Tag Archives: levi’s



News clip library channels on YouTube are as good place to waste some time as any. I occasionally spend an unholy amount of time trawling places like Getty or Corbis to see the good stuff in static form, but after browsing the AP Archive channel, I found some more recent, subtitle-free footage based around vintage denim and old shoes in London and Japan (where Bing Crosby’s denim tux by Levi’s was part of an auction). I hadn’t seen the footage of ageing writers like Zephyr and LA ROC (with some commentary from Henry Chalfont) before either, even though it’s only a couple of years old. Provided that there’s working Wi-Fi, I can’t fathom how anyone can get bored in 2015.


Nothing new to report, but this BBC documentary on Levi’s 501s is interesting. Part of the Design Classics series from 1987 that also featured entire episodes dedicated to the Volkswagen Beetle and Barcelona Chair, the footage of Peter Blake in a Canadian tux and rare chat with Willie Gertler — Levi’s first British agent — sheds some light on how jeans became popular in the UK. Of course, at the time of the programme’s broadcast, 501s had slipped in terms of detailing, with selvedge scrapped in 1985, but their popularity was escalating, thanks to some smart marketing. Back then, even Pepe were seen as a threat to the company’s market share. Salutes to Emile Durkhelm for that upload.

Shouts to magCulture for putting me onto this Longreads list of links to lengthy pieces on the creation of some of the greatest magazines ever. You could get lost in this collection. The Awl comes through multiple times with superbly researched articles like the recent one on Entertainment Weekly‘s declining fortunes and last year’s Wigwag retrospective.



I’ll update this blog properly in a few days. Tonight, instead of visiting this site, I recommend listening to the mighty Tim Westwood mistake human immunodeficiency virus for a high street CD/DVD retailer during a carnival announcement as a reminder as to why Tim will always matter. I also recommend checking out Zipper. Zipper is a Levi’s Vintage Clothing funded magazine with contributions from the Proper squad and a well-executed 1972 theme that you can check out here. Among the knowing faux-old world content, there’s some great Levi’s artwork from campaigns commissioned by agencies like SF’s Foote, Cone & Belding and the AMC Gremlin Levi’s edition with the denim seats. When commercial artists like Larry Duke and Bruce Wolfe were creating promotional imagery, it yielded some of the most beautiful commercial artwork ever executed. I’m assuming the Bruce Wolfe who painted the late 1970s animals partying with arcuate pocket kites is the same Bruce Wolfe who painted the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom poster too. Every time I’m down I stare at this poster to stare at a world where a crocodile dressed like a casual and a penguin wearing a denim jacket are united in merriment. I’m sure that later on, the pig got his throat ripped out for speaking out of turn, but for a few minutes, food chains were abandoned in favour of fun. It’s like a lost chapter from Animal Farm where Napoleon hands out Boxer’s ketamine stash. Is that a fox wearing hickory stripes? Shouts to the bear for his head to toe duck too — even the crow is dipped. This beats any lookbook.


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


While it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever pick up a book called ‘Cult Streetwear’ (they seem to have put an ‘l’ in where they surely meant to add an ‘n’) but there’s glimmers of hope from some big brands that it hasn’t all gone to shit. I won’t lie – some recent questionable releases, and the Letraset-style use of Shawn’s handwriting had me losing faith in Stussy a little this season, but the Brits came and knocked it out the park via the Cassette Playa hookup, and lately, while the tees aren’t necessarily my thing, Tyrone Lebon’s Stussy Deluxe x Greensleeves video is very good indeed.

It brought back memories of the hard-to-find 1992 World Tribe VHS, filmed by Tyrone’s uncle, the legendary James Lebon. That family atmosphere extends to the use of Clash members’ and Mr. Don Letts’ children in the video – a nice extension of the spirit of the recent Buffalo family shots in the Neville Brody designed Homme+. It’s the best re-up of Stussy’s original appeal in a while, and a more thoughtful use of the Clash than the recent Supreme tees too, harking back to a time when a cap with that surname in a familiar script was the stuff of daydreams. I think I should’ve had more faith in Stussy as a brand in 2010.

The video’s up there with the well-chosen Jaime Hernandez tees from last winter in terms of intelligent collaboration. While Tyrone’s video harks back to a time when to be affiliated with a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend in the London Chapter would’ve been an honour, the Hernandez tees, steeped in ‘Love & Rockets’ were defiantly left coast, channeling that LA skate-punk atmosphere that arguably birthed streetwear as it relates to cotton and screenprints. Don’t write the Hernandez brothers off as bookish art-kids – they were deeply involved in the ‘Nardcore’ (Oxnard represent!) scene, where Sims team riders and future White Sox pitchers made some hedonistic punk rock – some has aged well…some less so, but the heavily detailed aesthetic of those sleeves still packs a punch.

Dr. Know had some Hernandez art, but off all the albums of the era, 1983’s ‘Don’t Be Mistaken’ by Agression still feels fresh. It’s ripe for a proper remastering. Agression seemed to fall through some gaps, and should’ve been bigger – this 1983 LP brought the group’s live intensity to the turntable with relative ease, but as a onetime comic book disciple, it let my favoured cultures collide in a way that validated my geekdom – was that controversy-baiting ‘SS’ a Kiss-homage? Surf Nazi styling? An early example of credible skate-rock, the Glen E. Friedman cover shot is classic, while Jaime Hernandez’s skeleton rendition of the band was strong too. Word to the Better Youth Organization. Rather than being a mere funnybook tribute, Jaime’s Stussy work was steeped in the subcultural nucleus of the brand. Would this be a good time to revisit 1988’s ‘Comic Book Confidential’ too? A great documentary that throws back to the days when we got very po-faced (“It’s NOT a comic! It’s a graphic novel!”) about the artform…

On a barely-related note, the Supreme book is good, but if you paid over the odds for a slipcase version I feel bad for you son. Can anyone else verify that Levi’s tried to sue Supreme for using a logo in a red rectangle a few years back, assuming the Kruger homage was a bite of the Red Tab Device?

Shouts to Chris and the hip-hop OCD crew at Diggers With Gratitude for being obsessive enough to get in touch with Boston’s deeply underrated (hope they get Orangeman to reissue his LP too) T.D.S. Mob for a ‘Treacherous, Devastating, Supreme’ package on vinyl and CD. There’s room in my heart for some golden age rareness as well as Drumma boy productions, and favouring these new-fangled CDs, Chris and the boys hooked me up with the CD/DVD package.

The 7 audio tracks are hard as hell – that it takes a predominantly UK-based team to recognise greatness is both depressing and deeply heartening – some of these artists should’ve broken out beyond regional appeal, but DWG projects aren’t another bootleg operation – they’re executed in conjunction with the artists themselves, who I imagine are a little perplexed when they get an email from the team, announcing their intentions. the DVD has a couple of effective videos from 1989 and 1990, some live footage and video magazine chatter, and in the stills section is that the mythical ‘adidas Tree’ that’s mentioned in this essay? With some occasional gear from local brand Reebok, the 3-stripes is prominent across the videos – adidas should be celebrating this heritage – motherfuck N-Dubz and that Hudson character. Dead the downloading for a minute and invest.


This blog is, in a convoluted way, a hype blog of sorts. Except it’s the stuff that gets me hyped, which means it’s always going to dip into dark realms of self-indulgence that should alienate more than a few people. That’s just how I like it. Forget retrospectives for the moment too. The lead into 2010 is going to be underwhelming, but as the year unravels and you get used to writing ‘2010’ on cheques or paying-in slips (both fairly old-fashioned habits to carry a date that seems so futuristic, but, hey, for the most part, we’re a regressive people) there’s some good things on the horizon. It won’t be all-wack-everything in the near future. Why? Because here’s twenty reasons to be cheerful over the next twelve months –

Continue reading 20 REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL IN 2010