Given the pandemonium around the latest Supreme season’s offerings, it seems like a good time to look at some lesser-discussed pieces on the brand. The trouble with the internet is that most of the folks who were first seem to have vanished, taken down their sites or simply left behind by their early 2000s lack of search engine savvy. Sadly, it seems that Nikolai’s Rift Trooper site (one of the key inspirations for this blog) has gone after he stopped updating at the close of 2009, but thanks to the wonders of web.archive.org, you can read his very short interview with James Jebbia from July 2002 back when btinternet.com hosted sites were a thing, and conducted between the own-brand Downlow shoe and the original SB project. Here’s the preserved version of the page. The other links on the page are down, but searchable too — shouts to Simon and his Concept Shop site, with its early history of the Supreme backpack. The article it references is a good one too — talented designer Kevin Lyons’ brief piece on the legalities and morals of borrowing imagery in streetwear, Cease and Desist: Issues of Cultural Reappropriation in Urban Street Design, featuring Russ from SSUR, Joseph from Union, James from Supreme (and Union) and Eric Haze’s in discussion on the topic. Taken from the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design’s January 1996 issue, it’s actually more illuminating than most lengthier examinations of the same subject from recent years. Seeing as Lyons had worked for SSUR on some classic designs for Supreme, he certainly had some insider knowledge. It was reproduced in AIGA‘s now out of print Design Culture compilation from 1997.
A while ago I was involved in some pitch for a book about the history and cultural relevance of the white tee. During some initial research, and labouring under the misapprehension that no book had ever been written solely on the topic, I found that not only did The White T by Alice Harris preempt our plan by 15 years, but I’d bought a copy on the cheap and forgot it ever existed. The moral of the story? Google harder before you get that presentation underway. Published in 1996, Harris’s book is decent, with some good archive imagery from the garment’s military issue early days all the way up to the 1990s, plenty of celebrity sightings and its place in gay and straight subcultures. The whole tabula rasa nature of white cotton shirts means there’s plenty of space to explore, but on its heavily stylised pages, The White T covers the key topics. With some proceeds going to GMHC and an intro by Giorgio Armani, who professes to be a white tee fanatic, this was a well publicised release in its day. I still managed to blank its existence from my mind. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. you’ll know about my respect for the mass-produced, non-nostalgia of the Costco Kirkland six-pack — between this book, some Japanese publications from the Lightning team and that time Dem Franchise Boyz reviewed tall tees for Vibe long before hemlines got wild, that’s as much a primer as you’ll need. The world doesn’t need another effort on the shelves.
The world of footwear reselling is nothing new. People act like it was invented last week and while the Dunk played a heavy role in resell as we know it, it actually pre-empts the SB. Between 1996 and 1998, local newspapers in the USA were scattered with tales of the goldmine sitting in Americans’ attics, as Japanese kids were willing to spend big on their old shoes. In the mid 1990s, Japan had the shoe boom that never seemed to hit the western world until around half a decade later. The Nike Air Max 95’s role in this was substantial (the Jordan XI played a role too) with the shoe selling out and becoming one of the first shoes beyond the Jordan I or made in France Superstars I ever heard silly resell prices quoted for (though X-Large and Acupuncture were selling all things old school for a fair amount — and the hiked price on obscurities was an age-old phenomenon). In fact, a spate of Japanese AM95 (and, as I recall, AM97) robberies in Osaka even got column inches.
Post AM95 there seemed to be a surge in interest in AJ1s, Terminators, Pythons and mid 1980s basketball, but around 1997/98, the Dunk was the most sought after. That led to the sumo ads (sorry, no Force, Flight, Pegasus, Nike Air, Triax or Zoom — an indicator as to what was hot in Tokyo that year) that did the rounds urging small-town Americans to have a dig and make some money. Above, you can see another example of those ads, via the Grand Rapids-based Small Earth company. I’ve thrown a scattering of the column inches of the time, including a Michigan-based newspaper’s account of the far eastern popularity of their university’s colours on the Dunk.
The documentation of this phenomenon was a little warning (including accounts of unwary owners digging out old Daybreaks, Legends and French-made Concords to make a quick buck, plus Japanese collectors’ ability to spot the difference between 1985 Jordan Is and 1994 ones) about the hype to come, but it’s little surprise that some shelves and lofts were probably dry on the deadstock side of things once America realised it wanted to stock up on colourways too. Stop acting like this is a contemporary phenomenon.
I completely forgot about this 1996 Nike documentary that braitnicho uploaded. Seeing this late that year (I believe the Branded series also had Heinz and Levi’s episodes) was a key instigator in making me want to work with Nike on something one day. There’s some interesting footage in the mix here and some good insights from Phil Knight. This seemed to be a golden era of business documentaries that wrangled access to some places that no other documentary seems to have gone since.
On the subject of YouTube, this footage from a CBGBs showcase of unsigned acts from summer 1992, with Bobbito as the host via CharlieChopoff (salutes to Unkut for the heads up) is worth your time — Artifacts clad in Polo, Fatal in a Timberland sweat, 8-Off showing you why he got a deal, plus Hard 2 Obtain and a few acts that never made their splash post Unsigned Hype (like Legion of D.U.M.E) are all present in this rare video.
Another toy I wish had existed when I was a kid is Sideshow’s Snake Plissken figure. The McFarlane toy doesn’t count because it was based on Escape From LA, which we all like to pretend never happened, but this super detailed creation is taken from the 1981 original, complete with the strange cam on the trousers, his weaponry, everything allotted to him by Lee Van Cleef, and, if you pre-order it from the source, you get a tiny repro of the tape which may or may not contain Dixieland jazz to set off WWIII. Now, where’s that Frank Doubleday as Romero toy, reeling off a list of kidnap demands when you pull a string? Carpenter’s classic has always warranted a full toy line.
By now the internet will be at least 25% Lou Reed, but the planet has lost at least 2% of its angry stares in his absence. Contrary to Sickboy’s assessment, Lou never really lost it. I also think his period of musical excellence (though it wavered in the mid 1980s around the time of this Honda ad) up to 1990 tops Bowie’s tenure of brilliance too in terms of longevity (and Lou’s early novelty record, The Ostrich is better than David’s The Laughing Gnome). Those live performances from the last decade and the courtside seats at Knicks games with Richard Lewis meant he was a functioning cool guy up to the very end, regardless of any perceived missteps. For decades, Lou was the final level boss for many an aspiring music journalist to tackle — a lone wolf participant in a jihad against mediocre questioning. Now he’s gone there’s not really a replacement with the intellect to match the bad attitude, is there?
Street Hassle is my favourite Lou Reed song at this moment at this moment in time for that blend of romance and pitch blackness, with that uncredited Springsteen appearance. Even in a spoken word verse from a scumbag junk dealer’s perspective regarding dead body disposal ends in pure poetry. That’s why something might owe a debt to Lou and the Velvet Underground, but it’ll rarely match the dead-eyed beauty of its reference points.
Hey, that cunt’s not breathing
I think she had too much of something or other
Hey, man, you know what I mean
I don’t mean to scare you
But you’re the one who came here
And you’re the one who’s gotta take her when you leave
I’m not being smart or trying to be pulling my part
And I’m not gonna wear my heart on my sleeve
But you know people get emotional
And sometimes they just don’t act rational
They think they’re just on TV — sha la la la, man
Why don’t you just slip her away
You know. I’m glad that we met man
It was really nice talking
And I really wish there was a little more time to speak
But you know it could be a hassle
Trying to explain myself to a police officer
About how it was that your old lady got herself stiffed
And it’s not like we could help
But there’s nothing no one could do
And if there was, man, you know I would have been the first
Only, someone turns that blue
Well, it’s a universal truth
And you just know: That bitch will never fuck again
By the way, that’s really some bad shit
That you came to our place with
But you ought be more careful round the little girls
It’s either the best or it’s the worst
Since I don’t have to choose, I guess I won’t
And I know, This is no way to treat a guest
But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet
And just lay her out in the darkest street
And by morning, she’s just another hit and run
You know, some people got no choice
And they can never even find a voice
To talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
Why, they follow it
You know, it’s called bad luck
That Boyz II Men Concord and tux Grammy footage and imagery keeps on eluding me. Can somebody send me it and put me out of my misery. Does it even exist? The closest I ever found was the shot of Jodeci standing with Tempest Bledsoe from The Cosby Show wearing the white outfits and Jordan XIs from the March ’96 ‘Coast 2 Coast’ section of The Source. This was a time before Jojo was fainting onstage and Dalvin was plummeting off them.
Back in the day, my dad and I were pretty obsessed with Alien — ever since he described a Chestburster to me as a toddler, I was transfixed. If I’d had access to Alien action figures (and I’m not talking about those crappy 1990s Aliens things with the flying Alien Queens and other such foolishness) from Kenner, it would have been game over — crappy Star Wars figures like Lobot and Snaggletooth would have perished with the quickness. But I never even knew plans had ever been afoot for Alien toys back in 1979 until I got talking to geeks who knew more than me and saw them in a 1995 magazine, by which time I was too old for such things. The closest I’ve come to the 12″ Kenner Alien action figure (which, according to legend was created with the license holders under the impression that it was going to be more of a science fiction extravaganza than a claustrophobic horror film) was the Medicom mini-replica, but I’ve always wanted the scrapped series of smaller Star Wars size action figures that never left prototype stage, because, quite understandably, the 12″ Alien terrified kids and sold poorly.
In one of the most nerd-friendly resurrections ever, the ReAction brand — a subsidiary of Super7 (who I know little about, other than they always seem to have monster figures in every Juxtapoz ever) — have obtained the Alien license and obtained either the prototypes or good quality photographs (apart from one figure which only seems to exist in the same shot I saw in 1995) and finally made those unreleased figures of Ripley, Ash, Dallas, Kane in that strange spacesuit and the “Big Chap” alien. If you want more geekery, they even recruited the lady who designed the original packaging for Kenner and this project back in the day to create the packaging for this release and created fake prototype figures in the blue of the fabled Boba Fett missile firing prototype (cancelled after a child choked to death on a Battlestar Galactica toy), created backdrops, bags and boxes that homage Kenner’s Star Wars Early Bird package from 1977 and even made a fake press release that deliberately plays on the misconception that all the figures will be the best of friends. It’s one of the greatest parts of my childhood that never was and you can read more about the ReAction releases right here. Is their resurrections of shelved toys a work-in-progress? I’m interested to see what comes next. This is a superior lesson in absurd attention-to-detail.
PhoneShop is a patchy show in terms of plotting, but Ashley and Jerwayne’s dialogue is a dead-on snapshot of the inadvertent strangeness of Croydon and Sutton’s slang-speaking denizens. The shoulder bags alone are more amusing than anything Simon Brodkin has conjured up in his appalling Lee Nelson character — a performance by a man who seems to have only ever seen a young person in EastEnders once, four years ago during a plot where Fatboy steals a parrot from a magician or some such shit. After a weak third series, PhoneShop redeemed itself with the ultimate parody of UK road rap, with its sloppy metaphors, shushing backgrounders and slo-mo delivery.
It might even be the best rap parody I’ve ever seen — from that obligatory Taliban mention to the threats to sleep with your missus, it captures a subculture that’s doomed never to crossover without heavy compromise and it’s actually better than all UK rap, because our take on rap in 2013 is either JD Sports garms and bandana waving in the hood, Boxpark fodder that’s all murals, shitty streetwear brands and beatboxing, chart stuff that’s just a novelty record that won’t fuck off (because careers seem to be sustained by imbeciles and social media) or it’s practiced by people who look like they steal lead off of church roofs and like to engage in terrible rap battles that are mostly AIDS jokes in front of a crowd of excitable people in Supreme Being sweatshirts. Westwood was always right to ditch our own produce in favour of DMX and Diplomats and I hope that this sketch stops people making UK rap forever.
I made it. I’m officially a menswear blog. Shouts to Complex for spotlighting my nonsense though. It’s a highlight of this week, like finding out that Michael Cimino came up with the story for Heaven’s Gate while, “…researching the history of barbed wire in the West” (cattle barons used barbed wire to block off grazing land, but settlers cut it in retaliation), or R Kelly’s ‘Soulacoaster’ revealing that Kells watches ‘Avatar’ frequently (Aziz Ansari wasn’t too far off the mark), hits up McDonald’s for a coffee with 6-sugars when he’s feeling sad and had rose petals dropped from a helicopter as a romantic gesture (in fact, the WSHH of Kelly singing an unruly member out the crowd is proof that he may be the most interesting person to walk the earth).
It’s easy to sit from a distance and fetishise the gun posing and scowls of LA gang photography, but hard living makes for great portraits. While all eyes were on South Central, the ‘Rolling Stone’ piece on V-13 in Venice Beach’s Oakwood area from early 1988 (‘Death in Venice’) had some of the best photography I’d ever seen back when I was 10 years old. To accompany the story by Mike Sager (one of the greatest journalists ever), Merrick Morton’s black and white snapshots looked like the coolest thing ever — needles, hand ink (back when tattoos on your hand were a sign you probably weren’t to be messed with, unlike hand tattoos in 2012, which are pretty fucking menswear) and weapons. 24 years later, they seem futile and grim, underpinned by the assumption that everyone in them’s probably dead by now. This was reality, but Merrick Morton also acted as a still photographer for ‘Colors’ and ‘Blood In, Blood Out.’ Everyone loves the fancy cars, the fully buttoned Pendletons, the hand gestures and the locs, but take them to the barrio and they’d stain their Dickies. Strange to think how gentrified the area got in the decades that followed, even though gangs remained operational.
‘Pretty Sweet’s Gino quotient, all the Supreme AF1 hype this year and Julien at Nike reminded me of the perfect supplement to the skating in Timberland piece I upped here a few years ago. Skating in wheat workboots is defiantly anti-boardfeel, but Gino Iannucci rocking canvas AF1 Mids in his 1996 ‘Big Brother’ interview (around the time ‘Trilogy’ was released) photos is classic. I actually meant to make this a whole blog entry about skating in Uptowns, but I stumbled and flopped. I still love the quintessentially east coast act of deliberately handicapping yourself in an act of one-upmanship to prove you can.
There’s more interesting things to read elsewhere on the internet, whether it’s this sequel to Complex’s Alchemist sunday sessions or a debate about whether Politic borrowed Palace’s VHS aesthetic. You could also watch a collection of demonstrations of Errolson putting on jackets and strapping up bags extra precisely, including the 2004 video. Or you can watch the “holiday shout outs” section of these 1990 Elektra party footage, where everyone looks super young and has amazing jackets. Remember when we Brits couldn’t get Air Force 1s and had to marvel at them on folks’ feet from a distance? I still don’t understand the ill will towards the mids, but I’ll concede that they look their age (even though they’re 12 years older than the other heights) highs and lows are still the ones, ever since I obsessed over the black soled highs in i-D back in the early 1990s that were stocked in Passenger on Beak Street.
After they arrived at Foot Locker in the UK and JD Sports in a slow rollout between 1998 and 1999, the explosion on UK shores was significant, reaching an apex with JD’s 2004 and 2005 exclusives. Seeing Vans Eras with tracksuits still throws me a little, but they seemed to invade the AF1 market in the UK. Any rumour of the shoe’s demise can be batted away by the fact the white on white and black are still some of the bestselling shoes in Nike’s business and that whereas the Dunk’s hype was largely fueled by a late 1990s fixation beyond a core few and subsequent retro, the Force had only been totally unavailable for a couple of years during its lifespan, giving it some serious sub-cultural credentials. Bizarre to think something that looked so space age on it’s debut, became a superior “dad shoe” of sorts after it hit 25.
I still think the canvas 1995 SC versions and the 1996 SC (which I’ve long believed stood for “Sports Classic” unless anyone wants to shoot me down on it) snakeskin duo of Air Force 1 are legendary, regardless of your opinion of the shoe. Who made the snake colourways back in the mid 1990s? How were colourway and retro departments being operated? The Ivory and Obsidian editions with the ‘NIKE AIR’ are still objects of desire for me and before they went robotic, but not before the masks went on, a January 1997 Daft Punk photoshoot featured Thomas Bangalter sporting the Ivorys (Guy sticks to black Stan Smiths). If these had an Ivory outsole, just as the Obsidians had the matching sole, I’d have spontaneously combusted.
Daft Punk never cloned these for their Bapestas (though there were plenty of other similar Bapestas) and their stockists and availability eluded me until I saw them a few years later, shrink wrapped and out of my budget. Truth be told, if I had them, I’d never wear them, so some things are better left as objects-of-desire than dusty owned items taken from their golden, glowing pedestal and sat in a black and red box with the other 999+ shoes I don’t wear very often. Still, it was one of the shoes that convinced me that simplicity beats gimmickry and it distracted me from my 1995/early 1996 preoccupation with the original Air Ndestrukt for good.