If anything’s going to make you feel old, it’s doddering around while a younger generation wears something you were obsessed with when you were even more youthful than them. When I was 12, I wanted an all-red pair of Nikes. All burgundy, navy or green suede Fila F13s had a moment (in fact, my friend Frank’s embroidered crest adidas Forums — which went over a lot of people’s heads — tapped into that era perfectly). We loved Travel Fox, Ewing and Champion shoes (word to Roberto Muller) in block coloured suedes and never feared mustard uppers — it was a pretty defining look between 1990 and 1991, because we still seemed locked into a world of black or white with neon accents. The only way to go further was to flood a shoe, but it seemed that a lot of British buyers didn’t want to take the risk, so most Nike offerings from that era, like the Ultra Force (above) in its 1991 incarnation or the ultra-elusive other Forces (bear in mind that this was an era when Neneh Cherry would sign and give away her Solo Flights on live TV one Saturday morning) in that all red makeup were strictly import only (shouts to Scat on Bedford High Street) for us young ‘ins to stare at before they seemed to vanish after the summer of 1991’s explosion of all things monotone (down to Vikings if you were tough enough). There’s little argument that Kanye’s Nike and Louis Vuitton work and endorsement of the Balenciaga Pleated Hi-Top and ‘Independence Day’ AM90 Hyperfuse has created the new market for red footwear, but for us old folks, it brings back memories of a look that aged well. All-red Nikes represent a time when I became aware of brands, prices and the power it commanded with my peers — it’s nice to see that the window-gazing might be done electronically nowadays, but the saga is definitely repeating itself.
Huaraches have been ruined by appalling colourways and weird shapes, plus the fact they’ve been rereleased in one of the least imaginative periods in recent history. But not everybody shares that opinion. In fact, the shoes offer almost Jordan levels of traffic if you’re looking for click bait. My friends at Complex asked me to write a brief history of the shoe (excluding the pre-release situation when the shoe was scrapped) in the UK. That’s a good excuse to put that murky, lo-fi photo of the best way I ever saw the shoe worn (sans laces too) from The Face back in 1991 back up here. No time to do much of any substance on this blog today, so head over there if you want something a little longer. This nation did the shoe thing better than anyone else back in 2000. Now? Not so much.
I’m back from Canada and I can barely see because of the jetlag. The human body is pathetic. So pathetic that I thought it was Saturday yesterday and forgot to update this blog. I can’t say much about my Arc’teryx visit other than that witnessing the factory process upped my appreciation of the brand’s output and that I know more about GORE-TEX taping now than I knew last Wednesday. As a fiend for those Gore membranes in a jacket or shoe, it was borderline Wonka-like to see the processes, even though GORE-TEX itself, minus the shell or lining, is just an anonymous white sheet.
I’d wondered about the jacket Michael Jordan (not a stranger to bizarre sartorial choices) wore on his September 1991 ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance — a strange green quilted design, but the little Tinker Hatfield piece in the new US ‘GQ’ solves that mystery. “At one point I pushed for a less sporty sub-brand called Jordan Beyond. When Michael did SNL in ’91, he wore a Jordan beyond quilted green jacket. But I couldn’t make it happen. I’ve still got some samples, including a basketball shoe that was perforated like a wingtip.”
Jordan Beyond sounds like the genesis of the XI dress shoe concept and what the contemporary models are working with but it certainly seems to be a little at odds with the Jordan VI aesthetic. One day, I’m sure the ‘Jordan Beyond’ boxset, reproducing that unwearable jacket, will make an appearance. If the JB line had taken off, I’m sure it would have dated badly, but it doesn’t sound too far from the Cole Haan LunarGrand strategy, and I like to think it would have included a suit made of marl grey fleece with giant shoulders and Mike’s pleated dress pant, polo and wingtip steez in the mix too.
IDEA Books‘ mailout is the best out there and some of the oddities they obtain are phenomenal. As well as showcasing a Panini Fiorucci sticker album you’re unlikely to ever see a again, earlier this year they got hold of Vincent Alan W’s (a frequent photographic documenter of gay African-American crews), ‘The Bangy Book/New Yorker Street Boys’ — a compilation of Vincent’s 1988 era snaps of the Bangy/Banjee phenomenon, where hypermasculine goonwear and the “homeboy” look of the time betrayed stereotypes of sexuality (hence the Banjee part of the ball in the seminal ‘Paris is Burning’). The nudity’s going to alienate, but I can’t help but think that Banjee infiltrated hip-hop again during the last decade, resulting in contemporary hip-hop’s mess of big tongued shoes and couture cues. A rarity worthy or reappraisal, just because there’s not enough imagery of this movement around.
(Images lifted from the IDEA Books scans.)
On that 1980’s New York topic, the Leica Bruce Davidson video was cool (and I think I’ve broken down the impact ‘Subway’ had on me in installing a healthy fear of NYC on here before)
but I’d never seen this Bruce Davidson Q&A from last year at the Strand bookstore. Worth 52 minutes of your life.
Rick Ross might have shut down the internet for a few minutes on Friday, but Springsteen is still the true Bawse. Still, the prospect of a live E Street Band without Clarence is a troubling one. ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Jungleland’ won’t be the same without Clarence Clemons and judging by the laborious process to even find out if tickets for Springsteen’s London shows are still available, it looks like Ticketmaster won the war when it came to paying to see him, but Bruce still maintains a certain magnetism. He’s not the greatest dresser — misguided souls might believe it was jingoistic excess, but ‘Born in the USA’ wasn’t a regrettable phase musically, but that leather, denim and headband hasn’t held up well — and nor is he the worst, but the construct of the Bruuuuuuuce mythos means the outfit must come second to the sound to represent that absolute dedication to the craft (that doesn’t apply to the rest of the band, who wore some wild suits in their day).
That utilitarian approach to dress meant that Bruce managed to dodge some of the most regrettable looks of the 1970’s, but also put together some excellent outfits — the jacket and white v-neck tee (swooping, but not to the point of 2012 man-cleavage douchery or Givenchy chest bearing) on ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in 1978, the wooly hat and rolled up denim shirt from the sceptic smashing Hammersmith show in 1975 and the early Columbia press shots are my favourites. 1973 was a good year for my heroes and their garments, including Marvin Gaye’s double denim (yeah, the trousers might have been flared, but he still pulls them off — Bruce’s Hammersmith Odeon slacks were a little voluminous too) and red wool beanie from Jim Britt’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ session shots make for the coolest looking Marvin in his career, but while Gaye was in the process of redefinition, Peter Cunningham’s images of Springsteen around the release of ‘Greetings from Astbury Park N.J.’ in February 1973, in full interview conversation mode are the most effortless Springsteen outfit — beard, grey hoody, flannel shirt and denim. A no bullshit uniform from a time that taste occasionally forgot.
The sound matured from word-cramming opuses and the decades-old throwback romanticism, but Springsteen emerged cool. Not everybody could go balls-out like Bowie when it came to attire in 1973 and pull off teal tailoring or a pirate eyepatch and hoop earring combo. Still, they ended up meeting in 1974, and Bowie covered ‘Growin’ Up’ during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ sessions and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (with a coked-up soulful excellence), both from Springsteen’s debut. An image from John Kalodner captures the meeting of a megastar and a man on the edge of stardom with two very different dress senses.
Looking for some inspiration for something I haven’t made yet, I revisited Hype Williams’s troubled ‘Belly’ from 1998. Now the film’s fondly remembered after some negative reactions, but while the bulk is style over substance (not necessarily a bad thing, hence my love of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’ with a vampiric Bowie and a lesbian scene with Susan Sarandon that blew my pre-pubescent mind), the byproduct is still stunning. DMX can almost act, Nas can’t, but the film still captures that excess of the era perfectly. In fact, that film lacked a certain substance but reveled in excess makes it as much of an embodiment of hip-hop in 1998 as ‘Wild Style’ was of a rough and ready (and still sketchy) scene in 1982. The opening titles are still some of my all time favourites — the gooned-out masks in ultraviolet lights, the way the beat drops, silenced gunshots and the movement within the BELLY letters are all still on point, with Hype’s techniques still trickling down to WSHH premiered promos of mixtape tracks.
Hype Williams was 29 when he made ‘Belly’, having evolved from bad graf on the walls for ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1991 to his first video, ‘Two Minute Brother’ for BWP aka Bytches With Problems (he also directed ‘Come Baby Come’ for the equally forgotten K7) and then changing the look of an entire culture half a decade later from working with female acts with acronyms as group names. Seeing as Hype was inspired by Gaspar Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ for ‘All of the Lights’, I expected big things from a ‘Belly’ follow-up when it eventually happened, but his plans to direct a film from a Joe Eszterhas screenplay called ‘Lust’ was unexpected. Both Hype and Joe have pretty much been off the Hollywood radar since the late 1990’s, and yes,because Eszterhas is involved, it’s an erotic thriller. I’m interested to see how the film turns out if it’s ever made.
David Fincher’s translation from music video man to film director might have had a ‘Belly style production ordeal with ‘Alien³’ but he came of age, and just when it looked like he was going to be the stylish film with a big reveal guy, he drops ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Social Network’ on us. What’s consistent in his films is a focus on typography, motion graphics and the art of the opening title — Kyle Cooper’s ‘Se7en’ work (complete with Bowie’s ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ over the end titles if we’re going to tenuously try to link these entries with a Bowie birthday theme), Picture Mill’s ‘Panic Room’ sequence and P. Scott Makela’s ‘Fight Club’ design are all memorable. ‘The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’ doesn’t match those highs, but it works well as a slippery, gothier, bleak take on Bond opening credits, but like ‘Se7en’s opening, Trent Reznor’s work suits the mood. There’s a good breakdown of how the film’s opening titles were developed here, talking to Blur Studio’s Tim Miller who directed it. Salutes to masterful motion graphics dude Onur Senturk too. The sequence looks like the commercial for the Hewlett-Packard peripheral from hell, with Rick Owens on creative direction, but somehow that suits the movie.
I’m late to the party on this video interview with Stüssy Triber Lono Brazil, who also uploaded some footage of the International Stüssy Tribe 1st Annual Tribal Meeting in Tokyo from 1991. It’s worth a watch. Because I just used to gawp at the VHS cassette in clothing stores back in the day without every buying it, I’m not sure if it was on the old Stüssy tape back in 1992.
This blog commenced as an outlet for non-sneaker babble, but as time goes by, I find myself drifting in and out of obsession with pleather uppers and rubber soles. At present, I’m fiending for the J Crew New Balance 1400 and the Nike ACG Lunar Macleay. As in, really fiending for them—not finding myself attracted to the next best thing because the competition is so aesthetically displeasing, like 2:59am in a provincial nightclub. They will be mine. So consider this post a celebration of a purer approach to sports footwear.
Lately —and this is certainly no bad thing—I’ve spotted more and more loving tributes to sports shoes of old and a throwback to a more genteel time of footwear preoccupation. While there’s a part of my mind that wants to fill the information gaps on everything from my teenage years, I try to gag that voice for fear of slipping into regression. However, here was a point a short while back, when the shelves heaved with trainers self-consciously trying not to look like trainers and appalling hybrids. Brands were hopping aboard with “top-tier” collaboration “programmes” who just weren’t very credible the first time around. Everything seemed to implode. No wonder suede brogues made a reappearance in the most unlikely of sportswear-centric circles.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed and some good bits and pieces seemed to drop without the ruinous gaggle of pre-release shit that makes us hate product before we’ve ever physically felt it. I maintain that the darkest moment for fanboys and girls was awareness of collector culture and an attempt to harness that love with colours and fabrics rather than innovation and brand-new product. It’s refreshing that even ‘INVENTORY’—that perfect-bound periodical clutched by the stern-faced neo-hype massive maintains a very strong sneaker page that’s a good continuation of h(y)r’s original online magazine output.
Just as camo is back (and while I’m not paying £65 for a Champion repro tee I need a Real McCoys Tiger print jacket), the sneaker seems to have made another of its cyclical returns, and the blog realm is currently reflecting this. Want to know why? Because sauntering around with a tote bag rocking a cardi and sensible shoes is something we’re destined to do in our twilight years.
Of course, we oldies need to smarten up, but I propose we delay the inevitable slide into utterly sensible for a short while to come and dig out the articles that weren’t too tainted by the cynicism that retrospective shoe slurry can fuel. Complete crap can fuel negativity as if it was biomass, so I propose you kick back and read Bobbito’s ‘Confessions of a Sneaker Addict’ from May 1991’s ‘The Source’—reading it now, it’s pretty basic, given the electronic access to information we’ve long been exposed to, but those AF1s with a gold swoosh are no joke. Listening to nearly five hours of Stretch and Bobbito’s reunion radio show makes getting reacquainted with one of the original collector articles courtesy of Kool Bob extra timely.
I just finished writing a piece that’s a hefty love letter to the greatest period for footwear for another source and my mind is aching, hence the brief length of this entry. As an extra bonus, I chucked in the ‘Mass Appeal’ adidas basketball article from spring 2002 too—it’s not as enlightening as the phenomenal ‘Three is the Magic Number’ adi history from issue three of ‘Grand Royal’ (watch this space), but I don’t care much for the brand’s non-basketball output, so some of the imagery is priceless.