2011 is going to be some kind of Dunk anniversary year. Remember when you went crazy for them in the late ’90s? The late 2002 official UK drops? The eventual ubiquity? I love the shoe because in a roundabout way (my current employer was built on the sale of imported Dunks—think Foot Action and Footwork—before they became easy-to-find) they’re the reason I work with sports footwear and in 2005 they seemed to peak as the definitive totem of hype culture. Then they tailspinned into themed tedium. There was a celebratory year in 2008 that didn’t make a lot of sense too. The solution is to go back to the essence (the TZ reissue of some beautiful concept Japan lows) and in the case of the SB division, to rebuild the Dunk for the new year. I think I might just care about this shoe all over again because I’m easily swayed on the footwear front.
It’s the shoe’s ability to work with bold colours, working in duos of neutral and eye-bleeding shades with what seemed to be limitless makeups that made them so darned appealing. Except there were actually limitations, so everyone became mildly preoccupied with Air Max 1s instead. Whereas you’ve only got to look at films, record sleeves or photos from the mid ’80s with eyes peeled to spot a Jordan 1 (the Dunk’s fancier, more hardwearing cousin), the Dunk is a little more elusive. Still, when they’re spotted, they tend to crop up in some pretty interesting places. If the appearance of the Iowa/Goldenrods on the cover of the Mix Crew’s obscure (and only release) ‘Black Leather,’ dating back to 1987 and twinned with some kind of Bermuda short leggings, plus tassled leathers, doesn’t ring a bell, how about the pair of St. Johns variations at the pajama party in Spike’s 1988 film, ‘School Daze’? Or the same colourway on Dave Mustaine (an oft-overlooked Nikehead) for the ‘Wake Up Dead’ video from 1987? Incidentally, I’ve never seen a rapper or producer pull off the Dunk like Large Professor did with the reissues on the ‘1st Class’ back cover in 2002.
Even stranger, I’m sure Jack Nicholson wears the Iowa lows as Daryl Van Horne in 1987’s ‘The Witches of Eastwick’—I’m not so dedicated to research that I’m willing to pick up a Blu-ray of a film that I’m not especially enamoured with, but I took a few bad quality grabs around the tennis match scene. Why? Because I’m still a bit fucking weird. Still, it’s interesting to see the Nike Dunk go full circle.
Sometimes a product isn’t reassuringly expensive. It’s just way overpriced, but you still need it in your life. If you’re a printhead with an interest in old, well-made clothes, you’re probably aware that the sun rises in the east as far as information goes, but a Japanese magazine habit could end up costing you as much as an addiction to good quality yayo. It’s that serious. But once you’ve laid down thirty pounds on an issue of Mono, you’ve broken the seal. There isn’t anything in English language to match what the Japanese magazines offer…sure, there’s words, but it’s just padding. Magazines like ‘Free & Easy’ are a trove of information, but we just have to appreciate the pretty pictures, yet those alone outweigh any local publication. Still, after baulking at the deranged import pricetag (which wouldn’t have come cheap if you’d paid in Yen either) for ‘Free & Easy’ editor in chief Minoro Onazato’s ‘My Rugged 211’ book, it’s a very interesting collection. Is it worth the money? That’s open to debate. But if you’ve wanted a translated version of Minoro’s publication, this might be as close as it gets.
Once you’ve got over the irritation of a lack of card cover, the title sticker peeling off the binding, the occasional translation typo (was Dustin Hoffman in ‘Graduation’?) and climatised to the fact you paid big money for what’s pretty much an RRL retrospective, it’s easy to appreciate the contents. You won’t get this content anywhere else, just because the author has some very particular tastes. Some was pre-distressed and some has been worn (Alden Cordovan chukkas are creased works of art), but there’s a story to each piece. Onazato frequently uses the word “rugged” and likes items like the Traction Production round glasses because he can, “…transform into another person like Le Corbusier” when he wears them. You think you know about vintage…your inaugural browse of ‘My Rugged 211’ will remind you that you know nothing. Some Thom Browne and Margiela slips into the selections here, adding to the tough-to-pigeonhole notion of “Unfashionable Fashion,” but it’s just great gear.
Toro Kogure’s photography catches the personality of each piece and ultimately, it’s worth the post purchase jitters. Just make the usual excuses to yourself—there’s t-shirts that cost this much…some people drink this amount away in a night…a lot of work goes into a book…the content’s unique…you won’t buy any more this month. Let those justifications drift around inside your cranium and blindly buy it. It’s a shame that the documentation of one man’s individual approach will lead to a spate of copyists, spotlights on the previously unspoilt and heavy price hikes, but that’s just the way it is when it comes to any quasi reference guide targeted at a cultish audience with too much pocket-money.