Tag Archives: Denim



Do you know what’s hypocritical? Berating rap nostalgia and then losing my mind over a box set of a well documented hip-hop release from 1994. But considering I change my mind on most subjects at least thrice daily, consider whatever’s on here a screengrab of my psyche at that moment in time rather than any opinion with longevity. CNN just got excited about Nasir Jones’ output, I personally haven’t fucked with much of his work post-‘Illmatic’, bar guest spots, a couple of songs per album (‘You’re Da Man’ on ‘Stillmatic’ samples ‘Sugar Man’ by Rodriguez — the subject of the excellent ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ documentary), ‘The Lost Tapes’, that Mike Tyson bio track, and the newest LP. I attribute my own reverence to the running time — ‘Illmatic’ isn’t long enough to let my frayed attention span wane and that I purchased it alongside that bland Fugees tape when it first dropped, meaning it shone even brighter by comparison.

Get On Down‘s Akinyele set might have been canned (sample clearance hell), but their work on the classics amplifies the joy of gawping at sleevenotes in a digital era. The wooden case, audiophile CD, repressed and remastered double vinyl, hardback book, replica press release, poster and press shots, plus the reproduction of the earlier Nas logo sticker are all geek manna, but they’re as far removed from that launch priced Sony cassette with the distorted bass as it gets. There’s a handful of hip-hop albums that deserve the Springsteen-esque bombast, but when I can psychologically separate myself from the kind of rap fan-damentalists who leave “cool story bro” baiting essays beneath blog entries, this album remains largely (‘One Time 4 Your Mind’ still sounds inessential) unfuckwithable. Thank you Get On Down and Mr. Frank the Butcher for the hookup on this.



I’m hearing good things about the ‘Maniac’ remake and despite my love of Jay Chattaway’s score for the original, the mysterious Rob’s soundtrack for the redux is pretty effective. Before that film’s sweaty sadism wrecks your day, how about ruining your Sunday by watching the legendary Austrian serial killer flick, ‘Angst’ from 1983, with the innovative camera work (mentioned here before) that influenced Gasper Noé in a major way. Somebody’s kindly upped Gerald Kargl’s hard-to-find masterpiece onto YouTube. If you can tolerate things like this, you’ll love it and if it upsets you, it’s fucking meant to — it’s a kinetic but hyper real exploration of a serial killer’s antics in bleak surroundings. It kind of goes with the territory.

It’s tradeshow season and I’m anticipating a mass of prints on racks. Previews of Engineered Garments spring/summer offerings hinted at them executing that aesthetic better than most and the Nepenthes Osaka’s site’s images of the Anchor Baker Jacket, Paisley Ghurka Shorts and that insane oversized blow up of the more restrained floral print on another Lafayette Shirt from this season are all way more interesting than much of what I’ve seen elsewhere. These and the Hawaiian Print Microfiber Ground Jacket are all fun Ridicule is nothing to be scared of, but I bet I get too shook to get properly floral. Those that can will make that giant pattern look incredible while the rest of us resort to our drab wardrobe staples. More Engineered eccentricity. Just think of paisley as a form of camo — albeit, late 1980 indie club camo.




What happened to the ‘Blue Gold’ denim documentary that did the blog rounds back in 2009? While we wait, ‘Warp and Weft: a Snapshot of Raw Denim in the United States’ is finished and out there with a Kickstarter cash boost (thank you Selectism for the heads-up). 70 minutes of denim fanatics talking proved pretty absorbing — Superfuture culture is prominent throughout, and the appearance by their denim Jedi, RingRing, with his face blurred, the interviews at Selfedge, the DIY jean making footage (via Roy Slaper) and the visit to the Levi’s archive (I once worked on a LVC project and had to get in touch with the archive who didn’t think some late 1980s Levi’s selvedge designs existed) are all highlights. The infamous Levi’s legal blitz of 2007 which changed the repro market is mentioned, as is the occasionally overlooked but pioneering Warehouse brand. The RED camerawork’s nice, but the sound doesn’t match that clarity, but it’s a minor gripe. If you missed the launch, you can still support it over here. This is the subject’s surface scratched — a sequel set in Japan is needed. A UK edition with footage of Robert Elms’ near lynching for goading Northerners over jeans after the December 1984 end of Levi’s selvedge production as the opener would be amazing.


I would love to thank the person who sent me this scan of a page from what I believe was a 1986 issue of ‘Runner’s World’ with the entire Steve Cram Nike collection (including the legendary Destiny — for kids who were too cool and monied to fuck with the Bongo), but I lost the original email to email or comment and I’ll amend this. This collection flopped at the time, but the uncommercial colours of the time look great in 2013. Bourne Sports in Stoke-On-Trent didn’t need a website — they just slashed prices and an order form. I wish I could use some kind of time traveling Diners or Access card and buy the lot. The Cram Range is very, very underrated. I know we’ve discussed it here before, but this is a clearer look at the scale of the line.


HAPPY 2012

Happy New Year.

The only drag at this time of year is starting all over again. It’s best to try to start from scratch from January 1st, lest you become one of those people dragging old clippings around and making references to barely seen projects from half a decade ago. Especially if you’re writing for a living. The only projects that count are the ones ahead of you — we might live in a world of nostalgia and retro fixation, but don’t render yourself a retro. This policy began just as I’d started submitting sycophantic rap reviews to magazines to obtain free CDs and — rather quaintly — to get my name in print. It was 2001 — people cared about stuff like that back then.

In May that year, I watched a fairly joyless and disturbing Channel 4 ‘Cutting Edge’ documentary called ‘Brian’s Story’ that charted the street-level, hand-to-mouth existence of a Cambridge-educated journalist called Brian Davis, from the occasionally amusing misunderstandings and chaotic meanderings that replaced a successful ascent at a time when print press really mattered, as Brian slept rough and muttered his way through central London. Brian had written a book called ‘The Thriller: the Suspense Film from 1946’ in 1973 (with the cover using the classic shot of Popeye Doyle shooting Nicoli from ‘The French Connection’) considered to be a definitive text on the genre. He wrote for ‘Campaign’ and ultimately became editor of ‘Creative Review’ between 1982 and 1984 with an apparent reputation for perfect prose despite a shambolic way-of-life.

Becoming editor of ‘Campaign’ in 1984 at the age of 39, Brian walked out of the job after a week into a freelance existence marred by manic depression and alcoholism. Dave Nath’s documentary caught him sixteen years into that uncertain world, where a lack of work had put him on the streets. Brian wielded his bag of press clippings as the only link to a past life, talking about the big breaks that lay ahead of him and mumbling about a presumably fictional date set to interview Roman Polanski that would dig him out his rut. There was some funny stuff, like the jump cut from him being given a home to sleep in by a family member to a spectacular mess with marks on the kitchen walls from neglected cookery missions. Then there was the really unfunny stuff, like Brian falling to his death from the roof of a cheap hotel.

It wasn’t the triumphant back from the brink tale that he assumed the documentary would depict, but Brian was likable throughout and ‘Brian’s Story’ reinforced just how unreinforced our future is. If it could happen to somebody that talented — though nobody ever claimed he didn’t have his flaws — it could happen to anybody. And it’s a long way down. So I figured that it’s best not to be that person living in the past, with portfolio scans and LinkedIn lists replacing those faded carrier bags of old triumphs, and that it’s best to focus on the next.

Alas, like other documentary favourites of mine like ‘The Knocker’s Tale,’ Brian’s Story’ isn’t available online. Perhaps it’ll be added to Channel 4’s 4OD service at some point this year. Every time I hurl a BlackBerry across the room in a tantrum, give a MacBook the Ike Turner treatment or think back to my mum thinking I was autistic for being able to recall Dengar, Zuckuss and 4-Lom but not being able to add 1+1 I think back to Brian’s decline. The freelance realm can destroy a fragile mind.

(Picture courtesy of Sneaker Freaker)

It’s 2012. That means we must have robots cooking dinner, TVs implanted into our eyeballs and cars that do the driving, right? No. But we have got phones with cameras and affiliated apps that make the pictures taken look like they’re from the past. That’ll do. Plus we can spread rumours and make up Martin Luther King quotes for viral purposes by way of micro blogging. 2012 is awesome. What did you think a shoe would look like by this moment in time? the Nike-owned Cole Haan’s brogues with Lunarlon are an amusing mix of futurism and fuddy-duddy and I think I like them. That’s visible Lunarlon, not the secret drop-in midsole variation either. On discussing a friend’s move to Cole Haan, I joked about Lunar brogues and was told that I wasn’t too far off the mark.

Nike man Jarrett Reynolds’ custom saddle shoes with a Dynamic Support sole caused some attention just over a year ago, and the fruits of that project seem to be present in the Lunargrand wingtip that’s in the latest Sneaker Freaker. But why are people sleeping on the grey and lime variant in the traditional Lunar palette? That’s a truly insane creation that fills the strange cool kid gulf between total tech on the foot (witness the popularity of the Lunar line and Free Run+ 2) and Alden, Alfred Sargent and the rest. The Lunargrand is dumb yet amazing. Cole Haan’s been using Nike technologies for a minute, but they’ve long been the brand obstructing my digs in Nike outlets. This is something far more interesting.

Sports footwear trying to look like “proper” shoes is corny. Proper shoes trying to look like sports footwear is a far more entertaining proposition. Back in the early 1980s, Nike’s decision to make smart shoes using Nike technologies wasn’t a success, but it resulted in a range of forgotten shoes in plain and moc-toe styles like the Bedouin and Vagabond circa 1984, that used the Octowaffle pattern outsole as an adaption of existing Nike running technologies. Looking back, the styles are Clarks-alikes, and the decision to buy Cole Haan a few years later was probably a smart move, but I guarantee that many would lose their minds if somebody broke out the Bedouin now. The smart Nike shoes weren’t a success at the time, but the same thinking (and the popularity of Mark McNairy’s creations) makes these a little more timely. Nearly twenty years later, the HTM Zoom Macropus (a clever spin on the marsupial genus that contains the wallaby) was a bold move at trend level too.

While Nike are revisiting past experiments, they need to put out the stonewashed Nike Denim Full-Zip Jacket with the FORCE logo and underarm zips, plus the Denim Shorts that were released around 1990 to wear with the Air Force Five. A.C. Slater meets David Robinson is a strong look.

If you’re looking for something mindless to watch as New Year’s Day winds down, I recommend one of 2011’s most underrated action films — ‘Ironclad.’ It might outstay its welcome, but if you enjoyed 1985’s grim Paul Verhoeven-helmed ‘Flesh+Blood’ ‘Ironclad’ takes the medieval misery way beyond anything there. No fucking elves or orcs — just lots of fighting, and some of the goriest scraps I’ve ever seen. Forget Colin Firth with a speech impediment. This was one of the best British movies of the year. The beating of a man to death with a severed arm is a nice touch. Not even Paul Giamatti’s shit Engish accent could spoil it.


Denim has pretty much been ruined by individuals who, if an aspiration to be in fashion hadn’t intervened, would be down Games Workshop banging on about orcs and invisibility capes. The joy of denim is its resilience and unfussiness, yet people want to muck with the formula. They want to up the weight of jeans to the point where they stand alone without being filled with a human, stood near your bed, plotting your downfall as you sleep. They want to studiously look at the chemical makeup of the detergent you use if — god forbid — you ever wash them.

They want you to stand over a bath containing your jeans, partially submerged in a couple of inches of light blue water and sodium solution to seal in the leaking dye. To be honest, they just seem to be making it up, smirking behind their Superfuture accounts. Jeans are jeans. Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss would be perplexed to look at how seriously folk take denim preservation. Beyond all the nonsense, the aim is simply to wear out a pair and move onto the next ones. I’ve annihilated Levi’s, visvim Fluxus, 101Bs and Rescue Raws — not to the point where they looked charmingly worn-in, but far beyond that, to the point where they simply made me look homeless.

One of my first copywriting gigs was to write a guide to denim preservation for a big brand. It was called ‘Let It Bleed,’ which I thought — barring the Rolling Stones unleashing their legal team — was a very clever name. I studied and studied the art of denim preservation, pored of Mister Denim in ‘Lightning’s do’s and don’ts and read page after page of internet debate. There was the aforementioned, plus a million other rules and theories, but the quest for validation via a “Cool fades bro” on a message board seemed to be the eventual aim. People talked about the glory of “whiskering” too, and after reading it, I realised that it’s all bollocks. Just disrespect your jeans.

The never-wash theory in the quest for the perfect finish is by far the most bizarre — to break the no-wash rule was as frowned upon as being the first to visit the toilets during an all-dayer with particularly boisterous friends. There’s encouragement to discourage dirt by hanging jeans outside or freezing them or — best of all — just to Fabreeze them in order to mask the scent, effectively creating the sartorial equivalent of a baby-wiped whore’s bath. The selvedge preoccupation is nothing new either — broadcaster and occasional irritant Robert Elms managed to annoy Geordies by calling them, “northern scum” on ‘The Tube’ in the 1980s for being ignorant to the sacred strip’s aura.

To cut through the conjecture, here’s a fact: If you wear denim all year round and never wash them, they will smell of piss and sweat. That’s fine behind an artfully shot jpg, but women won’t be seduced by your manly scent. You simply have the lower half of a local oddball. Just with nicer shoes. I wear jeans every day. I’ve only worn Levi’s Vintage for its unfussiness. I trust Levi’s. I also buy into one notion of the denim realm — it’s a fabric that works with the wearer, taking on shapes and characteristics and pleasantly mutating with every wear and wash. I’m also very lazy, and if there’s an excuse to live in the same jeans, I’m all for it. Putting on a new pair is irritating, because the break-in process has me walking like an android and giving sofas a navy hue wherever I choose to sit. It takes me out of my comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. But while I’m not participating in rodeos or working on a ranch like some kind of Lipschitz fantasy, I seem to wear a pair to destruction every 24 months through the most mundane of tasks.

I’m about to retire these 1933 501s due to damage. Not cool damage – motorbike seat wear and tear or oil marks. Just mundane contemporary scuffing and ripping. This isn’t Minoru Onozato or Doug Bihlmaier’s discerningly sloppy clothing-with-tales timelessness. I’ve simply rendered them hard to wear and given them an aura of poverty. Using the coin pocket to carry notes rather than a wallet caused some wear, two BlackBerrys (one in either pocket) over a prolonged period — even when sitting — caused two strange, holster-like markings that look like a smartphone Turin Shroud. Sitting between train carriages, cross-legged on the floor during an overcrowded commute wore the cinchback strap away to the point where it simply fell apart and it made the keys in my back pockets cause holes that rendered them unusable.

Deadliest of all, the regular rubbing of a bag on a daily walk from station to office caused the pocket area to rub away completely, exposing both my pocket and boxer shorts — cotton denim met cotton twill for a daily confrontation and twill won, emerging entirely unscathed, bar a permanent blue bruise where they made regular contact. The 1933 cut’s one of my favourites, eschewing any semblance of fit with that almost-exaggerated seat (which proved functional from all that sitting) and offering a slightly lighter, softer denim in its raw state than some later models. It served me well.

But when it comes to the thorny subject of pre-distressed denim, how many commercially available washes come close to real wear? Who gets that contrived and controlled pocket and ankle fray, with the lines symmetrically appearing at the thighs? It’s tethered destruction. The real thing’s much more freeform. I’ve got more respect for the patchwork creations, merging sloganeering with faded and dark denims that one might see in a provincial nightclub than the cop-out wash imitations feigning the look of a month on the body.

I actually got these jeans after the denim guide was completed a few years back. In retaliation for the information overload, I didn’t listen to a word I wrote. So these jeans tell a story. It’s just a shame it’s such a dull one. Still, at least they were partially destroyed on the railroad — even if it’s not in the manner that Strauss and Davis might have envisioned.


I’m feeling this raincoat by London’s UTILE crew a great deal for all-out cleanliness. No fussy business, dumb branding or irksome points of difference for the sake of it. It’s the right length and it’s made by people who know. www.utileclothing.com

If there’s one good thing to come out of our preoccupation with the past, it’s the creation of amazing merchandise like this homage to Greek Street’s legendary and long-gone Groove Records (as seen in ‘Bad Meaning Good’). Based on the shop’s carrier bags, it’s appropriately yellow. Style Warrior UK is putting out some unlikely but admirable British hip-hop designs. www.stylewarrioruk.wordpress.com


I have a fascination with really bad people. I mean really bad people. I don’t want to ever be suspected of a crime, in case the fascination is misread in that, “I always knew there was something strange about that one…” manner, but this isn’t one of those group hug kinds of blogs either. There’s something about Clarence Starkweather and Charles Schmid that exudes a macabre sense of cool. That could be down to Treat Williams’ portrayal of Arnold Friend in 1986’s ‘Smooth Talk’ (based on Schmid) and Martin Sheen’s portrayal of Kit in 1973’s ‘Badlands’ (based on Starkweather). There’s actually another, less effective, thinly veiled Schmidt flick—1994’s ‘Dead Beat.’

It’s all bloodshed, senseless behaviour, brooding, denim and quiffs. I can’t get on with Ted Bundy’s clean-cut, boy next door gone batshit look. I want to see freakish narcissism. Starkweather’s spree-killing antics are built on a certain sense of alienation, but Schmid was just downright strange, operating as a serial killer in the 1960s and attracting some insecure and—on occasion—equally obsessive women like moths to a flame (hence his “Pied Piper of Tucson” nickname). His choice of attire and physical embellishments is downright brilliant —boots with beer cans planted to make him seem taller, white lipstick, dyed hair and a beauty mark made of putty and grease, all to conceal the fact he was very short indeed. One of his “looks” prior to arrest was a bandage over his nose (like Andy Robinson’s Scorpio in ‘Dirty Harry’ post-paid beating, but minus the web-friendly cardigan and denim shirt combo) to pretend he’d had his nose broken…now that’s a look.

Charles knew when to pare it down

Wealthy adoptive parents and athletic prowess evidently didn’t stop that insecurity, so he transformed himself into some kind of malevolent Elvis character who seemed curiously out-of-time, yet unique in that staid small town setting. Going on to murder three women (as possibly a fourth person, this time a male), he missed out on the death penalty but LIFE covered his trial in a superior fashion. When Schmid was taking a stand, he appeared to make an effort, albeit an effort free of his homemade prosthetics, but his arrest shot captures that near-mythical spot and those stacked boots. Pictured after being recaptured post-prison escape, he still looks odd and his peculiar swagger reportedly continued until some fellow prisoners decided to stab him twenty times in the face and chest.

Payback’s a bitch and that’s where the Schmid story ends, but that same detached, braggadocios approach to homicide would be echoed in the 1986 film ‘River’s Edge’ based on the Marcy Renee Conrad case. That killer—Anthony Jacques Broussard—lacked Schmid’s unique sense of strange.

Note the blanket lining on Starkweather’s prison blues

Bar the turtleneck, Andy Robinson’s Scorpio looks like a shit menswear blogger


In recent months, Google’s LIFE image archive has been e-manna from e-heaven for lazy bloggers like myself enjoying a spot of search engine research. Given its prolific amount of images from throughout the decades, just picking at the bones of any assignment prior to 1969 in Europe or the States exposes some sharp looks and iconic images. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The same applies to Google’s Google patents service – recently upgraded for easier retrival of imagery and a simpler summary of the filed, and ultimately issued, innovations incorporated.

Continue reading PATENTS ARE A VIRTUE…