There’s plenty of little moments scattered across publications that altered the course my career would take in one way or another. Back in mid 1998, The Face ran a ‘Fashion Hype’ (and hype would become a word attached to these objects like a particularly excitable Siamese twin in the decade that followed) piece on the newly opened Hit and Run store (which would be renamed The Hideout for presumed legal reasons by 2000). This two page spread was a rundown of things I’d never seen in the UK and sure enough never seen them with a pound price next to them. I immediately rushed out and asked a couple of Nottingham skate stores if they’d be getting any Ape, Supreme, GoodEnough or Let It Ride gear in, only to be met with a blank stare. lesson learnt: Kopelman had the hookups that the other stores didn’t. This Upper James Street spot was selling APC jeans for 48 quid, while Supreme tees were only a fiver less than they are now. The 1998 season when Supreme put out their AJ1, Casio, Champion tee, Goodfellas script design and Patagonia-parody jacket was particularly appealing, and it was showcased here, while SSUR keyrings, BAPE camo luggage and soft furnishings were a hint of things to come. I guarantee that once you made it to the store, a lot of the stuff that you assumed you could grab with ease would be gone — an early life lesson that hype just isn’t fair.
Twitter is swarming with links to Robin Williams tributes, and with good reason — the handful of people I know who met him found him to be a class act and it’s a testament to his versatility that while I never found his standup particularly side-splitting, he was one of the ultimate actors when the script was right, as was the case with Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King and Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad. Williams was a man with an inclination toward some of the brands and cultures discussed here — FTC (his local spot), Slam City and Supreme were all apparently regular haunts and the BAPE and Viotech combo has become a message board staple.
Some ill-informed characters would jeer at that gaudy combo a few years back and discuss it as if it was the death knell for those brands, but the fact is, Williams was most likely on it before it hit the radar of a new breed of cynics. Williams was even up on Acronym, picking up pieces from San Fran’s Darkside Initiative store. He was up on Raf Simons shoes back in 2009 too. Now, if a semi celebrity wears some easy-to-find Jordan IIIs, the internet starts quaking — back in the mid 2000s, this was unique. Between that , the video game obsession and Questlove’s tale of an encounter that indicates that he might have been a hip-hop fanatic too. There’s too many layers and degrees of separation to even begin to dissect here, but his loss is a tragedy.
In these situations, I clocked a few of the social media voices of unreason complaining that we mourn celebrities more than we do victims en masse in a war zone — that’s because it’s tough to fully grieve when there’s no face to put to the deceased and, given his admirable work ethic, Williams’ mug was a familiar sight. The sad reality for the complainers is that some poor kid thousands of miles away that strayed onto a landmine wasn’t in Fast & Furious 6 or Jumanji. It’s human nature. Are the going to start picketing our uncles’ funerals next because we’re not getting angry enough about Syria? Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt We’ve been given the emotional depth to be upset about both things.
But anyway, forget all the sentiment — the image above from 1990 (jacked from Getty and the LIFE archives), around the Cadillac Man era in Williams’ career, wearing the GORE-TEX North Face TransAntarctica coat indicates that, long before he got himself an Acronym, he understood the power of great outerwear. Robin Williams was unique on every level and he was doing the brands long before the blogs too.
If you never got a copy of the Nike Genealogy of Innovation book from the project I worked on and your browser is too weedy to look at the website, here’s a video that the good people of Golden Wolf put together that animates 200 Nike shoes from 1972 to 2014 in chronological order. Crazy that the lists I was writing in iPhone Notes during a train journey ended up looking like this — it looks like the inside of my mind.
This blog has kind of fallen off, self-sabotaged by its attempts to not be a sports footwear-centric WordPress, but then dwelling on the subject matter a little too often. But self-indulgent talk often echoes the day job and in that job shoes figure heavily. Right now, the heat and a lengthy flight from the west coast to the UK has killed my creativity stone dead, but I was energised by a trip to Nike’s WHQ for some work. From my early teens onwards the notion of visiting the Nike Campus sounded like some Willy Wonka business, minus the sinister wig outs on boat rides or bi-polar freak outs that Gene Wilder unleashed on Charlie and his benefit fraud grandfather and having been a few times now, it’s a fun place to visit that seems to deify the same kind of nerdery I tend to celebrate here.
Of course, the work and what lies behind doors remains secret, though the Innovation Kitchen, Nike Sports Research Lab and archives are impressive — in fact the archive is basically a geek ground zero that proves, no matter how much you think you’ve swotted up, you’ve only seen the tip of a dusty, yellowed, PU and nylon based iceberg. Having been lost on campus twice (to get from the Michael Jordan building to the canteen involves walking by a 7 minute saunter by a lake, football pitch and over a bridge), been chased by a goose and slashed my nose open on a low hanging metal lampshade in the archives these last few days, I’ve suffered for my art.
Even if you couldn’t care less for shoes, the scale’s still impressive, but if you follow Nike history, there’s plenty to stare at at — even in the receptions of each building. Bill Bowerman’s waffle iron, the 1984 NBA letter regarding Jordan’s fines, prototype Prestos and AJ1s…it’s a lot to take in. Buying Lunar Montreals and NFL shirts by the trolley from the Employee Store was a good use of dollars too, and ultimately — for the casual visitor — the whole setup’s pretty much a sportswear theme park. For several employees, I’m sure it’s simply a place of work that’s frequently disrupted by gawping idiots like me wielding iPhones.
Because I need sleep, I’ve sold you short here, so here’s three bonus images chucked in because they look cool; one of a 1989 plea to get people on NYC’s subway post graffiti cleanup, one from a 1970s ‘New York’ article and a 1982 Timberland ad.
In the name of nostalgia (because it’s mostly either excessively indulgent or unremarkable in the rap stakes), the same person that uploaded the 1998 ‘World Wide Bape Heads Show’ has uploaded the 1999 one too. It takes me back to a time of attempting to justify wild prices, the Mo’ Wax BB, thick cotton on tees and deranged mark-ups on used gear in Camden market. Musically, I think I actually prefer the Omarion-in-the-lookbook era.
Ah, 1999. Mo’ Wax releases were unlistenable with nice covers, denim was expensive and had Tippex style ‘E’s on the pockets, wallets had chains and Nikes looked like HR Giger designed them. Anyone else remember LEVEL magazine? It seemed to survive from 1999 until 2000, and represented a little Brighton-based moment in UK publishing to complement The Face. Back then I felt that print was on the wane, but I was unaware of the implosion that would leave W.H. Smiths barren bar the trashier mags and the style publications with ad-spend sugar daddies. To go visit the cornershop and grab a magazine with Nigo in it back when English language quasi-otaku antics were seemingly confined to an online Illuminati was surprising and I became a regular reader until LEVEL came to an abrupt end in November 2000 — it’s a shame on a number of levels, not least because the worlds of art, fashion and music it promoted collided in grander style the following year.
Now if I saw a magazine with Shepard Fairey’s work on, I’d be unlikely to even browse it, but back in August 2000 it was genuinely dizzying to see a reference staring me from the shelf. George P. Pelecanos profiles before ‘The Wire’ became the Johnny-come-lately liberal newspaper TV show of choice? Nice. Of course, nothing from the year 2000 can come away looking entirely fresh – Psycho Cowboy Brand garms, “electronica” scored first-gen Playstation games and skate shoes a mile wide were never destined to age well — but the layout is certainly not some over designed attempt to out-Neville Brody the pages and LEVEL came off like the smartest millennial Channel 4 youth show that never was and a less breathless ‘Grand Royal’. I lost my copies to overzealous parents during a move, so shouts to Nikolai of another of 2000’s heroes — Rift Trooper HQ — for hooking me up with some back issues last summer. But nobody told me that LEVEL still exists in online form until I spotted this online (there’s another nice little tribute here too).
Everyone’s a bloody “online magazine” but barely anybody normal I know owns an iPad yet. I still think there’s mileage for something in the vein of LEVEL or France’s Clark from these shores.
I’m a late adopter, yo. Nobody told me that there’s a Patta TV show either. Well, not exactly, but Tim and Mr. Lee Stuart’s presence on Amsterdam-based LetitrainTV (shouts to Gee for hipping me to the site’s existence) makes it very Patta-affiliated indeed. Tim visiting Smit-Cruyff — a pioneering European sports store that broke plenty of brands in Holland — is informative and talk of Prodigy’s autobiography, Eli Porter and running shoes makes this well worth a watch, because these chaps know what the fuck they’re talking about. Best of all, somebody’s kindly subtitled the whole thing too. I love LetitrainTV.
Remember when we were a laughing at that wacky Charlie Sheen earlier this year? Yeah, me neither. But watching Penelope Spheeris’s forgotten masterpiece, ‘The Boys Next Door’ which seems to be ignored when Spheeris talk skips from 1983’s ‘Suburbia’ to 1988’s ‘The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years’ and then ‘Wayne’s World’, I remembered what a powerful screen presence he is. It also reminded me that Maxwell Caulfield — last seen in ‘Emmerdale’ of all places — can be a remarkable actor, who gets to go psycho in this tale of two buddies who go killing for something to do. George Clinton on soundtrack duties, shades of ‘Badlands’ in that aimless malevolence and a genuinely foreboding atmosphere makes this the brooding brother of the Brat Pack flicks of the same year (1985) and the cold-blooded precursor to Tim Hunter’s ‘River’s Edge’ — Crispin Glover actually screen tested for Sheen’s role in ‘The Boys Next Door’ but according to Spheeris, he was deemed “too psychotic”. I need to see that screen test. The opening credits alone indicate that we’re not in John Hughes or Cameron Crowe territory.
I grew up watching teen gang-related films. Some were credible and some of my favourites (the Sean Penn ‘Bad Boys’ being a strong example) were downright daft. Whether it was ‘Boulevard Nights’ or ‘Quadrophenia,’ there’s been a fair degree of melodrama. The best examples are coming-of-age creations, but too often there’s too much lofty talk and angst. I always found being a teen in a provincial town to be bollockings in the classroom, boredom, the occasional contraband amusement and senseless blasts of depressingly memorable brutality delivered with a casual ferocity. That’s what Peter Mullan manages to capture with ‘NEDS’—a final entry in the unofficial trilogy of masterful misery he started with 1997’s ‘Orphans’—and it’s underpinned with a strong narrative
Most things in the 1970s looked grim, but Glasgow looks notably dreary, meaning teenage kicks give way to teenage stabbings, bottlings and teenage paving slabs to the head. There’s a curious mix of surreal flourishes and total realism at work here too. First timer Conor McCarron’s performance as John is a hard-faced evolving study in simmering rage—one of the best performances in years, while Mullan is a repulsive drunken father with a deathwish who brings an extra depth and deftly avoids the self-pitying pitfalls of hard life cliché. From recognisable menace to dreamlike oddity, ‘NEDS’ is a masterpiece. It’s not about using the accuracy of the wardrobe’s team aptitude for obtaining synthetic fabrics of the era as a selling point – this is truthful, terrifying cinema.
The scene of a fatalistic two-fisted knifing spree to eerie electronics alone confers a viewing. Scottish period gang cinema is hardly a subgenre, but this impresses as much as Gillies MacKinnon’s ‘Small Faces’ did back in 1996 – that in itself was a poorly promoted film, dropping in the opiate haze of the excellent ‘Trainspotting’ and with a more deliberate pace compared to Danny Boyle’s kinetic approach. There’s room in my heart for this solemn, joyless treatment of teen war as well as the gleeful silliness of Kim Chapiron’s ‘Dog Pound.’
What’s up with folk gloating about the BAPE situation at the moment? The streetwear industry owes much of its existence to the house that Nigo built and many would do well to have taken tips from BAPE’s plus points rather than biting the more lurid elements. I would sold vital organs to have laid my hands on an ‘APE SHALL NEVER KILL APE’ tee. James Lavelle seemed to have the hookup, but £50 for a tee if and when one cropped up made it out of my league. Prior to that, does anyone remember the BAPE windbreaker in ‘The Face’ circa 1994, with a gloating write up that indicated this would never be in your personal possession?
It was a tiered acquisition mission—after succeeding in identifying the item, where on earth were you meant to obtain it from? And when you found the fabled spot, would it time with a drop date? And thus, a legend was born – western influences honed, gloriously repackaged and sold back to us in a fetishistic style we could never match. Shawn Mortensen’s fabled shot of Biggie in a borrowed BAPE camo or the short-lived Gimme 5 Very Ape spinoff were a huge inspiration to me. Best of all, on laying your hands on some BAPE apparel, the thickness of material, tiny two-sided tab and build with shrink resistance in mind seemed to justify the hunt. Every brand could learn a lot from BAPE’s approach to marketing and product. The majority seem to imitate the more obvious elements of the company’s output.
This article is very interesting indeed.
DJ MURO x AVIREX x STAX MA-1
DJ Muro isn’t just one of the greatest DJs on the planet—he’s the man behind some of the most bugged-out collaborations on the planet. I’ve bored of most double and triple acts, but Muro and King Inc. (plus SAVAGE! too) has maintained my interest by creating the sort of thing that would blow my mind on a Tokyo visit as I attempt to understand how it came into fruition. I’m loving the latest creation—the resurrection of Avirex outerwear in conjunction with Muro and, just because two partners isn’t enough, Memphis soul kingpins Stax. It looks like the imagery of the Memphis Sound has been applied to an MA-1 style design. After the North Face x SAVAGE! pieces, Muro x UCS x Porter 7 inch box and SAVAGE! x Carhartt x Stüssy Active Jacket, this is another unexpected creation that’s up there with the A Tribe Called Quest x Gravis x X-Large output in the XXX stakes.
MORE MAGAZINES IN LONDON
The new ‘GQ’ is a marked improvement on recent issues and the rare interview opportunity with Dick Gregory makes March’s issue very necessary. But with the new issue comes some significant news—I welcome any new spot for magazines in London, and around February 21st, Condé Nast Publications are opening Condé Nast Worldwide News—a store located in Vogue House on London’s St George Street promises 130 different Condé Nast titles from 25 countries. Designed by Ab Rogers to display the magazines like a museum in a carefully lit white and yellow environment, I’m looking forward to seeing the output. More technical types can browse digital editions on some wall-mounted iPads and hopefully it’ll sell Vogue Nippon at a more reasonable price than the usual £17 fee. But I doubt it.