Tag Archives: gore-tex

MAKE IT RAIN: THE ADIDAS WATERPROOF

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My fascination with GORE-TEX additions to clothing is pretty well documented, but I have a particular interest in the adidas Waterproof. This blog was originally thrown together to cover things other than sports footwear, but because one outlet has closed, you might see a bit more shoe talk on here for the time being. You practically need to earn a suede and rubber PhD to navigate the nuances of the adidas archives. Navy running shoes are all over the 1983-1985 catalogues, but some made a bigger impact than others.

1984’s Waterproof is a truly cult creation on a number of levels — it was barely seen in its day beyond those in the know (especially on UK soil), it was incredibly expensive, and crucially, it had a GORE-TEX lining. Stylistically, the Waterproof looks a lot like the 1983’s New York training shoe (the Dellinger web version and not the alternate version) and its specialist, winterised look and feel made it a contemporary of the SRS (ostensibly, an LA Trainer on steroids) and the towering Jogging All-Round. But whereas those shoes looked like old favourites locked in a garage with the A-Team, the Waterproof was a more subdued looking creation.

Taking it back to 1984, a GORE-TEX coat seemed state-of-the-art, but on a shoe it seemed downright exotic. The GORE-TEX booty that brought the membrane material to shoes was honed by outdoor design pioneers like Willie Sacre and officially launched in 1982. The new breed of trainer-hikers took advantage of the technology (Nike’s 1982 Approach boot was an early creation using the insert), but I can’t ascertain who debuted it in a runner, though I suspect that the Waterproof was the first (and adidas marketing materials of the time say it was). It was the perfect accompaniment to an Allzweckanzug Athen GORE-TEX tracksuit too.

If it looked the same as a New York, down to the ADISORB insole, why was this winter runner so expensive? Membrane lasting is more complex than just Strobel or board lasting, so it costs. Water repellent leather costs. GORE-TEX membrane costs. The standards the GORE-TEX brand demands cost. Seam sealing costs. Untypical lasting methods cost. The gusset tongue (a lot of contemporary shoes at trend level forget this part in their quest for GORE-TEX branding) added more material, which, once again, costs a little bit more.

Those paying attention at the time single out the Waterproof and the Zelda (a ghilly-laced, Reebok Classic looking creation that can almost certainly never be reissued under its original name) for their near mythical status at the time. The Waterproof certainly seemed to get more of a push. Post 1985 (and images, as seen below, of a pair from an Austrian catalogue, include lettering down the stripes), the Waterproof was gone. 1985’s GORE-TEX lined Tokio seemed to replace it, with its more technical look and option of an All-Round style high variation. But in 2006, adidas Originals dropped a Waterproof reissue, with the addition of a small metal GORE-TEX badge on the upper (not present on the original, but cooler looking and presumably part of the licensing deal). After selling out, that retro started commanding some eBay prices akin to some hype fodder of the time with significantly less substance.

In an early conversation with Gary Aspden about the SPEZIAL line (which, I believe, had a different project name at the time), my first question to him was, “Will there be a Waterproof?” The answer is yes — a Waterproof SPZL in an appropriately moody grey and white modelled on the second volume of the SPEZIAL book is part of the second collection (with a water resistant leather toe rather than the suede of the original). I admire the nods to leisure designs and minimal, narrow-fitting rarities in the original SPEZIAL line, but I’m just not northern enough to appreciate them (having a Scottish mum doesn’t count). This one, limited to 1,000 pairs, is my kind of shoe. The £185 price tag is no joke though, so I fired some questions at Gary before he goes on the campaign trail once again, to talk 3-stripes with the media.

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Q&A WITH GARY ASPDEN

GARY 1: Gary, what’s the impetus for including the Waterproof in the SPEZIAL line?

GARY 2: It’s a favourite of mine. They epitomise everything that is great about adidas footwear both in their design and function. They were at the forefront of footwear innovation when they were originally released. There is nothing in their design that doesn’t have good reason to be there.

Did you ever see the shoe on sale back in the mid 1980s or know anybody who had it?

I didn’t…I asked Gary Watson who I work with on the graphics for SPEZIAL the same question. I was hoping he would know something as he went abroad a number of times on trips to get adidas when I was still at school and is a bit older than me but he didn’t know anyone. I asked Paul Fox who has worked for JD Sports since the mid 80s and is a dedicated Birmingham supporter – he said there was only one person he knew who owned a pair back then was Dave Makin from JD (Dave also owned a pair of adidas Zelda). I have had a couple of older lads from Merseyside pop up on Twitter since we announced the SPEZIAL Waterproof reissue who said that they had owned them in 1984 and I am inclined to believe them as they are not messers. There were a few older scousers who showed up at the Manchester SPEZIAL who were specifically asking after Zelda and Waterproof. They were the best shoes in the market at that time — and that was reflected in the price point which in turn limited the amount of them that ended up on the shelves.

Do you think some of the shoe’s core appeal in this country was down to our bad weather as much as it was the rarity?

The adidas Waterproof became the stuff of legend, I guess because of its rarity, look and price. It’s like the yellow soled Forest Hills — speaking to people who worked for adidas in the UK in the late 1970s there was only one place in England they were available and that was Liverpool and they only ever had 400 pairs. No doubt a handful of people picked them up in the continent but it was the 1982 version with the white sole that I used to see around. I remember people talking about a mythical yellow soled Forest Hills but I never physically saw a pair until the reissue in 1999.

What’s the appeal of GORE-TEX to you? It sounds very exotic and always seems to represent a premium price.

It does imply value but it also suggests practicality. I grew up in an area where it rains a lot and spent much of my childhood getting soaked in Gloverall duffel coats and Polar Gear jackets. When the local Camping shop in Blackburn began stocking GORE-TEX anoraks they must have known immediately that they were onto a winner. It attracted a whole new audience to their store. The shop owners soon realised that they needed to improve their security after those appeared on the racks. Whilst I am a fan of it my love of waterproof fabrics isn’t limited to GORE-TEX — the organic ETA we have used in the Haslingden jacket is Swiss made and its water repellent qualities are mind blowing.

This time you never made any modifications to it, whereas every other shoe in the line seems to get a subtle change. Why was that?

All the components were available and the upper specifications of the previous 2006 reissue were true to the original shoe. Sometimes I choose to go for hybrids because of limitations on what tooling for the soles is in existence (creating new moulds for sole units that don’t currently exist is VERY costly). Sometimes this creates a scenario where we improve on the original shoe. I own a pair of vintage adidas Sevilla leisure shoes that were the inspiration for the Albrecht SPZL and the sole they used on those vintage shoes just isn’t right for 2015 although that upper with a few tweaks to the specs is still relevant so I wanted to give them a reappraisal. I am very happy that people are also excited about that shoe.

Did you try to alter the Waterproof at any point? Like put the upper on another sole unit like the other versions of the New York or the Boston?

No — it’s a great shoe and the moulds for the sole unit existed so the only thing I wanted to play with was the colour way.

That price tag is heavy — why is that?

The price tag appears heavy if you don’t know what has gone into building the shoe. adidas Waterproof were had an RRP of 155DM in the German catalogue in 1984. 155DM in 1984 = £63, however, you have to bear in mind the fact that adidas shoes in Germany at that time were significantly cheaper than in the UK, hence why so many entrepreneurs in the north west were going over there and buying up van loads to resell here. Considering that in Germany at that time adidas Dublin and adidas Hamburg were going for around 21DM, it puts it into perspective.

When we decided to go with the Waterproof SPZL we were faced with a choice — do we compromise the original construction (seam sealed GORE-TEX membrane/waterproof leather/gusset tongue/etc) to get the price down or do we keep the construction authentic and charge a much higher price than the rest of the shoes in the collection (as it was the first time around)? We opted for the latter and I stand by that. The adidas Waterproof was a super expensive shoe in 1984 and for good reason. I remember a running shoe by another company called Odyssey were £60 in 1984, they were the most expensive shoe on the wall of Gibsons Sports in Blackburn and they didn’t have anything like the technology that went into the hard to find adidas Waterproof. The distribution is very tight on the adidas Originals x SPEZIAL range as it is and with the price point on this particular shoe the retailers have been reasonably cautious so we haven’t ended producing many pairs at all. It’s a shoe for dedicated adidas connoisseurs — the Waterproof always has been I guess.

Images of the aforementioned Zelda are below, because if you made it this far, you’re probably a fan:

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BANGERS

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At the ACG relaunch event at London’s NikeLab store, all eyes were on the future, but there was a small amount of archive material on display to provide a little context. With the 1989/1990 wave of inaugural All Conditions Gear apparel being designed by a former Patagonia man its functionality and attention to detail is underrated. The budget blockbuster that is the Air Mada was on display alongside the proto-ACG greatness of the Escape, but that 1989 GORE-TEX Cervino Parka to match your Baltoros, Snowpatch Spire Pullover from the same year with the asymmetric zip and 1992’s ClimaF.I.T. Micro Fiber Anorak. These hastily shot iPhone images don’t do the products justice. As the owner of a couple of pieces from this period, I can testify that those layering system fits aren’t ideal for everyday wear, unless you have fleeces and base layers to accommodate the generous sizing. Those colours are still perfect to me.

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This was the year of the underwhelming collaboration, but Zomby (who soundtracked an ACRONYM® video back in 2012) dropped an unexpected winner with his collaboration with Jonny Banger’s Sports Banger line. Sports Banger’s FILA homaging, Tulisa supporting, Polo meets Sports Direct, Mr Freeze addled worldview is part of a new wave of gleeful bootlegging with British corner shop and high street staples being given tributes in a post T-Shirt Party realm where things sneered at a few years back are being celebrated. 2014 is the year when people who were preoccupied with Shawn J Period when two-step was big and picking at Rawkus’ dying embers when Pay As U Go were popping can claim to be garage and grime heads, but it’s good to see British scenes get their recognition and artists like Skepta get room to move in that renaissance on their own terms. The fact no American could understand this mass of reference points is a pleasant polar opposite to hapless, once-you-go-crap-you-never-go-back attempts to break the States. If you buy both of the Zomby x Sports Banger ’92 t-shirts, you get a tub of dual-branded wet look ’92 hair gel — the gunk that created crispy barnets in schools, clubs and pubs 22 years ago. You can almost smell the Davidoff Cool Water, skunk and Marlboro Lights in the air.

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For anyone that moans about Gildan tees on marked up shirts not being removed (and anyone who bought street or skate wear back in the early 1990s can testify that a Hanes, Camber or Champion label left in was commonplace on the output from some of the greatest brands of the time), this Gildan one is a perfect middle-finger:

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MEMBRANE

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I’m on my European sellout steez right now, so updates here are suffering right now. But why do you need to hear from me when there’s greatness out there that you might have stumbled upon. Every time I visit Japan I see the attention to detail that makes stores (though Goodhood’s new store evokes that glorious perfectionism) products and marketing materials look very sloppy indeed. GORE-TEX has a far cooler name than a membrane should have, making that breathable, protective addition to gear a brand in itself. In Japan, GORE-TEX evidently take the work of expensive, lower-case named brands like nanamica, nonnative and visvim seriously enough that they’re letting them be three of six storytellers in their Six Stories of GORE-TEX Products booklet. Hypebeast have already published each interview on the site, but the book’s right here. Plenty of insight into why, despite plenty of contenders to the throne, this is still the application of choice for some people who really don’t compromise. That they opt for it is the ultimate endorsement at fashion level and a great advertisement with an approach that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. I’d kill to get involved with creating something like this. This patchwork White Mountaineering is a thing of beauty — sweating the small stuff instigates power moves.

This interview with Foz from Heroin Skateboards from Vice is necessary too. His aesthetic defined an era and still represents a hardcore approach to skating.

ROBIN IN GORE-TEX

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Twitter is swarming with links to Robin Williams tributes, and with good reason — the handful of people I know who met him found him to be a class act and it’s a testament to his versatility that while I never found his standup particularly side-splitting, he was one of the ultimate actors when the script was right, as was the case with Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King and Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad. Williams was a man with an inclination toward some of the brands and cultures discussed here — FTC (his local spot), Slam City and Supreme were all apparently regular haunts and the BAPE and Viotech combo has become a message board staple.

Some ill-informed characters would jeer at that gaudy combo a few years back and discuss it as if it was the death knell for those brands, but the fact is, Williams was most likely on it before it hit the radar of a new breed of cynics. Williams was even up on Acronym, picking up pieces from San Fran’s Darkside Initiative store. He was up on Raf Simons shoes back in 2009 too. Now, if a semi celebrity wears some easy-to-find Jordan IIIs, the internet starts quaking — back in the mid 2000s, this was unique. Between that , the video game obsession and Questlove’s tale of an encounter that indicates that he might have been a hip-hop fanatic too. There’s too many layers and degrees of separation to even begin to dissect here, but his loss is a tragedy.

In these situations, I clocked a few of the social media voices of unreason complaining that we mourn celebrities more than we do victims en masse in a war zone — that’s because it’s tough to fully grieve when there’s no face to put to the deceased and, given his admirable work ethic, Williams’ mug was a familiar sight. The sad reality for the complainers is that some poor kid thousands of miles away that strayed onto a landmine wasn’t in Fast & Furious 6 or Jumanji. It’s human nature. Are the going to start picketing our uncles’ funerals next because we’re not getting angry enough about Syria? Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt We’ve been given the emotional depth to be upset about both things.

But anyway, forget all the sentiment — the image above from 1990 (jacked from Getty and the LIFE archives), around the Cadillac Man era in Williams’ career, wearing the GORE-TEX North Face TransAntarctica coat indicates that, long before he got himself an Acronym, he understood the power of great outerwear. Robin Williams was unique on every level and he was doing the brands long before the blogs too.

If you never got a copy of the Nike Genealogy of Innovation book from the project I worked on and your browser is too weedy to look at the website, here’s a video that the good people of Golden Wolf put together that animates 200 Nike shoes from 1972 to 2014 in chronological order. Crazy that the lists I was writing in iPhone Notes during a train journey ended up looking like this — it looks like the inside of my mind.

TRANS-ANTARCTICA

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On the North Face front, the Scott Schmidt Steep Tech line seems to get plenty of attention, but the original money was with the earlier, ultra sophisticated TransAntarctica collection, created for the 1989-1990 foot, ski and sledge expedition, where a global crew of six men from six nations that included Will Steger and a pack of huskies would travel 4,000 miles across the Antarctica over 220 days — the first ever crossing without any motorised assistance. With their heavy fabrics, doomed explorers like Captain Scott and his party would find out that apparel mattered earlier that decade, but this twelve-piece collection, custom created by Erickson Outdoors for The North Face, GORE-TEX and DuPont and made in the USA, was integral to the crew’s success. It even included shoes for the dogs to protect their paws.

It’s interesting that, for functional reasons, the shells were linerless, exposing the GORE-TEX membrane and the system’s colourway of three colours were specially chosen to be visible in a low visibility situation as well as visible for the extensive TV coverage of the journey — orange is considered more visible than red, turquoise, according to the 1990 Ski magazine feature above and below is “…psychologically soothing” and purple is apparently amplified when it’s contrasted against snow. Erickson managed to twin technology with Eskimo traditions that had been common sense for centuries. You can see the gear being worn for its purpose here and in this 20th anniversary video.

The North Face would put out a TransAntarctica collection at retail in 1990, with the vast GORE-TEX stitching on the shells and the six-flag logo, representing America, Britain, France, Japan, Russia and China (not a combination often seen in this kind of unity), plus some rugged stretch fleece designs, plus 3M detailing — all inspired and modified from the expedition spec rather than being 1:1 copies. Those expedition pieces are definitely world’s best jacket contenders and — with all the crazy patches — they’d probably be Homer Simpson approved.

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MADE IN ITALY

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The amount of boot talk on here is pretty monotonous, to the point where I considered creating a spinoff site called Shitkickers, that was solely dedicated to them. But I never got round to it. The reason for their ubiquity here as a topic is that there’s too many great brands out there with amazing ads to ignore when we’re talking about matters of design and construction. My respect for the Italian boot industry is substantial (as the preoccupation with La Sportiva and Vasque demonstrates) and Montebelluna is the town that matters when it comes to that artform (it’s also where Nike gets certain football boots made too) to the point where it houses the Museo dello Scarpone aka. the Museum of the Boot which looks very interesting indeed. Aku is one of those brands with plenty of performance cred up to the present day, but one that actively sought an urban consumer when it launched Stateside circa 1997. It’s an interesting case study in delivering two very different messages for their Timberland-clad trend consumer and the climbing and hiking communities — presumably via a U.S. licence holder.

The blacked out ads in urban outlets like ‘Vibe’ and ‘The Source’ highlighted cost and style, while brushing on the performance side and mentioning the all-important GORE-TEX while the ads for hiking press are dense with facts and figures. Launched around 1990 by boot boffin with innovative inclinations Galliano Bordin as the successor to his workshop’s Dinsport trekking and ski boot brand that ran from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Aku is a classic Montebelluna brand. I never saw much more advertising this extensive after these March 1997 campaigns (maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough), but while it’s not the stuff of rap lyric references, I know a few New Yorkers who still get misty-eyed for the $220+ priced pieces of the line from 15 years ago that date back to a time when they were losing it over Italian off-roaders.

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Related to the above through its nationality, the appearance on the Rizzoli site of the ‘Thirty Years of Research in Style: WP Lavori in Corso’ book, with a publication date of April 16th is a reason to be happy this year. If the Massimo Osti and Stone Island tomes didn’t deliver enough documentation of Italian impact on the way we dress, here’s some more for you. As you can see above, I can look at old ads old day, and from the preview on the WP Lavori site, it looks pretty heavy on the ad archive front. With WP Lavori and its creative director Andrea Canè being a cover star on ‘Inventory’s sixth issue, that relationship seems to have expanded, meaning the book is an ‘Inventory’ co-production. I like Philip Watts and Leanne Cloudsdale’s writing, and the ‘Inventory’ aesthetic means a certain clarity and quality control that I respect. WP Lavori have been putting it down for a shedloads of classic brands since 1982, acquiring, licensing and crucially, treating the companies in question with a certain respect that guarantees longevity, long before there were blogs or carefully rehearsed artful layering for Pitti Uomo tradeshow camera coverage on said blogs. This book is likely to be good.

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Can we tenuously link this to the above via Tom Penny’s Columbia boots? No? Okay then. Ged Wells’ Insane brand has been mentioned here before but the history page on the relaunched brand’s website is worth reading to learn how the brand grew, from Andy Holmes giving Wells’ work a name, Hiroshi Fujiwara introducing it to Japan, Jesus Jones’ role in boosting the brand’s popularity, Sophia Prantera’s work that evolved it significantly and ’30 Days of Night’, ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ director David Slade being the director of the Insane skate video back in the day. Basically, it’s all the stuff I managed to not mention when I blogged about Insane a few years back, but it reinforces the significance of Ged’s creations and reminds me of the days when Curtis McCann was that dude.

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COLUMBIA

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Bar the feather filled jackets I used to gawp at, Tom Penny’s fabled boots and the occasional temptation by Vibe ads for Body Jar outerwear, Columbia has never grabbed me like North Face, Patagonia and Arc’teryx did, but that late 1980s collection of ultra tech, interchangeable ski jackets in the insane colour combinations like the Vamoose Parka and the Powder Keg always grabbed my attention. I always assumed that Columbia embraced the fashion crowd a little earlier than most and made the decision to be built overseas long before the majority too, but the story of the brand, from the late 1930s start by fleeing Nazi Germany and purchasing the Rosenfeld Hat Company to make it the Columbia Hat Company to the 1960 switch to the Columbia Sportswear Company, is an interesting one.

The matriarchal nature of the company after Gert Boyle took over after her husband passed in 1970 (the ad above is from 1968) gave it a point-of-difference over other outdoor brands of the era, with Gert and her sons’ battles over the colours and modernity of the 1980s creations (the campaign started around 1984) being a key part of the marketing strategy. Given that an 80-something Gert fought off some wannabe kidnappers a couple of years ago, the ads weren’t too far from the truth. Gert Boyle is also credited as creating the brand’s first fishing vest in 1960 and, while the brand is currently taking on the might of GORE-TEX with Omni-Dry, they were putting the iconic household name membrane into a parka back in 1975, which makes them one of the first to use it on a coat.

Boyle helping steer the brand from near-bankruptcy to a publicly traded one by 1998, and taking in Sorel and Mountain Hardwear along the way, is near miraculous. The copywriting on the ski jacket ads stays classic and 1983’s GORE-TEX and Thinsulate Delta Marsh Parka is no joke.

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Mr Leo Sandino-Taylor a upped an interesting image on his Instagram from the Stanley Kubrick exhibition during its Los Angeles residency of the mystery man posing for a photograph in some Nike Air Mad Maxes. It was so good, I had to borrow it for here, so go follow him to make up for my theft. If the Footscape is the Cassavetes of the Nike line and the AM1 is Spielberg, the recycled rubber and reinforced precision and mild eccentricity of the Mad Max is kind of appropriate for Stanley, even though I’d say the Huarache was a better shoe representation of him. Like the excellent Air Max Racer from around the same time, you don’t see many pictures of the Mad Max and to see them on the feet of a rarely seen man is even better. This one trumps the Jordan Vs on David Fincher and might be the greatest sportswear on a non-athlete moment since Bob Marley wore Marathon TRs. Especially since Saville in Air Max became less of a cause for celebration, given recent revelations. Seriously, if any one image sums up what this blog is about, it’s STANLEY KUBRICK WEARING A PAIR OF NIKE AIR MAD MAX.

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First of all, fuck you if you didn’t like Devin the Dude and, while I can understand you not hearing the cult classic that is the Odd Squad album where his career commenced (though its been ZIP and RAR filed heavily since people used YouSendIt links), you should track it down. There’s not too many albums you can pitch to the next generations, because the younger heads won’t care for the sameness of Hard Knocks’ long player regardless of how wide-eyed you are about it, but there’s too much going on with 1994’s ‘Fadanuf Fa Erybody’ to ignore.

It’s so creative and funky (yeah, I said it and I make a point of never using “funky” in vain), that it’s the perfect accompaniment to Outkast’s debut from the same year. In fact, this Rap-A-Lot classic is so good that Rob Quest from the group being blind was largely rendered irrelevant by the strength of the music (check out this excellent Noz interview with Rob from earlier this summer). The mooted follow-up that ‘Rap Pages’ discussed back in 1999 never happened, but it’s worth noting that what constituted a serious brick in 1994 is different from 2012’s failures — ‘Fadanuf…’ shifted just under 70k and the group despaired, but Nicki Minaj’s ‘Roman Reloaded: the Re-Up’ shifted 34,501 last week and still landed at 28 on the Billboard 200. Tokyo’s DJ Muro is shifting some of his own gear on his DIGOT site and he’s selling this promo Odd Squad t-shirt that’s awesome enough to get married or buried in.

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