I’m disappointed that I never spotted this online before. Six years ago, Paul Lukas from the superb Uni Watch site upped a 1961 Champion Athletic Knitwear catalogue on his Flickr account (among other sporting catalogues from past and present). This is a standout spot of insight into a time when sportswear wasn’t a statement of fashion. Real performance gear of the time, plus letters, numerals and emblems. The dreaded “This photo is no longer available” has eaten up a few great images from this account, but these photos remain largely intact. Reverse Weave hoodies, nylon fleece hoodies as part of a warm-up suit, cheaper hooded pieces for the sidelines, a double thickness version and even a half-zip Rayon variation were on offer. Pure purpose and plenty of commercial illustration makes this more beautiful than any contemporary mode of marketing, even if you can see the slow creep of synthetics moving into the range and becoming the new choice for team wear. Go check his Flickr and browse the whole thing.
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.
After over a decade of Champion as a licensed brand putting its name to some total crap in the UK, a trip to Jacket Required revealed that the brand was coming back in a big way. Whether this deads the brand as a cult object of desire or elevates the power of the C across the board remains to be seen (without Supreme’s co-sign at a collaborative level I’m guessing that this probably wouldn’t actually be happening — I recall meeting dead ends helping a friend try to release a similar collection over here before the Supreme store opened in London), but the (non American-made) product is good — Reverse Weave sweats with the chest and sleeve branding in the orange I always wanted, plus some bold colours that tap into the casual/Paninaro nostalgia as well as the usual skate and hip-hop cues, script sweats with the stripes on the cuffs and waist, plus, controversially, a crew with a vast C that reminded me of the medium-sized tees I was ogling in the nanamica store in Tokyo a couple of months back. My good friend Nick Schonberger hates the latter (which is dropping in five colours) — I’m into it at the moment, but I wish it dropped in Modell’s rather than the spots that might be stocking it alongside generic struggle streetwear on these shores. Looking at the IG debate when size? announced their Champion offerings, it looks like there’s still some damage control needed to give the brand the status it once had and sell sweats around the 80 quid mark. At least this product (which I believe is being distributed by the same company that’s putting the Canadian-made Todd Snyder pieces into top-tier stores) ticks a few boxes on a few wish lists in terms of details. Not bad.
If you pretend that nothing New Order-related has happened since early 2005 and ignore the beefs, the DJ gigs, the new lineups and the kind of person who won’t stop telling you how ace they were live at the The Haçienda or wherever they changed their life, they’re still a great, great band with an incredible visual identity. The 2010 Rizzoli Joy Division book that compiled Kevin Cummins’ images of the band was pretty good and next year they’re releasing New Order, a book of Cummins’ New Order photographs. The last book had Jay McInerney on intro duties and this time they’ve drafted in Douglas Coupland to pen the introduction. Nice cover.
Quick update time. I’m in Tokyo right now, so I’m too dazzled by the bright lights to compile anything of note here. A visit to Daikanyama’s T-Site — a spectacular triple building monster of bookstore — has still got me shellshocked, but it’s nice to have my spending curbed by minuscule sizing. These Japanese-made Champion creations (which, admittedly, weren’t as microscopic in medium as many tees out here) at nanamica would have been in my possession if I didn’t get the JR Hartley treatment when I asked for a large. Damn. There’s big Cs and then there’s colossal Cs and this design celebrates the brilliance of that logo design on a great quality shirt. The urge to spend was briefly put in a headlock there, but the beauty of this city is the 100,000 other ways it’ll manage to separate you from your hard-earned cash.
No blog content again, but here’s a super-corporate mini-documentary on Champion and the Feinbloom brothers that founded it. It looks like it should be playing in a foyer somewhere, but there’s a few informational gems in that narration, plus some interesting imagery too. These gents patented plenty of sweatshirt-related things we take for granted as well as some processes in appliqué lettering. I’m all out as far as words on Champion go, so I’ll stop now before I end up hating fleece wear.
There’s a piece on Champion sportswear on the size? blog because I was asked nicely and if you’ve read this blog more than three times, you’ve probably realised that it’s little more than a Champion fan site, so why not whore myself on the subject completely? It’s plenty of facts and guesswork that has already been on here, so you’ll have seen it before (I’ve officially run out of words to write about Champion or Timberland as of today). It was interesting seeing comments on Instagram regarding the UK relaunch of Reverse Weave too — a whole generation seems to have written it off as budget clothing in the Lee Cooper vein and I can’t blame them, because those licensing deals in the UK hardly made it seem like a premium brand during the last decade. Between Champion and Fila, I wonder whether those dirt-cheap dadwear connotations can ever be reversed. This was an attempt to reinforce that Champion isn’t Lonsdale and you can read it right here.
The good people of Proper put me onto this short Oi Polloi (another Champion stockist) documentary. Steve and Nigel make some good points here — the evolution of terrace style is present in what they’ve built (with plenty of nods to the past, like the deerstalker and Henri Lloyd gear) and not the world of reissued tracksuits and gear that specifically tries to target that audience. I still don’t understand the appeal of wanting to dress up like it’s a 1980s hooligan themed fancy dress party but each to their own. Some want to dress like Jack in Five Easy Pieces and others want to dress like an extra from Green Street. Such is life.
If you can’t find the sweatshirt you want, take matters into your own hands and make the damn thing yourself. I’ve been enjoying Concepts’ Canadian-made fleece creations lately in some seasonal colours and patterns, but it’s good when the UK represents and as the man behind The Original Store, Spiv Agency and as one half of the S London tradeshow squad, Carl Burnham knows his stuff. Seeing as The Original Store championed (pun unintended) Buzz Rickson and Champion Reverse Weaves, with their polar opposite fits — jock body or smedium, but undeniable merits, Burnham has taken his favourite parts of an everyday classic, from the loopback cotton to flat locked seams, ribbed side panels to the Dorito-like ‘V’ neck. Best of all, as the Good Measure name of his sweatshirt brand suggests, it’s cut fairly wide, slightly high and with a neck that doesn’t hang off the shoulders. It sounds like the man responsible has spec’d out the kind of crew sweat we’ve loved and lost over the years. As a bonus, they’re made in England too. The idea of a perfect fit is open to endless debate until a Gattaca style uniformity comes in to play, but Good Measure seems to be aimed at a sweet spot for those hunting sweats that can be worn to the death. Oi Polloi’s got them in right now and the Dirty Yellow is a strong look.
That’s a GOOD segue to this very brief video (via Cameron McKirdy) of Tinker Hatfield, who very briefly addressed the Kanye West/Nike situation during a presentation a few days ago. Tinker doesn’t bite his tongue on certain matters and with either Air Yeezy being built on two platforms that are his babies (Air Jordan III/Revolution and Air Tech Challenge II) he’s entitled to respond — “…and then there’s this other side of the coin where we take retro sneakers and we allow people to just design their own versions and that’s really style and sometimes those lines, they blur — they cross — and that’s how you probably end up with this Kanye situation…” There’s probably a lengthy think piece to be written paralleling sampling to using Hatfield’s existing creations for a new form, but life’s too fucking short to write it and it probably exists somewhere anyway. Tinker jokily expresses concern regarding Kanye sending goons his way for his comment, but an Anchorman-style DONDA vs. Innovation Kitchen style lunchtime rumble could be an incredible thing.
First things first, I think Complex‘s HNIC, Rich Antoniello speaks a lot of truth in this video for the folks flooding the internet with hapless content strategy that are a waste of money (that I’d do excellent things with, given the chance). It’s interesting that we went from claiming that the 140 character approach to information distribution would dead long-form writing to suddenly getting excited about any “original content” that’s over 500 words, regardless of quality. Still, I’m not complaining, because this culture of content keeps me in Supermalt money every month, but those barely used hashtags that are part of a three-week promo strategy in the quest for that elusive, oft-discussed consumer engagement are just lurking in far-flung corners of social media platforms like sad phantoms in limbo, or those sickly, skeletal blogs that people send me as part of a CV to show that they’re assertive with just three entries that are all from March 2013.
If this site had a real name (I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually referred to it as GWARIZM in a blog entry), I’d make it a play on Champion in one way or another, seeing as it’s pretty much a Champion fan site. One thing I’ve bemoaned again and again is the UK’s raw deal when it comes to the brand — though, as I’ve mentioned, it’s the Animal Chin of sportswear in that it never seems to genuinely exist beyond a handful of global licences — with its budget status. That American licence has been all over the place, from the bulbous magnificence of their Modell’s fodder to the Todd Snyder stuff to the nasty shoe deal that puts out copycat, low-budget duds.
Over here, we haven’t seen much that’s interesting since stores like Aspecto got in some Reverse Weaves in the early 2000s (shouts to The Original Store for importing the goodness in recent years though). It’s been bad three-packs of socks, crappy sweatpants and anti-aspirational rubbish in the UK on the Champion front for a while and the launch of the Champion Europe site to sell in pounds sounded exciting until I saw the product on it (even the basic college gear fell short here through unnecessary and inexplicable embellishment — the antithesis of why pretty much everyone who loves Champion treats it with such reverence).
I even traded emails and calls with a friend as he crusaded to bring the good rather than bad Champion to these shores, to no avail. I was happy to see that we’re getting the simpler Reverse Weave pieces on these shores very, very soon, in what looks like a slimmer cut in line with Japanese pieces (even though I’m guessing by those blue labels, as opposed to the red ones, that it won’t be US-made). Sweatpants, crews and zip hoodies in navy or grey will be appearing at spots like Oi Polloi next month (as well as on the championstore.eu site) and I’m reliably informed that pale blues, heather and some other colours will make an appearance in March.
It’s baffling that its taken this long to happen, given the cult following of the little ‘C’ over here, but I’m guessing that it wasn’t easy to wrestle the name from whoever was abusing it. This is definitely a step in the right direction for fans of fleecewear that fights vertical shrinkage.
Record Store Day seems to be a time when a slew of cool shit you’ll never own drops and Joe Mansfield’s Beat Box: a Drum Machine Obsession documents his 75 strong drum machine collection, with a foreword by the Burroughs of the other kind of beat, Mr. Dave Tompkins. It drops in December and it’s on the list, but this special edition arrives early with a special 7-inch steeped in Paul Revere nerdery by correcting the direction of the drum program and a tape of beats made from the devices in the book. There’s soul in those 808s and this is a topic deserving of documentation.
Completing a week of being on the campaign trail, here’s a quick conversation between me and Hypebeast about a shoe. That’s the promo bit over and thank you to everybody who wrote nice things about that project. Now it’s done, we’re onto the next thing.
My dude Maxime Buchi has had the aesthetic of Sang Bleu jacked a few times in the last couple of years and nobody else is as qualified to peddle a curiously gothic, hip-hop, high-end clusterfuck as amicably as he can. Everyone’s on the skulls, Caravaggio, Jordans and black-on-black, but Mr. Buchi remains one of the few who manages to pull off the look without looking awkward. This is because that look is a perfect manifestation of his life’s work thus far. What he puts on paper and skin works just as well on cotton and after some dips into tees earlier this year, the SB London sweats and tees tie in with the London studio. If you’re gonna buy apparel with gothic typefaces and moody graphic design, go Sang Bleu rather than any toy post-Givenchy hype startups — Maxime contributed to Damir Doma, Balenciaga, Mugler and Rick Owens’ branding, plus he put Rick Genest on. You might have seen Kanye West clutching a copy of Sang Bleu recently too, so when Mr. West breaks out some SB clothing, all you Damir-come-lately types are going to hop on board. Plus it’s tattoo-related clothing that doesn’t look like Afflication and that’s something to celebrate — I’m glad to see one of the architects of a look is putting something out there.
Following on from the recent love letter to Oshman’s on here, Mr. Glenn Kitson kindly grabbed me the greatest socks ever on a holiday to Tokyo. Unnecessary, excellent packaging and all the details that make things from Japan inexplicably desirable makes these the antithesis of those three-packs for £5 they used to shift at Sports Direct.
I botched this blog entry. Earlier this week I wrote a piece on Run-D.M.C. and their relationship with adidas, their sweatshirts and the Fleetwood/Eldorado/Brougham/Ultrastar release. Then I got annoyed because I didn’t get any shelltoes in the post so I shelved it and upped something else. I decided to chuck it on here tonight and I found that I deleted it rather than saving it as a draft. 1,200 words — gone (but images saved). So that’s that. Is there a moral there? I’m not sure there is. Instead, here’s the cover image from the Ghetto Boys’ overlooked Be Down single that Mr. Dan Greenpeace kindly forwarded me for its heavy Champion content. Before they dropped the ‘H’ they repped the big ‘C’. This was the 1988 Geto Boys lineup that lacks Scarface and Willie D, but Bushwick was there (not the star of the show as he would be a year or so later) — orange Champion tees were a big look, but Bill’s black shirt, tracksuit bottoms and matching Champion shoes hint at a boom for the brand in Houston at the time. Incredible.