Tag Archives: albam

GOOD DESIGN/BAD DESIGN

Before I continue, Mr. Russ Bengston gave me another opportunity to bait purists with a top 50 Running Shoes list for Complex this week. It’s cut down from a list of 700 that I compiled over a couple of days, and is a curious mix of obscure tech, proper performance and poser shoes. That’s because I don’t run and just like the way shoes look. I’m sure the appointment of the Air Max 1 at number one will infuriate anyone who likes their sports footwear a little rustic, but it’s just one fool’s opinion. I’m disappointed in myself for forgetting the New Balance 997 — that was a dickhead move. Running footwear is a broad church — I almost felt I was larking around with something that’s borderline religion to many. Hopefully I won’t be at the receiving end of some kind of footwear version of a fatwa. You can see the list right here — get that click through forefinger ready. I think I’m officially all top-50’d out for the remainder of 2011.

Over the last few days I’ve seen extremes of design. There’s been remarkable showcases of the cutting-edge, but there’s also been a disturbing example of man’s inhumanity to pixels. In the quest to get that elusive nextness, I don’t think there’s two better examples of forward-thought showcased over the last couple of days than Errolson Hugh or Terius Nash. Like Conroy at Arc’teyx Veilance, Errolson is unashamedly futuristic with his vision of modular, protective functionality. Not to the point where he’ll have you bedecked in Ripley’s bitch-battling exo-skeleton, but in a quest to help the wearer interact with their clobber.

Errolson’s Stone Island Shadow Project presentation is tremendous, with the PARSEQ GRID (Proof Augment Resist Skin Equip) application channeling the spirit of Osti in a progressive antidote to the sea of handsewn-fetish photoshoots. Side entry pocket tees to prevent a BlackBerry from taking a death dive into the toilet bowl? Now that’s everyday performance.

The Dream is music’s equivalent of the Modular Down Vest. I was disappointed that Terius cheated on Christina Milian, feeling that the fat-necked Love King may have sailed too close to the sun like the Icarus of Blu-ray R&B, but he constantly delivers (go check out ‘Florida University’ from his last album for the most melodically long-winded “fuck you” in music history). Even when Terius calls his album ‘1977’, he’s incapable of taking a nostalgia trip. It’s all heartbreak, unexpected Pharrell MC skills, blog-complaints, codeine slurs, rock-outs, grunts and spacey synths around that amazing voice. Frank needs to fall back and The Weekend might have the fly packaging, but Terius owns his genre. His first album as Terius is a free download too, with some bronzed-out sleeve art that’s hood-lavish.

These gentlemen are making the threads and the sonics to listen to while donning those forward-thinking fabrics.

Just to bring you back to earth, Game’s “digital book” has a cover so poor that it defies belief. The image, the Comic Sans, the crude placement — this couldn’t look less like an officially sanctioned piece of work if it tried, with an aesthetic that defies digital. It looks like the hastily prepared pamphlet of a teacher trying to be down or an 11 year-old’s class project on gangster rap rather than the making of a solid LP that just knocked ‘Watch the Throne’ out its gold seat in the Billboard charts. Jay-Z had that Microsoft money and the elaborate dust jacket. This looks like it was knocked up on an Acorn Electron. Damn. If it wasn’t for Weezy’s half-arsed performance in jester trousers, this would have been clowned a little harder as the oddest misstep since Dr. Dre got his sci-fi Fonz on with a smedium leather in the ‘Kush’ video.

Non super-scientifical but still necessary, the khaki brown Albam sweatshirt looks tremendous. Albam’s work-in-progress to make the definitive crewneck sweat is a noble mission, and that gym key/stash pocket is another example of added function that works. I’ve noticed more and more good sweatshirts from Japanese (but I still find purchasing XLs a little soul-destroying) brands carrying unnecessary prints of seemingly non-existent sporting teams and fictional-sounding platoons that remind me of the finest moment in middle-class comedy courtesy of Armstrong & Miller: “I hate random things written on clothes — it’s just pointless.”

Everyone tweets about how hard done they are in the office. It’s not like they’re working all hours in a hospital ward of terminally ill kids. Most of the time the culprits are just writing shit presentations on shit brands. I like watching people when they enjoy their work, and this Boiler Room footage of Lunice at Notting Hill Carnival depicts someone having a fuckload of fun. I wish I could conjure up this kind of enthusiasm regularly. Just watching him is infectious.

ALBAM ARE STILL TRYING TO CREATE THE WORLD’S BEST SWEATSHIRT

When any piece of writing about your brand commences with “It might be a cliché…” there’s a fair chance you’ve really made it. It might be a cliché to gush about the greatness of Albam, but they get a lot of things very, very right. I’m unlikely to rush out and start wearing a neckerchief or waistcoat, even though Albam sell those items. I’m equally unlikely to swan around calling things “shirting” but I respect how they’ve maintained their initial mission statement to perfect basics in addition to some more technical pieces — the Alpine jacket for instance — and continually tweaked them seasonally. There’s a definite performance streak that runs though several designs (a climbing/biking fixation?) that stops the brand’s output from ever descending into dandyism.

It’s 23 degrees in the daytime at the moment, so what better time to start banging on about thick cotton fleece again? Fuck it. Sweatshirts are always relevant.

Not content with attempting the perfect t-shirt from their launch in late 2006, (itself a very subjective thing — alas, as a less-refined oaf, I favour something with more bulk and a thicker neckline, but their Egyptian cotton creation is admirable), their quest for the perfect crew-neck sweatshirt has been visible over the last couple of years. It’s curious to see Brits recreating iconic American styles from scratch, but there’s a certain obsession that’s unique to this country when it comes to clobber and music and one that can transcend Japan’s preoccupations. I loved the 2009 incarnation of the Albam crewneck (there’s a rant on here somewhere about it), but in its current form, it can totally take out the import, Americana-fetishist short-arm, short body efforts at half the cost too (£77). The fit seems to have become a little more forgiving and the elbow stitches, flat locked seams, cuff and waist rib details that remind me of Polo rugby shirt sleeves give it its own identity.

The UK and Portugal make something that’s not another Costa Rican made fat suit fit, with the 50-inch chest, There’s plenty of details in the mix (inner pocket stays winning), but as is Albam’s way, it’s assigned an identity of its own without a fussiness that makes it gimmick gear. In Saffron, it works very well too. The current store offerings (despite a dearth of sizes 3 and 4s due to popularity) are tremendous — the Artisan Shirts (winter’s red chambray version was phenomenal) and Ring Snap Shirts (green wins) are some of the best yet, but I feel that with our yankophile ways, we’re more swayed by the impending UK arrival of J. Crew, whose recent presentation looked hyper-awkward, and whose offerings lately (bar New Balance) look a little too college-jerk/middle-management for my tastes. Albam is doing a far better job, with better build (I haven’t heard too many moans about quality since the loose buttons on the original cagoules talk) and more logical price structuring.

I feel Albam was partly responsible for a quiet revolution in men’s clothing down south. Every apparel designer from any brand I’ve spoken to visiting London since 2008 has carried a scrap of paper with “ALBAM, Beak Street (Off Carnaby Street)” on it or had the address lurking on their BlackBerry.

I love residing in a town outside London that pays little attention to trends that aren’t Ed Hardy, Full Circle or All Saints, but even in Bedford I’m seeing the parka, cuffed chinos and work boots creep in. And bear in mind that when I first broke out the Fisherman’s Cagoule a few years back (second generation with the white buttons) I was the source of much amusement — I got “Yarrrr” in a faux sea-captain voice, plus some freestyled sea shanties from more creative members of my peer group. Now I see them clad in Albam-lite, purchased from High Street spots with designers taking hefty “inspiration” from the Albam inventory and blog realm in general.

One joy of living somewhere detached from any Google Blogsearched notion of cool is that any sighting of a look there is the ultimate barometer that a trend has transcended any notion of tastemaker to become a full-fledged phenomenon. As long as Albam keep on dropping seasons like the current one, I remain a fanboy. Props to Mr. Shaw and Mr. Rae on almost five years of strong work — and congratulations to Jude on the new addition.


I hope one day the Fisherman’s Cagoule comes back. Mine is so covered in scratches that it makes me look homeless. And not in a cool Doug Bihlmaier way either.

Total digression, but what’s the story with Glenn O’Brien’s Wu-Tang themed broom in the Life + Times site interview the other week? It’s amazing.

SWEATSHIRT VALHALLA

The hunt for the perfect grey sweatshirt is as troubling as the quest to find that special white t-shirt. Other clothes can come and go, but the glorious neutrality of the marl grey sweat is the piece that comes out season after season, year after year. It swoops above subcultural pigeonholes too.

Curiously, while I’ve grown in stature, I’ve reduced my sizing since my days pausing MTV Raps to gauge branding – in 1993 I was submerged in an extra-extra large oatmeal-coloured mass of hooded Carhartt. A year or so later, infuriated by the sagging waistband, intended at portly welders rather than my pre-pubescent scrawn, I downsized to a volumnious extra large. It’s notable that the sweats I sported had more longevity in crewneck form. But now I’m inclined to feel (Japanese brands aside) like a Nurishment supping car thief when I go beyond a large.

Continue reading SWEATSHIRT VALHALLA

WHITE TEES

Hanes ‘Beefy-T’ – Before a wash (right) & after one wash (left).

“Fuck ya cowboy boots, this Timbos on my feet/Some boys bear the names, I rather rock a white tee/Go against ya dress code and still be V.I.P.”

I wear a white tee most days, but the quest to find the perfect specimen of the shirt has been relatively fruitless. I’m certainly not the first person to blog about the white tee either Mr. Andrew Bunney and Jake Davis have logged their journey to white tee perfection (ultimately never finding the ‘one’ despite numerous suggestions) – Andrew’s post from a few years back inspired this one, but what he searches for in a shirt is different to mine. He was looking for a thinner undershirt, with a printed rather than sewn tag. For the most part, I’m not thinking Brando or ’50s rebel yells, but just looking for a thicker cotton number that isn’t boxy or too ‘Soulja Boy’ – can’t knock the man’s hustle, but too long makes me feel too old.

Continue reading WHITE TEES