Tag Archives: casuals


The entire casual subculture is coated with at least three layers of wish-they-were-there, which makes it hard to get to the core of kids dressing sharp to beat each other to a pulp during home and away games. It’s open to dimwitted exploitation and the majority clad in Sergio Tacchini and Lois just look like they’re off to a 1980s themed office party, with as much credibility as a bunch of Daves blacked up in afro wigs en route to Carwash. Most documentaries about it are atrocious and the majority of the books charting it are ‘ard nut div lit of the Kate Kray’s ‘Hard Bastards’ school of writing. Part the sea of professional northerners and Danny Dyer-isms (when even Alan Clarke’s attempt to document a lifestyle ends up heavy-handed, you know it’s never going to be easy to tell this story) and a fascinating sub-culture’s there, Stanley knife in hand and clad in the sportswear of the wealthy. It’s just most books on it are crap — Phil Thornton’s ‘Casuals’ did a noble job, ’80s Casuals’ was a great scrapbook of amassed gear and ‘The End’ compendium is necessary for a view at the time rather than retrospect and rose-tinted dust-up anecdotes.

I’m still waiting to pick up the definitive book on the topic, but it’s never going to happen, much as hip-hop books are a mixed bag — too many regional scenes and too many stories to tell without denting egos. As a half-Scot (my temperamental side is inherited from my mum’s side) I feel a selective sense of patriotism and having heard the horror stories of the country’s firms (my only key reference points to the older, more brutal days there are Gillies MacKinnon’s teen gang classic ‘Small Faces’ and John Motson announcing, “The scene is so typically Scottish” during a goalpost dismantling pitch invasion after Scotland’s 1977 victory over England), I was open to being educated. ‘Dressers’ delivers stories from a Motherwell fans’ perspective over 280 pages, with plenty of skirmish stories that are a solid Jock-centric sequel to Thornton’s mass of beatings and close calls, but there’s also hundreds of images, a ton of clippings and lots of shoes and clobber (ZX 280s and Seb Coe Impacts are beautiful objects) in charting the culture of the Dresser and the scourge of the Saturday Service. Just as it’s the law that Irvine Welsh had to have a quote on anything about smack a few years back, ‘Dressers’ comes complete with endorsement after endorsement, but thankfully, not a word from Nick Love.

This would make a hell of a documentary, but when it comes to clean living in difficult circumstances, our Celtic brethren put in work, and if you’re not inspired by the masses of bad hair, beer cans held aloft and clobber worn for clobbering time, I can’t do much for you. Crucially, the first 139 pages house a remarkable amount of information for any scholar of working class sub-cultures. It might only deal with one particular scene, that a small town squad managed to develop the reputation that the sons of Motherwell managed to accrue is a significant feat. It’s also noteworthy that the book is slickly laid out in hardback format rather than bearing the aura of mate’s mate with the desktop publishing software. You can buy ‘Dressers’ here and it’s a project worth supporting.

Going off at a macabre tangent (this is some rushed blogging), as a kid I was deeply disturbed by an image of Otis Redding being pulled from the water post plane crash. He looked peaceful, but as an Otis fan, it was a peculiar sight I couldn’t quite shake. Here’s where I drop a disclaimer — this isn’t Rotten or some gore forum and I apologise if you’re disturbed by the below image, but I imagine in these Worldstar, trade-a-death-video-with-your-boss, corpses-in-the-Daily-Mail days, you can stomach an image of a dead body, but is this picture of Otis Redding strapped to his chair from a ‘Jet’ feature just after the accident one of the oddest and most haunting pictures ever?


Apologies for sports footwear related posts two blogs running. This was supposed to be a sanctuary from that subject matter, and if George Costanza’s “Worlds Colliding” theory is to be believed, this could end in me getting upset, but it’s been one of those weeks thus far. So you get sneaker talk here as well as elsewhere. I’m very fond of athletic footwear. I’m not remotely athletic, but I’ve always favoured the shoes — I’m not talking the sensible suede and gum soled training favourites that characters a generation above me lose their minds over, but the silly post-1985 techy stuff. The oddities and the commercial disasters are extremely relevant to my interests.

I don’t consider myself a “sneakerhead” — I loathe the term even though I’ve been known to use it in meetings, presentations and mumbling video interviews — simply because I associate that expression with lazy journalism from folk acting as if they’re hardened hacks looking for a major press award on missions to cover this new phenomenon, opening with creaky-old Imelda Marcos references in their witty lead paragraph under the misapprehension that they’re Martin Amis when in reality they’re simply exhaling seventh-hand smoke. I also associate the term with t-shirts that make reference to “Kicks,” irritatingly positive god bothering individuals, caps at funny angles and a serious yet curiously un-scholarly approach to the topic despite the po-faces. How can you sit poker faced while talking about a shoe on a webcam? Sneakers are a stupid subject so it’s worth getting playful with it all. Fuck a blog dawg — I’m fascinated by an SMU/Custom Nike Air Ship being the real banned Michael Jordan shoe, contrary to history rewrites making it a Jordan I. Sneaker conspiracies.

So it’s good to get an outlet from the good folk at Complex (Russ, Joe, Nick and the crew understand that sports footwear can be fun too) to go too far and really geek out. This time it was ‘The Top 50 Sneaker Collaborations of All Time’ (well, my top 50 — I can’t speak for everyone else) and I deliberately minimised any buddy-buddy footwear Illuminati inclusions between friends who design shoes, anything I’ve worked on, as few Dunks as possible (that story’s been told a million times), well-regarded collaborations that just copied prior ones or whatever didn’t age well. But it’s clear that collaborations had a golden age between 2000 and 2005. Much of what happened over the subsequent six years is just pumping and squirting lovelessly, going through the motions. It just got dull. So what I included is plenty of interesting and offbeat pieces that weren’t just lame retailer rollouts.

Fuck comment section democracy and calls for feedback — I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of that rundown. But I’m sad that in the list whittling process, the following shoes were excised: Parra AM1, SNS Goatskin Suedes, fragment Footscapes, Geoff McFetridge Vandals, Simpsons x Vans collection, Crooked’s Confederacy of Villainy collection, Ben Drury AM1, KR Air Force 1s, Sophnet Internationalists, IRAK Torsion EQTs, Futura FLOMs, DPMHI Terminator Hyperstrikes, United Arrows NB 997.5s, Packer Fila FX100, Wet Look Dunks and plenty of Vans Syndicate releases.

Inevitably, Nike take the lion’s share of that top 50, owning the market in the dual-label concept’s heyday. It’s interesting studying what legendary individuals like Nike’s Footwear Marketing Manager and Global Footwear Director Drew Greer instigated between 1997 and 2001 that changed the course of sneakers and redefined the collaboration for the brand. From the City Attack NYC swoosh Air Force 1 regional releases in 1997 to the Wu Tang Dunk (check out this Complex feature on Wu Wear with Power talking about bringing another Wu Dunk out and a shot of a Wu Beach Polo beach homage) and in 1999 to the Alphanumeric Dunk Lo Pro B in 2001, Drew and his team wrote the blueprint from the decade that followed. It seemed fresh when they created their Easter egg hunts with minimal numbers. What was unique then rapidly became an industry norm. From that, sprung apathy. That’s why everyone’s in brogues nowadays. adidas’s Consortium concept and Nike’s Clerk pack remain equally aped too. Through those imitations, the collabortion was created.

Long before those synthesised markets were generated, adidas had come over here in a slow trickle of wheeler-dealers, connoisseurs, savvy shopkeepers and good old-fashioned thuggery. Most documentaries or films with ‘Casuals’ mentioned are liable to be unwatchable, “You saucy cahnt!” fests that are simply cash-in exploitation of idiots for idiots. Less casual, more blokes in shit reissue sportswear fabricating fight stories. But the ‘Casuals’ documentary looks interesting, with an appearance by shoe Jedi Mr. Gary Aspden. So I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. Plus it involves a man who really, really likes Keglers. to the extent where he’s wielding a big framed picture of them.

Fast-forwarding to a world where we’re not solemnly looking at things from 1979 and 2002, Errolson Hugh’s DISÆRAN line with United Arrows now has a lookbook right here: disaeran.com/FW1112-slideshow/DSRN-FW1112.html — technical goose downs, apparel designed ergonomically, the humble marl grey fleece track pant redesigned, slim silhouettes, a font that looks Avant-Garde, space age surplus, and some old utilitarian favourites taken back to the monitor for fresh insights plus that underlying sense of stealth promises big things if Acronym and Stone Island’s new slew of Shadow isn’t enough for you. It’s probably safe to assume that it won’t come cheap, but UNDERCOVER and Uniqlo doesn’t arrive until next year, so dressing progressive on a budget could prove fruitless for the immediate future.


DisclaimerCard reader broke. OCD means this blog had to get updated, so my shots had to wait. The images here are the 80s Casuals ones – I’ll replace them with something more comprehensive in the next day.

With no personal ties or pastel-shaded emotional baggage affiliated with the whole casual movement, it’s long been something I’ve looked upon with a detached admiration and no small amount of amusement. Flamboyant hooliganism, chasing after the next oddball wardrobe totem? You can’t help but take an interest. With my interest in trainers* informed by hip-hop, there was inevitably some crossover between terrace and what was lusted after by those ineptly attempting windmills on lino, and a lot of the UK clientele picking up heritage sports footwear – retro training pieces, is presumably a trickle down from an aspirational era when a piece like adidas’s Training P.T. was something very exclusive indeed.

Even my first trainers – the Nike Bongo – a cheapo version of Nike’s cutting edge runners, and the PUMA Jopper seemed like a bargain byproduct of the casuals’ demand for sportswear – in fact, rather than being a Channel U ‘ting, the provincial lust for affordable sportswear as pub and street wear surely owes a lot to casual looks.

Much of what I’ve obsessed over through the years style-wise has a twin grounding in the terraces and hip-hop culture alike. Champion, according to adidas’s man in the know, Gary Aspden, was briefly worn by Manchester casuals in the mid ’80s. Obscure? Bold colours? Hard to find? That’s a brief craze in the making. Brooklyn hustlers and Doug E. Fresh were making Fila look good in the same decade top boys closer-to-home could command respect with the Terrinda. Boosters heisting Polo Ralph Lauren goods, shoplifters pilfering Marc O’Polo. Different worlds, with the same obsessiveness, More clean living in difficult circumstances and good old fashioned oneupmanship. Me? I had to make do with Le Shark rather than Lacoste.

Forget the man still sporting the feather cut, scooter and Desert Boots – one of the final resting grounds of the mod movement’s core attitude, before fragmenting into a plethora of clobber cultures was the swaggering casual look. Working the same restless, elitist progression from must-have to passé with mayfly-length fad lifespans briefly elevating brands before leaving them to sink like a stone or swim as populist everyman attire, modernist comparisons aren’t without foundation. It’s in those on-to-the-next-one localised fashion phenomenons, that the most amusing, offbeat crazes materialised.

It’s not just menacing Henri Lloyd and Forest Hills matchups. That misses the point. I assume those that were there, and as with those claiming attendance at the  Sex Pistols’ Manchester Lesser Free Trade Halls  show, more claim casual credentials than ever played a part – just owning a pair of Lois cords doesn’t qualify a scribe to document it any more than owning a pair of Jordan IVs in ’89 (anyone over 18?) certifies anyone to claim they’re hip-hop through and through.

The combinations the high street peddles in the name of casual resurgence must grate as hard as the ’92 renaissance causing kids to mix late ’80s rope chain styling with a vintage Nautica from ’94 as a botched resurrection. Folk are wandering around looking like a walking summary of the ’80s rather than locking down a specific look. Each to their own. I can’t escape casual style permeating my own outlook. It leached into popular fashion – not in the “oi oi saveloy” tribalism, but in the small details and vast logo alike on an endless stream of garments.

Documenting something that tried to evade the pigeonhole makes for a tough thing to categorize, and that makes any document of casual looks the subject of debate, scorn and correction. Dave Hewitson, Jay Montessori and the 80s Casuals team have suffered their fair share of bandwagon hop-alongs over the last few years, but the forum still works as the best barometer of a product, and their passion is undeniable. With their book, while it’s deeply nostalgic, they’ve sidestepped the reminiscing that made Phil Thornton’s book fun but hampered by the personal approach, by giving you what you want – store shots, the adidas Cities series, Benetton, Tacchini, and Inter-Railing, with a clean but image-heavy approach to the topic. The crew could’ve been snide and kept this trove to themselves, but they opted to share. This is the best tome on the topic so far.

Those tutting at the past preoccupation need to understand how cyclical things prove, how defiantly British this is as a scene, and that plenty of what’s on display is a work of art. Independent and currently confined to 2000 copies, presumably a reprint beckons. A lot of content you need in your life is right here for your perusal. As a self-professed hater of ‘The Football Factory,’ ‘The Business’ and ‘Outlaw,’ Nick Love has made some toxically bad Brit-flicks for pricks, but his ‘The Firm’ was more than tolerable, and his foreword here can only help shift some units. Respect. Go grab a copy here.

Any preceding paragraph vaguely related to a Canning Town plonker like Danny Dyer requires a reference to the original wideboys of the area in the classic 1983 documentary ‘The Knockers’ Tale.’ Why is there no DVD release for this and the follow up ‘Whatever Happened to the Knockers?’ A decade later? Hoolies going door-to-door selling dishcloths and bad houseware, pretending it’s for charity made for hilarious television. Playing up for the camera in the original to the point where it resembled ‘Ghostwatch,’ the fakery reaches its apex with a broom handled “rumble” against a rival “firm” that makes Phil Davies ruining a Sunday pub league game by tearing across the field in a Golf Cabriolet look like the Battle of Helm’s Deep by comparison.

It’s still an amusing depiction, and with some of the surly salesmen going abroad by ’93 to make money from club culture and the illegal trappings there it sums up a generation in its own curious, blockheaded way. The only footage online is Bob Mills making some salient points about part 1 from ‘In Bed With MeDinner’ in ’92, all Lyle & Scotts, scowls, side partings and “Come on boys, let’s take ’em” bollocks dialogue…

*Sorry, trainers not sneakers when it comes to this subject matter.