Nothing much to report here right now because I’m fed up of the MacBook screen after transcribing two and a half hours of conversation. But here’s a couple of things I wrote for some friends who sell stuff — a short piece on the Stüssy Tribe for MR PORTER (that 1990 CUTiE spread above stays gold) and a bit on the Converse One Star (one of my favourite shoes ever — there’s something a bit longer written for another outlet on the same subject too) for size? Two subjects dear to my heart that crossed over with each other too (as evidenced in the UK newspaper supplement that showcased a couple of pairs on Shawn’s fireplace back in 1993).
Tag Archives: converse
This blog seems to have become a place to loosely collate the variety of Nike one-offs made for showbiz purposes. Rod, Elton, Zappa, Devo, Jefferson Starship and the mysterious one that might have been made for Bob Marley have been discussed. So have the Friends, Home Improvement and Seinfeld crew editions. There’s still things that elude me — did Mike Love ever wear the Aloha? I heard he did, but couldn’t find imagery of them on his feet. I want to see the mysterious animal print Converse hi-top SMUs created for Dimebag Darrell too. It never ends. The appearance of an Eddie Van Halen one-off in an 8.5 on eBay the other week has got me assuming that there’s hundreds more oddities out there. It’s a bland looking shoe that’s barely even semi good-looking (to paraphrase Diamond Dave), but after Eddie tried to sue Nike for the SB tribute to his guitar a few years back, it probably isn’t going to get a reissue. These were a BIN at the $450 mark, but they went unsold.
A GOOD DAY
I’ve looked up to Amsterdam’s Patta squad since they were putting out mixtapes featuring Non Phixion — their convergence of shoes, music and art, plus their admirable crew mentality has made them a movement (the existence of a Patta Talk group on Facebook, featuring almost 5,500 members is a testament to that. I have an ever-changing list of missions on my mind at any given time, but doing something, anything, with my friends at Patta has been a constant. We had discussions, but projects can vanish or switch repeatedly, so it never happened. Seeing as Lee and the squad have long been supporters of what I do, and I’m a fan, i wanted to put a tick by it. The 10th anniversary Converse project gave me the opportunity to write something more substantial than the 400 words a magazine would probably allow about their intentions, the role of hip-hop in Amsterdam and, most importantly, Edson’s steez, that eclipses any pitiful pocket square wearing, cancer stick posing Pitti tourists right now. It’s in the Today Was a Good Day ‘zine that Patta and Converse (it helps that the Chuck Taylor, which was the collaborative canvas for this project, is a personal favourite too) put out late last month alongside plenty of art and photography by the formidably talented Vincent van de Waal. I had a good couple of days working on this one — salutes to Team Patta.
I’m already thinking about resolutions for early 2015. One is to drag the look of this blog and the clumsy URL out of 2009 and the other is to chuck more interviews up here. This site probably wouldn’t be here without Mo’ Wax’s influence and, seeing as I chucked up some Converse press bits a few weeks back (and discussed the MW bulletin board a couple of years ago), here’s a longer version of a chat with James Lavelle on the subject of shoes for the build-up to the Nike project that dropped today. He was very gracious with his time and particularly talkative on the subject of collaborations, answering a few questions I’ve always wanted to ask. That Mo’ Wax Manga project was a significant opportunity missed.
How did the Converse project begin?
JAMES: Once the book started and was on social media right at the beginning, there were a couple of interviews right at the start of the book and it started this wave of re-interest with Mo’ Wax and I wanted to do a series of collaborations around the Mo’ Wax thing, with people who we’d worked with in the past — we did a few things with Bathing Ape again and there’s other collaborations coming as well from people we worked with in Japan. For some reason it came through that Converse would potentially be interested in doing something and I know Ian [Ginoza] from DJing back in the day and I’d done some work with him back in Asia when he was there. We met up in New York when I was there at the end of last year and we talked about doing a possible collaboration that would be a friends and family type project.
Did you pick the Jack Purcell?
To be honest with you, the sneakers that I wear the most are Jack Purcells now. So I was quite keen to be able to work with Converse as a contemporary thing, representing me as a person right now. I buy Converse — it’s the sort of thing I wear and it’s generally a Jack Purcell. I designed it with them basically and the detail was really, really important. Just new ways and new technologies and things that hadn’t necessarily been down before — the idea was to create something that had the Mo’ Wax feel. I really wanted to create a shoe that would stand out as a shoe in its own right and wasn’t gimmicky or over the top and garish. It would fit in with where I was at now and not necessarily where I was at 15 years ago, do you know what I mean? It was with me and Matt [Sleep]. Ian facilitated it and has been very open, like, “Do what you wanna do!”
To be honest, there wasn’t much compromise with what we did. The idea was to take something that was iconic from Mo’ Wax, so the camouflage — it’s a recurring theme in a lot of elements of what we’ve used recently. It’s on the book, it’s on the Nike sneaker, it’s in the Nike garms, it’s on a lot of other collaborations — all these other things, like the Medicom. It’s not a graphic design thing — it has a pattern quality to it. It has something that, in its own right — away from Mo’ Wax — is an interesting image. I didn’t want to do anything where it felt like we were printing images, like when we did the DUNKLE and it was really garish, with lots going on. How can we get the design aesthetic into something really subtle? And with the mids, it was just self-indulgent for me because I really wanted to do something with stingray or something that had an interesting fabric to it. We talked through lots of ideas and I’d just seen the Margiela shoe and was quite jealous of that, with it being such a great idea. They were very much against repeating anything that might have been done in the past or something that was too similar to something that was going on, because I’d suggested about something that involved painting shoes — then I saw the Margiela and was like, “Oh fuck, that one’s done.” So what was interesting with that was keeping subtle themes going, like having Mo’ Wax on the sole of the feet or on the tips of the laces or on the insole or on the little strip on the back — there’s this sort of Mo’ Wax touch. But the stingray was just to try and apply something that would hopefully look pretty cool.
Stingray always looks good — I’ve seen real stingray used on a New Balance before.
The only compromise was that I couldn’t use the real thing. There’s laws about exotic materials. But actually, how it came out was pretty cool because it has a weird, unique feel to it.
Collaboration culture really seems to have become a business model now rather an organic act or logical progression. Do you keep up with the current state of collaborations?
No, I’m pretty out of that world now. I don’t pay masses of attention. Because what I was doing back then was about being part of the culture and reacting to that environment. Once it became a business it changed. I mean, collaborations have been going on forever — it’s the nature of the collaborations that changed and the way that certain companies that were unapproachable that you’ve grown up with, that I’ve grown up with — Nike sneakers, Medicom toys, Major Force…all of these things that, when I was a kid, were the things that you collected and the things that you never dream that you’d ever be able to be a part of, were suddenly something that you had access to. And as those things became cool — most people forget that a lot of the things I did at the time did not do very well, because people weren’t very interested in buying the toys, and they weren’t very interested in buying all the stuff and that’s one of the reasons that Mo’ Wax isn’t around any more — and they were in very, very small circles, because there wasn’t the internet involved back then, so things weren’t like they are. You couldn’t see Japan in that way — you had to go there.
So there was sort of a mythology and there was something very much about a united group of people around the world that were collaborating together and also getting to collaborate on the things that they’d admired or grown up on, so Nike was involved. And in many ways, Nike was the beginning of that, because Nike was a commercial brand. It was adidas and Nike, with Nigo doing Bathing Ape and adidas and Nike doing things like the Dunk and other collaborations with Futura and Stash — they were the first time that companies like that were doing fashion-based collaborations or music-based collaborations generally. Nike never did that before and adidas had a bit of history. And once it opened up, it just became the norm that everybody and every company had a Bearbrick, from Chanel to Gucci. Everything becomes a limited edition, you know? From Top Shop to whatever. It’s just a way of marketing things now, more than anything else. It wasn’t really about marketing back in the day — it wasn’t thought out. It was based around a small community of people.
There seemed to be a lot of collaborations that never dropped with Mo’ Wax. There was a Vans that never dropped, plus a mooted Clarks collaboration.
Yeah. There were so many things I tried to do. You see things in the book like the 3D toy and Vans stuff. Then the LEGO. There was the Glen Friedman poster. There was a lot of stuff that we tried to do — a lot of records and a lot of people that we were going to work with that never happened and to was pre-internet and it was a pretty mad, young hedonistic, lunatics taking over the asylum kind of time, you now? So you’d meet somebody that wanted to do something at a company and maybe by the time you got so far, they would have left, or the company closed down or moved on. There was Manga film — was talking to Manga for a year about making a movie. I was talking to a games company for a while about a game. There was endless stuff that never came out — there was almost more of that than the stuff that came out.
Mo’ Wax never really seemed to end for me — I only called off the search on the Friedman poster five years ago. I forget how young you were then — it makes me feel lazy.
I dunno man. It’s hard to look at yourself then. It was a long time ago and I was a different person really. I think one of the fundamental things was that I was very young but so were many of the people who were the fabric of the label — Shadow, Ben, Will, Charlie — everybody was young. Most music that you hear now that’s big is from young people, whether it’s the XX or Young Turks. There’s always that spark in music that creates a lot of people who are successful. With design and art it’s happened more in the last twenty years because of the nature of information and how we look at things. But back in the day, if you were a designer or whatever, it was just before Lee McQueen and that new generation. Most people would work in that world honing their skills for a long time so you know? Your image was based around older, more successful designers and people that had quite a long history of learning their craft.
With the whole friends and family nature of the Converse project it feels like a celebration — has the Southbank project and book allowed you to just back at what you did in a fonder way and see the influence?
It’s funny. I was with Michèle Lamy, who’s Rick Owens’ wife, at Meltdown. It was mad seeing her read the book because she was just fascinated and she said, “Oh, I thought Kanye and Pharrell invented all this — I can’t believe this is 10 years earlier!” So in that way, it’s great. It’s a mixed emotional experience for me because there’s a lot of regret and emotional history and time but there’s also a lot of joy and it’s been really good working with Ben — and that’s been a very consistent relationship — and how we went through it and achieved that process. It’s great that sort of came together and Meltdown came together and could be celebrated in that way and the opening of the exhibition was a very wonderful evening. Going back to your last question, it’s about that environment you’re in as well. Mo’ Wax was a product of its environment and that success was when the environment was really thriving and there was an amazing amount of imagination and creativity, you know? And so looking at this room and seeing all these people that were there…also, a lot of these people at that period in time had a lot of politics. Part of what I did was bring people together who wouldn’t necessarily work together, so we were trying to weave around the politics to achieve something. So that made it quite difficult and quite volatile at times — seeing all these people in one room, and some hadn’t spoken in 10 or 15 years, or fallen out, and them leaving that behind was very joyous. I think, by being in a public space like the Southbank, we all just looked at ourselves and went, “Oh fuck! We’re all part of this.” That was an amazing time and how brilliant it is that it’s being celebrated.
The record as a tangible, beautifully packaged thing seems like a thing of the past now.
It was an amazing time, but you’re young and your priorities are different. There was an infrastructure and there were successes. There was just this will to create and to do — we did a lot of stuff. It was a different time. In many ways the internet has changed a lot of how creativity works — some for the good and some for the bad. With record labels it totally changed because of the fact that there’s free digital records. People would buy records and there was money to spend on making them because they had an economic value. There are still a lot of interesting, creative labels that do unique things — I think that it’s more boutique now. Mo’ Wax was actually quite successful and well-known — it was a successful brand in that we were selling a million Shadow records and we weren’t selling 500 limited edition 180-gram, hand printed records.
As far as the relationship between Nike and Mo’ Wax, how did that begin? I recall a CD back in early 1997…
Yeah, yeah, the running thing that we did. That was weird. I can’t remember what the hell was going on there — that was a really strange project that was. It really did not connect — I wouldn’t connect the dots between that project and creating a sneaker. To be honest with you, that Nike project, and if my memory serves me right because it was a fucking long time ago, it was done through a marketing company — an ad agency. We were always interested in doing things like that — I think the mad thing with that was that it had to be all new music and there couldn’t be any samples. That’s why it ended up being Richard File and Ils doing it.
How did the real Nike relationship begin?
At the beginning we all went out for dinner with Sandy [Bodecker], Mark [Parker] and various others — it was me, Michael Kopelman, Fraser, Giorgio and the guys from Nike. I remember that I had to leave very quickly because I was going to a Queens of the Stone Age gig. I was like, “Hi, nice to meet you!” And they were like, “What would you do?” and I just said, “An UNKLE shoe or something like that…” and it just seemed to happen. So Fraser and I met them at the same time —he wasn’t working with Nike then. Fraser was at Footpatrol then — that’s when the collaborations with them started.
So how did the new project come about?
I spoke to Fraser and spoke about the book and originally asked if we could reissue or do something with the Dunk — I was put in contact with SB and for some reason we didn’t connect. I was meant to have a meeting with some guy and that never happened. Then Fraser asked if I wanted to do something with him and he asked me if I liked the Blazer. I really like the Blazer — I like what Supreme have done with the Blazer. And he showed me the Destroyer jacket and we went from there. And with that collaboration, what I really wanted to do was not use too much of the old graphics.There’s camo in part of the shoe design but it’s done subtly. There’s inner-linings and embossing again. I like repeat graphic patterns — buying into that and repeating imagery in a classic sort of Warhol-esque way. So the Converse and Nike are linked but they don’t look the same — there’s recurring theme and the history’s there. There’s a bit of Ben and there’s a bit of me and a bit of Futura — a bit of Mo’ Wax in general. But the thing with Gio is that when we looking at placing logos on the Destroyer that has patches and stuff, we found the original ideas garish and it wasn’t something that you would want to wear. While this is a Mo’ Wax collaboration, I want these to be wearable. things — I don’t just want it to be for Mo’ Wax people and I wanted to wear it myself, you know?
What’s the concept behind the Nike project?
What is it about Mo’ Wax that we’re trying to translate in a shoe? It’s this kind of sample culture idea of Mo’ Wax being part of this generation and why people made the records they did. It was this sample collage generation. We’re trying to look at how to use these elements and do something different. So I thought it would be good to take this idea of sample culture and collage and build and destroy and all of these words that were asserted with Mo’ Wax, because there was a lot of wording on Mo’ Wax records and were on the advertising — I took the classic titling like “Headz”, “sample culture”, “build and destroy” and “our past is your future” and asked Gio to basically write them out and because he also writes backwards, again it’s sort of something where it’s not in your face — it just becomes textual but there’s a historical and a wording concept to it — so yeah, it was just trying to play with how you how you make a record and apply that to something else. The whole thing with the shoe was that there’s lots of different fabrics so there’s it has this sample and collage feel to it.
How did you meet Gio? That’s a relationship that goes back a long way, right?
I met him 19 years ago. He did work on UNKLE stuff and Mo’ Wax stuff. There’s a toy with him that never came out that’s in the book. It’s a skateboarder toy of one of his characters. He is one of my closest, most dear, best, best friends. He’s like my brother. I have of some of his work that he did for me on my arm. When you’re designing the thing I want a certain amount of connection to what we’re doing so it connects you in a way that’s subtle and justifies the work to me by giving it context.
Is the orange lining an MA-1 reference?
Yes. It’s very classic of that era.
Were you a big Blazer fan when it came to that model? You mentioned the Supreme collaboration but it also stretches back to the Glen Friedman images of Tony Alva wearing a pair. It has subcultural relevance.
Yeah. I’ve worn Blazers back in the day — I’m a fan and a I really liked what Supreme had done and I liked it because it was classic. I didn’t want a new tech shoe. I wanted something that I’d wear. I’d do a Dunk because it reflects the time or an Air Force 1 because those were the trainers that we generally wore but I wouldn’t really wear them now so I wanted something a bit more subtle. Build and Destroy repeats on both the Nike and Converse so there’s little links.
Do you follow the build and destroy ethos to some degree?
It was just something that me and Shadow used to talk about a lot when making records. Make something and build it up then move onto something new. It was always about trying to be new — it’s not about being negative.
I’m such a company man. Actually, I’ve got love for Mo’Wax, Matt Sleep and Jack Purcells, plus I wrote the press release for this project. So the anti copy-paste law is OVERRULED. I got a good Q&A out of this too, which may or may not end up on this blog. I’ve been after those stingray mids since I saw a pair on Acyde’s Instagram. As friend and family projects go, the detail on this one is crazy.
“From its debut in 1992, the London-based Mo’Wax organisation was the pioneering meeting point for an array of subcultures to merge organically – multiple musical styles met art, with painstaking attention-to-detail when it came to design. Founder James Lavelle brought his obsessions behind the sonic side to the forefront with photography, sleeve art, toys, books, exhibitions, sought-after streetwear and a connection to the collectible all celebrating the hunt for the next thing.
Coinciding with this summer’s London-based Urban Archaeology exhibition and tie-in book, Lavelle and Converse created these appropriately limited edition sneakers based on the notion of taking a collage of influences and re-appropriating them like music samples. The Jack Purcell made sense as the base model, because it’s Lavelle’s personal choice, “The sneakers that I wear the most are Jack Purcells. So I was keen to be able to work with Converse in a contemporary way, representing me as a person right now.”
“The detail was really, really important. Just new ways and new technologies and things that hadn’t necessarily been done before – the idea was to create something that had the Mo’Wax feel. I really wanted to create a sneaker that would stand out in its own right but wasn’t gimmicky, or over the top and garish. It would fit in with where I am now and not necessarily where I was 15 years ago.”
The Converse Jack Purcell Mo’Wax Ox has a unique white debossed leather upper, while the mid-top version is embellished with premium stingray effect leather. Both re-workings of this staple masterpiece bring an appropriately obsessive level of detail to this silhouette, despite its apparent simplicity. Custom “Build & Destroy” logos on the familiar moulded rubber toecaps and classic Ben Drury/James Lavelle Mo’Wax camo screen-print graphics on a cotton base, with metallic gold logos, are used for the sockliners and heel stay.
For Lavelle, the end goal was subtlety, “How can we get the Mo’Wax design aesthetic into something really subtle? It was about keeping certain themes going, like having Mo’Wax on the sole of the feet or on the tips of the laces or on the insole or on the little heel strip on the back — there’s this sort of Mo’Wax touch. But the stingray was just to try and apply something that would hopefully look pretty cool.”
A semi-transparent, ice blue version of the familiar smile and heel license plate, a semi-transparent ice blue outsole with the Mo’Wax logo cut between the left and right foot, and branding that even extends to the ice blue lace aglets all capture the spirit of the label. Naturally, packaging is paramount and the box design also channels that emphasis.
That boundary-blurring vision that brought skateboarding, artists, DJs, fashion and filmmakers into the same space is echoed in the Converse Jack Purcell’s ability to resonate with any style. Strictly for a chosen handful of Mo’Wax affiliates, this commemorative project adds to the mythology of the company that help define the way culture is curated and presented.”
(Speaking to James, I got to clear up the mystery of the Mo’Wax x Nike CD — with music by Richard File — from early 1997 too: given the nature of that project, no samples were allowed, which made it difficult — he conceded that it was a strange project and explained that it was one facilitated via an external agency).
BLACK & WHITE
The weekend’s work (more on all that at a later date) and my catchup with some documentaries and films I missed have completely ruined anything of substance going up here. I never cease to be a little freaked out to be involved with brands, objects and aesthetics I grew up obsessing over.
One day I’ll probably have to sell out entirely (I still don’t think I’ve sold out quite as much as I could do) and take on everything that’s sent my way, but for the time being, I get to pick and choose — it’s a beautiful thing. Notions of reviews, features and integrity get systematically abused in the blog world, but the minute you accept a freebie and say something nice about it, you’re a walking advertorial — that’s how it is. This blog is often brand affiliated on my own terms, but I’d like to think that I can bring a little of my own obsessions to dilute the PR speak. I’m too old to agonise over integrity — there’s not a lot of room for that if you’re obsessed with big company product and stricken with the cataract vision that brand preoccupation can inflict. It’s strange when an organization asks for the sort of thing I throw up here for commercial purposes, but if I’m into the company, I’m fully down.
Public Domain changed my life and that summer of 1988, I was obsessed with patterned Chuck Taylors. That black and white street skate segment is frequently mentioned her, so when my friends at Converse (on that subject, I’m sad for Pappalardo after this interview late last year) asked if I wanted to write a little love letter to the Chuck Taylor and skating for the Trocadero Days publication that Grey magazine put together to coincide with the video and push of the CTAS Pro, I was in full yes man mode. Pontus Alv is a genius and Grey is great. Naturally, we couldn’t talk about key Converse characters like Gator, Mullen and Mariano, but fortunately, Anderson and Jessee are on the team, so they could get a mention. This is available free at your local skate shop and I’m very pleased to have been involved.
This is a pretty unfocused bout of blogging that would be better off on Tumblr, but it can stay on WordPress for the time being. I wasn’t aware of the ads above and below — 1984’s duck camo Chuck Taylors from an Olympic year when a pattern on an All Star got its own advertisement and the 1971 ad for their camo duck hunting parka (I never knew they made hunting gear), complete with some J Peterman style writing (“Your quarry’s doomed. You see it, but it won’t see much of you”) from a time when camo was for hunters, soldiers and crazed loners rather than aspiring blog-dandies.
Just when you worry that graffiti has become a carefully placed bunch of stencils depicting David Cameron bumming Bin Laden or something or a hapless Coca-Cola mural for the Olympics, it’s refreshing to see a different kind of Olympic runner out there competing in the 91 mile Bedford-Brighton race. I haven’t seen this much damage on trains stopping in my town and I’m assuming that it’s a mission to get some extra fame while First Capital Connect (or Thameslink to people that still call Snickers bars “Marathons”) is full of imbeciles with picnic bags, dithering at the ticket barriers and clogging the left side of escalators across London. Salutes to SLANG and company for their work and the KCRUSH tributes. I haven’t seen a train like this in a few years, but then again, I don’t get out much.
Greece’s Giorgos Lanthimos makes gloriously odd films with amazing posters. ‘Dogtooth’s was a masterpiece and ‘Alps’s eccentric look at the grieving process has an equally beautiful promotional design too.
The Trilogy Tapes keeps on bringing it — the R Kelly Devo design by Nick Relph for Hot Chip they sold last year was one of the best t-shirts ever, they recently linked to a Gherkin Records t-shirt — a superior piece of house-related merchandise — and the ‘2012’ design they just upped on the blog looks good too. Still willfully obtuse in their taped output, Will Bankhead is a don.
Like some curious crossover of the kind of thing I up here and something a lot more professional, my friends at Nike Basketball and Nike Sportswear let me work with them (salutes to Leo, Nate and Chad) to amass some content to celebrate the last 20 years of shoe designs. I think there seems to be a hunger for content that might have been confined to a handful of nerds (like me) a few years ago these days — possibly down to a volume of content aggregation/unnecessary middleman sites. So far there’s been Force 180 Lows, Huarache Flights and Raids. Raids are a shoe dear to my heart and the shoe originally known as the Air Jack was accompanied by some amazing 1991 questionnaires with inner city kids (“FAVOURITE GROUP: BRAND NUBIAN”) and the original VHS pitch tape somewhere. For the oddballs who stress out over these things, there’s no Jordans in the official top 20 because they’re a brand of their own nowadays and suddenly stopping including them post-1998 would be odd. Check them out here. Wilson Smith, Tinker Hatfield, Aaron Cooper, Mark Smith, Tracy Teague and Eric Avar had stories for days.
A 64:08 MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH ANDREW BUNNEY
I like catching up with people and talking over caffeine. Mr. Andrew Bunney knows a lot about a lot of stuff and has worked on plenty of projects alongside Gimme 5. He’s also doing well as director of Bunney and British Remains. Having just put out a newspaper format collection of Derek Ridgers’ imagery, selecting some striking portraits of British subjects from the skin, punk and new romantic scenes wearing accessories on their outfits. You can pick it up at selected stockists, but I took the opportunity to hit record during a chat after meeting to pick up copies of that ‘Collected Works’ publication — a form of psuedo-journalistic entrapment for the purposes of padding out this blog with chatter.
Everyone bangs on about all things iconic and curated — Derek’s portraits are raw, brilliant and genuinely iconic, while Andrew certainly approaches things with a curator’s eye. Andrew’s recommended some excellent things to me over the years and he makes me look like a rookie in the sub-cultural knowledge stakes. I’m fascinated by the trivia he’s amassed. Lest it looks like he wanders around wielding a portfolio, it just so happens that Andrew had his portfolio on his MacBook, so we talked through it to give this conversation some semblance of structure. We managed to cover Will Ferrell, the director of ‘A Short Film About Killing,’ staring at cats and plenty of discussion about the nature collaboration, but the unsolicited SBTRKT soundtrack to the meeting made it hard to transcribe.
(Pointing at an early shot with his arm in a sling) Andrew: I’d just broken my arm through arm wrestling.
Me: You broke your arm by arm wrestling? How do you do that?
But how do you do it by arm wrestling? Was it like Stallone in ‘Over the Top’?
We’d watched Sylvester Stallone in ‘Over the Top’ and thought that we’d have a go at it and it broke.
I saw it happen in a world’s strongest man competition one Christmas and it really stuck with me. Did it snap?
Were you intoxicated?
We’d had a few but we weren’t crazy drunk. There was some pressure for a sustained amount of time, a pop and then it snapped straight through. I sat down for a while and I was trying to concentrate on the pain. Then I wanted to got to the toilet but it was difficult. The ambulance people came and they couldn’t believe it.
It’s quite a tough thing to do.
Well, it felt silly. So yes, that was when that was taken.
Then there’s the Stüssy Alpha Industries MA—1.
We asked lots of people who were affiliated with the company to design badges.
It’s still a very nice jacket.
Everything I did there was ribbed.
Wasn’t there a Gloverall one too?
The Penfield Hickory Stripe stuff was very ahead of its time.
There were Schott jackets.
I’ve never seen that Schott jacket before? Why have I never seen that?
I don’t know. You’ve never looked hard enough. Then there were the Levi’s…
I remember those. Weren’t they 505s?
Were they actually to your spec?
Yes. Because they were actually based on my jeans, because the 505 had a few different iterations. The first iteration has a different label. There’s one after that. I had to send Levi’s my jean, but I thought that it was a very normal jean.
Why was that never pushed during that project’s promo? I’d just got the normal 505 LVC jean that year and I was horrified by how slim it was, so I avoided the Stüssy ones.
Well, you know my background’s vintage, looking for it in America? So I know that quite well. The first Levi’s we did had silver stitching and they’d copied it from my own jean, but it contradicted the ones they had in their archives. They had to get in touch with a lady there.
The lady in the archives? I once had to email her about an LVC project on a fact-finding mission. It was good.
She verified it. I know this world quite well because of my own peculiarities. I’ve kind of reduced myself to buying one or two style of jeans.
Idiosyncrasy is a polite way to put it.
Yes. Then there was the Levi’s coach jacket.
Do you think some of that stuff was overlooked?
Perhaps. But back then, people hadn’t done these sorts of things. I remember meeting with Alpha and they didn’t know what I was talking about, “Do you mean you’ll make it?” I remember talking to Brooks Brothers about doing an Oxford shirt in 2004 or 2005.
No dice. It was just two people talking differently.
They only seemed to grasp it with the Thom Browne stuff. I’ve got a Woolrich shirt with them, but it’s pretty much Brooks Brothers with Woolrich wool.
Then there was an i-D shoot with Terry (Hall).
How is he? He sometimes seems quite glum.
He’s not glum. He’s very wry. But I like to work with people I like, then work with them for a long time like Marius (Hanson) who does Antenne.
I’m really looking forward to your books with those guys (the translation of Kazuo Hozumi’s ‘Ivy Illustrated’ books).
Yep. The author has hurt his back. I’m working with my friends in Japan on that. He wants to add to it and it needs to be translated. Hopefully it will be out for summer.
Then there’s the Stüssy Baracutas…
With the Baracuta, there were a few different ones.
Was that ’05? I remember a green one.
No, this one had a thick stripe and there was black, red and maybe one or two others. Then after this one there was one with lots of stripes and contrasting cuffs. And after that there was one that didn’t make it past sample stage but was better.
How was it making those? It seemed to be a time before Baracuta fully relaunched. Were they easy to work with?
It was a very rag trade business.
What’s your take on Penfield?
I like Jamie very much.
I never know much about Penfield’s history.
That’s because it’s not that old — it’s from the 1970’s
But I’ve never read much about them from those days.
It wasn’t pushed that way. Back then these projects were received very well — I mean that from the customers as well as the business and the distributor for Penfield in Japan wasn’t considered cool, so Stüssy Japan weren’t into running that project — it wasn’t aligned with things, but the product was very good.
Do you remember that mini Penfield boom around 1998?
Yes, it was a Noel Gallagher kind of thing.
I thought it was a golf company at the time — lots of thin jackets.
When we did our project they had three jackets or something — maybe three jackets including a vest. Then there was several items for Michael over the years including the Supreme t-shirt.
I remember a visvim photoshoot for i-D a few years back with the Decoy duck boot. I laughed at it then a few months later I realised that I needed them in my life.
What one was that? Maybe I did that. I think it was on a boat.
That’s the one.
Then there was the Nikes (the Hideout Woven Footscapes).
I was a fool for not buying those.
I think they came out good.
How did that design come about?
Jesse (Leyva) was doing a project called the Clerk Pack.
There was the Undefeated, Union, True releases and the Stüssy Blazer. Was it meant to be part of that?
It was meant to be, but it ended up different.
When I first saw it I didn’t like them. I thought they looked flimsy.
It’s very wide.
I like the Footscape — remember the Probe ones at Hideout?
Was it Hit and Run or Hideout then?
I think it was Hideout. The Woven version looked so fragile to me.
It’s actually very wide and very stable. They got a bit of internet hate.
I learned my lesson.
One was supposed to be the wide one and the other less. But I think they got them the wrong way round. It had pink inside, like an ear. I like animal colours. I wasn’t trying to make something wacky — think they’re quite good. I’d wear them now and I really like the shoe.
It took me a while. Do you like the fact Mark Parker wears the Livestrong versions of that shoe?
But that I didn’t do.
No, but what I’m saying is that he isn’t averse to that hair concept.
I think it works with pony hair…I don’t know, it just works as a shoe. It doesn’t work on some shoes. There was a Porter case too.
I remember people spending £200+ on the duo. A lot of people wore them though. I remember somebody breaking theirs playing football.
That would break them. I’d been working with Footpatrol on some stuff too, like t—shirts.
I liked the Henry Cooper/Ali one.
Yes, that was classic. “Round 4” it said on the back. We made beanies with New Era.
I remember seeing them on Being Hunted. It was a bit early. 2005 was a transitional time. The infrastructure for promotion was different.
I dunno if it was then or 2004. By the time the Footscape dropped, it was more in place.
It was closer to being in place.
It wasn’t a business — it was more like messing around.
It was more about people saying “That’s shit” on forums.So just to reiterate, the Hideout Footscape was based on an ear?
It sounds a bit pretentious, but I like to look to nature. Animals are good colours.
Do you walk around a field?
No, no, no.
With a stout stick, tapping rocks?
No, animals are just good colours.
Yeah, I wanted to do a range of shoes based on dog breeds.
Do you know what the third unreleased colour was?
With the spots?
I was staring at my brother’s dog…they don’t like it when you stare…
That’s why you’re supposed to blink when you look at cats.
But I was thinking — actually tabby cat would be good as a swoosh on an Air Force 1, but a red setter would be a good swoosh colour. What happened with your chambray Converses that never came out? I remember you used fanciful words on your blog about them. You called things by their proper names.
Okay, the rand?
I think you went deeper.
It came out a few years later with the triple stitch.
Did you spec that?
Was it on an old pair?
No, it was just on chambray.
The recent Hideout releases had a triple stitch too.
It came about because Converse had started doing their own NikeiD — Create Your Own or whatever, and I did a bunch where the stripes were tonal, so it looked like it didn’t have any racing stripes. The old military contract ones were a bit like that.
What year were the military contract ones from?
I don’t know because I think it goes between companies.
It would be uncomfortable to exercise in All—Stars.
Rocky ran in them.
But that was part of the film’s underdog elements.
When I applied to go to film school, ‘Rocky IV’ was the film I put down as being very important to me.
Did they see the funny side?
I wasn’t joking. It was one of the first films I saw where you could see how the film was constructed.
I love it. I like Stallone. I love ‘F.I.S.T.’ and I love ‘Night Hawks’ — I love the outfits. We talk about the notion of British grubbiness, but that’s grubby American. It’s grimy, Keith Emerson on the soundtrack…
I don’t mind grubby New York because it’s a city. But when it comes to that Jodie Foster film, ‘The Accused’? I struggle with that.
That smalltown feel?
I don’t like it.
Then there’s the visvim fragrances. What was your role with visvim? British bloke?
Umm, everyone there is very motivated and Hiroki in particular is very driven — he wants to experience new things. I was working with Michael and The Hideout was one of the only stockists in the UK, even in Europe, to sell it at the beginning.
I remember the Polkes in Footpatrol.
Yeah, we swapped it, but it worked better in The Hideout. I was friends with Hiroki. He wanted to grow it. So for me and Michael at that point, Gimme 5 were the distributor and Slam Jam were involved too. We were staying at the Park Hyatt — there was me, Hiroki and Hiroshi.
That sounds like the beginning of a cool joke.
It smelt really nice in the room and we were talking about it. I went home then contacted them and there was a perfumer who scented the room. I met with him, chatted with him and went out with him to Tokyo. He walked around the shop and wandered around, sniffed around, does what a perfumer does and he made this candle.
I’d be interested to see a perfumer at work.
it’s really interesting. Then there was some freelance stuff with Dr. Martens…
You did a good job jump starting that brand again.
Our last stuff was for autumn ’12 and it relaunched their brand.
The WTAPS white lace incident a few years back was unfortunate. I think that was an accident.
But that was done independently with a distributor in Japan. They put it in there because it looks better, but it’s laden with things. I’ve tried to get to the bottom of the lace code colours was. I knew white but there were others. I think the other colours are quite provincial — true to other towns with red meaning stuff, but internationally white is known as the most dubious. Part of it was to do something beyond boots.
Was that EVA sole you both used new thing for them?
What about the wedge one?
The PVC one was taken from a women’s style. We did fashion ones for fashion people and streetwear ones.
Do people like Raf Simons need any persuading when it comes to collaborating with a brand like Dr. Martens? They must know the shoe.
In some respects, the most successful was the Garçons one because they were really happy with it and it was a shoe that looked like what they do already.
If you do something with Raf Simons, how much input does he have?
From his team, quite a lot. I think it depends on the project.
Now the collaboration is part of everybody’s business model — looking at the gap between the first Stüssy stuff and the Dr. Martens bits.
My background’s not in making collaborations.
If you’ve ever looked at anything and thought, “I’d like a jacket like that.” I think you can collaborate. That became a norm.
Yeah, I think we’ve reached a point a little while ago.
The Hideout Dickies stuff was great — it was like the opposite of a usual collaboration.
That was a line that would become a compliment…that was the idea. It wasn’t double branded.
But that sounds a little too like cack.
Who was the rabbit model for Bunney?
It was just a rabbit. I read lots of books on rabbits and I liked that one. The idea was that I like shopping, I like nice things and I like jewellery, but I’ve actually not worn that much because men’s jewelry’s got too many skulls for me. It’s not that I’m scared and it’s not that I’m a baby…
Unless you’re Keith Richards, it rarely works.
That’s a good ring, but to have skull cufflinks is just dull. I was looking in the women’s section and it was too feminine. I remember really clearly, I was on the escalator at Selfridges and I started thinking about brooches.
A brooch for a man is quite controversial.
Yes. And I was thinking about who could make it and who to make it for.
I never knew you did the Starbucks card for Japan.
That was with Uniform Experiment.
Going back to BAPE and Pepsi, that culture and popular culture mix very well, don’t they? How does that happen? You’ve done a few multi nationals now.
It comes from being in Tokyo and Hiroshi was taking a photo. It was a nice arrangement. A couple of weeks down the line it ended up on a Starbucks card.
That’s the kind of thing that happens in Japan. What about the Bunney lock for Colette? Can that go round your neck in a Sid Vicious style?
No, it’s far too big for that.
Jewelry’s an odd departure. Is it easier to work in that sphere than on the clothing side of things?
I don’t know.
Where do you buy silver from?
You buy it from a bullion dealer.
What’s a bullion dealer like? Are they like Easy Andy from ‘Taxi Driver’? Do they have a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist?
It’s not a million miles away from that with gems. It’s not quite the end of ‘Marathon Man’ though.
There is something inherently sinister about that world, like the provinence of the material and how it can be melted down to make other things.
Yeah, one of the things I like about it is that the materials are for many generations — its worth is retained and one can give it to another as a gift, which is nice. It’s different to clothing in a lot of respects. And if I think about it now, I like working with companies — not really utility companies, but companies that make product that a lot of people can adopt, that people can wear in their own different way. It has to have enough character that a punky person can wear it, that elderly person can wear it, or that indie kid can wear it. And it can cross over to wherever else. It isn’t quite fashion.
A rabbit had to be a logo.
The hardest thing is using my own name. It’s weird for a while when you’re sending emails.
Do you still get fanboy when you’re stocked somewhere like the Undercover store?
Sure, I’m happy.
They’re very discerning.
Those characters came from a time that’s very good and I’m happy that I can make a product they want to stock.
The newspaper’s an interesting departure.
I had to do this thing at Somerset House. I wanted to do something visual and friends told me to do something with Derek. I actually tried to do something with him for Dr. Martens.
That would have made a certain sense, given the skinhead history.
But Derek’s images are quite raw. They’re the truth.
It’s not a soft perception of skinheads. In my town they weren’t liberal, blue beat listening guys with sideburns…
They were brutish, racist thugs.
It made for good imagery though.
I like how people use and re-appropriate things. It’s why I like Dickies and it’s why I like Nike…or even Dr. Martens. I like those items and they have appeal.
Had you met each other through working for ‘i—D’?
No. I met him through Dr. Martens.
His imagery is so strong.Then there’s British Remains.
That’s with my friend Daryl.
The newspaper could have been a British Remains project too in some ways.
It could’ve been. The idea was to be more provocative I suppose in what we were doing. What I really liked was when I walked along Camden or wherever and there were t-shirt graphics copied so many times that you never knew where they started.
I’d like to see a pop—up shop on Oxford Street near the man selling the fake perfumes.
In the black binbags?
A friend of a friend once bought a video camera that was full of flour to give it the correct weight. It was a shell. I like the British Remains ad with the old-fashioned look. Who did that?
Jeremy Dean. Do you know a site called the Hardcore Archaeologist?
It looks like an old Lewis Leathers ad.
I like that look. Jeremy also did a new logo. I like the way he remade it. I don’t know why he did, but I can imagine people would have done that at that time.
The creeper thing’s interesting to me. Everyone’s in them.
I though people would struggle with that, but people liked them. It’s quite unusual that I’ve got a portfolio on me.
So the decision to quiz you was timely. Who would you work for if a genie appeared and offered you any brand to work with?
I don’t know.
I suppose the shock of seeing a genie would be terrifying so your decision would be marred.
At school the answer would have been “I wish for a wish whenever I wish.”
Yeah, but that would have ‘Monkey’s Paw’ style consequences.
I think I’ve learnt something from everybody I’ve worked with. I can apply that knowledge hopefully. There are good things and bad things about working with small companies and there are good things and bad things about working with big companies. But what’s nice about larger companies is that you can do something because they have great reach. It would be nice to work with a big company where you have a reasonable position to put things out quickly and efficiently.
What’s next for British Remains?
I’m not interested in making an exact replica. I want to make something new.
Any more print plans?
Is it out your system?
Is Derek happy with it?
He’s happy with it. Well, I think he’s happy with it.
Is it your edit?
They’re all images around people based around people wearing things to make their outfits more interesting or project their personality. I could’ve made a catalogue all about me. Maybe I could’ve called it ‘All About Me.’
I would like to see that.
I don’t have it in me!
Your face could be in the ‘O’ in “About.”
Yes. I could be doing this (Gives thumbs up). But things like this are important. I’ve done things with Jason (Jules) before and he was kind enough to do this for me.
You mentioned film school — who’s your favourite director?
I don’t believe in auteur theory, but I like Krzystof Kieslowski. I like his films, because I like that storytelling aspect.
Filmmaking would be a lot harder than clothing collaborations.
I think the thing is with film is that once you’ve been in college you’ve worked with people and done group projects and it’s so unappealing.
My films would be an intolerable mass of reference points.
I don’t think that’s the difficult thing. The difficult thing is having a small army of people and guiding them in a direction. I just stumbled into clothes because `I was a massive consumer. Then I started working as a buyer and I knew that I wanted to make it.
Colourways are very easy. If you like something you have a rough idea.
You get a sample process. Sometimes you watch a movie and you know it was botched from the start and beyond repair.
There’s that one with Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon out at the moment and I think they were trying to shape that up.
It looks rubbish. It looks like a Gerard Butler film. I don’t associate Tom Hardy with that kind of thing. ‘Warrior’ was excellent. You’re a fan of ‘The Other Guys’ aren’t you?
I like the one hand clap at the art gallery.
“How outre!” I like “Paper bitch” too.
It doesn’t mesh like ‘Step Brothers’ for me though. That’s a masterpiece.
For me that’s ‘The Other Guys.’
John C. Reilly just makes me laugh. I laughed at him in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ — just at his face.
He’s really unlikeable in something else — what was the Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox Vietnam film?
Oh yeah, he’s in ‘Casualties of War.’
He’s awful in that. Do you know who’s really good in ‘Step Brothers’? He’s only in it for a brief amount of time — the one that works with Will Ferrell’s character’s brother. (Rob Riggle).
He’s got a real jerk’s face.
He was actually in Iraq.
Really? He’s done a lot of comedy since.
He’s the guy in ‘The Other Guys’ who makes it funny — when they have the fight at the wake and they’re whispering.
I like jump cuts to things. I like the bit where Steve Coogan offers them front seat tickets to the Knicks and Will Ferrell’s got a foam hand. Do you remember ‘Neon’ magazine, the ‘Select’ spinoff?
It had Graham Linehan’s column at the back page — once it came up with the idea of arthouse firms. Like a Fellini firm and Peter Greenaway firm, or away trips to ruck with Fassbinder fans. It was written in the style of John King.
Really? That sounds good.
He wrote a piece on things he doesn’t want to see in comedy, like, “There’s no way you’re getting me on that thing!” and a cut to two men wobbling on a tandem. But I really love that kind of thing. Do you like Alan Partridge?
I struggle with Alan Partridge.
There’s one I like very much.
I like the turn-of-phrase. Like, “A pipe of Pringles.”
I think it was things like the signature. Like the ‘A’ doesn’t look like the ‘A’ would be written. One I did like was the one with the stalker where they end up in a room. I really like Larry David. What ‘Curb…’ has is Leon in the last series.
Leon is excellent.
What do you think the funniest film is?
‘Step Brothers.’ My dad’s favourite film was ‘Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday’ — he used to cry laughing at the collapsing canoe.
Sometimes it just resonates. Was it Pauline Kael who would only watch a film once?
Yep. I don’t think it works for comedy films though.
I do like ‘Step Brothers’ but I do really like ‘The Other Guys.’ The “Big boy pants.”
I like the wooden gun.
I prefer the “Big boy pants.” Somebody really reached somewhere and got that.
LUNAR JACK PURCELLS & OTHER MATTERS
I love wearing Converse, but those things hurt my feet. I’m an old-fashioned type, so generally it’s Chucks and Jacks in the shoe stack, yet it only takes half a mile before I’m walking my walk, thugged-out, orthopedic. I should probably admit defeat and concede that I’m not designed for these shoes, but the design classicism keeps drawing me back in. One solution to add mileage was always to pillage Nike SBs for their Anatomically Contoured Zoom Air footbeds, but they only delayed the pain.
This weekend I’ve been giving the drop-in Lunarlon midsole from the Koston One (read some nerdery on that shoe here) some road testing in my Jack Purcells, and it shits on the OX edition footbed, as it narrows towards the forefoot to minimise rubbing on the toecap. Usually, while the toe is smiling, I’m grimacing. Plus it’s fun to merge cutting-edge with a design that dates way, way back – lately, Mr. Russ Bengston,Mr. Nick Schonberger and myself have been discussing how awesome a Lunar and Flywire Chuck would be — even if it was just to anger purists. This cross-pollination of footwear is one comfortable step closer to that dream.
Incidentally, this brand crossover is sanctioned, because Converse is part of NIKE INC. Were it not, it would break a cardinal rule — I’ve grown out of some bizarre sub-culture imposed laws over the last few years, but the prohibition on mixing sneaker brands remains in place. If you wear adidas apparel with Nike shoes, or vice versa, it’s not a good look. And if you attempt to reunite the Dassler brothers in one outfit by merging PUMA and adidas, it’s even worse. It could get more extreme, with embargoes on wearing specific non-sports gear alongside the branded footwear that don’t have a collaborative relationship, but that’s just strange. Converse and Nike are now siblings, so the alliance creates a certain creative freedom.
But if we’re going to delve deeper, does that sanction wearing Nike with P.F. Flyers? For all the discomfort, the Jack Purcell’s selling point was once Posture Foundation technology to aid comfort, and it was introduced by the BFGoodrich tyre company as a badminton shoe in the mid 1930s. The BF company also started P.F. (Posture Foundation) Flyers in 1937 using a technology they’d created in 1933. There were other shoes in the Jack Purcell line by the late 1960s, with Jack Purcell by BF Goodrich making the capless Jack Purcell RaceAround (relatively recently retroed by Converse), the adidas-alike Jack Purcell Indy 500 (a lawsuit waiting to happen) and the Jack Purcell Windjammer (recently retroed by P.F. Flyers under New Balance ownership minus the Purcell name — does that mean you can wear NB and Nike with immunity?).
In 1972, Converse bought P.F. but apparently legal issues meant the purchase never took place in it’s entirety, but they got the licence to make the Purcell. This humble little shoe spans several brands, and it’s worth noting that the art in that Windjammer seems to be by the amazing Bob Peake, who designed the posters for ‘Apocalypse Now,’ ‘Enter the Dragon’ and a lot, lot more, vying with Drew Struzan for hero status.
Digression time. I watched John Carpenter’s ‘The Ward’ yesterday with mild anticipation. I appreciate that ‘Ghosts of Mars’ is unforgivably bad and that ‘Escape From LA’ should never have happened, but ‘Cigarette Burns’ for ‘Masters of Horror’ was interesting and because I forgot the majority of it immediately after watching, ‘Pro Life’ with the devil coming to claim back his kid from an abortion clinic was a madcap enough failure for me to think fondly of it. After a decade out of movie making, one of my heroes directed a film that looks a little like a Canadian TV-movie and feel like ‘Halloween II’ and a sail way too close to the plot of a film I won’t name for spoiler purposes. Still, I quite liked the font for the title lettering. Even if it didn’t feel quite like my beloved Albertus MT, there was still a lithe, gothic look to it. For that reason, I enjoyed it for around two minutes and trundled through the rest — though it’s not as bad as George A. Romero’s ‘Survival of the Dead’ or Dario Argento’s ‘Giallo’ in the genre-director-off-the-boil stakes. Plus Carpenter told Dazed & Confused that he likes to sing along to Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started,’ so I’m blaming her for this CGI-aided damp squib of a film.
I hadn’t seen this 1986 image of Donald Duck wooing Daisy in full Paninari getup before until I picked up a fortieth anniversary Moncler book from a few years back. I’ve seen Mickey rendered in hardrock mode with some big boots on and a scowl, but a dayglo Donald seemed to be out to replace the brand’s trademark duck with that Moncler vest and nubuck Timberland boots. Italy’s consumerist convergence of brands somehow managed to echo elements of casual, mod, NYC’s street level boosters, hip-hop uniforms and even today’s breed of slimline chino twat. Donald got there before you all and he got the girl as a result.
Whenever I’m feeling ill, I watch a double bill of ‘Death Wish III’ and ‘Shottas’ — both films have healing properties through sheer mindlessness and are as riddled with errors as they are bullets, but I still can’t get enough of the disregard for period looks that ‘Shottas’ maintains. If you’re going to have a 1978 flashback scene with a stashed shooter, it’s best not to use a distinctive shoe like 1996’s Jordan XII to hide the weapon. The Hilfiger boxers in that scene are bad enough, but this was some progressive footwear for the 1970s. ‘Shottas’ is far too yard to care for wardrobe accuracy.
And what better way to celebrate a holiday weekend than with a very, very sincere Swiss documentary on Celtic Frost that somebody has kindly uploaded onto YouTube with English subtitles?
THE RETAIL EXPERIENCE
A May bank holiday cleanup has unleashed the nostalgia again. E-retail is a soulless experience (though folks like Eastman Leather Clothing at least try) and physical retail seems to have gone the same way. Spaces sullied by synthesized aging, and hapless attempts at instant vintage are no fun. A white space, devoid of dust would beat these Bristol Downs League attempts at Ivy League any day. When the much-discussed J Crew* shifts a stack of yellowing Steinbeck novels for pricks to pretend to read at heavy markups, you know you’re in herbsville…it makes sense shifting ’50s editions, what with them being founded in 1983 and all, and some oak-laden Gant concept store with blog support shows what happens when dad-wear mania goes wrong, can we expect a Marlboro Classics push in the next few months?
The Polo-lite approach to stores is rapidly getting tired, and the expensive vintage collection in the corner rarely rings true. That makes the truly great physical retail experiences something to cherish. My personal favourite? San Francisco’s Harputs. Sadly, the Fillmore Street store, opened in the mid ’80s after the Oakland location closed (apparently that was where former sportswear salesman Turk Harput found a pile of deadstock in the late ’70s, traded his car and saw the potential to shift it) closed earlier this year. The archive is reportedly being kept safe somewhere.
If you’re surrounded by sports footwear samples on the regular, or suffered from exposure to some douche filming themselves opening a shoebox and chucking it on YouTube (“Ummm, I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s got red suede stripes…“), like me you’ll hate 80% of sneakers and despise the very notion of “sneaker culture” having grown beyond weary of the mediocrity that clings to sneaker fanaticism like piss stink on a drunkard. Thank fuck for Harputs. You can still go out your way and find rarities in ancient sport shops, but this was a store that organically brought that feel through a policy of hoarding and occasionally holding back. Stumbling past the parade of unfortunates babbling their way up and down the streets, with the Morganator and I taking Henry from Slam City and Gareth from Pointer along – themselves jaded by shoe overexposure, in 2008, we saw faith restored in minutes, as DJ and one of the heirs to the empire, Matt (Bootsy) Harput held it down, with a screen blasting old promo footage in the background, allowing a little wander around the fabled stockrooms. While the store’s rep is ostensibly adidas-centric – when Matt’s father Turk Harput opened it, it was a key brand that shits on any contrived concept store, we saw Converse, Nike, Reebok and Avia by the ton, with Matt naming his price – weirdo Escape editions and Ewings made in Europe knocked us sideways.
Stack upon stack of boxes and loose shoes piled in a way that mocks the kid glove deification of deadstock was a beautiful thing. A.R.C. imitating boutiques, with the globally homogenous, carefully spaced out seasonal top-tier packs will be the downfall of the industry – that and cornball Rapidshare rappers wearing whatever they’re seeded – this felt like the antidote. Matt naming an outrageously reasonable price on a pea green canvas pair of USA-made Jack Purcells (cheaper than J Crew’s pre-distressed versions) led to the purchase of what’s arguably the best pair in my ever-expanding pile of pleather, leather, gluemarks and mesh. Lest we get too ‘Free & Easy’ about them, these aren’t particularly old – maybe they’re early ’90s, but they could even be 2001 – bear in mind that the Lumberton factory, the last bastion of USA-made Converse closed that year. It doesn’t matter. They’re perfect. For financial rewards, and the James Dean look, you’d need the PF ‘Posture Foundation’ pre-Converse variations, but this pair is just a perfect shoe. As the icing on the cake, Matt ushered us to an empty premises next door, a former pizza parlour, still haunted by a doughy stench, filled with bags of garish sportswear – some terrible ski-style gear, but a spot of crack dealer Troop and some ACG tees in the mix – once again, we got an off-the-dome price on them.
Great memories. Another one bites the dust, but we’re promised a Harputs reopening in new premises for 2011. Shouts to Bootsy, and RIP Turk Harput, who passed away in August 2009. A retail pioneer, and founder of a store with the kind of atmosphere that can’t be bought.
No disrespect to Reebok, but they’ve got a habit of squandering past glories. When they relaunched the brilliantly-titled Weebok line circa. 2005, it wasn’t like it used to be. Despite a crappy 1990 Cabbage Patch Kids doll tie-in around 1990, they had some of the greatest baby sneakers of any brand. Harputs have a few online (the pictures below are taken from their site), and they look eerily similar to some grown-up size capsule collections trying to capture the 2010 zeitgeist. Hikers? Deck shoe styles? Damn Reebok. You really had it going on. It’s enough to make me broody.
*Apparently London’s getting a branch on Regent Street. Seen on message boards and heard whispered conspiratorially in an elevator.