I hoard books on certain subjects. Inevitably, I’ve amassed an amount of sportswear-related publications that’s a little embarrassing. Being a nerd when it comes to that subject I’d found myself discussing the lack of a solid tome on the subject of Reebok. After all, the brand that Joseph William Foster created was one that led during a lion’s share of the 1980s, and its cross trainers and basketball shoes circa 1987 were expensive status symbols that pushed me into the industry I’m in right now. Having missed out on the recent London Reebok exhibition, I assumed I missed out on something decent, but the brand book they put together with Tangent Design is excellent. Discussing everything that makes the brand interesting, I haven’t seen a lot of coverage on this part of the project, so I expected it to be underwhelming, but at 206 pages, it’s a good accompaniment to the vast 2012 adidas book (a serious precedent, that like this one, seemed to be strictly promo-only) and necessary if you geek out over old stuff and obscure logos. I’m jealous that I never wrote the ‘FOR THE MOTIONALLY UNSTABLE…‘ ad too. I’ve never necessarily associated Reebok with blue suede, but it makes for a nice cover fabric too. I’m guessing that, as is the case with several similar projects, image rights, names and all the other stuff that can slow a project down, means that this one is destined to be strictly promo. That means that there’s a decent book for all the key brands out there now, though I’d happily pay for a 300+ page history of Troop’s rise and rumour-led fall.
First things first — Robbie at Unkut just upped a photo of Showbiz that proves he was very much about that life pre-Rap. The gold, the white Reeboks on his feet, the Dapper Dan gear, the blue AF1s, the Air Max 1s, the adidas and the multiple Air Force IIIs indicate that Show was making some steady revenue circa 1988. Bronx kept creating that cash. This is the best photo I’ve seen since the 1990 Sports Illustrated shot of Steve Smith and friends cleaning enviable footwear when 15 pairs of flagship releases seemed like some Sheikh-level power move. This October 1991 Tim “Original armshouse lick for the girly-girl crew on that rammajammer tip, for the punani mechanics!” Westwood ragga set that Random Rap Radio recently shared is a perfect soundtrack to browsing those images — if the combination doesn’t inspire you in one way or another, then there’s nothing left for you in this world.
If you’ve enough of slackness and ostentatious nostalgia, this interview with Peter Ducommun from Skull Skates on Sex Magazine is fantastic. Now that’s how you put logos on long-sleeve t-shirt arms with integrity. And there’s finally a cover for Scarface’s autobiography, Diary of a Madman, which will probably be incredible when it comes out in October. Willie Dee’s intro for the Houston Rap Tapes book has got me prepped for some Geto Boys memories on paper. The crazy look and a Sir Benni Miles skully is a strong cover image.
Perks & Mini are one of the remain one of the most underrated brands of the last 15 years and this grey P.A.M. sweatshirt might look like it’s been dyed at the neck but that’s actually wool. Misha and Shauna are the smartest innovators and reappropriators in their field — that explosive collar of mohair-like softness is excellent (the black and yellow version is good too.) An insane idea, well executed. They’re at Goodhood right now.
If you wanted to see bad iPhone images of book pages then you came to the right place my friend. I couldn’t be bothered to hunt anything new/old down tonight and because it’s nearly Christmas, books seemed relevant.
Joe Mansfield’s Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession didn’t disappoint — rather than trying to play completist, it picks the most interesting pieces of Mansfield’s collection and delves from there. The scattering of essays and interviews makes it a richer read, but those ads, old logos, typefaces and mentions of significant records made on each machine are an education alone. I never knew what a BOSS Dr. Rhythm DR-55 was until I picked up this book, but now I hear it all the damn time when I’m in new wave mode on iTunes. I’m looking forward to seeing what Get On Down publications puts out next — niche subjects presented perfectly are the stuff essential books are made of.
I know the Schott — 100 Years of an American Original book came out earlier this year, but I only got round to getting my hands on it. Anything Rin Tanaka is always worth hunting down, even if it always involves a hapless — and oft fruitless — bargain hunt to find it at a normal price. This is top five brand endorsed retrospectives of all time. A lot more brand would benefit from getting Tanaka to delve through his/their archives, but most don’t have the legacy of the Schott Perfecto. If you go around poking at your peers jackets and pretending that you know what you’re talking about, then you need this. The gallery of celebrity Perfecto wearers at the close of the book is a reminder that Schott’s period as a vaguely pricey nylon shelled jacket of desire for kids followed by a stint served on TK Maxx shelves was an unfair representation of the brand.
adidas’ 10 Years of Y-3 is one of those books that could have been phenomenal but ended up decent — with Yamamoto’s role with adidas looking like it’s deeper than ever and given his personal perspective is always deeper than the majority of other designers when they’re on the mic, the lack of dialogue from him was initially disappointing, but on a purely visual perspective, it’s proof of what happens when someone who can actually design gets free rein at a sports brand and there’s plenty of imagery of the shows going back to the beginning. Bar some comments from celebrity admirers and peers at the rear, it’s virtually wordless, but after the initial deflation, I have to concede that it suits the line’s approach. One day, everyone will look beyond the expensive slimline shoes that blokes used to wear with Armani denim round my way and concede that Y-3 was very influential indeed.
To conclude, here’s a picture of Stevie Wonder wearing a Fila tracksuit top, possibly during a British leg of the promo tour for Songs in the Key of Life. Even without sight, Stevie knew what time it was.
Inspiration comes from some strange places. Residing relatively near Northampton, I had no idea that their museum held an enviable stash of sports footwear artifacts on display. I knew they had some in the museum and that there was a related event in early 2011, but I assumed it would be obvious releases for the easily excitable. Personally speaking, I have zero interest in seeing anything from the last 20 years on display anywhere, and the fruits of some presumed eBay activity here (if you sift through the battered nondescript runners in the mix) is better than most cynically compiled shoe expos. It’s all about the hi-top adidas (what is that Forum/Concord looking thing above?) they’re holding, including — seemingly out of nowhere — a Forum Hi box that displays the staggering late 1980s Foot Locker price of the shoe ($120), but no actual Forum His (I came across this Flickr account while hunting for Forum facts), plus some pioneeringly patent leather Made in France Concords (a shoe I’ve always loved and have extra affection for because they were the first store description I ever wrote for CT). There’s 1974 Jack Purcells, made two years after the Converse acquisition of the license from Goodrich as well as other oddball brand offerings. Sauntering in there and coming face to face with a pair of Nike Alohas would give me Stendhal syndrome. It’s a logical supplement to the region’s documentation of their legacy of shoemaking (as displayed in this beautiful set of late 19th and early 20th century factory shots), but I really slept on the Northampton Museum shoe stash.
On vaguely related topic, check out this Juan Epstein with Chi Ali where he briefly mentions his enviable shoe stash as a shorty and the Combat Jack show with Raekwon, where the Snow Beach garments are discussed.
Shouts to Steven Vogel who seems to have solidified his long relationship with FC St. Pauli with the Streetcore line. Many stabs at football culture as a trend statement are the worst thing ever, but St Pauli isn’t your average kind of club. I’m conscious of being John Thompson’s football fan on ‘The Fast Show’ whenever I even play with football culture, but Mr. Vogel has worked well with the team’s already enviable array of skull and crossbones festooned merchandise for one of the few skull printed shirts to not make you want to scratch your eyeballs. He hasn’t just sourced the first black blank he saw either. Craig and the A Number of Names squad’s anon* sweatshirt on a Camber blank brings back a set in sleeved, puffy, US-made, body side paneled silhouette that resurrects the jock fit of a 1996 sweat from Slam, Bond or Dr Jives.
Idea Books is one of the few email newsletters worth wasting thumb energy on when it shows up on your phone. Their Bowie-related acquisitions presumably always find a buyer at a high-profile brand to justify the cost. I’ve seen a few pages from a similar publication on a Bowie message board a few years back, but beyond the crotch shots and shiftlessness, this David Bowie Fan Club publication from 1973 is full of strange imagery that’s rarely seen anywhere else and the Idea crew are correct in commenting on how awesome the logo for Bowie and Tony DeFries’ MainMan company was. “Happy Hologram” is some pharmaceutical grade yayo copywriting. They’ve also uncovered a rare ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ poster that uses a tagline I’m more familiar with as an accompaniment the shot that’s also used as the ‘Low’ cover art. Go to their site and subscribe to their newsletter immediately, because what they spotlight doesn’t crop up on Amazon Marketplace too often.
Idea also had a KLF ‘Fuck the Millennium’ kit from their Barbican show back in 1997 that sold out before they even needed to talk it up. As eBooks go, JMR Higgs’ ‘Chaos Magic Music Money’ is a great history of pretty much everything that inspired, parallels or echoes the KLF attitude. Immaculately researched, just as Bill Drummond’s ’45’ held back on delivering a comprehensive history of their exploits, Higgs’ book is a mass of tangents that, like the subject matter, makes its own sense. A linear history would erode the mystique and miss the point, while authorization would be even further from the Ford Galaxie tracks and defeat the object entirely. The author is a master of controlled digression and you should reward his hard work and talent by spending £4.54 on his work.
I want to watch a bootleg copy of the new Ben Affleck film (no Gigli) so this is a rush job. The Timberland brand has been an organisation close to my heart since the notion of amassing £120 for a pair of boots was impossible and I had to settle for CAT. Shit, I even considered Lugz back when Erick Sermon was plugging them in jeans big enough to block out the sun and cause a global rickets crisis, but you always knew you were compromising. For all the ‘Watchdog’ talk of quality or unfounded rumours about them and their enthusiastic hip-hop market, an ad with, say, Das EFX in ‘The Source’ would have ultimately deaded the Timberland brand. I’m not mad at the way it wasn’t all up in the rap press desperately trying to be down (though I still don’t mess with the roll-tops) during my teen years. As Timberland weather approaches and their 40th birthday is impending (though the Abington Boot Company launched 60 years ago), here’s some old Timberland ads. The blocky TIMBERLAND lettering to promote the “Outdoors-Proof Boot” in 1976 shows how the brand design has evolved and the 1979 campaign with a hillbilly family in wheat workbooks that, rather curiously, depicts them as the shoe of the moonshine maker hiding from Treasury Agents, is a gem, complete with a tagline that pre-dates Stella Artois’ “Reassuringly expensive” campaign — “A whole line of fine leather boots that cost plenty, and should.” 1982 was seemingly the year that Timberland declared boat shoe beef with Sperry Top-Sider with shot after shot. Brands didn’t do subliminals back then — shots fired, man overboard! Can I still enter the 1984 sweepstakes for Black & Decker powertools? The copywriting’s pretty solid throughout the 1980’s as GORE-TEX enters the line and the Super Boot era begins. I never realised that it took until 1991 for the brand to drop proper hikers either. I love these ads.
To coincide with the exhibition that’s in Berkeley California right now (though I’m hoping to catch in Boston next April) a full mid-career retrospective book is dropping next month and it looks tremendous and curiously affordable too. The Damiani book from 2009 was substantial, but this 448 page behemoth is something I’m judging by its cover, but you know it’s going to be necessary. Here’s Berkeley Art Museum’s Lawrence Rinder (who, put the book together alongside assistant curator Dena Beard) and Jefferey Deitch talking about Barry McGee. There’s a few more videos on YouTube courtesy of BAMPFA, including an excellent slideshow created by McGee.
Schemed a blog entry on the train then found out another better blog had done it already. I was going to blog about the Nike & Stüssy project but there’s about 3,000 things about it on the internet already — needless to say, I’m extremely grateful that Adam and Jorge (a phenomenal designer) let me write some stuff and Eric Elms was kind enough to put me in touch with those guys. I missed out on the opportunity to work in a period of advertising I worship and they retroed an aesthetic beautifully in #the #hashtag #era. But you can Google that and see better coverage. As I wait for a Rizzoli Dapper Dan retrospective to sit alongside the Hussein Chalayan book, I’ve been looking back at a couple of gems that capture the naivety of Euro teen hip-hop obsession as well as a time when you weren’t so jaded that you didn’t look at your new shoe/track top/cap/t-shirt last thing before the lights went off at night. Now we’re all scheming the next purchase before the email confirmation of commerce even arrives. That’s why I loved Dokument Press’s ‘Cause We Got Style!’ last year, laden with plenty of pasty faces pulling off b-boy poses in gear that almost certainly required some fraternal hookups and pen friend behaviour as well as complicated – and perilous — modes of payment by mail. European hip-hop posing in 2012 doesn’t seem as fun.
‘Cause We Got Style’ was a fine supplement to the Cold War East Germany hip-hop scene documentary, ‘Here We Come’ — further proof that Europeans rival our friends in Japan on the obsession front and manage to make good use of scant resources like some sub-cultural survivalists. Dokument are dropping something equally exciting in April 2013 with the release of ‘Shirt Kings — Pioneers of Hip-Hop Fashion’ by Edwin “PHADE” Sacasa and Ket. PHADE and his NYC crew’s contribution to the print t-shirt, hip-hop style and as a result, street style as a whole is substantial and 144 pages of Shirt Kings is a serious prospect, given how popular a mere scattering of images from blogs and PHADE’s MySpace of happy Shirt Kings’ customers proved. I’ve always wondered how many of the shoes in those shots came from the legendary Mitch’s shoe spot near the Shirt Kings set up and Eddie Plein’s OG gold grill location. This is a promising publication — salutes to Dokument for putting out this kind of thing.
That was an anaemic Wednesday entry — I promise I’ll make it up to you.
In the meantime, go read the new issue of Oi Polloi’s Pica~Post here. On the subject of re appropriation and style, there’s a good interview with Olmes Carretti the man behind Best Company in there — a brand worn by some top boys as well as Russ Abbott in the ‘Atmosphere’ video. Carretti’s own website is a treasure trove of Euro ads for his brands, including a ton from ten years of Best Company. Is that coke or snow on that guy’s nose?
What’s worse? David Guetta and Thierry “Mr. Brainwash” Guetta collaborating or the x Superdry Timothy Everest project? I can’t quite make up my mind but they’re probably pretty lucrative when it comes to tapping into the psyche of those willing to part with the beige pound and beige dollar. There’s a lot more to the world that the cool-guy realm that’s blogged so relentlessly.
Everyone’s into print these days, but not everybody’s built for it. I can’t see the value in the majority of editorials plugging product that just seem to be executed to keep paymasters who think that kind of thing matters happy with tangible proof that something is “working” but I still get a kick out of picking up a magazine that delivers something different. Standard advertorial can pale next to a well-timed Tweet, but good product is guaranteed goodwill. Recently I mapped out a plan for a publication but lost my temper over something unrelated and deleted the plan out of spite against myself. That self-sabotage was worth it though, because the contents list was tedious. Like I said, it’s not for everyone, I was very impressed by the Acid Rambler newspaper when I got a glimpse the other week and by uniting a Patagonia founder with a Beach Boy, it has a cohesion that’s only apparent to those who get the core concept — that’s some masterfully executed self-indulgence. The (sold out) Oi Polloi tie-dye tie-ins are good too. I like ‘LAW’ magazine too and #2 has just dropped.
Lives And Works magazine is the brainchild of John Joseph Holt, deceived me with its cover (I’ve developed an apathy toward £10+ fashion mags that sit artfully spaced on boutique shelves and never reach a second issue), but takes a close inspection at existing British tribes and characters rather than applying a buzzword to a non-movement. Estate agents with suedehead pasts, housing block signage, Playstation games, scooter shops, wetlook hair, newsagent workers and proprietors, plus Saturday night theme pub dwellers are in the portraits and personal accounts ‘LAW’ includes. That’s pretty much everything Danny Boyle forgot to chuck into the Olympic opening ceremony then. Come the apocalypse, when a new species of human sifts through 2012’s wreckage with their 13 fingered hands, I would hope they’d discover something like this as a document of where we were, rather than some misleading rag that makes us look like a bunch of, tech goth, Azealia Banks disciples haplessly grasping for “movements” who pretty much deserved to be eliminated. I would hope that ‘LAW’ would be cause for more compassion. John Holt’s work parallels team ISYS.TV and their love of everyday style that we seem to aimlessly aspire away from or demonise with chav allegations. ISYS are getting a spot at the Tate with NTS too and it’s a great platform for their work. Go get ‘LAW’ from Goodhood or B Store or get more information here.
Another place where print is relevant is in graffiti. You could argue that it’s the transient, fleeting nature of the artform that makes documentation so essential but it’s probably because graffiti has a tendency to attract massive geeks who like buying stuff and probably pretend that they racked it. ATG always come correct in a world where so many can profit from the legal side only and they get up in places that people can actually see from afar. Their blog also makes graffiti seem kind of fun, rather than being something dysfunctional sociopaths bang about on forums. ATG’s ‘Eye In the Sky’ book depicting some pieces with positive messages and plenty of eyes in prominent places is something different though. It goes on sale at Stolen Space after a launch tomorrow.
If there wasn’t a ‘They Live’ would we be subjected to OBEY nowadays? Was it worth it? Of course it was worth launching a tiresome street art career and streetwear for people who like Mr. Brainwash. That scene with Roddy Piper and Keith David’s battering each other in the alley way makes it all worth it. The soundtrack, that subversive subtext that can be enjoyed on a simple alien/human invasion flick level, that ending and the director/star commentary on the original DVD are all classic. It’s one of the greatest genre films ever. The impending Blu-ray release (set for November) has the kind of artwork (nice font too) that sold a VHS to me in 1988, even if the special features haven’t been announced. It’s a shame that there’s not a deluxe edition with replica truth-telling sunglasses/hater blockers, but there’s still time. You can tell a lot about a person by whether they’ve seen ‘They Live’ and how passionate they are about it. This art beats the OBEY poster from last summer’s Alamo Drafthouse screening.