Tag Archives: columbia

BAWSE

Rick Ross might have shut down the internet for a few minutes on Friday, but Springsteen is still the true Bawse. Still, the prospect of a live E Street Band without Clarence is a troubling one. ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Jungleland’ won’t be the same without Clarence Clemons and judging by the laborious process to even find out if tickets for Springsteen’s London shows are still available, it looks like Ticketmaster won the war when it came to paying to see him, but Bruce still maintains a certain magnetism. He’s not the greatest dresser — misguided souls might believe it was jingoistic excess, but ‘Born in the USA’ wasn’t a regrettable phase musically, but that leather, denim and headband hasn’t held up well — and nor is he the worst, but the construct of the Bruuuuuuuce mythos means the outfit must come second to the sound to represent that absolute dedication to the craft (that doesn’t apply to the rest of the band, who wore some wild suits in their day).

That utilitarian approach to dress meant that Bruce managed to dodge some of the most regrettable looks of the 1970’s, but also put together some excellent outfits — the jacket and white v-neck tee (swooping, but not to the point of 2012 man-cleavage douchery or Givenchy chest bearing) on ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in 1978, the wooly hat and rolled up denim shirt from the sceptic smashing Hammersmith show in 1975 and the early Columbia press shots are my favourites. 1973 was a good year for my heroes and their garments, including Marvin Gaye’s double denim (yeah, the trousers might have been flared, but he still pulls them off — Bruce’s Hammersmith Odeon slacks were a little voluminous too) and red wool beanie from Jim Britt’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ session shots make for the coolest looking Marvin in his career, but while Gaye was in the process of redefinition, Peter Cunningham’s images of Springsteen around the release of ‘Greetings from Astbury Park N.J.’ in February 1973, in full interview conversation mode are the most effortless Springsteen outfit — beard, grey hoody, flannel shirt and denim. A no bullshit uniform from a time that taste occasionally forgot.

The sound matured from word-cramming opuses and the decades-old throwback romanticism, but Springsteen emerged cool. Not everybody could go balls-out like Bowie when it came to attire in 1973 and pull off teal tailoring or a pirate eyepatch and hoop earring combo. Still, they ended up meeting in 1974, and Bowie covered ‘Growin’ Up’ during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ sessions and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (with a coked-up soulful excellence), both from Springsteen’s debut. An image from John Kalodner captures the meeting of a megastar and a man on the edge of stardom with two very different dress senses.

Looking for some inspiration for something I haven’t made yet, I revisited Hype Williams’s troubled ‘Belly’ from 1998. Now the film’s fondly remembered after some negative reactions, but while the bulk is style over substance (not necessarily a bad thing, hence my love of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’ with a vampiric Bowie and a lesbian scene with Susan Sarandon that blew my pre-pubescent mind), the byproduct is still stunning. DMX can almost act, Nas can’t, but the film still captures that excess of the era perfectly. In fact, that film lacked a certain substance but reveled in excess makes it as much of an embodiment of hip-hop in 1998 as ‘Wild Style’ was of a rough and ready (and still sketchy) scene in 1982. The opening titles are still some of my all time favourites — the gooned-out masks in ultraviolet lights, the way the beat drops, silenced gunshots and the movement within the BELLY letters are all still on point, with Hype’s techniques still trickling down to WSHH premiered promos of mixtape tracks.

Hype Williams was 29 when he made ‘Belly’, having evolved from bad graf on the walls for ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1991 to his first video, ‘Two Minute Brother’ for BWP aka Bytches With Problems (he also directed ‘Come Baby Come’ for the equally forgotten K7) and then changing the look of an entire culture half a decade later from working with female acts with acronyms as group names. Seeing as Hype was inspired by Gaspar Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ for ‘All of the Lights’, I expected big things from a ‘Belly’ follow-up when it eventually happened, but his plans to direct a film from a Joe Eszterhas screenplay called ‘Lust’ was unexpected. Both Hype and Joe have pretty much been off the Hollywood radar since the late 1990’s, and yes,because Eszterhas is involved, it’s an erotic thriller. I’m interested to see how the film turns out if it’s ever made.



David Fincher’s translation from music video man to film director might have had a ‘Belly style production ordeal with ‘Alien³’ but he came of age, and just when it looked like he was going to be the stylish film with a big reveal guy, he drops ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Social Network’ on us. What’s consistent in his films is a focus on typography, motion graphics and the art of the opening title — Kyle Cooper’s ‘Se7en’ work (complete with Bowie’s ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ over the end titles if we’re going to tenuously try to link these entries with a Bowie birthday theme), Picture Mill’s ‘Panic Room’ sequence and P. Scott Makela’s ‘Fight Club’ design are all memorable. ‘The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’ doesn’t match those highs, but it works well as a slippery, gothier, bleak take on Bond opening credits, but like ‘Se7en’s opening, Trent Reznor’s work suits the mood. There’s a good breakdown of how the film’s opening titles were developed here, talking to Blur Studio’s Tim Miller who directed it. Salutes to masterful motion graphics dude Onur Senturk too. The sequence looks like the commercial for the Hewlett-Packard peripheral from hell, with Rick Owens on creative direction, but somehow that suits the movie.



I’m late to the party on this video interview with Stüssy Triber Lono Brazil, who also uploaded some footage of the International Stüssy Tribe 1st Annual Tribal Meeting in Tokyo from 1991. It’s worth a watch. Because I just used to gawp at the VHS cassette in clothing stores back in the day without every buying it, I’m not sure if it was on the old Stüssy tape back in 1992.



WATERPROOFED

Apologies for turning this blog into one of those stone-faced, wordless, image blogs for one night only. That wasn’t my avowed intention. This imagery was way too nostalgic and olde world to leave alone without spotlighting some newness down below. But it fell by the wayside because I got waylaid watching the Crufts 2011 finals (that boxer was robbed, yo) and reading about The Idler magazine’s new Idler Academy in west London. I lost concentration entirely.

All I can offer this evening is what was on my hard drive after I pillaged the ‘Backpacker’ archive for imagery pertaining to outdoor performance between 1973 and 1996. The project never amounted to anything, but I know a few like minds who might get a kick out of it. Hell, there’s plenty of right-clickers who might want to stick ‘em on their Tumblrs and claim them as their own. I don’t care, seeing as I borrowed them from a magazine in the first place.

The Columbia, Du Pont, Vasque, Marmot, Universal and Pivetta ads are particularly strong. In the current climate of outdoorsy one-upmanship (a trend that seems to have stuck), I’ll take this copy-heavy, utilitarian focus over the fey drivel that’s inappropriately applied to rugged gear throughout the blog world. I’ve been fixating on the Thinsulate labelling lately as one of my favourite pieces of branding. It’s democratic too compared to the steep price tags on steep incline wear that bears another personal favourite — the GORE-TEX tab.

Beyond the official North Face hookups, I loved Supreme’s woolly hat homage to the Thinsulate branding (not to be mistaken for the Thinsulate Supreme technology) in the vein of their Patagonia tributes.

Normal windy, wordy and pretentious service should resume next week.

BROUGHT BACK DOWN TO EARTH


There’s something about electronically heated footwear that attracts me, even if these are kind of ugly. Still, they’re a marked improvement on version one from last winter.

So I’m sat on a plane being a prick…actually, let me elaborate—I’m sat in first class between PDX and Chicago’s O’Hare airport enjoying those precious inches of leg room, pondering on recent print victories, thinking about invoices I need to fire off for work from months ago and thinking about my great time at Nike WHQ. I was marinading in a state of self-satisfaction, just pondering as to how exactly I found myself in that situation but with an unhealthy lack of humility—that’s prick behaviour. While I was hardly bellowing about my marvelous state-of-living, I must have been exuding an aura of smugness. Had I seen me I would have clenched my fists in rage, but I was too busy pleasantly dazed in the moment for any semblance of introspection.

On steps a rangy six-foot-something middle-aged man who takes the window seat to my right. Looking like your friend’s chatty dad, he’s wearing a Columbia branded shirt and the semi-uniform somehow manages to be both crumpled and clinical with a dress-down medical look. Clocking the feature on breast reconstruction in the copy of Wired that’s currently subject to my pre-takeoff browse, small talk escalates like a forest fire into loftier matters of subsidised healthcare, pharmaceutical company interests, sustainable agriculture and the rise of the right. At six in the morning I’m finding it a challenge not to be that person you cringe at during an eavesdrop—the one who can only muster “Really?” and “Wow!” as they attempt to steer a conversation back to their comfort zone.

The branding on my co-passenger’s shirt distracts me. As he explains in a measured manner as to why diesel beats hybrid electric vehicles on a number of levels (mileage, cost and convenience being just three that I recall), the Columbia name reminds me of Tom Penny’s boots. My mind drifts in and out of the conversation and I’m tactically nodding. What he’s saying is interesting, but my already-tattered attention span has been chipped away by a night of barely sleeping, interrupted by flight anxiety, precautionary lamps (just in case I got too comfortable), the periodic sounds of unloaded crates on the street below and a recurring infomercial for Shake Weight—a dumbbell program that’s got a faint masturbatory edge to it.

He’s still explaining those vehicular benefits and I’m slipping into slack-jawed yes-man mode as I ponder cold weather apparel and Columbia’s new heated boots. Was it AG who decried Timbs for something? Was it for racism or ubiquity? Didn’t he rap about switching to North Face or Columbia instead? I’m aware that I’m pondering crap, but it’s in full fragmented flow right now and I’m fully aware that it’s happening, yet I still need to maintain a conventional conversation too. We’re onto the cost of medicine here and without a hint of ego, my co-passenger mentions that he’s a physician at a children’s hospital. It’s not bravado or one-upmanship—it’s necessary to the topic, as his specific knowledge of pill prices would be a little unnerving otherwise. I’m still mentally attempting a multitasking operation and now the fuzzy DITC footwear recollections are interspersed with low-level panic regarding the effects on my sleep patterns of a substantial layover that’s looming.

“Of course, it could be worse,” says my co-passenger, “at least it’s not Tanzania!” I’ve heard Tanzania’s not a lot of fun but my mind still wanders. I need to update my blog the next day. I need to prepare to write a lookbook I’d pledged to get started on. I’ve got some materials to transcribe in order to create some urgent press releases. I need to fire off some emails. I am a busy man. Then my window seat friend tells me how he volunteers in Tanzania, helping with medication in small villages. Again, he explains this matter-of-factly with no trace of arrogance. He’s not fishing for a high-five or a “Good for you! There should be more like you out there.” He mentions it as if it’s a human duty to help those significantly less fortunate. At home, he rarely sees a child death at the institution he’s based at—you see, humans are hardy creatures.

In Tanzania it’s not rare to see a few children die a day, but he gives out a medication that pregnant women with HIV can take that to protect a baby from the virus, even if it often makes the HIV-infected father suspicious that his wife may have been sleeping around to have given birth to a non-HIV son or daughter. Apparently Tanzania’s complicated like that. I’ve stopped pondering WordPress and monies owed by this point. My nameless travel companion once spent a week talking a wealthy former president of the country into donating a few thousand dollars and participating in a fund and awareness raising exercise, but he wanted payment, first class flight tickets, plus running shoes and uniforms for him and his entire entourage which rendered the whole exercise pointless. Still, my new friend is off to Brussels to talk to potential investors in his holiday time before heading to Tanzania again.

As we descend, he politely asks me what I do for a living—in response, I lie about my occupation.


These should have been released. Made for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver earlier in the year and featured on the Vanity Fair site, the Nike SFB Heater heated up for five hours when you clicked the maple leaf adorned button. Presumably costs kept them in the promo-only zone. They were featured on Vanity Fair’s site.

“NARCO-SOCCER”

Remember when David Mills’ (RIP) ‘Kingpin’ promised great things, as the ‘Corner’ and ‘Homicide’ man turned his hand to a mini-series about a  drug cartel? Remember what a crushing let down it was, squashed by non-HBO residence? That’s because the real thing is more remarkable than any fiction. Theme parks, pet hippos, discotheques inside prisons, ostentatiousness redefined and wars declared on countries of residence? Yayo money can, as ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ (directed by Billy Corben who made previous ESPN ’30 for 30′ highlight ‘The U’) attested, make people do crazy things. Cartels had a hand in Columbia’s football leagues and national side, with major money changing hands. A documentary about the Andrés Escobar’s 1994 slaying ran on Channel 4 during their ‘Gangsters’ season a few years back, but there was still more to the story. The History Channel’s ‘Killing Pablo’ had me fascinated all over again. As did the Vice article and VBS feature with those downright creepy images of Pablo’s family get-togethers.

Taken from Viceland’s ‘Memories of Medellin’ feature—Pablo’s ‘Three Musketeers’

But the ESPN 30 for 30 presentation, ‘The Two Escobars’ is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Depressing, gruesome, and shorn of any Corben docu-sheen, it dispels a few myths yet adds to the tragedy of Andrés’s death. Directed by the brothers Zimbalist, Jeff and Michael, it screened earlier last week, and if you’ve watched the film-makers’ ‘Favela Rising’ you know you’re in for a treat. My fellow documentary-heads, especially those with a penchant for the macabre, will go crazy for it. It’s comprehensive but gripping and necessarily grim without being alienating. Plus there’s some suits to make Chopper City envy, big-haired flamboyant football (that scorpion kick save on an offside ball makes an appearance) and one of the best portrayals of a country shattered by corruption on a scale that’s difficult to convey with cameras alone. Best documentary on 2010? Pretty much, and ’30 for 30’s unleashed plenty of sporting competition. The upcoming Tim Richmond one could prove interesting too.

I detest having to use the term soccer over football, but add a “narco” prefix and I’m a little happier to throw it around.

Reading about Joaquín Guzmán when he made ‘Forbes’ last winter, and with the recent Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke drama, it’s clear there’s a few more stories to be told in documentary format over the next few months. Drug lords make good TV.

The best bit? What seems to be an official ESPN account just upped ‘The Two Escobars’ in its entirety on YouTube. Enjoy. It’ll linger in your mind long after viewing.

SKATING IN TIMBS


“The Timbo hits with the prints underground/Timbos on the toes, I love the way it’s goin’ down”

This was originally going to be a study of supposedly MIA Dogtowner Chris Cahill, until I realised there wasn’t enough information for me to add anything to the Cahill mythos that wasn’t already out there. Ah, if only more bloggers out there threw in the towel when they realise the extent to which they’re out their depth. Still, there’s a blog to be written, skating lore is on the brain, and you can’t beat a good pair of Timbs on the feet.

I kind of liked Timberland when they were accused of racism – at least they weren’t haplessly trying to crossover, meaning that in a curious way, their longevity was guaranteed, and people were foolhardy enough to think that throwing on some Lugz or North Faces instead was the answer. Wrong. The brand’s vastest misstep lately has been to embrace street culture a little too whole-heartedly, some might say, over-compensating for their earlier attitude, with a plethora of lurid colours, rolltops and varsity fonts. The Workboot should be kept clean.

Alife know what time it is – their version stuck to the wheaty script (their 40 Belows were bananas too, and true to the original), Colette knew the correct colour to maintain; they didn’t paint ’em black like George Costanza (though they used leather akin to the 2003 anniversary variations), and the David Z joints with a fleece lining were inspired. That’s as far as modifications need to go. At present we’re assailed by work and hiking boot talk – hand stitched soles, made in the USA, Japan-only line…yada, yada, yada…you’ve all sent me full circle. Fuck it. Give me a sweatshop-made staple. No fuss. No availability issues. Minor break-in time. Iconic design. Thank you. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the wheat Timberland 7-hole boot. Some deride them for being so ubiquitous. That’s the point…they’re a staple. Build quality isn’t what it used to be either, but yo, that’s applicable across-the-board. If you’re living in a new-build home, you can probably hear next-door’s hamster snoring through the House-Of-Miyagi-thin walls.

Skate shoe styles may have become theatrically wide – padded loaves of bread with tubular laces in recent years prior to a necessary pare-down, but nothing tops the legend of folk skating in workboots. Before discussing the tree-logoed Massachusetts brand,  think back to a more innocent time, when a vert skater like New Zealander Lee Ralph could appear from nowhere, as if he were a defrosted caveman, shred it, invent some tricks and spend a whole contest wearing full-height cherry-coloured Dr. Martens on his feet. Consider the sport’s embers of non-conformist attitude burning at the time, and that punk rock spirit, and while they’re a strange choice of performance shoe, they made a curious sort of sense on the late ’80s. At the turn of the ’90s, nothing had the level of impact on street skating that H-Street’s truly unshackled ‘Hokus Pokus’ did, and Matt Hensley defined the style of the decade to follow with that hair, mid-cut shoes like Vans Chukkas, the shorts and socks, chain wallets, and occasionally, skating in a pair of Dr. Martens shoes. A bold move, and while everything else got cloned, the shoes seemed impractical enough to avoid cloning.

Laughing in the face of board feel, a Dr. Marten isn’t the ideal skateboarding shoe. Air Wear and oil resistant soles aren’t built with that occupation in mind, and to wear them to skate is showboating; self-inflicted footwear adversity that still can’t hinder your footwork. Sit the two together, and the Air Wear number is a Vans Era compared to the bulk of the Timbo, and that weight that makes you feel like you’ll have Popeye forearm calves within a week of wear.

Tales of Tom Penny brought the Timberland as a skate shoe to my attention. Hearing tales of Oxfordshire-born Tom ripping it on a mini-ramp in Timbs and a leather jacket fired my imagination. Tom was a practitioner of baggy garments, but this was next level. Maybe it was all the magic mushrooms, but it seemed like the behaviour of a true style master – which is actually the case. But alas, along came Mr. Don Brown and Franck Boistel in a 2007 issue of Transworld to rain on the parade, by rendering the Timbo-talk moot with some brand facts. Tom’s supposed Timbo turned out to be a different brand, and if tales are to be believed, on close inspection, they were more akin to the moc-toed City Escape efforts that the 6in Boot…

All the while, Stateside, rumors of Tom’s whereabouts and exploits circulated like old wives’ tales. One such rumor, which in fact turned out to be true, was Tom’s decision to send a torn and tattered Timberland boot to éS as the model for what was to be his first pro-model shoe. Apparently, Tom had taken to skating solely in the same pair of Timbos for nearly a year-obviously, much to the amazement of those around him. Don Brown, senior VP of marketing at Sole Technology explains, “Penny went through one of his many vanishing missions in England, and eventually he was spotted at South Bank in London, kind of raggedy looking and rocking a pair of Timberland boots with a small heel. He basically closed down the session and left everyone in typical Tom Penny amazement-not just from his amazing lazy style and perfection, but from that fact that he did everything in a pair of Timberland boots!”
After being repeatedly asked by Sole Technology for some direction on his first pro shoe to be, Tom eventually sent in one of those very boots. Former Sole Technology Designer Franck Boistel elaborates, “For the record, I think Don Brown brought the boot to us. We were asking Tom if he wanted to design a shoe for years. Then we got this beat-up Timberland that Tom obviously skated in. You could see tons of tear and wear on the ollie area and the bottom was falling apart. We nonetheless did come up with some sketches.” The craziest thing about it all? That forever-rumored and all-over-the-message-board lore proved wrong. It wasn’t even a Timberland at all-it was a Columbia hiking boot.

Fuck it. Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. Tom’s technical éS model still had shades of Timberland in the mix. Watching ‘Deathbowl To Downtown’ features some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it real-deal Timberland skating in the mix. It’s an NYC and Washington DC thing. Champion sweats were as integral a piece of skate attire as they were hip-hop, and even skate kids in the north of England were jocking ACG sneakers beyond the board. While some clueless marketeer will leave a snail trail in excitement over the notion of a crossover, there certainly was a meeting point perfected in the ’90s. It seemed pleasantly fitting yet functionally illogical that Timberland would be skated – fuck, they’re hard enough to keep crispy at the best of times, but ollied and kickflipped? Maybe that D.M. punk spirit hadn’t forsaken skateboarding at all. There was Pepe Martinez (R.I.P.) rocking a pair for a whole section in Chris Hall’s 1996 ‘True Mathematics’ video, and witness Kyle James ripping the Brooklyn Banks in a pair of butters circa. 1997.

Other occasional exponents of the world’s flyest, yet utterly inappropriate pick of skate shoe include Drake Jones, Greg Stewart, a pre-prison Ali Boulala and Brian Wenning. Ah yes. Brian Wenning. After being ejected from DC, he appeared on a clip a year ago rocking Timbs and a cycle helmet at a park – the helmet may have been a gag we weren’t privvy to, but initial perceptions saw the helmet negate the inherent gnarliness of the boots, making the whole act pointless. As is the 21st century malady, there was too much information as Brian went on homemade internet video talking brand beefs, smoking a cigarette like a blunt and bragging about skating in Timberlands. There lay the mistake. Not the slow nicotine tokes. Not even the helmet, but talking too much about his choice of footwear and killing the mystery in one outburst. Cheers Brian.

While Timb-alike Uptowns are a given, don’t forget the skate shoes that carry elements of the boot as the key to their appeal; from the light brown Airwalk NTS (tenuous), to the 2002 SB Wheat/Bison Dunk Hi, Globe’s dull mid-cut effort, the ill Dunk Mid that took a more direct makeup lift, to DC and Situationormal getting their beef and broccoli on, but for all the fuss, the best lift came in the shape of a special colourway of Chad Muska’s Skytop – that size makes them feel like a direct descendent. As soon as Tom Penny decided to return to skating, it’s telling that he picked his friend Chad’s Supra brand as his footwear sponsor – while his pro-model is arguably the simplest in the whole line (and a low-cut), those February 2008 ads with him in fine form promoting the lofty Vaider silhouette, it all made a certain sense