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.
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.