Tag Archives: complex

GELLED

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I’ve got some other things ready to go up here, but there was a slight delay in obtaining the relevant imagery. So in the meantime, I’ll plug some other things — a couple of months ago I put together a rough ASICS history for size? (hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to refine and expand it a little soon) that you can see here, here and here. While I’m bored as hell with the slew of occasionally unremarkable collaborations dropping every hour, I’m obsessed with that brand’s 1985-1995 archive (some of the best pure sports performance design I’ve ever seen), I got the opportunity to visit their headquarters in Kobe last year and a quick spot of research revealed some superior apparel creations and logo design from the late 1980s. Currently, there’s a lot of interest in the brand’s early 1990s output and an emphasis on the same couple of silhouettes, but there’s a lot more to talk about. Last week I got the second opportunity to talk to Shigeyuki Mitsui, designer of the ASICS Gel-Lyte III (and co-designer on the Gel-Lyte and Gel-Lyte II). You can read the brief interview here on Complex UK (can you see that if you’re in the USA? I’m not sure). Apologies for the basic nature of the questions — Mitsui-san speaks perfectly proficient English, but a background of obvious hip-hop records booming meant that discussing anything that didn’t involved loud, short queries and pointing would be impossible to transcribe. The man’s skills and humility deserve respect.

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BLOOD, SWEATSHIRTS & TEARS

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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.

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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.

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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.

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R.I.P. RUGBY

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It would appear that I’ve gone, to quote Pusha T, “Laptop hot, internet warm” of late with an unexpected inclusion here. I’m unlikely to start trying to tell anybody how to do up a tie or identify the suit that suits them. In fact, I feel bad for all the people who clicked through, then saw a rambling eulogy to Michael Winner and home invasion movies. Sorry about that. I suppose the recurring Lifshitz theme borders on menswear and, according to store employees (who, lest it look like I’m trivialising their unemployment in a tough market, assured me that the Lauren company is looking after me) the London Rugby Ralph Lauren store closes this weekend, as the Rugby side of the business draws to a close. Let’s face it, you never made a point of traveling to the stores, did you?

That’s because Rugby fell into a strange realm where the brand, launched in 2004, lacked any real identity beyond being a whippersnapper Polo. The preppy aesthetic is present in many Polo pieces and the majority of strong Rugby designs were pretty much interchangeable with its big brother. With the opening of a UK store in 2011 seemingly aimed at the sector who’d graduated from Superdry technical college to the former poly that was Jack Wills, I can’t help but think it was a little misplaced — timed just as Jack Wills wearing bellends made a slow move to Streetwear Dave brands like Hype. Can Ralph cash in on streetwear? He doesn’t need to, because he’s instrumental in igniting many, many, many facets of that industry (ask your favourite “streetwear” and skate brand overlords what their favourite brand is in terms of wear and inspiration). And, as I’ve noted here before, there’s an official Ralph Lauren site (Ralph Lauren Vintage) talking up Lo-Life favourites and pledging reissues. Ralph knows.

So that was the end of the brand launched to capture the hearts and expendable/parental income of 14-29 year olds. Better than CHAPS, but not as hard as ‘Lo — that’s what the gravestone will read. What will Rugby be remembered for? While the majority of the products blur into one vast beige cotton twill and navy mass with twee collegiate cues, the all-over skull embroideries were amazing. Who else pumped out prep-goth like that? With THC-addled YouTube conspiracists keen to pinpoint French Montana and friends as satan’s spawn for waving their fingers around in a certain way, there was something strangely subversive in how Rugby merrily took inspiration from Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society. One day you may mourn not picking up those shorts, if nothing else, because they’re currently being sold dirt cheap. Sadly, this secret society’s global conspiracy for world domination has come to a close.

While we’re talking dirt cheap Rugby, what’s all the fussing and grumbling about with regards to Pyrex Vision? Mad because they took a shirt and stick some letters on it? You would have been apoplectic in the early 1990s — those lazy folks, just sticking letters on Champion, Gildan and Hanes blanks. Are you really annoyed because they never took the ‘C’s off the mesh? André Courrèges tributes are nothing new, pretty much dating back to Supreme’s earliest days, but I salute Virgil and the crew for getting their Malcolm McLaren on. Reappropriate it, hype it and they will come. Isn’t that the essence of streetwear? Chuck a Dipset reference in and you’re good to go. I’ll take a hustle like that over whatever fake artisan crap I’m supposed to be taking an interest in at the moment. Spend less time moaning in comment sections and more time buying up closing sale gear and making famous friends and maybe you can make that Pyrex money too. Who needs coke and Arm & Hammer when you’ve got cotton and a buddy who screen prints?

Jean-Noël Kapferer’s ‘The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands’ is a pretty good read (example heading, ‘Prolonging the ecstasy of a privileged moment’) if you’re hunting case studies and theory. It’s doubly handy if you’re building your own cliquey, willfully exclusive brand (it’s a good accompaniment to your cut-price Rugby shirts and printing hookup), but I’ll discuss more about it another time. This diagram of the Ralph Lauren galaxy is taken from it. It lacks RRL and Polo Jeans for some reason, but it’s a quick-fix glimpse of an empire. You can bet something will appear to fill that middleground void and accompany Club Monaco.

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Affordable and Ralph Lauren co-signed publication ‘Men’s File’ has got a book coming out in August called ‘Men’s File: Tracing the Roots of Style’, written by Nick Clements and released on rockabilly and Americana-centric imprint Korero books. Promising a visual collection that examines revivalism as something that’s far, far more than a game of regressive dress-up, going on the magazine’s work, this could be worth picking up.

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JET

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Happy holidays to everybody that looks at this blog and fuck Zwarte Piet. Everybody knows that Santa Claus is a black man — ‘Jet’ magazine’s covers of Christmas’ past are proof of that. James Brown, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and Marvin Gaye donned that outfit well. Esther Rolle from ‘Good Times’, Emmanuel “Webster” Lewis and Sherman Hemsley from ‘The Jerffersons’ (who passed away earlier this year) also rocked that red and white attire nicely, but the Black Santa outfit that ditches the standard colours, from a 1970 issue (with an interesting article on the movement for a Black Santa), complete with beads is tremendous. I hope he brings you everything you asked for tomorrow.

Additionally, I recommend this two part oral history of Stüssy on Complex if you haven’t already checked it out. The ads with Emma Sinatra Coats’ commentary are excellent too.

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MENSWEAR

I made it. I’m officially a menswear blog. Shouts to Complex for spotlighting my nonsense though. It’s a highlight of this week, like finding out that Michael Cimino came up with the story for Heaven’s Gate while, “…researching the history of barbed wire in the West” (cattle barons used barbed wire to block off grazing land, but settlers cut it in retaliation), or R Kelly’s ‘Soulacoaster’ revealing that Kells watches ‘Avatar’ frequently (Aziz Ansari wasn’t too far off the mark), hits up McDonald’s for a coffee with 6-sugars when he’s feeling sad and had rose petals dropped from a helicopter as a romantic gesture (in fact, the WSHH of Kelly singing an unruly member out the crowd is proof that he may be the most interesting person to walk the earth).

It’s easy to sit from a distance and fetishise the gun posing and scowls of LA gang photography, but hard living makes for great portraits. While all eyes were on South Central, the ‘Rolling Stone’ piece on V-13 in Venice Beach’s Oakwood area from early 1988 (‘Death in Venice’) had some of the best photography I’d ever seen back when I was 10 years old. To accompany the story by Mike Sager (one of the greatest journalists ever), Merrick Morton’s black and white snapshots looked like the coolest thing ever — needles, hand ink (back when tattoos on your hand were a sign you probably weren’t to be messed with, unlike hand tattoos in 2012, which are pretty fucking menswear) and weapons. 24 years later, they seem futile and grim, underpinned by the assumption that everyone in them’s probably dead by now. This was reality, but Merrick Morton also acted as a still photographer for ‘Colors’ and ‘Blood In, Blood Out.’ Everyone loves the fancy cars, the fully buttoned Pendletons, the hand gestures and the locs, but take them to the barrio and they’d stain their Dickies. Strange to think how gentrified the area got in the decades that followed, even though gangs remained operational.

‘Pretty Sweet’s Gino quotient, all the Supreme AF1 hype this year and Julien at Nike reminded me of the perfect supplement to the skating in Timberland piece I upped here a few years ago. Skating in wheat workboots is defiantly anti-boardfeel, but Gino Iannucci rocking canvas AF1 Mids in his 1996 ‘Big Brother’ interview (around the time ‘Trilogy’ was released) photos is classic. I actually meant to make this a whole blog entry about skating in Uptowns, but I stumbled and flopped. I still love the quintessentially east coast act of deliberately handicapping yourself in an act of one-upmanship to prove you can.

NORTHERN ITALIAN EXPORTS

As I lay here trying to influence myself to write anything, the whole notion of influence (and Bob Beaudine and Paul Adams’ works disprove the blog-centric notion of what constitutes and influencer) becomes even more ludicrous. Still, I’m honoured that my friend Mr. Matt Halfhill (whose drive and sheer knowledge of SEO and power of social media is genuinely inspirational) put me at #41 on a Complex list of people who have some juice in the sports footwear sector. To be honest, I don’t feel any more influential than I did when I started winging it in this industry — I’m still winging it to the present day. I’m also looking for some influence to assist me in executing some projects I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in, so I’m currently looking at hardcore performance boots from some respected names that don’t seem to have made the crossover. I’ve long been a fan of Bavarian boot masters Meindl (I obsessed over a transparent demo version of one of their top tier designs for some time), but Italy’s La Sportiva are an excellent brand too. I saw some of their ugly but efficient looking mountain runners on Japanese feet a few years back and became preoccupied with what this 80 year-old brand does.

The needs of mountain runners are myriad, but La Sportiva”s Zianno di Fiemme based factory makes performance footwear that’s far from rustic close to home with some serious GORE-TEX affiliations. From a visual standpoint, the Nepal EVO GTX mountain boot is hardbody and deeply obnoxious (my two key boot criteria), with the Rasta coloured midsole housing a variable thickness TPU for front crampons, the yellow being a similar deal for rear crampons and the red being an antishock material. This boot looks like a good post apocalyptic pick. I could spend a substantial amount of time just gawping at the wild designs La Sportiva put out and while they’ve had a rep for bold colours since the 1980s, these are serious in their performance capabilities. I believe that Merrells well-regarded 1980s and early 1990s Italian-made output came from the La Sportiva factory too. There’s colourway inspirations for days right here, but their more subdued stuff holds up pretty well too.

Another superior export from Northern Italy, Giorgio Moroder, is the subject of a tremendous interview in the new ‘Fantastic Man’ that covers an array of topics that might be relevant to the interests of this blog’s handful of readers. He purports to have never used drugs (despite the image I posted here a few years ago, with what seems to be a colossal line of chop), bigs up Rick Rubin and David Guetta, reveals he worked with Michael Jackson and, with a progressive mindset, explains that “Moroder-esque” is usually a byword for regressive sounds that he wouldn’t make now. He thinks the soundtrack to ‘Drive’ would be, “a little outdated in the ’80s.” Between that and Nile Rodgers’ 60th birthday video messages with the Daft Punk appearance, it’s a good week for legends who are still standing.

PRIMETIME TRAINERS 1991-1992

This week I was fairly excited to see Questlove enthusiastically Tweeting about the Complex piece on films and shoes that I wrote last year and was pretty pleased with, despite a muted response. At the same time I put that together, I started drafting a top TV moments list, but I got rid of it, because for all my ‘Seinfeld’ love, my favourite TV and trainer moments are a little more localised, and they’d just make people agitated. While kids are queuing and getting angry with each other on YouTube over sports footwear in 2012, back in the early 1990s, as prices rocketed and technology got increasingly stupid, there were a spate of footwear plots on shows that were big in the UK, On the more populist front, I like the fact the Assassin shoe in the 1991 ‘Simpsons’ episode (with a fictional price tag of $125) that key influencer Ned Flanders inspires Homer into buying. I especially like the way it evokes the impending Yeezy 2 in its shape and applications. Neddy was ahead of the curve. But that doesn’t touch two rarely discussed storylines that worked in the deadly serious subject of basketball shoe theft on BBC1 during the 5pm to 6pm slot via ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours.’

In winter 1990, a scriptwriter on the other side of the world got bored and began concocting a footwear-themed plot, that was transmitted on UK TV in December 1991, a year after it screened in Australia, making it out-of-date straight away. The May 1990 ‘Sneakers or Your Life’ story from ‘Sports Illustrated’ indicated a Stateside spate of shoe crimes, but, as proof of the epidemic nature of both crime and fashion, it reached sleepy Erinsborough too. Commencing with the show’s resident moody teen, Todd Landers (played by Kristian Schmid who I last saw leading a party on Sydney Harbour Bridge as an instructor, but has apparently had a TV comeback), flossing with his new shoes at Daphne’s to impress the girls and crowing on about their $190 price tag, despite them being a pair of Hi-Tec monstrosities that would barely sell for more than £30 UK pounds at the time to the unfortunates with parents who wouldn’t heed their warnings of playground mockery.

In Erinsborough, basketball boots are called ‘runners” just as we Brits call any form of sports footwear a “trainer” and a bruised and battered Todd has to explain to Helen and Jim that he was robbed for his kicks by local goons and that he’s practising kung-fu in order to settle the score. You know you’re in the sticks when kids are robbing Hi-Tecs. A couple of episodes later, he and his buddy Josh attempt an entrapment and retaliation by borrowing Paul Robinson’s adidas Torsions (they look like Bank Shots — Stefan Dennis, the actor who played Paul rocked an assortment of expensive late 1980’s adidas during his brief, terrible singing career, including the astronomically costly ‘Best of Times’ leather jacket) that are a couple of sizes too big and using Josh as bully bait. As Todd and Josh approach a young thug on a BMX who, with his snapback perched atop his hair instead of over it, earrings and rucksack is a proto Streetwear Dave, he’s flanked by some goons who offer the threat, “I’ll give you a choice. Either I punch your head in, or you give me your treads.” Vicked. Josh loses a loose shoe during the scuffle, much to the fury of Paul, who purports to have paid $300 for those runners. It’s a deep plot indeed. There’s little more action after that, with the outcome serving as some kind of warning against shoe-related vigilantism.

This kid is rocking the Streetwear Dave look in late 1990

‘Grange Hill’ dropped some sports footwear knowledge during its 15th series in early 1992. For some reason, trainers were worked into pretty much the entire series, commencing with a young pupil amazing his fellow pupils so much with a pair of Jordan VIs, that they carry him into the class like a god and place him on the teacher’s desk to inspect their feet. For presumed legal reasons, the shoes are never referred to as Nike Jordans. Instead the kid crows about them being a brand called “Sportech” and that the shoes are $160 from the States and you can’t get them over here. He speaks enthusiastically of “roll bars” and “heel counters” on them but runs his mouth too much and gets them stolen from the changing rooms later that day. Loose lips sink ships bruv.

As a result, trainers are banned in Grange Hill, unless you’re a teacher, and a hapless character called Ray (played by an actor who I believe ended up DJing in my hometown for a while), wants to cop the same pair of shoes as the American temporary teacher who just started that term in an inexplicable bid to woo her by wearing women’s footwear. That leads to some outdoor sports store shots with Air Max 90s and Air Trainers in the mix, plus a couple of real brand names called out. Ray can’t afford any, so he’s inexplicably hoodwinked by a character called Maria, who goes into a sports shop and gawps at Reebok Twilight Zones before buying some sale stock from round the back and makes them into the worst custom shoes ever. I have little time for custom footwear, but these are especially bad. Somehow, via a sales pitch that they’re “exclusive” and “American” Ray buys them. Like a div. By the end of the series trainers are legalised in the Grange Hill halls again. Wasn’t this show about gritty real-life issues once upon a time?

Thank you YouTube for housing full episodes of the offending episodes too. Who sat and uploaded every ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours’? That’s commitment to the cause. Whether the current boom leaches into popular entertainment like that remains to be seen, but it’s worth mentioning that neither early 1990s plot was as excruciating as that AF1 storyline in ‘Entourage’ or a single second of ‘How to Make It In America’ but it harks back to a time when everybody beneath the age of 25 seemed to be utterly obsessed with footwear, not just the condensed band of weirdos you see today. I’m looking forward to a subplot in ‘Eastenders’ where one of the stage school newbies drafted in to play some kind of urban cartoon character sees pound signs over a box of fake Foamposites. Maybe those episodes will be as etched into the brain of the new generation of viewers as these episodes stuck with me, in all their heavy handed, poorly acted glory.

On a footwear note, the Honeyee piece ‘Good Shoes, Good Style’ showcases some good footwear, like Jun’s pair of Danner River Grippers. I wish every feature on that site had an English translation though — the Hiroshi and Kim Jones conversation looks particularly interesting, but the Flash nature of the pieces means I can’t even get my Babelfish on. Maybe I just need to learn Japanese.