I love these old sports shop commercials for their low-budget knack for cramming as much as possible into thirty seconds. This early 1990s ad for Boston’s legendary Harry the Greek’s (which closed in 2001 after several decades in business) might be your only opportunity to see a crudely animated 1992 Torsion Allegra and tons of Champion, Reebok, ASICS and Fila flashing before your eyes. Plus the upgraded Forum of the time too — “I bought my Forums at Harry the Greek’s” is a testament to that shoe’s regional impact. It’s quick enough that stores should be making these things for Instagram video and not even bothering with other approaches to marketing. The sports store was always meant to be unpolished and this is as unpolished as it gets.
This French version of the 1988 ‘Come to the Stripes‘ commercial is also excellent and sounds better in another dialect — it does a good job of avoiding single brand bias, despite its speedy duration. Alabama’s Shoe City commercial from the same year harasses a man on the street and talks up the kind of dull, entry-level budget shoes that nobody got excited about then, but clueless people seem to like now because they’re old. Finally, a monk gets hyped with some Sonic Flights on his feet in an advert for Family Shoe Store in Williston, North Dakota.
My granddad used to look after his garden. He also used to dress up to tend it (I’m sure I’ve mentioned his gardening tie here before) so it seems right to put on a suit to work — I favour a complete sweatsuit for any freelance duties. It’s getting to the point where I feel I can cure writer’s block with fleece. I’ve worked on a few projects lately and as a result, I’ve got sweatsuits on the mind. After the shellsuit and Fuct yard suit talk on here during the last week, it makes sense to keep talking neck-to-ankle sportswear. I was a little confused by the Tenderloin split and who still works with whom and who’s at TIMEWORN ATLAST&CO, but as I understand, Toru Nishiura still holds down Tenderloin while Kei Hemmi is at TIMEWORN.
The recent Tenderloin range preview in SENSE contained the usual leather jackets and horse hide accessories that I can only gaze at after running the Yen/Pound price through xe.com (and that’s before postage, taxes and the outright theft of Royal Mail’s “handling charge”). I also know that I lack the beard and neck tattoos to pull off the Suede Hunting Vest. The scale of this line is always staggering and last season’s dressing gown is complemented in the casual stakes by this season’s Sweat Suit and Sweat Pant combos in green, navy or brown marl, with draw string, contrast waist and cuffs. The whole T-Sweat collection is always solid, even though I have yet to meet anyone who rocks this stuff over the revivalist denim stiffness, petrol station swagger and checks. A £385 Japanese-made romper suit? I’m in.
Shouts to the excellent Nagoya Yom for scanning those pages. I’m always fascinated at the grand scale of Japanese brands every season — especially when brands that barely exit their motherland have catalogues this dense with premium materials, basics and patterned garments. Nobody seems to do anything by half. no matter how many personnel changes Tenderloin experiences, I’ll always ride for it because it reminds me of Bond International’s final years on Newburgh Street and a time when Soho was scattered with retail refuges to avoid being in the office. Like Costanza in velvet (and contrary to Seinfeld’s dismissal of sweatpants as an act of resignation), I would happily drape myself in loopback cotton. It’s not an act of self-defeat — it’s a statement of excellence and a minimum of fucks given.
On the Tenderloin topic, how long before everyone’s dressing like an old world train driver again? You know something you liked is in tailspin when somebody writes a price guide on it. Jordan mania has even shoes that we Brits have traditionally never cared much for selling quickly (XIIIs used to hang around for a long, long time). Any market that’s filled with half-baked speculators is destined to implode soon and The Air Jordan Price Guide 2013actually exists. I thought the Rareairshoes Sneaker Freaker guide would lead to entire books of shoe prices, but it never seemed to happen (a lot of hype goods became worthless in the years that followed). I don’t hate resellers (they’re marginally less annoying than “sneakerheads”), but when athletic footwear is treated like Pogs or Pokemon and becomes the subject of conventions, you know something’s going to give soon.
Idea Books’ recent talk of the ‘Impresario: Malcolm McLaren and the British New Wave’ exhibition at the New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in winter 1988 is a good time to look at imagery of the Malcolm McLaren show in the NMOCA Digital Archive. Always the master re-appropriator, whatever your opinion of Malcolm, he almost certainly brought something amazing to your life in one way or the other. Whether the artists got paid properly is another thing. That his create-a-craze vision and Vivienne Westwood’s Buffalo Girls and Nostalgia of Mud collections brought Peruvian Indian and b-boy style together is something remarkable. He might have been a sub-cultural magpie but at least he took plenty of risks along the way and seemed willing to occasionally make himself look like a tit whenever it was required. By the end of the 1980s, everybody seemed to be robbing everybody — Malcolm took inspiration from NYC’s ball culture after seeing Paris is Burning and barely paid some vocalists before Madonna took the sound and made it go global. Surely Takahiro Miyashita’s Soloist vision owes a fair bit to the future hobo of Westwood’s Blade Runner backdropped and Duck Rock soundtracked Punkature show from 1982?
I think I’ve got a grip on the origins of pretty much every brand that had an impact on me during my childhood, but after they imploded, a lot of hip-hop cash-in companies didn’t leave much of a trail. While it’s easy to chuckle at the fly-by-night imprints that put out pricey outerwear then vanished and dismiss them as tat, what’s the difference between a Troop jacket and whatever godawful brand is hopping on floral prints right now? Nothing. Task Force remains a curiosity — just as Troop was booming, pre-KKK rumours (which I’ve always assumed were spread by a rival brand), their Jewish and Korean brand partnership seemed to spawn a ton of similar business models. I’ll concede that I thought Task Force was a sibling of Troop because I though it had a man with the surname Kim as an owner, like Troop’s William Kim. Then I found out just how common the Kim name is in Korea. Task Force put out jackets and shoes like Down Troop Sport’s output that were on sale in spots like London’s 4 Star General (which automatically, unquestionably made them seem credible to me), but looking back at them (it was the eBay-induced flashback of the Jekel stadium jacket where the below label is from that had me in nostalgia mode), the gear was pretty crap.
What I do know about Task Force is that it was a trademark of Eddy Sports Wear Inc. who were based in Brooklyn. Jekel was an Eddy brand who operated circa 1987-1989 who put out ski jackets, Task Force and the Extra Goose line (I’m assuming that the Eddy and Extra Goose thing wasn’t an Eddie Bauer rip). The names Jung Kuen Lee and Paul Siegert come up as folks involved in the company at a senior level, and it’s worth noting that New York’s garment district was awash with feather-filled lines around 1987 – Double Goose (I started assembling a Double Goose article that never got used and Thomas who obtained the DG licence told me, “Regarding the brand, we found out about the original owner by asking in Orchard street’s leather stores! He was an American-Korean living in NY”), Triple F.A.T. Goose and Goose Country were all doing their thing then too, which explains the strange trinity of Jekel, Task Force and Extra Goose on some badges on Task Force pieces. I’m sure Task Force made an appearance at the V&A’s Black British Style exhibition back in 2004, but I’ve seen little since. Their trademark expired in 1989 after being registered in 1988, which coincides with Troop’s collapse.
Normally I approach these blog entries with a certain confidence, but I know very little about this topic (this is just built on scraps), so if anybody knows more or has any Task Force shoe imagery, I’d love to see them. It might have been exploitative, badly designed and overpriced, but it’s not like brands are still pulling similar moves to channel a current zeitgeist and Task Force deserves a little spotlight if we’re trying to complete the bigger picture when it comes to UK street fashion throughout the years.
This week was a good one. As a result, there’s no rants on here whatsoever. The highlight was meeting Ray Barbee briefly at the Vans OTW spot in Berlin. It’s not cool to fan out, but it’s a natural response if it’s somebody you looked up to as a kid. I’ve only felt the lurching out-of-body fan reaction when I’m speaking to my childhood heroes — it happened during a conversation with Big Daddy Kane a few years back, and it very nearly happened during throwaway words with Mr. Barbee. It’s that flashback during an interaction to watching something or gawping at an LP cover with a feeling of distant awe a few decades prior, then realising that you’re chatting with that near-mythical individual. In 1988 and 1989 I watched Steve Saiz, Ray Barbee, Eric Sanderson and Chet Thomas’s ‘Public Domain’ section on repeat. I even held a tape recorder up to the TV speakers to get an audio copy of McRad’s ‘Weakness.’
Barbee in ‘Public Domain’ evokes a summer of listening to Run-DMC’s underrated ‘Tougher Than Leather’ and being apprehended by local metallers who were at least six years older than me who saw my ‘Killers’ t-shirt and asked me what my favourite Iron Maiden album was — on claiming that it was ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ they said, “Fuck off! It’s got keyboards on it” and proceeded to rub crisps into my mullet hairdo. Traumatic times. I have strong evidence that one of the gang was Chris Law, formerly of Crooked Tongues, adidas Originals and now a Converse resident in Boston. I’ll have my revenge one day.
Other than the KP/hair incident, it’s a time I remember fondly, but Ray and his boys had style, flow and an aggression, fluidly merging vert and freestyle elements with something new that transformed everybody’s perception of the landscape around them as we rode like grems — barely able to ollie — while performing our best vocal impressions of the ‘Weakness’ riff. I was a terrible skater, but in my head I was in that sequence. The skating, soundtrack and black and white film was an epiphany moment for me — it never made me a pro skater, but it fueled my preoccupation with sub-cultures. My mum said that preoccupation would never get me anywhere…and she was nearly right. But it got me to Berlin to meet Ray Barbee.
Now Stacy Peralta’s ‘Bones Brigade’ has debuted at Sundance (according to Hitfix, “Bones Brigade” also features cameos from the likes of Shepard Fairey, Ben Harper and Fred Durst, whose every appearance earned loud and vocal derision from the premiere night crowd.”), I assume that I won’t be alone in this 1980’s skateboard nostalgia this year. Flicking through a book and finding a RAD magazine sticker reminds me of the stickers that preempted the quest for Supreme box logos. These things are as evocative of 1988 as Powell’s VHS effort. I’m no OBEY fan, but their ‘Who is Chuck Treece?’ video on that story behind ‘Weakness’s inclusion from 2010 was excellent, as was Slap’s Ray Barbee ‘Public Domain’ commentary. Ray Barbee seemed like a nice bloke.
Another of the week’s highlights was the news that Giorgio Moroder would score Kim Jones’ menswear show for Louis Vuitton in Paris on Thursday. My preoccupation with Moroder’s work has been made clear here many times. Donna Summer, his classic ‘From Here to Eternity’ and ‘Midnight Express’s soundtrack are implemented and bombers, sharp, slim tailoring and some more eccentric elements are perfectly deployed to the tempo. The shiny metallic details, PARIS belts and headwear evoke something very contemporary, with some cues from a time when McDonalds coffee stirrers were perfect for cocaine usage (I like how the long-cancelled 1970’s freebies are listed as McDonalds Coke Spoon on eBay) for those doing bumps on a budget. So we know about Giorgio’s Cizeta-Moroder supercar creation and that he was trying to put together a musical called ‘Spago’ but ended up giving the name to Wolfgang Puck for his restaurant, but there’s always time to re-up this image of him openly doing a hefty line of chop, with his yayo carrier looking on. Giorgio Moroder…legend. Salutes to Fast Fashion for upping the Louis, Kris Van Assche and Rick Owens shows.
‘Men’s File’ magazine has such a pleasant price point and a deeper level of content than any heritage cash in, that it’s more than a fad rider — the Uncle Ralph co-sign and frequent emphasis on motorbike culture, makes it seem like something targeted at those people who like to learn the history and profiles some of the individuals who seem to pull off past looks as if they never left, rather than looking like they just wandered off one of those sepia-effect wild west family photos at a theme park. With their pop-up opening the other week on Lamb’s Conduit Street, issue six of the magazine dropped too. Their The Curator online store deals in replicas, so if you can pull off a 1950s motorcycle cap without looking like a laughing-stock, you’re probably one of the chosen few who’d end up in the pages of the magazine. The new issue has dogs, vintage garments and profiles on bare-bones custom bike build pioneer Shinya Kimura and another hero of mine, Mr. Hitoshi Tsujimoto of The Real McCoy’s.
I also enjoyed this interview at ‘A Fist in the Face of God’ with Kick and Sindre of Nekromantheon that discusses the creative benefits of drinking corpse water.
Anybody else perplexed at Quentin Tarantino’s dismissal of ‘Drive’ in the “Nice Try” category of his best and worst of 2011 lists? Is there only room for one film in the wilfully surface level car movie throwback stakes? ‘Drive’ wasn’t ‘Grindhouse’ fodder, but it could easily have slotted into a 1985 video store themed sequel.