I hate to be that guy talking about month-old projects — especially when they were out last year — but I haven’t seen this Nike ACG newspaper online anywhere. People seemed pretty interested in the exhibit stuff from 1948. While the wrong image was used for the mighty Zoom Tallac, the archive section of this publication is pretty good. Steering from the same old early 1990s’ pieces, it was a response to a list of truly important ACG pieces from a pure performance angle as well as a sales standpoint. Ultra tech stuff like the Storm F.I.T. Tech Jacket from 1996, the Air Teocalli XCR from 2002, with its more breathable GORE-TEX and snowshoe binding compatibility, and 2004’s CommJacket (which was sold alongside the more minimal CommVest) with the built-in radio for rescue operations are all worthy of a moment in the spotlight. When this division of Nike was operating as its own business unit (like Jordan Brand) they got very serious with the innovations. I can’t promise that I won’t talk about All Conditions Gear again here very soon. In the meantime, this publication was available at NikeLab locations fairly recently, so you can probably still pick one up.
At the ACG relaunch event at London’s NikeLab store, all eyes were on the future, but there was a small amount of archive material on display to provide a little context. With the 1989/1990 wave of inaugural All Conditions Gear apparel being designed by a former Patagonia man its functionality and attention to detail is underrated. The budget blockbuster that is the Air Mada was on display alongside the proto-ACG greatness of the Escape, but that 1989 GORE-TEX Cervino Parka to match your Baltoros, Snowpatch Spire Pullover from the same year with the asymmetric zip and 1992’s ClimaF.I.T. Micro Fiber Anorak. These hastily shot iPhone images don’t do the products justice. As the owner of a couple of pieces from this period, I can testify that those layering system fits aren’t ideal for everyday wear, unless you have fleeces and base layers to accommodate the generous sizing. Those colours are still perfect to me.
This was the year of the underwhelming collaboration, but Zomby (who soundtracked an ACRONYM® video back in 2012) dropped an unexpected winner with his collaboration with Jonny Banger’s Sports Banger line. Sports Banger’s FILA homaging, Tulisa supporting, Polo meets Sports Direct, Mr Freeze addled worldview is part of a new wave of gleeful bootlegging with British corner shop and high street staples being given tributes in a post T-Shirt Party realm where things sneered at a few years back are being celebrated. 2014 is the year when people who were preoccupied with Shawn J Period when two-step was big and picking at Rawkus’ dying embers when Pay As U Go were popping can claim to be garage and grime heads, but it’s good to see British scenes get their recognition and artists like Skepta get room to move in that renaissance on their own terms. The fact no American could understand this mass of reference points is a pleasant polar opposite to hapless, once-you-go-crap-you-never-go-back attempts to break the States. If you buy both of the Zomby x Sports Banger ’92 t-shirts, you get a tub of dual-branded wet look ’92 hair gel — the gunk that created crispy barnets in schools, clubs and pubs 22 years ago. You can almost smell the Davidoff Cool Water, skunk and Marlboro Lights in the air.
For anyone that moans about Gildan tees on marked up shirts not being removed (and anyone who bought street or skate wear back in the early 1990s can testify that a Hanes, Camber or Champion label left in was commonplace on the output from some of the greatest brands of the time), this Gildan one is a perfect middle-finger:
(Image by Ernie Paniccioli from Free Stylin’)
Watching Onyx carry on during The Breakfast Club as if the last 21 years never happened, with Envy’s important question about them firing blanks during their Source Award appearance cut off by some haggard mad facing reminded me of how much I wanted an Onyx hockey shirt or black denim jacket back then— I never saw the official Slammin’ Gear versions of the quilted vest in the UK. While April Walker’s contribution to the industry is well-documented, I feel that it should always be reiterated whenever possible — we all know about Walker Wear (whose hoodies seemed more minimal than anything else on the hip-hop brand side of things) which was on the back of any thug rapper of influence, back when a giant mustard waistcoat with fireman jacket fastenings was a thing. The Walker Wear logo was incredibly effective on chests and heads and her connections got it everywhere, but Angela Hunte-Wisner’s styling work from the same era was incredible too — she was key to putting Starter and Nike on in Another Bad Creation, R Kelly and LL Cool J album covers and videos, but her decision to put Jodeci in Hi-Tec Magnum boots (possibly the only legit moment in Hi-Tec’s history) was pioneering in bringing rugged looks to R&B. April Walker also designed Onyx’s mad face logo — this piece from last year is still essential.
Naughty By Nature always seemed to have the best rap merchandise pre Wu-Wear (bar Public Enemy, NWA, Run-DMC or those Sleeping Bag jackets that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars that were advertised in the EPMD sleeve) and for reasons unknown, I was preoccupied with getting some Naughty Gear denim in 1994. Treach, Vinnie and Kay Gee set the brand off in 1993 and opened a store in Newark, New Jersey the following year. Building on the “Down with O.P.P” tee and Naughty by Nature underwear, plus a knack for merchandising since the New Style era (the connection to master merchandisers Tommy Boy probably didn’t hurt either), given Treach’s patronage of Walker Wear, I’m certain April Walker played a role. This piece from Yo! MTV Raps back in 1995 (recorded in bad quality but essential nonetheless) showcases the store as well as a trip to a hardware store to get chains, plus a Timberland mission too. In that video, Vinnie reveals that Naughty Gear jeans were made by Ruff Era, a frequent advertiser in The Source, who sold stiff, voluminous jeans. Savvy choices of collaborator and Vinnie’s decision to build the brand beyond just local screen printing paid off, but when the band started beefing in the late 1990s when urban wear really started popping, their licensing deals to make Naughty Gear, Inc. more profitable suffered. I’m not saying Naughty Gear was classic, but Naughty By Nature’s visual identity very smart indeed. Now Naughty Gear looks a little more basic.
South Beach colours on a Wildwood should be the worst thing ever, but these impending versions are decent. Still the greatest all-round All Conditions Gear shoe of all-time — the mystery of why this Pegasus remix existed around the time that the Pegasus ACG and Pegasus A/T were sold remains, but this always seemed closer to Escape spirit.
Yep, I’m still peddling that old shoe schtick. Not content with writing a top 50 trail shoe piece for Complex a few years back that bricked because kids don’t care about 20-year-old brown rustic-tech (rus-tech?) shoes, I collaborated with my friends at High Snobiety to run through 25 of the best Nike ACG shoes ever — naturally, somebody asked where the non-ACG Terra Humara was with the quickness. This one’s good because HS brought in the talented Dan Freebairn to illustrate the shoes, meaning this might be the first and last time you’ll ever see a drawing of a Pubah or Terra Tor, because they’re not the kind of shoes that anybody normal cares about. I think I’ve run my course on the footwear history side of things (unless anyone wants to give me money to talk on the subject of ancient footwear. Anyway, this was fun. I’d campaign for a lot of these shoes to be reissued if I didn’t know that they’d probably brick with a 21st century audience. All Conditions Gear is 25 this year (26 officially — the Pegasus ACG was 1988 but the category and logo really seemed to take form in 1989) and my childhood ambition of giving one of these shoes a colourway remains. If you think something deserved inclusion, leave a comment.
Pressed for time because of freelance work, so why not fall back on two failsafes — All Conditions Gear and Champion? ACG as a full subdivision may be gone (though every time you see a sealed seam jacket from Nike, the spirit lives on) , but it’s still part of of the footwear offerings at trend level. Here’s a few non-ad images of some interesting moments in ACG history — Trip Allen is a crucial part of the old ACG squad and according to legend, he was one of the pioneers in applying some truly insane colours to shoes that remain scorched into my retinas for reference in far too much of my work. I believe (looking at the sketch) that he was heavily involved in the Terra ACG design — a pioneering moment for the brand that may or may not have aided in the genesis of the non-ACG Terra trail running range you might have lusted after in the late 1990s. The Terra ACG’s speckles and wildcard orange and pink were decidedly peculiar at the time too. The packaging for the Nike Thermax Underwear that I believe dates back to the early days of ACG (I like the “Clothing as equipment” copy too) is well executed and captures the commitment to it at the time. Moisture wicking ACG underwear is a rarity nowadays, but these are some of the most aesthetically appealing thermals ever made.
Why does Champion’s Japanese licensee get it while the others don’t? Admittedly it’s a country where a heritage wing could actually prove profitable, but to see this brand plastered on tat in the UK is depressing. Like Fila, it’s an opportunity wasted and while Champion always was a fairly affordable brand compared to the Italian premium sportswear of the former, it seems the original point was lost in a variety of acquisitions and wheeler dealing. Even Russell Athletic seems to be slowly getting its shit together in this territory while former champions flounder. Pop-ups and spaces are usually a good reason to ignore an email invite, but the collegiate-themed Champion Bookstore in the Shinjuku branch of Oshman’s (itself a franchise of a mostly-gone US sporting institution that became Sports Authority — not dissimilar to how Shibuya’s mighty Tower store keeps standing) looks tremendous and captures the essence of what makes the brand great. Cotton fleece heaven with a history lesson worked in there. This kind of thing and the nanamica x Champion masterpieces of loungewear maintain this brand’s magic. Everyone else seems intent on sticking a ‘C’ on cheap accessories. Sadly, I can imagine what proves the most profitable.
I don’t know why I keep returning to ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ Maybe it’s for the same reasons that I keep trying to get dig away at ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ with it’s spine cracked to just 10% of the book’s content — I want to know what I’m missing. I’m not talking about the cult of characters who topped themselves in black and white Nike Decades, but Michael Cimino’s ponderous ani-western, which fired my imagination as a kid by featuring a manic Christopher Walken, Tom Noonan, Brad Dourif, Jeff Bridges and Mickey Rourke and a nude Isabelle Huppert. Alas, the pauses, the pacing of the first half and the frequent misuse of its spectacular cast means I’ve never managed to finish watching ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ I concentrate too hard and get confused, I get restless, I answer the phone, I end up daydreaming that I’m watching ‘Con Air.’ I got so close — 20 minutes from the end of the 149 minute cut, but after pausing it to answer the door to a Domino’s I realised that I just didn’t want to go back — I didn’t care about Kris Kristofferson’s hero or Sam Waterston’s villain. That 20 minutes could be spent watching a ‘Seinfeld’ episode again
Somebody told me that I’m a fool, a spoon fed moron, who doesn’t understand the nuances of Cimono’s work, but I’m convinced that this film could be distilled into an engaging 100 minutes. I still can’t co-sign the animal cruelty like the supposedly “real” horse with dynamite sequence — if you’re going to die for a film, I’d sooner be the bull in ‘Apocalypse Now’ or the cow in ‘Come and See.’ Being sacrificed for a film that recouped $3 million on a $44 million budget is the final insult. I still haven’t made my mind up about this film. What am I missing? Why did Jerry Harvey make the extra effort to screen the longer version on the Z Channel? There must be something in this abomination that creates these rabid fans who think the film flies by. The Johnson County War is a significant moment in American history, but it isn’t the stuff of gripping cinema — rather it seems to have been something that’s touched on in more entertaining books, TV shows and films as part of a snappier narrative — and the director slows it to a molasses crawl that I can’t quite wade through.
I’m going to return for more when the real director’s cut (the 219 minute version was a rush job) that’s been trimmed to 216 minutes is released by Criterion this November. Maybe that 3 missing minutes is the key to unlocking this mess. Maybe I’m just a glutton for cinematic punishment. Will Criterion put out a ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’ 2-disc Blu-ray package in 2032 that lets us reassess Eddie Murphy’s lost masterpiece with a digitally restored 142 minute director approved cut? I hope so. If I had one really positive thing to say about ‘Heaven’s Gate’ it’s that the film has the best roller skate violinist/barn dance sequence of any Hollywood film. And that’s something to be grateful for.
With OG Huaraches set to return, it’s always worth focusing on a slightly more contemporary (though still showing my age) crush than Huppert — Chilli from TLC whose Huaraches and ACG-looking garments in the ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ video make me love her even more.
I think this blog is becoming a receptacle for magazine scans of anything from the 1980’s or 1990’s and getting a little too bogged down in nostalgia. I could reblog the same pictures of the Kate Moss for Supreme posters that are around town at the moment, but every single blog on the planet seems to be chucking up the same shots. I’ll leave it to them, but I definitely need a copy for my wall. I’ve been trawling the archives for some information on one specific boot and the quest led me to old issues of ‘The Source.’ I can’t stress the importance of that magazine back when the closest place to get it was the WH Smiths in Luton’s Arndale Centre and people got angry because TLC were on the cover. Lord knows what they’d make of Nicki Minaj at the weekend, but I assume they’re probably dead of old age by now, which spares them the rage. I liked the specially shot covers back in the day (seemingly one of the final casualties of their shakeups over the last few years) and I haven’t picked up a copy for close to a decade, but I’m glad that ‘The Source’ is still going.
It was the militancy of older issues and the real reporting (I think Ronin Ro’s piece on Luther Campbell touring Japan, as reproduced in ‘Gangsta’ is one of the magazine’s most insightful moments) plus glimpses of products I’d never seen before that had me hooked. The November 1993 issue was an old school retrospective that taught my gun rap loving self a great deal (it included the Henry Chalfont shot above) and despite the frequently anaemic graffiti content, the four-page feature on legends like Dondi and Futura by Ricky Powell was a great moment in a period generally considered to be the magazine’s downturn and an early 1993 article on the new wave of streetwear brands that hit their radar the previous year was a moment when skate and hip-hop (primarily through Pervert) style really seemed to strike, championed by west coast MCs from the Good Life Cafe scene. I don’t listen to the music so much these days, but everything seemed to gel and broaden my horizons. I never found the boot I was hunting, but November 1993’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’ with the questionable inclusion of Hi-Tec, but including the glorious Iditarod Sport Hiker, Merrell Wilderness ($260!) and the ACG Rhyolite never fails to make me yearn for a golden era of invincible footwear.
The White/Cement Jordan IV eluded me in 1989 in favour of the other key colours — as did the reissue a decade later. The 2012 version feels like closure on that matter (I won’t cry myself to sleep over the lack of NIKE AIR). 2006’s IVs were of quality comparable to the plastic Michael Jackson cash-in slip-ons that some unfortunate kids still broke out at my school back when the IV debuted. The new version is marginally better in quality and after two days of wear, creasing isn’t critical, but the curried goat stain I attained today nearly led to a Buggin’ Out type scenario, even though I was the sole culprit. Probably best to go half a size down, and they still rub on my little toe. But what are you going to do? Grown men shouldn’t be getting so agitated about things they didn’t get the first time around. Plus they’re still the best looking Jordan ever.