I recently worked on a short book about the evolution of some flagship Gel designs with ASICS. While I get bamboozled by the sheer array of conceptual collaborations these days, I have a great deal of respect for this Japanese brand’s performance design language throughout the years. There’s actually more information on the earliest days of the Onitsuka line in this book’s typo-heavy predecessor, whereas this one focuses on the 1986-1994 era a lot harder. It would have been nice to see Sneakerlife.de get a credit for the borrowing of a few of his photos, but it was good fun to talk about some of the lesser-discussed models in the vault (as well as chatting with the designers themselves) and not focus on the pretty colours and materials for once. I swear that the hype has clouded the brilliance behind most of the silhouettes, so this was an attempt to celebrate them for their true purpose. Even if it’s a promo piece for the lifestyle-orientated ASICS Tiger EVO line. ASICS Tiger: An Evolution was created for promo purposes only, so it was strictly giveaway status. If you’re interested, chat with your local stockist and see if they ever got any.
The problem with writing about subcultures is that if you weren’t there, you don’t know the full story. And even if you participated, everyone’s account has a tendency to differ. In the case of Duffer, you’ve got four founders, and everyone has their own story to tell. Contradictions are inevitable. Barrie Sharpe was one of the minds behind Duffer of St George and he’s also the rare groove originator alongside Lascelle Gordon. Seeing as everyone seems to be telling their tale right now, Barrie penned his memoirs. Entitled This Was Not Part Of The Masterplan, this self-published book is pretty raw and entertaining. Broken down into a series of anecdotes, it’s punctuated by italicised accounts from friends and former foes. From time spent around villains in 1960s East London as a latchkey kid to an infatuation with black music and dressing up, it’s pretty confrontational stuff. Given the sheer amount of recollections regarding dust ups and fall outs, it’s clear that the author has made his share of foes during the crossover of his musical and clothing-based careers, but if you want a solid piece of London clubbing history and a good amount of information on Duffer’s earliest days and eventual change in direction (resulting in the genesis of the Sharpeye brand), this really delivers. He was there, after all. It’s a well-written book and the type and layout gives it a classic look that seems to fit with the sounds and styles Barrie has championed. This book is available right here and I recommend picking it up. Julia Beverly’s colossal labour of love, Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, which goes far beyond the detail of any hip-hop bio to date, is also well worth disappearing into for a couple of weeks.
Given the pandemonium around the latest Supreme season’s offerings, it seems like a good time to look at some lesser-discussed pieces on the brand. The trouble with the internet is that most of the folks who were first seem to have vanished, taken down their sites or simply left behind by their early 2000s lack of search engine savvy. Sadly, it seems that Nikolai’s Rift Trooper site (one of the key inspirations for this blog) has gone after he stopped updating at the close of 2009, but thanks to the wonders of web.archive.org, you can read his very short interview with James Jebbia from July 2002 back when btinternet.com hosted sites were a thing, and conducted between the own-brand Downlow shoe and the original SB project. Here’s the preserved version of the page. The other links on the page are down, but searchable too — shouts to Simon and his Concept Shop site, with its early history of the Supreme backpack. The article it references is a good one too — talented designer Kevin Lyons’ brief piece on the legalities and morals of borrowing imagery in streetwear, Cease and Desist: Issues of Cultural Reappropriation in Urban Street Design, featuring Russ from SSUR, Joseph from Union, James from Supreme (and Union) and Eric Haze’s in discussion on the topic. Taken from the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design’s January 1996 issue, it’s actually more illuminating than most lengthier examinations of the same subject from recent years. Seeing as Lyons had worked for SSUR on some classic designs for Supreme, he certainly had some insider knowledge. It was reproduced in AIGA‘s now out of print Design Culture compilation from 1997.
Stores are going to start trying to sell seasonal ephemera in the coming weeks, so why not get prepped for potential Christmas presents? Books are the ultimate excuse to ignore everyone around you for a couple of claustrophobic days of forced jollity, so the news that both Boogie and Quartersnacks have projects dropping this winter is something to be pleased about. I think Boogie is one of the greatest living shooters, and a man prone to bringing something beautiful back from the dark side with each assignment. After spending a few months in Kingston, Jamaica, the fruits of that trip (which, once again pokes a prying lens down the barrel of a gun) are collated in A Wah Do Dem which drops on the Drago label in late October. The images below indicate that his sixth monograph will be the best yet. This fearless photographer’s work definitely deserves your full support.
The true cover for Quartersnacks’ TF at 1 book is online now. Looking at a blog every day seems kind of quaint, like still eating fried bread for breakfast or choosing to apprentice as a chimney sweep, but I look at Quartersnacks multiple times every day in the hope of a link-heavy update. The site captures something that other outlets just don’t seem to match, and the book promises a summary of the last decade of NYC skateboarding over 176-pages, plus plenty of new content and interviews. On the Q&A topic, I want a Chromeball Incident paperback of every interview too, because it would probably be cheaper than me hemorrhaging printer ink trying to put all 83 conversations onto paper. You should probably take a couple of hours out to go through the Jenkem Soundcloud and listen to both parts of the Mark Gonzales episode of the Tim O’Connor Show — Tim asks Gonz the right things and, as a result, the trivia levels are high.
Paul Gorman knows a lot about British subcultures. If you’ve looked for anything particularly niche online that pertains to London’s forgotten boutiques or obscure publications, you probably stumbled onto Gorman’s blog. For instance, his site houses the only details I’ve seen on Rivington Street store Modern Classics. He’s a good match for Nick Knight’s SHOWStudio, and he just opened his enviable magazine archives as part of the Print project on the site. Alongside articles on important publications like Cheap Date, it’s set to up features on Scott King and his Sleazenation work, plus an analysis of Peter Saville’s work on 1989’s New Order Untitled book — a tour programme that Saville barely finished in time for the tour’s conclusion. For many of us, youth culture and memorable magazines tend to fall into the same list — 1970s and early 1980s NMEs, Rolling Stone at its peak, Blitz, Interview, i-D and The Face. Gorman sidesteps the obvious to talk Lou Stoppard through some barely discussed gems — West One, Rags, Street Life, 19 and Ritz being just a few. Who would have thought that a jazz mag like Club International started with such strong artistic inclinations? The accompanying discussion gives some important insight regarding the role of the magazine as leader, then follower when it came to youth movements. Take 54 minutes out to watch this video, then check out all the features on the Print pages of the SHOW site. Afterwards, I recommend hitting up eBay to discover just how obscure and tough to track down some of Gorman’s gems are. A real education — just in case you thought you knew it all.
Northerners stay winning. As I sit here in the Lake District, 5 hours from London, I’m aware that I’m in a place where justifying some GORE-TEX expense makes a little more sense. Clobber-loving print publications from that side of the UK impress me time and time again to the point where I’m starting to repeat myself every time I receive new copies. Far more than just being about a jacket and a certain swagger, the Oi Polloi empire has spread south of late, but their always-excellent Pica~Post is an antidote to the influx of digital look books showcasing hollow-cheeked dudes looking uncomfortable in Sports Direct style gear on the periphery of a housing estate (just far enough away to avoid any potential wallet inspectors). Issue #9 (which retails for the comedy price of just 2p) contains an interview with perennial screen weasel David Patrick Kelly, who stole the show in classics like The Warriors. Commando, Dreamscape and Last Man Standing, before being one of the best characters in last year’s action masterpiece, John Wick. The team also got orthotic and put together a decent Mephisto feature that sheds some light on the billion dollar business built on uncompromised comfort, and how Arnie (star of the aforementioned 1985 fleck-suited, neck breaking, synth and kettle drum soundtracked favourite) and Pavarotti were fanatical about the brand’s offerings, complete with a shot of the rotund tenor wearing a pair — no shot of a rapper in freebie shoes without the super-soft walking experience can match that swagger. Proper’s new issue is a belter too, and they’ve gone Hollywood on us too — the illustrated guide to outfits in films is way better than another know-nada Steve McQueen fetish feature, singling out a few lesser-discussed sartorial screen moments, while Russ from TSPTR’s vintage sweatshirt collection will make you jealous.
Tumblr might be rife with anachronistic blends of 1990s and 1980s thrift store and eBay overspend styling, but there’s a few little spots where you can see some shots of those who were there with all the gear and some serious shoplifting skills. Having said that, is getting that throwback outfit historically correct even a thing any more? The internet has created its own timeless gang bang of reference points and music that makes historical correctness redundant. For a new generation, 1996’s iconography is as prevalent as what’s happening now. Factor in the sheer amount of homages to expensive technical outer wear and the reappropriation of rich guy garms of the 1990s and then has become fused with now like never before. Characters like Rack-Lo represent the old guard, and I never get tired of looking at the pictures from their past, as well as the different array of themed outfits you need to be up on if you rock the horse. His self-published The Lo Life Adventures of Rack-Lo book is online here and worth a browse.
There’s plenty of little moments scattered across publications that altered the course my career would take in one way or another. Back in mid 1998, The Face ran a ‘Fashion Hype’ (and hype would become a word attached to these objects like a particularly excitable Siamese twin in the decade that followed) piece on the newly opened Hit and Run store (which would be renamed The Hideout for presumed legal reasons by 2000). This two page spread was a rundown of things I’d never seen in the UK and sure enough never seen them with a pound price next to them. I immediately rushed out and asked a couple of Nottingham skate stores if they’d be getting any Ape, Supreme, GoodEnough or Let It Ride gear in, only to be met with a blank stare. lesson learnt: Kopelman had the hookups that the other stores didn’t. This Upper James Street spot was selling APC jeans for 48 quid, while Supreme tees were only a fiver less than they are now. The 1998 season when Supreme put out their AJ1, Casio, Champion tee, Goodfellas script design and Patagonia-parody jacket was particularly appealing, and it was showcased here, while SSUR keyrings, BAPE camo luggage and soft furnishings were a hint of things to come. I guarantee that once you made it to the store, a lot of the stuff that you assumed you could grab with ease would be gone — an early life lesson that hype just isn’t fair.
I’m late to the party again, but I only just realised that two Read And Destroy tributes are on the market and both are excellent. After the RAD event a few months ago, there seemed to be a new wave of nostalgia for the legendary skate magazine (shouts to the team behind the recently launched Free Skateboard Magazine after Sidewalk’s recent demise — DIY efficiency in effect). Two shirts coincide and compliment that goodwill for the scene’s most iconic publication; Dear Skating is a love letter label that remakes the much-missed or impossible to find tees from a golden era of street skating, like Gonz’s Israel design from Video Days, with a vintage wash, and they’ve made an homage to the shirt that was advertised in the magazine that’s available now in stores like Flatspot and Native. if you’re looking for a tribute with a twist, Fergus Purcell and Sofia Maria’s male wing of the excellent Aries brand has created the RADER hybrid of RAD and Thrasher to take it one louder. It’s a fusion that works (was Skate Action the Transworld to RAD’s Thrasher, or is that bit of a reach?) and it unifies two of the greats. Slam Jam and Palace have got the Aries homage in stock. One of the forums created a DAD version for the skate fathers out there a few years back, but sadly, I couldn’t find a picture. Memories make for good gear.
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.