Music videos get mentioned here a lot as an inspiration and introduction to brands for a sheltered Bedfordian back in the day. With the M-O-B-B being the party house band of choice this year (with both Supreme and KITH drafting them in), Havoc and Prodigy (who, despite claiming he invented everything a few years back, is one of the original heavily tattooed east coast rappers, back when MCs were showing off a solitary piece on their shoulders) are getting some coin to compensate for their contribution to hard rock style. With the recent ACG relaunch (and the eventual arrival of some proper winter weather in the UK), the 1992 Peer Pressure video deserves some retrospect. Not only is it the track where P reveals his George “It’s called a T-square” Costanza style dream of becoming an architect, the gear being worn is notable too. In a discussion with Ronan from Nike, he pointed out that Puba isn’t the only Air Revaderchi king — Mobb Deep rocked matching pairs of the 1992 classic in this promo, back when they were on their sickle and teen thug rap wave. The Blink-and-miss Raids, that yellow Carhartt sweat and Air Force 1s with tucked in socks and faded denim were huge looks too. Now, hip-hop videos are cheap again, but this era of getting a crew into a couple of locations and doing a lot of walking towards the camera and behind fences is golden. The sickle (which, if my memory of the Prodigy autobiography is fully operational, was referring to his sickle-cell condition as well as their bleak outlook — though it may have been coincidence) and zip up Champion hoods to give them grim reaper looks is a nice, Queensbridge gothic touch.
I’ve been obsessed with basketball shoes since I was a kid, despite being completely incompetent on a court. I spent hours staring at new additions to Champion and Olympus Sports, but I assumed I might grow out of it — I certainly never expected Nike to ever come calling to contribute to a project based around them. Over the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege of doing just that. To coincide with the Basketball World Cup in Spain I got to work with London’s own Magdi Fernandes, Nike and the kind contribution of some serious collectors to create an exhibition that, selfishly, featured some of my favourite shoes ever. Taken down from a collection of 240+ shoes and after making those emails cry, we took it down to 86 shoes to coincide with the whole Search for the Baddest/Come out in Force campaign in Madrid. Nike and Rosie Lees created six custom cabinets (here’s a better shot of one) to deliver an overview of Nike Basketball, Air Force and Air Jordan from 1972 to the present day. Getting the Franchise, Air Force STS, Alpha Force Low and the 1996 Python AF1 alongside the crowdpleasers in there was indulgence on my part, but there just aren’t enough exhibitions with those things in them these days. I don’t think this one is going to go on tour, so I’ll hunt some more professional shots, but in the meantime, here’s some hastily shot iPhone snaps of some of my favourite shoes. Shouts to Nike for getting me involved.
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.
I’m still out the country and still slacking on blog entries. More time eating and less time pondering the minutiae of some unnecessary matters proves toxic to my creativity and I’m trying to at least feign a break from the old routine. Seeing a 1982 Dondi sketch for sale in the Block Party 2012 show earlier in the week (alongside some Barry McGee and Haze pieces I wish I owned) had me thinking back to the swag exhibited in the above image of Futura, Dondi and Zephyr in LA, taken from the ‘Style Master General’ book. They weren’t just talking paint and ink with that title. Member’s Only jackets, tracksuit trousers and Nikes executed in a non-corny manner. Now I’m in LA and about to, presumably, end up doing some form of exercise that’s Nike+ (this Nate VanHook interview on the Hue is cool) related this afternoon, lacking even 0.1.% of the style exhibited by Donald, Lenny and Andrew right there. Though it was good to see Riff Raff holding it down in a bar last night, plus Antwuan Dixon drunk outside trying to get in (on a skate note, Koston Epic’ly Later’d coming soon).
When in doubt, throw up some old ads on the site; these date back to 1986, but are good examples of advertising for a market beyond the usual male audience. Women’s Air Forces (which were reworked for women’s feet rather than just scaled down) and an enviable roster of kids’ shoes with the ‘Some Athletes Haven’t Made it Big Yet’ copy are pretty good.
Stone Island’s Stone Island 30 exhibition sounds immense and a good reason to go brave the mean-mugging hordes in snug tailoring who’ve picked up on Pitti over the last couple of years. The book is there too and Mr. Errolson Hugh and Future Concept Lab have got some shots of ‘ARCHIVIO ‘992-‘012′, which I need in my life immediately. The exhibition version comes with a tee, but I can live without the promo garment, because at 653 pages in length, it looks like it’s worth the wait. Capping off the week, Drake’s Stone Island knitwear in the ‘No Lie’ video is an interesting sartorial choice that sees a global star dressing like a British road rapper. The last Stone Island/CP samples sale was significantly more gooned-out than a Drake/Chris Brown scuffle.
I’ve posted about this documentary here before, but during a colossal tidy up and clear out, I found my rough cut copy of ‘Sneaker Heads’ on DVD and watched it for the first time since I last wrote about it (around 3 years ago). It held up well. Only a handful of folk (and If you’re one of them, I owe you) read this blog back then, so there might be a spot of déjà vu here, but the screen grabs I posted were finger nail size. You can see the 3-minute teaser right here too. That repetition is appropriate though, because the attitudes espoused in this film are echoed in 2012. Self-hating hype folk should watch ‘Sneaker Heads’ and just appreciate what we’ve got — alas, my work loaned MacBook won’t allow me the luxury of burns or rips, so I’m strictly jpegs at the moment. What happened to the eBayers selling bootlegs of this film anyway? There used to be plenty around. At the moment there’s plenty of murmuring about new generations ruining everything with their queuing and their hoarding and their hype and their pesky fixation with limited edition, but guess what? People were doing that just under a decade ago too. People moaned about it back then too.
‘Sneaker Heads’ was a Wieden+Kennedy and Brand Jordan production directed by Israel, with production by some music industry and ESPN affiliated folks, but it never seemed to be fully completed. The copy I’ve got and the one that was bootlegged has no real credits over the CGI intro of some living Escape AF3s (though you can see the completed title sequence right here), missing statistics and no real ending, but there’s at least some semblance of narrative and some of the footage is gold. Yet ‘Sneakerheads’ got shelved. I like ‘Just For Kicks’ as a primer (salutes for getting the Run-DMC adidas cash demand too) and I thought some of the chats in last year’s ‘Casuals’ documentary (in the case of ‘Just For Kicks’ and ‘Sneaker Heads’ there was some casual and footie talk that got shelved, mainly because it’s all far odder and complex in terms of social interactions and oneupmanship than NYC culture, even though it’s equally as significant in telling the story of sports footwear) were eccentric enough to sit alongside some of the conversations in this film. Other than that, some episodes of ‘It’s the Shoes’ on ESPN aside, most attempts to tell Nike, adidas and New Balance tales on film in more than 10 minutes are intolerable. ‘Sneaker Heads’ feels like a time capsule of the sports footwear cycle just pre-peak and we’re back in the same position right now.
There’s plenty to love. Nerds will enjoy EMZ and Air Rev’s (his suede swoosh Lows are still killer) digging mission for Ellesse while the everybody else is queuing for Jordan IIIs (ring any bells?) and ESPO Air Force IIs in 2003 is refreshing in its traditional approach, the surgeon with the enviable Jordan collection, Chris Hall (who kindly gave me this copy) talking skateboarding and AJIs, cars customised to match Cool Grey Jordan XIs, AF1 disciple Christian Clancy of Interscope (now the manager of Odd Future), my Crooked Tongues mentors getting a blink-and-miss appearance, Euro-dons Edson of Patta and Thomas Giorgetti, Spike Lee, lots of old news clips, Dr J, Jordan smoking a cigar and being cryptic about the AJXX, Alan Mesa’s insane game worn collection plus DJ AM’s genuine enthusiasm and superior in-house displays proving that he was a celebrity collector with a deep, deep knowledge — it’s poignant when he mentions that he’ll never stop hoarding. I guess he never did lose the excitement for shoes during his short life. There’s A-Ron in Supreme, Martin Packer, Bobbito, Retrokid and plenty more folks who all have their own perspective on this wearable compulsion.
But who exactly was ‘Sneaker Heads’ aimed at? The teaser hinted at a theatrical release and one was apparently cited for 2004, but it’s not the greatest advertisement for the brands. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite bleak in its indictment of brands attempting to mould an existing culture of collectors. “They got a new pair of Dunks every fuckin’ day” and a dismissal of “Halle Berry artist series bullshit” aren’t the greatest PR, and while those queues are living, breathing testaments to the power of the product, the furious lady offing and blinding because she queued 12 hours for ESPOs is the swearier angrier side of that world. People complain about bad retros and reformed obsessives sell their AF1s because they’re jaded by the state of the industry. There’s a sense that it’s documenting a post-purity period for things, but how sentimental can we be for mass-produced tactically reissued product. Maybe it was Michael Jordan saying “Shit” that got it shelved.
As a piece of research for internal study in the development for future Nike and Jordan product directed at a then-fresh energy market, ‘Sneaker Heads’ may have proven extremely useful. When the current boom subsides and everyone’s back in brogues again for half a decade, and the whole sneaker “thing” erupts again, you’ll be able to watch this in 2021 and see parallels between kids complaining on whatever medium they’re misusing all over again, using the same arguments. It’s the same old story over and over again.
Anyway, here’s some stills, because Mr Clark Kent and Mr Steve Bryden were curious to see whether they made the final cut. I think, with a little polish, ‘Sneaker Heads’ would be relevant today. In fact, if any enterprising editor could splice the best of this film into ‘Just For Kicks’ to extend that running time it would create a classic piece of sub-culture documentation for we weirdos who still keep the faith. After that long-overdue viewing, my passion for shoes was restored — I wish I’d watched it prior to disposing of some dustier pieces of the collection. Then they’d still be gathering dust, but I’d still be kidding myself that I was going to break them out of hibernation one day.
Hype makes the industry tick. No blog buzz within 24 hours of launch? Disaster. Nothing gets time to breathe. I find myself laughing at peers picking up on something that went wall-to-wall on Facebook 48 hours prior, and it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’m convinced that the downside of this quick hit, tentacled notion of “street culture” is that while it might snake out far beyond printed tees (and my friend Mr. Marcus Troy made an interesting point on Hypebeast regarding the possibility that too many brands might be dwelling on an “over it” audience at the expense of an audience who want to wear caps, tees and hats, rather than washed-out, button-down blues), it doesn’t seem to take time to create any roots.
I also think that exposure to everything that goes down globally in ten minutes of browsing is homogenising local scenes. I still the joys of information overload provide benefits that outweigh that issue, but I felt it was something worth discussing, because when you turn into a miserable old fuck like me, you cease to create, and commence with utterly unnecessary introspect. Eugene at Hypebeast was kind enough to let me vent a little on the site about a lack of movements (though the title accidentally invokes my lazy way of life and approach to my career too), complete with a little disclaimer too for the site’s Op-Ed experiment.
Lest I look too much like an ageing hipster doofus, I wrote it a short time before the OFWGKTA movement truly went mainstream with the Kimmel and bug-chewing and I realised that nearly every hip-hop blog had become a redundant Johnny-come-lately. So please allow for the token trendy dad reference point. It’s the kind of unfocused ramble you might find here – mostly BlackBerry written and bearing my trademark cavalier approach to grammar. But the aim wasn’t another tiresome things were better in 19_ _ or 20_ _” rant, rather a query as to how cultures might progress in the abundant information age. You can find it here. The next Hypebeast crossover with this self-indulgent corner of the internet will be more focused, but it’s a fun opportunity I appreciate.
Any talk of HYPE also reminds me of the excellent 1989 Sports Illustrated article of the same name, talking about the relationship between sport and hyperbole, using the white leather jacket with “Don’t Believe the Hype” in gold and black across the back that Mike Tyson was fetching from Harlem’s Dapper Dan store at 4 in the morning when he ran into Mitch “Blood” Green and left him needing expensive sunglasses.
Just as the Lo-life gang’s illicit efforts popularized Polo, Hilfiger Nautica and The North Face in such a way that they altered street style forever, Dapper Dan deserves similar status — Gucci, MCM and Louis Vuitton can’t have been too pleased to see themselves bootlegged to the point where folk thought they might be making the madcap items taking pride of place on record sleeves sailing up the Billboard charts, but they created a brand loyalty and aspiration that’s made these houses a fortune. The Louboutin Swizz hookup and Kanye Vuittons are the by product of what “Dapper” Daniel Day was capitalizing on when he stayed open 24 hours for an audience of celebrities and the criminal minded back in the day.
Exclusive Game clothing are following that lineage with their gear for Jadakiss, Rick Ross and Diddy (check the custom MCM piece in the ‘Another One’ video) and anyone crying “FAKE!” might be missing the point. I only recently noticed that DJ E-Z Rock is wearing some customised Louis Vuitton monogram Air Force 1s in Janette Beckman’s 1988 photo shoot for the ‘It Takes Two’ album. Maybe I’d always been too distracted by the early Uptown sighting on an artist’s foot as well as that Dapper Dan tracksuit to pay full attention to the swoosh and heeltab. I always thought the designer fabric Air Force was a late 1990’s phenomenon, but this was Harlem style in full effect.
PHADE and the crew’s Shirt Kingz empire that ran relatively concurrent to the Dapper Dan movement with their printed sweats and tees deserves its props as part of the bigger contemporary picture now too. Mr. Paul Mittleman posted up some images of the crew’s heyday (I love the Safari sighting and some shots reiterate just how popular the Air Force II was — there’s some Assault action beyond the Fat Boys too) recently and it was clear that while the west had its own surf and skate culture for new brands to gnaw on, hip-hop’s golden age informed the east coast’s streetwear — Jamaica Coliseum Mall, where the Kingz had their retail operation apparently has a stall selling airbrushed shirts up to the present day, but PHADE, NIKE and KASHEME helped form a uniquely hip-hopcentric apparel and an industry that’s worth billions.
Shit, even the cheap artist photo tees that followed (usually incorporating a deceased artist) inspired Supreme’s teamups with Raekwon, Jim Jones and Juelz, plus the rest of those eBay-friendly releases. That lineage makes the sight of a sullen Lou Reed on a shirt even more entertaining.
It’s an aimless blog post, drifting like a boat without a skipper this sunday, as I’m in the midst of writing a lengthy piece about something for someone. All might be revealed. But still the lure of OCD lures me back to WordPress to publish at least something.
It’s been a weird weekend, with the Bespoke I made with the assistance of Mr. Wainwright and Magdi aka. Madgi in NYC’s Mercer Street space getting some E-coverage. Attention is a motherfucker. I was just amused to make an Air Force 1 somehow related to my fixation with Chopper City’s bad suit. It briefly, thanks to the homie Eugene at Hypebeast caused some stirrings. Any plaudits are like getting a high-five for executing a paint-by-numbers with a certain level of proficiency. Any criticisms that I wasted $820 are, ummm… interesting. Gloating is unbecoming so I’ll shut the fuck up. Colourways are fun, and Nike Bespoke is the shit, but we shouldn’t mix colour-ups with actual design skills. One feels like a game of symmetry and the other requires education and/or an innate skill. Still, I’m happy to have made the AF1 I always wanted. Which is kind of the point. Shouts to Nike.
Earlier in the year, Eugene fired some questions my way and I answered them on my BlackBerry (RIP). Eugene is definitely someone whose opinion I respect, and Hypebeast is a juggernaut. With Mr. Kan’s involvement, there’s a superior level of content creation at work. It’s a far cry from the days when I used to make digs at hype sites in news posts. Shit done changed. The interview is here, and if you can make it to page 11, I’ll give you a prize. I frequently bore myself. A good conversation nonetheless. I’m blaming Eugene for the length of it. He opted against a hefty edit and his questions were deeper than crap interrogations.
My opinion on iPads has changed a lot since then. My then-office partner-in-rhyme has defected to Vans Europe and my announcement that I wanted more corporate gigs pretty much came true. It’s pleasantly dated. Like an episode of ‘Tomorrow’s World’ from 1988. This entire industry moves in hamster-years and a lot has changed in mere months.
As this ghost ship sails along, I feel obliged to recommend the new thriller, ‘Burning Bright’ if you get the option to rent it on the cheap. With Meatloaf as a seller of black market big cats, who ends up causing headaches for a beautiful girl and her severely autistic younger brother stuck in a boarded-up house overnight with a psychotic tiger while a hurricane rages outside, the lack of CGI and some solid set pieces, plus a title that references a William Blake poem, makes it a good use of 85 minutes. As is now-customary, there’s a tactically “vintaged” poster for the film too.
I like a bad situation flick on a budget. ‘Frozen’ and ‘Stuck’ came through. ‘Red Eye’ and ‘P2′ faltered, crumbling under the sheer vertical drop of their high concepts. Anyone else remember the 1981 flick ‘Savage Harvest’ with the lions putting a house under siege? Or the production headache double-act of Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed in 1981’s ‘Venom’ with the robbery and black mamba snake on the loose (kind of cloned in the crappier 1988 film ‘Fair Game’)? The bad situation thrills of the claustrophobic and downright nasty Mario Bava thieves-in-a-vehicle vehicle ‘Rabid Dogs’ is a masterclass in fucked-up, no-budget tension. On the creature-on-the-loose tip, hopefully ‘Piranha 3D’ will deliver the thrills as well as the leaked levels of salt water gore next week.
Some dickhead called Specter got “up” in the fruitiest way by covering a beautiful old hand-painted sign in east London. Sign painting is an art. Creating “happenings” like this isn’t. It’s just embarrassing.
I hate Specter’s art. I hate wheat poster pricks sullying my view with cut and paste horseshit, haplessly justified by flimsy A-level sociology explanations. If you support this shit you too are part of the problem. Fuck you Specter. Go and risk your life in a train tunnel and cause some real destruction without the art-twat “manifesto”. Or go get educated, then classical on some canvases. Then fuck off. This generation of post-Banksy scum is the art equivalent of a Superdry t-shirt.
Thank god for the good folk of wheatpaste and stencil street art hating superblog HurtYouBad and their crusade against this kind of fuckery. They kindly blessed me with one of their new t-shirt line by the mighty FINSTA, not to be mistaken with the semi-legendary Finsta of grimy rap underdogs Finsta & Bundy. This design reminds me of the lunacy you could get from a local spot via an ad in RAD, and appeals to my love of GHOST and Robert Williams’s handiwork. They’re launch their 5 designs with a fine photoshoot next week, so I’ll leave the full details to the HYB team.