What do you know about tech penny loafers? Borne from a decision to launch a casual line of men’s footwear, the Nike Vagabond is a weird shoe — pure dad wear, this loafer was released in 1982. Part of a collection (shown here) that seemed to be a response to Freizeit styles from the Germans and was, according to lore, a decision made over targeting the aerobics explosion. Cambrelle lining, the Octo-Waffle spin on Bowerman’s traction patterning and, best of all, a full-length Nike-Air unit in the sole, this design and the Bedouin didn’t sell well. In fact, the Vagabond’s existence seems to have been forgotten completely. That’s a shame, because this model is so ugly that it’s actually memorable. I doubt that there will ever be a reissue of this obscurity. After Nike acquired Cole Haan in 1988 they flirted with some similar cushioning concepts — in fact, they put Tensile Air in their shoes — which included slip-ons — from 1990 (dropping the technology in 1992 to shift from rear and forefoot units to a full length version in 1993), half a decade before Tensile Air appeared in Nike products. Tensile Air would be renamed Zoom Air by 1996, making those earlier formal CH designs pretty pioneering. I always assumed that the delay in launching Zoom Air as an athletic technology was down to a focus on visible, bombastic forms of cushioning back in the early 1990s.
I want to watch a bootleg copy of the new Ben Affleck film (no Gigli) so this is a rush job. The Timberland brand has been an organisation close to my heart since the notion of amassing £120 for a pair of boots was impossible and I had to settle for CAT. Shit, I even considered Lugz back when Erick Sermon was plugging them in jeans big enough to block out the sun and cause a global rickets crisis, but you always knew you were compromising. For all the ‘Watchdog’ talk of quality or unfounded rumours about them and their enthusiastic hip-hop market, an ad with, say, Das EFX in ‘The Source’ would have ultimately deaded the Timberland brand. I’m not mad at the way it wasn’t all up in the rap press desperately trying to be down (though I still don’t mess with the roll-tops) during my teen years. As Timberland weather approaches and their 40th birthday is impending (though the Abington Boot Company launched 60 years ago), here’s some old Timberland ads. The blocky TIMBERLAND lettering to promote the “Outdoors-Proof Boot” in 1976 shows how the brand design has evolved and the 1979 campaign with a hillbilly family in wheat workbooks that, rather curiously, depicts them as the shoe of the moonshine maker hiding from Treasury Agents, is a gem, complete with a tagline that pre-dates Stella Artois’ “Reassuringly expensive” campaign — “A whole line of fine leather boots that cost plenty, and should.” 1982 was seemingly the year that Timberland declared boat shoe beef with Sperry Top-Sider with shot after shot. Brands didn’t do subliminals back then — shots fired, man overboard! Can I still enter the 1984 sweepstakes for Black & Decker powertools? The copywriting’s pretty solid throughout the 1980’s as GORE-TEX enters the line and the Super Boot era begins. I never realised that it took until 1991 for the brand to drop proper hikers either. I love these ads.
To coincide with the exhibition that’s in Berkeley California right now (though I’m hoping to catch in Boston next April) a full mid-career retrospective book is dropping next month and it looks tremendous and curiously affordable too. The Damiani book from 2009 was substantial, but this 448 page behemoth is something I’m judging by its cover, but you know it’s going to be necessary. Here’s Berkeley Art Museum’s Lawrence Rinder (who, put the book together alongside assistant curator Dena Beard) and Jefferey Deitch talking about Barry McGee. There’s a few more videos on YouTube courtesy of BAMPFA, including an excellent slideshow created by McGee.
Just as some sites seem to have fostered Kitty Genovese syndrome on a global scale, with hordes more likely to whip out the phone to film before they’ll ever call for help, I’ve long felt that social media has a tendency to sustain grieving to the point where it simply becomes crocodile tears. If it’s not a death, it’s a birthday of a dead person, then the anniversary of that death and I felt that I’d become a little hardened to all that. After all, how can you feel real sadness for the passing of somebody you never met? Then Adam Yauch died and I felt guilty for being so cynical, because — trite as it sounds — it genuinely felt like I’d lost a mentor.
This blog can’t be neatly summarised, but I can assure you that at nearly every level, there’s some Beastie Boys influence — despite MCA’s admirable achievements as an individual, I’m afraid that I see the trio as one. Instead I treat the Beastie Boys as a leaping trinity of differently pitched sounds operating in unison. I can’t pin down the people who visit here either, but I know — from comments on skate and clothing entries in particular — that the Beastie Boys had a vast impact on them. The Beastie Boys were a conduit for pretty much every sub-cultural element I’ve ever taken an interest in. Lee Perry, John Holmes, Spike Jonze, Minor Threat, Slayer, Ben Davis (see above for evidence of that brand’s impact on me), adidas Campus, PUMA Clydes and all the rest were all interconnected by Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D’s joyous brain farts of cultural references. Let them decipher it rather than offer a simplified path — those that get it will get it eventually. ‘Grand Royal’ magazine’s frequent journalistic gems opened my eyes to the joys of self-indulgent long form writing, Todd James’ Brooklyn Dust logo is still one of my favourites, the talk of deadstock shoe sourcing (and we’ll forgive them for inadvertently spawning the crappy Sneaker Pimps) and Mike D’s involvement in X-Large is a pivotal moment in street wear.
A fair chunk of the industry I work in is the byproduct of something that the Beastie Boys contributed to significantly and I know, from Russ at Unorthodox Styles’ office on my first job interview there, that they’d made a mark on him too. So I kind of owe them for providing me with a source of income and as a founder member, Yauch can take a fair amount of that gratitude from me. If you operate in the street wear realm at any level, you’ve got to doth a snapback to the man — think back to the X-Fuct era, Nigo doing his homework by studying X-Large’s ape preoccupation (which went full circle when Ad-Rock wore Very Ape and the crew wore and collaborated with Bathing Ape) and MCA wearing a Supreme coach jacket to meet the Dalai Lama. They embraced the internet pretty early on too (I can remember thinking X-Large shunning paper catalogues for a website wasn’t going to catch on — turns out I was wrong). All that and I haven’t even mentioned the music.
From seeing the Beastie Boys get vilified on the cover of ‘The Sun’ when they toured with Madonna, I found myself festooning crudely drawn characters with equally poorly rendered VW logos at the age of 9 in every notebook at school. The Beastie Boys had strippers and the press said that they made fun of disabled kids. As a kid myself, that seemed funny. Just as the charts were riddled with comedy raps, the contents of ‘Licence to Ill’ seemed to fit in perfectly (and in retrospect, given the boys’ misunderstood self-parody, satires like ‘No Sleep Til Bedtime’ were doubly weak). Then they vanished for a minute after cropping up in a Sky Movies classic, ‘Tougher Than Leather’ (despite being regarded as a flop, an album that helped cement my love of hip-hop way more than ‘Raising Hell’ did — I know a few other rap nerds that feel the same). After ads cropped up in the specialist press and ‘Smash Hits’ alike, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ seemed to hit with a thud, despite the deserved good will it amassed later down the line. I especially like the revelation in the articles below that the Beastie Boys horror-comedy film they were meant to make with Russell and Rick — ‘Scared Stupid’— which was going to be followed up by a ‘To Catch a Thief’ remake starring Oran’ Juice Jones was deaded when Molly Ringwald talked Ad-Rock out of making it because it might harm his acting credibility.
My blood boiled when 3rd Bass took potshots at them (“Screaming ‘Hey Ladies’? Why bother?”) at the close of ‘Sons of 3rd Bass’ (Whiteboys calling whiteboys “devils” always confused me). Then the Beastie Boys owned the decade that followed and taught me that being unpleasant to ladies wasn’t that cool, growing up publicly. Not a lot of bands can do that and while the whole instrumental jam and comedy ‘Country Mike’ material never did anything for me, you had to respect the willingness to experiment. Plus they proved to we rap-loving crackers that just being your damn self and getting whiteboy wasted was the key to longevity, rather than haplessly trying to be “down”, and that through a few degrees of separation, pretty much everything was hip-hop in one way or another. I still kind of blame them for inadvertently creating Limp Bizkit and co, but despite that charmless mutant offspring misinterpreting what went before, the good far outweighs the bad.
Skipping from talk of skin colour, how many rap groups from the early 1980s are still together and more importantly, how many would you still pay to see? That’s the real mark of the Beastie Boys’ achievement. Some argued that forty-somethings spitting fly gibberish over distorted drums might have started to lose its appeal as an MP3, but live they could still crush it. Plus, they really seemed to be friends offstage — this was no marriage of convenience, which makes Adam’s passing all the more heartbreaking.
At a push, if I had to pick, MCA was the best rapper of the trio — as with the equally missed Guru, it’s mostly the voice, with those gruff tones counteracting the nasal nerdery at work. I’m particularly fond of his insanely stoned delivery on an early demo of ‘Car Thief’. Yauch’s film work (not dissimilar to George Harrison’s work with Handmade) with Oscilloscope Laboratories is significant too in supporting great output — ‘Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot’, directed by Adam, was strong. This is just a scraping of what MCA achieved too — it’s the art of turning music, art, clothing, film, sport and print into one big playroom, but somehow adding integrity into the mix too. Nobody else will ever match that, but even a handful of lessons learnt are enough to keep things moving.
Goodbye Adam Yauch — cheers for everything.
The images below are taken from this ‘Spin’ article from 1998 that’s a must-read.
Here’s the whole of ‘Tougher Than Leather’ in all its trashy glory. MCA just jeers and pulls some faces when he’s off the stage, but that doesn’t stop the Beastie Boys cameos from being excellent.
Being a fan of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s filmic output is becoming increasingly like having a weekend dad break your heart fortnightly with grand promises that never manifest. ‘King Shot’ sounded magnificent, but never made it out the gate. Then we were promised an ‘El Topo’ sequel, ‘Abel Cain’ again (after those ‘Sons of El Topo’ press packs in 1996, I was a little skeptical) that seems to have stalled too (though it’s promised after his next movie). Now, Alejandro’s talking about bypassing the industry entirely to make his autobiographical ‘La Danza de la Realidad’ (‘The Dance of Reality’) via a Kickstarter style method of crowd-sourced funding. You can see his plea for dough here, and given the great man’s presumed difficulty to work with and a studio situation where the remake is announced before we ever see the original, it’s probably the last opportunity to see Jodorowsky’s work onscreen. Alas, there aren’t equally volatile rock ‘n’ roll accountants like Allen Klein around to put up the money any more. If you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, I recommend (as I have done here many, many times) picking up the ‘Santa Sangre’ Blu-ray that plays in any region’s machines or watching the excellent ‘La Constellation Jodorowsky’ documentary from 1994 that some kind soul has upped onto YouTube in one piece. Watch and consider contributing. Hopefully our hard-earned cash and the great man’s shamanistic zeal might combine to instigate a miracle.
On the remake front, apparently there’s already a ‘The Raid’ redux on the horizon before the OG hits cinemas. The film’s had a western renaming to ‘The Raid: Redemption’ for its Sony Pictures Classics distribution later this month. The new trailer isn’t as hyperviolent as last year’s taster, but it still makes it look amazing. Collider.com’s lengthy making of sells the film in nicely, rather than spoiling it. Apparently that new title was applied because it’s the first part of a trilogy and for legal reasons. The new poster isn’t the greatest, but it gives you a little idea as to what to expect. It all sounds a little like a zombie—free ‘La Horde’ with some superior fight scenes and no undead….okay, it sounds nothing like ‘La Horde,’ but that double tap to the noggin from the original trailer indicates that there will be blood. Tons of it.
I strongly recommend that you stop by Jason Jules’ Garmsville for a shot of Dexys Midnight Runners looking very sharp indeed. I wasn’t expecting much from ‘Jocks & Nerds’ magazine at all, but the new issue caught me off guard, with a particularly good piece on Rowland and company via Jason. It’s a shame that this portrait never made the cut. While we’re talking sharp-looking musicians, these images of a press mode Bo Diddley taken by Phyllis Juried around 1973 are fantastic too.
The Undercover Uniqlo UU collection still has yet to knock me sideways. Crop trousers and a scattering of cargo pockets on garments is a little “Oi Oi saveloy” pallid Brit in the beer garden and skinny jeans with a zip aren’t my thing, but the UK pricing seems reasonable enough to warrant a closer inspection to change my mind. The latest range of GYAKUSOU seems to be the point where everything comes together, from the branding to the apparel to the footwear and all the innovations that have been developed over the past three seasons, so I was anticipating an extension of Uniqlo’s Heattech via the mind of Jun. The actual offerings seem more in line with the Uniqlo spirit of basics. I’m reliably informed that it doesn’t come up triple extra smedium like the Nike apparel product, but I’m assuming that the sweat/motorbike jacket is a pleather affair for £79.90. The equally priced Hooded Blouson looks pretty appealing though.
Can every brand with the same narcolepsy look books and irksome talk of “shirting” please take a leaf out of Our Legacy‘s book and just be excellent? OL’s got its share of Euro-imitators, but it just goes beyond the call of duty with the prints for spring—summer. Their already well-documented photoshoot by Oliver Helbig is a pitch perfect showcase of what they offer, and the split between the quirky and everyman offerings is a smart move. Saniforized non-shrink tees? Red Melange sweats? Even last year’s ’50’s-styled Arrow shirt pales alongside the Indigo Potplant 1950’s Shirt and Floral Camo and Jungle Pattern First Shirt. And if you can pull off the Ethnic Pattern Sunday Messenger Shirt and matching Reform Trouser together then you’re a thousand times cooler than I am. The white-on-white Snow Leopard print Success Shirt is a nice wildlife print too that’s a conservative compromise. Our Legacy has lapped the dull competitors vying for rack space over the last few years — surely APC levels of success are beckoning?
I won’t pretend I’ve ever paid much attention to North Face footwear — even when Show & AG decided they were going to wear their footwear above Timbs. I was interested by their PUMA Disc style fastening a few years back and their Back to Berkeley boot with the olde hiker design cues, but I’ve never cared too much for their shoes. I like some of their newly released European-made offerings though, like the S4K GORE-TEX design though — Italian factory, Vibram soled, cradle comfort aided, TPU caged future footwear. Its been a while since I associated the brand with any alpine exploration, but these are built to accommodate crampons if you really want to tear up the carpets of your local cool kid hangout. This video’s pretty cool in depicting the development and production of a pair:
1982 is the year I became a non—believer and became preoccupied with movies — my true religion (word to Max B). Few things had an effect on me like ‘The Thing,’ ‘Conan the Barbarian’ or ‘Mad Max 2′ did (incidentally, I had to wait several years to see those ’15’ and ’18’ releases, even after they were released on video the following year), so Texas’s Alamo Drafthouse showing the ‘Summer of 1982’ on the big screen in 35mm with OG trailers on the 30th anniversary of their release dates sounds like a dream come too. This needs to tour the UK. The poster for the project is pure, distilled 1982.