It’s a testament to how hard I’ve fallen off that I miss things like this on the Internet. Having said that, why isn’t the rest of the hypesphere picking up on this? We’ve become lazy. By Such and Such‘s 13-minute conversation with Supreme creative director Brendon Babenzien is well worth watching for some little insights into how he entered the industry and his take on style versus fashion. As Animal Farm/Pervert (working on the post-Don incarnation of the brand) alumni, it’s a nifty segue to this great Oi Polloi interview with Louis Loizou, director of How Can I Be Down: a documentary about Pervert and its founder, Don Busweiler, who opted to leave society with a collective called The Brethren in the mid 1990s. The parallels with the cult of prints on clothing and the kind of cult that makes you grow a beard and drop out are presumably not coincidental. This eight minute preview includes chats with Erik Brunetti, Eric Haze, Rick Klotz, Alyasha Owerka-Moore and Ian MacKaye, with more promised if Loizou gets full finding via Kickstarter. The connection between Pervert, Supreme, Gimme 5 and pretty much every other key entity from the era, all the way up to its influence on Miami based brand Stray Rats (who, like Pervert in its early days, work plenty of hardcore mentality into their work), means that this story deserves to be told in the depth that this film is promising to tell it in. The underlying theme of Don’s story is about false prophets, but he makes some pretty prescient statements regarding where that street wear thing of theirs would be a couple of decades down the line.
Salutes to Alex Dweck for reminding me about the Givenchy Pervert piece’s parallels with a pioneering brand from the past.
As time goes on, what was once the shit — something worth seeking out — can disappear into anonymity. Due to streetwear’s cyclical nature, a healthy dose of reverence whenever content creation’s constant sprawl looks for an industry retrospective, the majority of brands I grew up loving have maintained longevity. Stüssy is still powerful, Supreme evolved, Holmes morphed into Silas who reappeared a little less appealing but seemed to transfer that old spirit into Palace, Fuct stays excellent, Nigo’s role in BAPE was minimized but the brand still has some clout, X-Large is big in Japan (or at least it seems to be), Gimme5 still has distribution clout, Fresh Jive does whatever the fuck it wants, Eightball and Droors gave way to DC, Union still does great work in Los Angeles, SSUR is on a wave right now, former Phat Farm and PNB operatives have huge roles in the industry, Zoo York fell off but the key people there made their own mark, STASH and Futura made good livings post NFC, Kingpin was great (R.I.P. Bleu Valdimer) but seemed to stop in the transition to Project Dragon. There’s a whole lot more, but for the most part, they’re either still in business or there’s a reasonable explanation as to why they shut up shop. All except Pervert.
Obsessing over stock at Planet in my hometown, Slam City, Bond and Dr Jives, Pervert was always a brand I actively hunted — it seemed to have the hip-hop and rave crossovers, captured the acid jazz craze of the time and had skater appeal too. Harking from Miami’s South Beach they had that beach life authenticity that made Stussy seem so authentic back when it debuted. That was a region that never seemed to be represented by anything this credible (Miami’s Stray Rats has done some strong work for the city in the last few years with a healthy respect for Pervert’s work), but Pervert had the name, had a photogenic frontman (and a great BMXer in his youth) who got some profiles in mainstream magazines like ‘Rolling Stone’ (see below) back when being in print was a huge deal in the shape of founder Don Busweiler who started it in his late teens. Trademarking Pervert branding in mid 1990 for “hats, T-shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, footwear, headwear, and swimwear”, Busweiler can be considered an elder statesman of streetwear (I don’t use that hated umbrella term lightly, but when a brand isn’t necessarily a skate brand but trades in printed and embroidered cotton, it’s all I can do).
Pervert’s Animal Farm store was an operations base (stocking Stussy, Fuct, Fresh Jive and the rest) and they were actively involved in the local club scene. It’s a testament to Pervert’s role locally that anyone I’ve met from Miami who’s 30+ years of age seemed to have something to do with the Pervert crew in one way or another. The brand would have cleared up in any number of streetwear booms, the rise in Mo’ Wax and the affiliated toys and tees — even multiple quick cash crazes for parody shirts (next time you see a PUMA tee in a tourist trap souvenir store, think of Don and his team), but it never lasted long enough, because in 1995, after a relationship breakup, Don Busweiler ended Pervert and joined Jim Roberts’ Brethren cult (also know as the Garbage Eaters) with its Christian values that pretty much deem anyone doing anything different a practitioner of perversion.
The beards and bikes of male Brethren members might seem hipster-esque, and the cult’s famous bin-dipping is bizarre, but there’s a real tragedy to this story — the comments on this post hint at the emotional damage of Don’s (apparently calling himself Micaiah) or disappearance and his parents have been quoted in documentaries and articles on Roberts’ activities. ‘God Willing’, a recent documentary (screened on PBS) documents the anguish of the parents of children who vanished to join the nomadic Roberts group and it’s powerful stuff. The ABANDONED status code of Pervert’s trademark hints at the sudden end of the brand. It’s a sad story of what could have been, but the impact Busweiler and the team made in those few short years is significant, but alas, it all occurred before the internet became an extension of the world we live in, so informationally, it’s as if it barely ever existed. I guarantee the influence of Pervert has corrupted your wardrobe in one way or another — bear in mind that Supreme’s creative director Brendon Babenzien started his career at Pervert.
If you haven’t already watched everything on the Gasface’s channel. including all five ‘Think B.I.G.’ installments, you’re slipping. Everyone with an SLR with filming capabilities might be a filmmaker now, but these French hip-hop obsessives are masters of their art. Somebody should just give these guys their own channel as the prove that only the French can do rap nostalgia and digging without coming off corny.
That was a lazy blog post, right? Here’s a load of old RRL and Polo Sport ads to pad it out. I know you love that stuff as much as I do (except that white guy with dreads).
Writing a top 50 of anything is a motherfucker. Nobody maintains a top 50 of something unless they’re truly insane. I keep a top 5 of some stuff, but that’s as far as it goes. And that’s subject to change. So putting together anything longer is hard, and beyond that top 10 ranking, it’s merely tactical. “You put XXXXX at 35! Are you crazy?” they shout in the comments section. And I don’t listen. Douchebags can glower at me at trade shows all they like. Streetwear is a subject that’s very important to me, and I can’t be bothered to break down what constitutes streetwear — you know what it is. Salutes to all who started at 432F.
When Bradley at Complex asked me to list 50 great streetwear bites (that was later changed to homages because “Bites” is a little too controversial), I was keen to get involved. Check it out right here. It’s nice to celebrate a realm before it went all cut, sew and RRL-lite — I’m not qualified to be talking about these things professionally, as I’m just a fan. I’m a toy. But that rack of shirts I browsed in Planet Clothing back in the early 1990s that was laden with Fuct, Freshjive, X-Large and some stray Carhartt is still fresh in my mind. It was a glorious confusion — was it skate wear? Hip-hop gear? I couldn’t work it out. So I used this opportunity with Compex’s 50 Greatest Pop Culture References In Streetwear to celebrate that. But I still had to omit some stuff important to me to fit that 50, and I forgot one key design.
I assume nobody cried about LRG being out the list again, because they’re not peddlers of parody, but I had to ditch Eightball and Droors because they’re skate brands, and before you claim that Supreme is a skate brand, we all know that it’s something bigger in 2011. In fact, I could easily make a list of nothing but Supreme gear, and I’m sure they loathe being tagged as streetwear too. But again, this isn’t the place for debate. It was originally a list of 80 or so designs. Some images were just impossible to find and some creations were excised because I couldn’t justify featuring more than 6 of the same brand when there’s a numerical perimeter to work within. You all knew Stussy and Supreme’s Chanel and Kruger homages would top it though, didn’t you?
But some stuff’s in there solely because I respect their business game or because that design typified an era, regardless of how regrettable it might look now. OBEY warrants a place for importance even if it’s super-wack to me nowadays, but those stickers fired my imagination back in the day. I saw one question on Twitter — “How could they forget air Johnny?” I can answer that one. Because it’s shit. It was nice to take another look at the work of the late Bleu Valdimer’s overlooked Kingpin line and Pervert’s Don Busweiler, who ditched the brand to join a cult. There’s a phenomenal documentary in there somewhere.
I regret omitting Supreme’s ARMY shirt, Stussy’s PiL-style StU, Zoopreme, King Stampede’s Cult stuff, Supreme Maxell, the J$ Situationormal Alpo shirt, Absurd’s A-Wing, DQM’s Meatallica, Diamond D-Wing, Undrcrwn’s Biggie and Pac shirts, Undrcrwn’s Coogi-style basketball shirts, Silas’s ‘Silas Bloody Silas’ shirt, Gimme5’s Ghostbusters image, Fuct’s ‘Warriors’, the BMW Red Army Faction shirt (I couldn’t find the designer), Perks & Mini’s Balearic Flag and Sun-Ra designs, Goodenough’s ‘Dog or Die, Staple’s Cassius Clay, Crooked Tongues’s ‘Crooked Force’, SSUR’s IZM IBM homage, Tonite’s ‘Party On’ Patagonia shirt, ALIFE’s Otis Bantum Correctional Facility, Freshjive’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’, WTAPS’s ‘Rise Above’ stuff NFC’s Krylon print, 10.DEEP’s Champion shirt, the SSUR Bruce Lee ‘Enter the Dragon’ chest marks, the St. Alfred’s YSL style monogram, the Bounty Hunter Danzig font, the Bounty Hunter Ducky Boys shirt, Pervert’s Kappa bite, Orchard Street’s ‘Pimp Accordingly’, Mishka’s ‘Death to All’, HVM8 ‘Bone Thugs & Typography’, aNYthing’s BAD NEWS series and a few more….in fact, I’m sure there’s a hundred more significant shirts, hats and sweats.
I couldn’t single out a specific NBHD design that’s an iconic homage. Mr. Craig Ford reminded me of plenty more Hysteric Glamour creations, Duffer’s Ducci Gucci bite and a Hermes homage, plus BAPE’s Versace and Cazal copies. The Natural Born ‘I Against I’ and 2K/Gingham Beatles designs are clever, but I never saw them as homages or imitations. Even only including a single No Mas design seemed churlish.
But now I’m boring myself.
There’s one major idiotic omission in the listing (and apologies to Erik for misspelling his name as Eric a couple of times) — the Fuct ‘Goodfellas’ shirt. The brand’s early ’92 film poster art preempts SSUR’s ‘Mean Streets’ and Supreme’s ‘Taxi Driver’. I mentioned it, then forgot to include it later on like a dumbass. It seems so obvious to stick gangsterism on cotton now, but back then it felt totally fresh. Fuct is a very overlooked brand indeed.
Why is the list largely absent of designs post-2006? Because there’s some lines that deserve a spotlight and I’m afraid SSUR creations warranted a place more than your line. There’s still some great creations being pumped out from newer labels, but post-2006, the homaged brands seemed to want more of that hypesphere loot and seemed happier to officially collaborate. I feel that murdered some of the rebel spirit and that was an instant disqualification, though on seeing the list, Jeff Staple mentioned that the John Jovino Gun Shop shirt was made with his cooperation.
It’s heartening to see a streetwear resurgence of sorts in the UK. Shouts to Gabriel at Origin London for his latest project with This is My Costume, Puck and Second To None. At fear of sounding patronising, the dude is 17 and creating a presence for his brand using a network of folk who dwell on the new. We old farts are on our way out — and not a moment too soon. Too much nostalgia can prove unhealthy.
With all the current MTV celebrations, it’s always worth re-watching the ‘VH1 Goes Inside Yo! MTV Raps’ documentary from a few years back. There’s some great outtake footage in there, and just as that rack of randomly gathered shirts had a vast impact on me, those saturday mornings watching Ed and the team were life-changing. Anyone else remember those switches to Marxman and Talkin’ Loud releases during Fred’s non-studio section courtesy of MTV Europe? I always felt I was missing out on some amazing US stuff as a result of that intrusion.
And if anybody can tell me what a ‘Purple Onion’ is in the comments, I’d love to know. While this track is hypnotic, I initially wrote the video off as a So Me copy, but the ‘Pop Up Video’ style comments and ‘What They Do’ style is decent.