Nothing much to report here right now because I’m fed up of the MacBook screen after transcribing two and a half hours of conversation. But here’s a couple of things I wrote for some friends who sell stuff — a short piece on the Stüssy Tribe for MR PORTER (that 1990 CUTiE spread above stays gold) and a bit on the Converse One Star (one of my favourite shoes ever — there’s something a bit longer written for another outlet on the same subject too) for size? Two subjects dear to my heart that crossed over with each other too (as evidenced in the UK newspaper supplement that showcased a couple of pairs on Shawn’s fireplace back in 1993).
Minimal update today because I’m working on some Nike Basketball stuff. Staying on that theme, here’s an ad I’d forgotten about that I haven’t seen online. This one advertised Nike Air Jordan kidswear in 1990, back when anything with the Jumpman on was necessary, even if it was some questionable apparel (shouts to the shell suit fabric/faux leather/mesh hat I used to wear) or a bootleg chain. You had to be seriously spoilt to be getting the children’s gear though. The Batman theme was doubly relevant because this arrived just after Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight wore specially modified Air Trainer SCs (A.K.A. the Air Trainer III) in the 1989 Batman and Jordan VIs in Batman Returns.
That’s your lot. I’m heading back to the editing process.
I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to miadidas before, because it always came off like a weaker, under-utilised rival for NIKEiD, but the photo print app is some next level entertainment. It works like Instagram and the end result is solid — the open mesh Flux didn’t do a lot for me when it debuted because it sailed too close to the Roshe in my eyes but the wave printed nylon variations had me hyped. I’ve heard that numbers in the low thousands and IG-style filter systems are going to weed out any schemes to create some genital pattern one-offs. Shoe collaborations are duller than they’ve ever been these days — promiscuous and biased brand behaviour has meant every weekend is strewn with conceptual limited edition mediocrity — and this technology means that the individual can create a shoe that’s a lot better. Seeing as I’m a huge nerd, I lazily chucked a repeat print of a German catalogue page from 1990 onto the shoe — those Torsion inclusions in Kays catalogue back then were cause to beg to pay weekly for some ZX 8000s and the bashy rudeboy days of the technology deserve to be depicted in OTT fashion. From a Q&A with the mighty Peter Moore for a forthcoming project, I was unaware of how much the Torsion designs underachieved in America — they were a driving force in EQT’s creation because Moore really disliked the look of the system. We Brits always seemed to love those early creations and I believe that I’ve created the geekiest shoe ever made in its honour.
I’m taking part in a discussion this Thursday on documenting youth culture with Ewan Spencer, Nina from What We Wore/The Cut (whose book drops soon with an intro by the don Ted Polhemus) and Clive Martin from Vice. There’s more information on it right here.
If you’re UK-based and struggling to find anything good on Netflix, Matt Wolf’s Teenage is 77 minutes well spent, bringing some visuals to some of the more interesting tribes explored in Jon Savage’s book. Having failed to attend a screening last back and hunted for another showing to no avail, I was surprised that somewhere that’s often so bereft of anything I want to watch was housing it. Like the curse of the Amazon Prime trial, nobody ever cancels Netflix on time — even if they DIY tattoo the final free date on their hands and eyeballs — so you may as well watch something that’s worth a month’s payment on its own.
On the North Face front, the Scott Schmidt Steep Tech line seems to get plenty of attention, but the original money was with the earlier, ultra sophisticated TransAntarctica collection, created for the 1989-1990 foot, ski and sledge expedition, where a global crew of six men from six nations that included Will Steger and a pack of huskies would travel 4,000 miles across the Antarctica over 220 days — the first ever crossing without any motorised assistance. With their heavy fabrics, doomed explorers like Captain Scott and his party would find out that apparel mattered earlier that decade, but this twelve-piece collection, custom created by Erickson Outdoors for The North Face, GORE-TEX and DuPont and made in the USA, was integral to the crew’s success. It even included shoes for the dogs to protect their paws.
It’s interesting that, for functional reasons, the shells were linerless, exposing the GORE-TEX membrane and the system’s colourway of three colours were specially chosen to be visible in a low visibility situation as well as visible for the extensive TV coverage of the journey — orange is considered more visible than red, turquoise, according to the 1990 Ski magazine feature above and below is “…psychologically soothing” and purple is apparently amplified when it’s contrasted against snow. Erickson managed to twin technology with Eskimo traditions that had been common sense for centuries. You can see the gear being worn for its purpose here and in this 20th anniversary video.
The North Face would put out a TransAntarctica collection at retail in 1990, with the vast GORE-TEX stitching on the shells and the six-flag logo, representing America, Britain, France, Japan, Russia and China (not a combination often seen in this kind of unity), plus some rugged stretch fleece designs, plus 3M detailing — all inspired and modified from the expedition spec rather than being 1:1 copies. Those expedition pieces are definitely world’s best jacket contenders and — with all the crazy patches — they’d probably be Homer Simpson approved.
Nothing to see here (again) but I feel compelled to draw your attention to TheTapeToday’s YouTube channel for this short documentary on the LA Gear/Nike rivalry. LA Gear will always lose for its Jordan copy MVP series and Reebok Twilight Zone imitation Regulators and, with Robert Greenberg leaving to found Skechers, that habit of creating some shoes ever-so-slightly similar to existing bestsellers remains. Of course, after this Sneaker Wars documentary screened in 1990, LA Gear didn’t topple Nike. Reebok would falter a couple of years later and after filing a lawsuit against Michael Jackson for not supporting their collaboration with a video or album (to which MJ countersued and the matter was settled in 1994), LA Gear’s Flak line — which seemed to be a response to Nike’s Raid and Ndestrukt offerings — would brick, while a controversy about mercury in LA Gear Lights caused extra PR problems. LA Gear will always be a bad look — don’t let any revisionist reissues or PR firms tell you otherwise. There’s a fair bit of describing kids as “Urban Street Warriors” here, down to billing MC Hamlet (who I believe is the same MC Hamlet who appeared on Malcolm McClaren’s 1990-era remixed output) with that job title, plus some insight from Ron Hill from Nike’s marketing department at the time, who was Tinker Hatfield’s nemesis when it came to product (in Tinker’s own words, if Ron liked it, he felt he was doing something wrong). Gotta love those stay in school and anti-drug ads with Bo and David too.
TheTapeToday also upped this 1990 sportswear showcase in a boxing ring which looks like it was from The Clothes Show or DEF II with Public Enemy and NWA on the soundtrack. That bootleg-looking Nike long-sleeve would shift plenty of units in 2014. Footage of Normski demonstrating an array of handshakes that same year brought back extra memories.
I see a release date for Contemporary Menswear: the Insider’s Guide to Contemporary Men’s Fashion. While the name of this book would make me want to hit myself in the eyes if this were in lesser hands, the fact that longtime supporters of this blog (and good blokes) Steven Vogel, Nick Schonberger and Calum Gordon are behind it means it will be decent.
26 hours late with the blog update. Sorry, I was on the phone to a faraway land. Seeing as this site is a receptacle for pictures of Mike Tyson (and this Peter Rosenberg interview is excellent — especially when he blames sour diesel for some of his capers and Teddy Atlas putting a gun to his head, because Teddy, as this interview attests is not a man to cross) the small image above of Mike running some running in the dark circa 1988, wearing some New Balances is a personal favourite. If we’re going to stay nostalgic this evening, I have to mention the Clothes Show hip-hop fashion in Bristol clip that Mr. Glenn Kitson brought to my attention before Christmas. I remember my mum calling me downstairs to watch this while she was ironing on a Sunday evening back in 1990. Kids with Jordan Vs and C&A denims, is one thing, but Brenton and Clinton eschewing baggy street style for some Kool G Rap and Polo esque executive realness, with Clinton’s suede jacket being a strong look and Brenton’s camel coat preempting Kanye’s Margiela number by 23 years. A Foot Locker Limited Edition tag on the Filas, Brizzy’s own Fi-Lo Paul ‘Fila’ Rogers in with the hat, shirt and hikers, a brief glimpse of the suede Champion footwear that Ewing and Pony man Roberto Mueller apparently had a hand in, and some chap trying to front in those shitty LA Gear MVP Jordan IV knockoffs are all part of a rare snapshot of a time when people flossed in beaten shoes and fake Chipie.
When every piece of sports footwear territory has been covered already, it’s interesting to see how things are developing. When no idea’s original, we’re hunting for things to reissue. A Jumpman becomes a swoosh and servers melt down on a Jordan III, the Undefeated Dunk I always wanted that originally appeared as 48 pairs reappears on Saturday and last weekend mita dropped the Air Max 95 neon (the best running shoe ever) in its Prototype form. There’s something about fiending for a co.jp AM95 that makes me feel I’ve gone full circle (or regressed, like Benjamin Button), but I’m sure the taxes on its delivery will slap me out of that euphoria. What’s so special about a black tongue on an AM95? It was featured in a Boon AM95 Q&A with designer Sergio Lozano as an early sample. Salutes to Japanese fanboys for bringing that back. I know it won’t have p.s.i. pressure markings, but I can deal with that. Nike need to drop more prototypes — remember the Air Trainer 1 First Take based on Tinker’s early AT1 sketches that weren’t possible to manufacture in 1987? And did I dream it or did an alternate Air Raid in a similar vein drop in the early 2000s? Anyway, here’s a picture of Sergio with the shoe that had hardcore fans hyped.
As a product of the video shop days, there was no way I was going to miss this. REWIND THIS! is a documentary about the power of the tape in putting b-movies on the same shelf as big budget films. Provided there was gore on the back and a lurid cover, the rental store was a democratic place where I could be equally as excited about Conan the Barbarian and Deathstalker, despite the latter’s crappiness once I got it home. I’m looking forward to Adjust Your Tracking too, which documents a contemporary VHS obsession. Were it not for the video format, I would have not seen that Clothes Show clip again, or Phase2 and Daze on a Melbourne TV show (The Factory) in 1988.
It’s alway good to see London spots in Japanese magazine, so seeing Good Hood and The Hideout in Clutch was a good look. What’s even better is that they’ve given Rich from The Hideout a comedy shouty speech bubble, which is nearly as good as getting slandered by some wild nickname in the Rugged Museum at the back/front of Free & Easy like labeling a man with a tiny noggin “Mr Little Head” in an issue a few years ago.
Homer Simpson once said, “There’s only two kinds of guys who wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big fat party animals.” I think the Engineered Garments Hula Girl Popover Shirt sidesteps Homer’s theory, provided you smoke like a chimney and have a big fucking quiff. It would look good on big fat party animals too if they could fit into EG designs.
Since Nick at Classic Kicks put me onto a video of Eli Bonerz showcasing the X-Large store in 1992 on MTV’S House of Style, I’ve had dusty adidas Campus and Conart on the mind. We have tendency to sidestep a few brands when it comes to street wear retrospect, sending graffiti-inspired brands into some kind of rap-addled nowhere zone that’s neither skate nor street enough for some folk. That’s bollocks of course, because Conart and Third Rail created their own lanes back in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Now, tag and burner covered cotton isn’t necessarily what I’m wearing, but flicking through old issues of ‘The Source’ and ‘Can Control’ I’ve seen ads that had me hastily researching (pre-internet) the world of international money orders to at least lay my hands on a catalogue and stickers.
Third Rail’s expansion into different elements of apparel (I don’t recall hearing the term cut and sew back then) and Conart’s spin on a classically west coast small front logo and graphic explosion across the back with the oval chest lettering belying the graffiti characters mean-mugging on the shirt’s reverse all blew my mind in my early teen years, and while I knew the legendary RISK from reading ‘Spraycan Art’ until the binding broke and was aware that he was a key mind in the Third Rail empire, it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I realised that Conart’s Ash Hudson is Slash’s younger brother. It’s odd how some brands don’t quite get the shouts they deserve, but Conart and Third Rail cemented LA’s position as the birthplace of street wear as we know it. I’m sure every brand making gear elsewhere, be it New York, Tokyo or London, would concede the power of west coast labels inspired them to make their own power moves, fused with their local aesthetics, trends, movements and attitude.
These two brands made full use of the merger of style, airbrush custom culture, long legacy of Cholo style letterforms, technical flare and everything else that differentiated LA’s graffiti from other regions. As far as ambassadors for other coasts went, the moment Biggie wore a Conart tee to wield a machine gun, a certain immortality was cemented.
Taken from RISK’s Third Rail post
This December 26, 1994 ‘LA Times’ article captures a certain moment in time (even if it seems to misspell RISK’s real name):
He once took spray-paint cans and made the city of Los Angeles his imagination’s canvas, but Ash Hudson has now turned a third-story Rampart Boulevard loft into a studio where L.A.’s biggest vandalism problem is a business success story.
A former graffiti vandal—or tagger, in the vernacular of the streets—Hudson turned entrepreneur in 1989 by founding a firm called Conart. He has turned it into a clothing distributor that designs graffiti images for T-shirts and caps and boasts of 1994 orders totaling $1 million.
Conart (convict and art) now employs half a dozen paint-can-wielding staff artists and provides free-lance work for others, helping to focus their creative energies into a lucrative business.
“We’re occupying so much of their time that they don’t have time to go out on the street,” said the 22-year-old Hudson, a native of Culver City.
Taggers have been dreaded and hunted in major cities since urban teens began vandalizing buildings, subways and freeways in the late 1970s. The term refers to the vandals’ tags, or personalized signatures, they attach to their handiwork around the city.
But out of this illegal pastime have sprung legitimate graffiti artists, claiming a niche in the contemporary art world as well as in the clothing industry.
Dozens of graffiti clothing companies have started in big cities throughout the country, particularly in Los Angeles and New York and mostly by former taggers, said Robert Christofaro, a graphic designer for In Fashion, a trade magazine in New York City. Many of the companies have found it hard to stay afloat.
“A lot of them can’t manage to stay open . . . it’s a hard marketplace,” Christofaro said.
But for many, graffiti has become an avenue to opportunity. The clothing designs have attracted a large following of young adults who grew up fascinated by the genre.
“All the people that are most successful in the graffiti scene have expanded but held on to their graffiti roots. . . . The whole thing is being innovative,” said Kelly Gravao, another ex-tagger, who now owns Third Rail, an alternative clothing company in Boyle Heights. Third Rail also began by selling graffiti designed T-shirts and caps, but has since expanded its clothing line.
Gravao, 26, was arrested on many occasions and even shot in the leg when he tagged “in the wrong neighborhood,” he said.
Third Rail has grown 300% in sales since it opened in 1990, not long after Conart, Gravao said. He has one retail clothing store, Crazy Life, and is about to open a second in Hollywood. He said his focus has shifted from graffiti to various other clothing designs, targeted at surfers, skateboarders and snowboard enthusiasts.
Conart, he said, is one of the survivors in the graffiti-clothing business, benefiting when many imitators fell by the wayside. Today it sells to 470 accounts at specialty stores across the United States and as far away as Japan, where graffiti designs have become very popular.
“In Japan they’re not doing Japanese letters, they’re doing American letter schemes,” Hudson said.
Conart does half of its business there, where its designs are sold out soon after they are sent out, he said. He has even heard of bootleg Conart T-shirts being sold around Tokyo.
“(Graffiti) has become a big thing now with rap. . . . In one week everything (in stores) is sold out,” said Ken Kitakaze, who has coordinated Conart’s distribution to at least 50 stores throughout Japan for the last four years.
Conart is “the original maker of the graffiti street-style T-shirt,” said Paul Takahashi, a buyer for Extra-Large, whose clothing stores in Hollywood and New York were among the first to carry Conart’s designs. The market was saturated with imitators as soon as Conart’s designs hit stores, he said.
“We carry Conart because we try to keep the more original stuff.”
Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, New York marketing-trend consultants, said that recently clothing targeted to young adults has been dull. In the clothing industry the time is right for visually exciting pieces, like the ones graffiti artists design, she said.
The T-shirt designs are colorful and mesmerizing, but at the same time they often touch on social issues—and take a controversial point of view.
One of Conart’s depicts a Ku Klux Klan member holding his infant son, who is also dressed in the white garb of the organization. At the bottom it says: “Future Police Officer.” Another shirt is a caricature of two black men, one holding a gun and the other waving a flag that says: “No Justice No Peace.”
Hudson, an African American whose dreadlocks dangle to his chest, didn’t expect any of this success. Big business snuck up on him and his “conartists,” as he calls them. It snowballed when he began selling graffiti designed T-shirts in front of high schools at age 16.
Dammit, internet. You’re supposed to keep me updated on everything that happens, yet the launch of Foot Locker’s Europe-only (allegedly) rollout of Nike Huarache LEs wasn’t brought to my attention until they were all over eBay. The Huarache is the shoe that changed everything back in the early 1990s (you don’t see kids embracing modern silhouettes any more on these shores), then had a second wave in the early 2000s at road level again alongside a swathe of monotone Huarache Trainers too. Apparently these Black and Tour Yellow 2012 reissues are just the start of a summer-long rollout. I can’t get down with this shoe when it’s sat on a Free 5.0 sole and while I’d prefer some mesh in that toe box rather than Durabuck type fabric, these are pretty banging.
If supplies had been more plentiful (thank you Tan for the hookup), I think the streets would have been flooded with them once again. Instead it felt like the Foot Locker Limited Edition hangtag days of old. I’d like to think that it was a connoisseur backlash to the Free editions that led to the re-release, but I think ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and Wiz Khalifa are the entities that got these signed off. Still, in an era where every element of sports footwear is previewed, given closer looks and even the opening of a box is broadcast, that a release like these could come and go in relative silence is kind of odd.
Drop 3 of Our Legacy’s Splash collection appears online tomorrow. Serious looks, animal print Cosmo Kramer style shirts and Riri zippered designs with constellations printed on them? As I’ve mentioned before, this brand is untouchable at the moment. Defining the rollover basics at ‘Rollover’? Good move. The Oi Polloi exclusives, contrast armed Great Sweats, tracksuit bottoms that bring a refined edge to the uniform of the unemployed and pretty much everything they make appeals to me without being mired in the beige pixel world that so many other upstart menswear lines are. Tres Bien also still have the best blog of any store, bar maybe the Hundreds.