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.
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.
As an addict for print, I’ll get my fix by any means necessary. I’ll die when the stack of free publications I’ve amassed falls down and breaks my hip, leaving me stricken and starving. But in the meantime, I’ll still keep pathologically picking them up. The problem with the best free magazines and zines is that they were stocked in the cooler stores. Because those stores were cool inevitably, nobody else was in there beyond two shop workers, the smell of incense, and some esoteric mix wafting though the speakers. In that environment, avoiding purchase but grabbing a freebie was a definite zero eye contact and headphone move. I might have bought some twelves and mix CDs I never wanted to get hold of the ones kept behind the counter with customers in mind. A few years ago, hunting down the tactile pleasures of FRANK151 in London was a mission — since the pocket-size went to cargo pant size with issue #51 and carried a cover price, I’ve never seen it anywhere in the UK. It’s a shame, because the magazine has had some of the best content out there, and there’s plenty of images I’ve seen in FRANK151 that I’ve never seen since. If you want to get a little extra history on street culture over the last 15 years or so, go check out the magazine’s archive on issuu — you can flip though the lion’s share of the back issues (sadly, the ALIFE/Wu Tang edition is absent), going back to issue #1, when it was an Atlanta-based project with indie-rap and turntablist inclinations through to its switch around issue #10 up until some of the final freebies. All the content, without having to negotiate any moody employees of short-lived shops.
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.
I’ve long been fascinated with the case of Lennie Kirk, and in the gossipy, where-are-they-now and who’s-the-gnarliest posting world of skate culture online, Kirk’s antics have been discussed time and time again. This North Carolina raised character is best-known for his holy rolling Timecode segment, which according to legend (now confirmed — this and a second near-death experience did it apparently), contains the dumpster incident at 0:33 that caused him to find god in his own unique way. Neighbours fans from back in the day will remember resident chef Mark Gottlieb getting hit on the head and becoming a hardcore Christian who berated Libby for her skirt length and rebranded Daphne’s as the Holy Roll. Kirk’s case was similar, but with less cafes and more sawn-off shotguns. Mixing god-bothering with gangsterism, Lennie Kirk has been in and out of prison over the years, but his cult status and could-have-been reputation has maintained a certain mystique. It’s the stuff of feel-bad skate documentaries, but photographer Dennis McGrath’s Heaven tells his story with a certain sensitivity — photos from McGrath and friends are accompanied by letters from prison, notes and a conclusive police report that reveals that his behaviour had escalated into next-level wildness that put him back in prison for a long stretch in 2013. It could have been a freak show, but this is a beautiful book, with Ed Templeton assisting on design. The team behind the recent FTC book definitely lucked out in managing to catch him for a Q&A a few years back, but for those of you looking for a broader examination of this enigma from birth to current behind-bars status, this should have you preaching to fellow 1990s skate fundamentalists.
How badly are most bloggers bought by brand affiliations? And are most folks writing on fashion capable of forming an opinion? I have no idea, because I’m a total sellout, but the new issue of System has a 15,000 word interview with Cathy Horyn by Jonathan Wingfield, accompanied by Juergen Teller photography, that’s educational and insightful. In conversation, Wingfield brings up the line, “This stuff is so desperate not to make enemies, it’s going to have trouble making any friends,” from Benjamin Gnocchi’s review of Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton building. It’s a quote applicable to most writing on the subject of style. As is to be expected, Horyn doesn’t hold back. Easily one of the best things I’ve read this year.
The CUTS documentary I mentioned on here a month or so ago now has a fundraising page. Whether you couldn’t care less about hairdressing or not, the fruits of nearly 20 years of on and off filming in Soho is likely to be entertaining if you’re inclined to watch cultures evolve, devolve or emerge.
I’ve never ever considered myself a journalist, because I’m not qualified to be one and I generally write about the same topic, using the same words and phrases, again and again and again. I write as a hobby, and it’s always an honour to be asked to write for magazines I pick up — especially when they actually engage in an editing process, rather than hurling my semi-proofed copy straight in there. Participating in the back and forth of a good edit session is part of the pleasure as far as I’m concerned, because I’m prone to drop a typo or ten. INVENTORY — whose attention to detail is something that I admire —asked if I wanted to speak to Erik Brunetti about his career for their new issue, and he was more keen to talk art than dwell on Fuct. Which is fair enough. Plus I spoke to him about clothing and controversy for ACCLAIM a couple of years back. Because it’s Erik in conversation, he drops plenty of quotables on several subjects, plus there’s some great Tim Barber photography to accompany it.
LAW just dropped an excellent short video on Slipmatt (who was part of SL2 — the kind of act XL used to sign back in the early 1990s). This electrician/hardcore DJ legend embodies an era and is still putting in the hours today. There’s something admirable about the British subcultural characters who carve a niche that they persist in, whether it’s considered cool or not. Shouts to the Bedford crew who were buying the cassette packs from Not Just a Ticket back in the day, while I was haunting Andy’s Records for rap tapes.
Seeing as Slipmatt embodies the spirit of 1992 like few others can, it’s worth noting that Ian Powell upped a Dance Energy from Monday, November 23rd 1992 in its (almost) entirety, from the House Party era of the show, complete with a comedy subplot where Vas Blackwood schemes to earn some money for some trainers and Normski executes the laceless Huarache look with a certain panache. The performances by Secret Life and Reese Project will smear that nostalgia a little for you by reminding you that the good music was generally a one in three affair on this programme.