The World Cup is a perfect time for everyone to pretend they’re fanatical about football. I’m not going to feign fandom. I was a terrible player which makes me a weak spectator — I can’t fully appreciate the nuances of the game, because I have little comprehension of how to play it. I don’t think I’m alone there — a lot of projects are a bit Roger Nouveau Football Fan. Skate tie-ins can be even more awkward — there’s plenty of crossover, but skateboarding always seemed like a reaction against team sport twattery when I was a kid. But I also hear a lot of diehard fans complaining about the hordes suddenly taking an interest whenever there’s a global tournament, which is a strange argument — it’s not inconceivable that those who don’t make the effort every weekend might legitimately take an interest in a worldwide, heavily marketed tournament that determines a nation’s mood and pits the greatest players in the world against each other. You see a lot of people who own a CP Company coat and once saw a man push a man at a game banging on about tear-ups and crews too — fake hoolies seem to be worse than the biannual swarm of one-month fans. I’m mostly interested in football boots and characters like Edmundo, John Sitton or Ali Dia. As a result, it was kind of odd to get interviewed by designboom on a football-related subject, but here’s a chat with me about football boots — working on that project it was fascinating to see how Nike Football evolved from a boot made to help BRS split from Onitsuka in 1971 (because Onitsuka didn’t make football boots, Nike hastily got a boot with a Swoosh on it into the market to prove that they had a point-of-difference when it came to legal tussles) to Gordon Cowans Tippexing a Swoosh onto his PUMA King boots in 1982 to the Mercurial Vapor twenty years later.
The entire casual subculture is coated with at least three layers of wish-they-were-there, which makes it hard to get to the core of kids dressing sharp to beat each other to a pulp during home and away games. It’s open to dimwitted exploitation and the majority clad in Sergio Tacchini and Lois just look like they’re off to a 1980s themed office party, with as much credibility as a bunch of Daves blacked up in afro wigs en route to Carwash. Most documentaries about it are atrocious and the majority of the books charting it are ‘ard nut div lit of the Kate Kray’s ‘Hard Bastards’ school of writing. Part the sea of professional northerners and Danny Dyer-isms (when even Alan Clarke’s attempt to document a lifestyle ends up heavy-handed, you know it’s never going to be easy to tell this story) and a fascinating sub-culture’s there, Stanley knife in hand and clad in the sportswear of the wealthy. It’s just most books on it are crap — Phil Thornton’s ‘Casuals’ did a noble job, ’80s Casuals’ was a great scrapbook of amassed gear and ‘The End’ compendium is necessary for a view at the time rather than retrospect and rose-tinted dust-up anecdotes.
I’m still waiting to pick up the definitive book on the topic, but it’s never going to happen, much as hip-hop books are a mixed bag — too many regional scenes and too many stories to tell without denting egos. As a half-Scot (my temperamental side is inherited from my mum’s side) I feel a selective sense of patriotism and having heard the horror stories of the country’s firms (my only key reference points to the older, more brutal days there are Gillies MacKinnon’s teen gang classic ‘Small Faces’ and John Motson announcing, “The scene is so typically Scottish” during a goalpost dismantling pitch invasion after Scotland’s 1977 victory over England), I was open to being educated. ‘Dressers’ delivers stories from a Motherwell fans’ perspective over 280 pages, with plenty of skirmish stories that are a solid Jock-centric sequel to Thornton’s mass of beatings and close calls, but there’s also hundreds of images, a ton of clippings and lots of shoes and clobber (ZX 280s and Seb Coe Impacts are beautiful objects) in charting the culture of the Dresser and the scourge of the Saturday Service. Just as it’s the law that Irvine Welsh had to have a quote on anything about smack a few years back, ‘Dressers’ comes complete with endorsement after endorsement, but thankfully, not a word from Nick Love.
This would make a hell of a documentary, but when it comes to clean living in difficult circumstances, our Celtic brethren put in work, and if you’re not inspired by the masses of bad hair, beer cans held aloft and clobber worn for clobbering time, I can’t do much for you. Crucially, the first 139 pages house a remarkable amount of information for any scholar of working class sub-cultures. It might only deal with one particular scene, that a small town squad managed to develop the reputation that the sons of Motherwell managed to accrue is a significant feat. It’s also noteworthy that the book is slickly laid out in hardback format rather than bearing the aura of mate’s mate with the desktop publishing software. You can buy ‘Dressers’ here and it’s a project worth supporting.
Going off at a macabre tangent (this is some rushed blogging), as a kid I was deeply disturbed by an image of Otis Redding being pulled from the water post plane crash. He looked peaceful, but as an Otis fan, it was a peculiar sight I couldn’t quite shake. Here’s where I drop a disclaimer — this isn’t Rotten or some gore forum and I apologise if you’re disturbed by the below image, but I imagine in these Worldstar, trade-a-death-video-with-your-boss, corpses-in-the-Daily-Mail days, you can stomach an image of a dead body, but is this picture of Otis Redding strapped to his chair from a ‘Jet’ feature just after the accident one of the oddest and most haunting pictures ever?