air Zoom GP on the wall is my type of thing. Crazy that a second-hand store has managed to create the best videos of any retailer, as well as holding down a substantial showcase space with a tremendous collection stashed in it, but that’s the power of a passion project.
It’s been a minute since I bought a regular rap magazine, but I’m still buying hip-hop related books like a fiend. Scarface’s recent autobiography was an ultra-downbeat read, but a worthy one (I was pleased to see that have hated the cover art to Geto Boys’ Da Good da Bad & da Ugly as much as I did) that’s a fine accompaniment to Prodigy’s book (still the ultimate hip-hop bio) and the Q-Tip, Lil’ Kim and Benzino memoirs seem to have vanished from the release schedules after a on-off wait of almost Rawkus Kool G or Heltah Skeltah-like levels. The one that I’m ultra hyped for is the Nas autobiography, It Ain’t Hard to Tell: A Memoir, which, according to Amazon and the publisher, Simon and Schuster, drops later this year, on November 10th — four years after its announcement caused some brief blog fuss. Rap books get delayed even harder than the damn albums, but if Nasir Jones opts to make like P and pull no punches, it’s going to be a classic. In the interim, I’ll probably pick up the Luther Campbell, Buck 65 and Kevin Powell books in coming months, but there’s one extra volume with some serious potential — Rap Tees: A Collection of Hip Hop T-Shirts 1980-2000 by collector and connoisseur DJ Ross One, which drops on Powerhouse in October. Promising hundreds of promo, bootleg and concert shirts representing Sugarhill, EPMD, the Wu, BDP, 2Pac and everyone else, the Screen Stars style cover art has me sold on it already. This kind of archive is my idea of heaven — if somebody gathers the rap promo sticker collection of an OG like Jules Gayton and publishes it, I’ll be in heaven. On the Scarface front, the impending existence of a 33 1/3 book completely dedicated to The Geto Boys, thanks to travel writer and New Yorker contributor Rolf Potts, is something to celebrate too.
My updates here have been sporadic due to work distractions. For that, I apologise (I actually need to get this basic blog template redesigned at some point soon too). A couple of pieces I wrote are in the new 032c. It’s easy to become jaded in a world where much of what you love has become cyclical cultural mass, but that’s how you become so embittered that you render yourself unemployable. I still manage to get hyped about things like this. As somebody who’s an admirer of ACG, 032c and ACRONYM’s work, I was excited to see the All Conditions Gear article we put together in the new issue, plus an extract from a conversation I had with Toby and Sk8thing from Cav Empt. There are longer versions of the interviews that might find their way online too. Shouts to Joerg for letting me get involved. Go pick up issue #28, because it’s still the best magazine of its kind on the market — the What We Believe piece is bold and brilliant, plus there’s a rare spot of Supreme print advertising in there too. There’s an 032c clothing line coming soon that, going on the strength of some brief IG previews (and knowing that they don’t do anything by half), will be good.
On the magazine front, upping the seminal Ruder than the Rest article from an early 1991 issue of The Face half a decade ago amassed a lot of interest at the time, with this period of real London streetwear barely documented or celebrated. The logical follow-up to it was Norman Watson’s Karl and Derick styled New Skool shoot (mentioned on this blog a couple of times before) from later that year (which includes Mr. Charlie Dark as a young ‘un). That piece united skatewear, streetwear and sportswear perfectly — Nike Air Max and Huaraches worn with Pervert, Poizone, Fresh Jive, Anarchic Adjustment and Insane, plus haircuts by Conrad of Cuts and Rollin’ Stock. It was incredible — the look that dwells in the Basement and gets hectic in Wavey Garms now, but back when it really seemed to take form for a wider audience to watch from far, far away.
6:77FlyCreative have put together an exhibition called Ruffnecks, Rudeboys and Rollups that gathers imagery from this pivotal era of style in the country’s capital, with submissions from the likes of Normski. It runs from a private view on Friday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 24th at 5th Base Gallery at 23 Heneage Street in east London, with some very appropriate sponsorship from Supermalt. I’m looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it’s the start of something even bigger.
Linking every topic above again, something interesting is happening with The Face archives by the looks of things — Maxwell Logan and Nick Logan have started an Instagram account called THE____ARCHIVE that showcases me gems from the magazine’s vaults for its 35th anniversary, like these logo prototypes from Steve Bush. This outlet, plus Paul Gorman’s book, should provide some extra insight beyond the fancy design and memorable features. It’s the 35th anniversary of the very much alive i-D this year too.