Tag Archives: no mas

THE BIG BUBBLE ERA

lizjohnsonarturwestlondon

Watching this 2005-era Fall documentary in between morsels from Gucci Mane’s new mixtape trilogy, it’s clear that Gucci may well be rap’s own Mark E. Smith — the occasionally unintelligible delivery, the stream of consciousness that makes up the frequent filler on these tapes, the unpredictable live shows, the admirable work rate, the volatile relationship with other musicians, the molly usage, the drinking and the seeming lack of interest in his own appearance is all intrinsic to his appeal. Fortunately, we’ve been spared Paul Morley talking about Radric Davis’, “…postmodern, shamanistic soundclash of knowing ignorance, naivety and genuine artistry.” I’d sooner hear a full mixtape of Gucci and Mark than a single song with Marilyn Manson. However, while Gucci has expressed disappointment at not bagging Keyshia Cole, Mark’s way with the ladies was superior and he aced his Atlanta-based like mind by marrying Brix Smith.

It’s Carnival Bank Holiday, so the west London image from 1999 above is always relevant. Liz Johnson-Artur took the picture (which features in the Seen: Black Style UK project from 2001, where the image is done full justice, rather than the clumsy crop above. This was the golden era of big bubble Air Max, but what’s with the Air Max 98 upper with the 95 sole? Was that a bootleg or the small size takedown? I know somebody will be ale to answer that. Liz Johnson-Artur’s site includes more of her excellent work, including her Fader assignments on the Sapeurs and the Paris suburbs.
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My friends at Victory Journal let me write a piece on underwater photographer Kanoa Zimmerman and his studies of free diving spear fishermen in Hawaii. It was a nice change from writing the same thing about jackets or sport footwear and an honor because I love this magazine and the way it treats sport. Their layouts are always carefully selected things of beauty. Victory‘s sister brand No Mas has some strong new products too — the sport book cover collection is solid (I’d like to see a Fat City shirt though), but the PRIDE license is bringing the best of both brands with the PRIDE 10 poster t-shirt. Pride’s advertising was always strong, but the summer 2000 event poster, with Gracie nemesis Kazushi Sakuraba being overpowered by a PRIDE ring girl. It’s a piece of design that could sit alongside the best bout promos across disciplines from decades prior.

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40 BELOW

Abercrombie & Fitch is probably the most oppressive retail experience on the planet – Polo Ralph Lauren channelled through a provincial nightclub, with musclebound men at the door for absolutely no reason. But people love it — especially in the UK where people travel far and wide to buy overpriced collegiate tat in dim lighting at a mismatched conversion compared to the US RRP. Do people still buy it in the States? Still, at least it’s not Jack Wills or Superdry, but it still begs a question — why not just buy Polo? In fact, the A&F phenomenon evidently had Ralph shook enough that a mega budget Rugby appeared in Covent Garden recently. Still, A&F’s heritage beats any of the new wave of fictional Americana brands, and it seems that Abercrombie & Fitch stores were awesome once upon a time.

Before they sent anybody with more than 3% body fat or any person with a deformity to a stock dungeon, away from the gaze of misguided teens, and long before they made wildly racist t-shirts, Abercrombie & Fitch were cited as the supplier of the shotgun that Ernest Hemingway used to kill himself in 1961 — but that was discredited many years later. What we do know is that A&F were early suppliers of Timberland’s legendary 40 Below, aka the Super Boot back in 1984. That was an era when they were owned by the mighty Oshman’s, pre-1988, and a time long when the six-packs weren’t a prerequisite.

Oh yeah — can every t-shirt line take a look at No Mas’s plastic-sleeved trading card hangtags that contain all the necessary details that go that little extra? That, my friends, is the difference between journeymen and champions.

Managing to merge two of last year’s significant rap crazes, Texan MC Pyrexx is both caucasian and carrying some serious face ink. After a low-level “Free Pyrexx” campaign he was released from jail last year and promptly got some eyebrow tattoos to rep for Houston’s ABN Gang crew. All eyes are on sweary white ladies at the moment, but I like Pyrexx’s verse on Trae’s excellent ‘Strapped Up.’ Then late last year, Trae tweeted something about him no longer representing ABN — despite having it on his face. Rap fans love rumours. I heard it was about a Yelawolf/Paul Wall diss, but that’s second-hand smoke. Face tattooing an allegiance, then being ousted from that group must be a little problematic (see also, Yung LA), but I can’t help but salute the impulsiveness of it all.

At the weekend a new Pyrexx video emerged, with those eyebrow pieces barely perceptible. Did he get them removed? And to the racist WSHH commentators, the ignorant face tattoo isn’t a black or white issue — it’s a goon thing. As cracker rap goes (what happened to Jeezy’s boy White?), I respect Pyrexx’s decision not to pull wacky faces and wear OBEY caps like most new whiteys on the scene do. On a similar note, I still need to adjust to loose French Montana affiliate B.A.R.S. Murre’s white Max B, Cam-a-like flow. It’s not happening for me after he squandered what could have been an awesome Biggavelli beat, but I liked it when he says “R.I.P. Bob Barker” even though the ‘Price is Right’ presenter’s still alive. He even wears ignorant True Religion denim like the incarcerated king of the wave.





It’s twelve years to the day since Ghostface’s ‘Supreme Clientele’ dropped. Don’t confine that game changer to old man rap status either — team A$AP appreciate the contribution that Ghost put in and it was a unifying overground/underground moment in time. Few rappers upped their game like that (though I have to salute Lloyd Banks for morphing from molasses-sounding punchline-mummy MC into a great artist) — especially considering the dude was so skilled to start with. I remember the minor two month delay after the November 1999 release date in ‘The Source’ and I remember ‘Apollo Kids’ via RealPlayer on defunct sites like Platform.net. Post ‘Immobilarity,’ not caring for Meth and Red’s ‘Blackout!’ and being utterly underwhelmed by ‘The W,’ I would have given up on the Wu entirely without the oddball masterpiece that united rap fans, musos and skaters for a minute. What became of that 50 kid he was dissing on there who’d just been dropped by Columbia? On a more serious note, what became of the brilliantly named Lord Superb after his ghostwriting for Ghost allegations? Happy birthday ‘Supreme Clientele.’ And no, I can’t get excited about a sequel…

VICTORY

In a realm where so many magazines have said no más due to lagging ad opportunities and a focus on digital above pulped trees, there’s still some contenders like ‘Victory Journal’ making the most of sprawling pages and the scope to enlighten in a tactile, visually pleasing way that the web can’t match. Theoretically, with its ability to stream, cater to a statistical addiction, constantly update and get a jab in long before print can retaliate, the internet should have the extra reach to make any showdown a mismatch, but they’re too very different beasts. A legacy of great photojournalism, impassioned essays and sprawling profiles of the characters who dedicate their lives to sporting disciplines — from the frequently forgotten characters (especially during the recent NBA deadlock) who make a living serving snacks, attending the car park and cleaning up long after the cheers and traded blows have finished, to the professional athletes — has made for compelling reading and viewing time and time again.

As well as the spectacle of the events and the jot of participation in the crowd and on the field, ‘Sports Illustrated’ and the defunct ‘Sport’ fueled the No Mas team, inspiring a wave of gear rooted in absolute obsession that span off into media content, fighter sponsorship and an agency (Doubleday & Cartwright). As a showcase of their abilities and as another love letter to sports, their ‘Victory Journal’ is a necessary read. I don’t care much for any sport that’s not broken into three or five-minute rounds, but I love sports journalism from the likes of Gay Talese and some more prominent macho intellectuals’ talk of boxing meets a its match next to Dick Schaap’s work or Mark Kram’s incendiary paragraphs (this moderated chat on the topic is tremendous). With an emphasis on design as well as copy (their typeface game is extensive), the ‘Victory Journal’ team evade the obvious with the cover shot — some nautical jousters engaging in an activity that I never knew existed, continuing a bold move that treasures visual clout over familiarity, moving from Brazilian football to this lesser-known pastime by way of Jimmy Snuka.

Issue Three, with its “For Love or money” motto, is the perfect home for Cheryl Dunn‘s 1980s’ boxing photography and frequent No Mas collaborator Mickey Dusyj’s 1986 Mets portraits. Dunn recently got $45,000 funding via Kickstarter to finish her ‘Everybody Street’ documentary on NYC street photography and these portraits of a golden age are a testament to her versatility and knack for access. Just as Grantland.com and Deadspin.com provide compelling stories online and ESPN’s ’40 For 40′ series had a strong hit rate, ‘Victory Journal’ taps into the part of sports culture that even the kids who spent two lessons a week with great Nikes on their feet but their hands in their pocket can be caught up in the sheer passion and aptitude for oddball behaviour that professional sports (and let’s not forget the luminaries of sports entertainment either) attracts. Go visit www.victoryjournal.com to grab a copy.

I’ve talked No Mas on here before and I’m keen not to repeat myself in my unbridled enthusiasm. There’s some repro brands remaking old Ali shirts for lithe hipsters to wear as well as other notable tee designs, but No Mas is different — it’s not jocked and juiced up, tearing doors from hinges on a testosterone-addled rampage, but it is wild-eyed with obsession and laden with nostalgia. After Staple put out the Ali sweat in the early ’00s, No Mas takes that baton and just fucking runs with it. Actually, given the breadth of their output, maybe they need testing — this is sporting fandom on steroids. Current highlights included a foray into MMA with a licensed UFC 1 ‘The Beginning’ shirt taking it back to November ’93 and a celebration of the defunct but unsurpassed PRIDE Fighting Championships, motivational speaker and Arguello defeater Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor’s “Hawk Time” shirt. The Leon Spinks replica harks back to Leon’s choice of self-promoting attire around the time of the second Ali bout and the ‘Sport’ magazine masthead shirt pays tribute to another lost empire. There’s even an officially licensed Gleason’s Gym shirt.

It comes down to this — the tees and sweats I covet are rooted in sports performance. You can loopwheel it or you can cover it in disruptive patterning, but at the core, it’s about athleticism. No Mas make no attempt to cover up those origins and take it back to the essence. That, in itself, is infectious.

Speaking of Grantland, McSweeney have compiled articles from that site with a basketball texture cover. But beyond sports, their food publication in association with Momofuku’s David Chang , ‘Lucky Peach’ is on its second issue. This looks like a publication to match ‘Swallow’ in terms of content and design. I don’t know what I was smoking over the summer to miss the first issue — a ramen special — but it won’t happen again. An adhesive tribute to fruit stickers? I’m all over that.

On a sporting style note, Edwin Moses doesn’t get his dues for looking slick on the move with that (post-Diadora?) sunglasses and beard steez that made him look like Rick Ross if he kicked the breakfast bisque habit and got athletic. People criticised Ed for looking distance in the shades, but he had eyes susceptible to glare (and I’m not talking about the glares of haters). I’m not sure the beads were for medical benefit, but the overall look is serious.

If Steve Jobs and Kyle from Tenacious D didn’t sell the New Balance 993 to you, it’s also Louis CK’s shoe of choice too. Louis’s Rolex, loose denim, black tee and black 993 combo is no joke. Larry’s love of Simple might be infectious, but the 993 is officially the shoe of geniuses. Louis rocks it during his $5 comedy special (well worth your money — the weed routine, parental revenge and soldiers on planes bits are worth, like, $1.6666667 each alone). Its been a good year for New Balance, and this is a happy finish (insert jizzy punchline here).

Team Gourmet know a lot about shoes. Jon and the Gregs are passionate about footwear – not in that dry skinny chino pinroll, Fuzzyfelt AM1 and Obey five-panel hat way…that by numbers shoe dude stuff is horrible. The minds behind Gourmet know shitloads about every brand and reference all kinds of footwear. Except a lot of people don’t notice that, because they’re too hype on a retro shoe that looks like it came from one of those sites where everything’s $80. I like shoes with a story. Not a story in some superfluous PR muppet kind of way or basing it on a type of fish, but in the naming and execution. You should like a shoe on face value first and the covered, zip up style of the Dignan is appealing. There’s a spot of Moc in there and the brand’s usual high-end cues, but the real inspiration is ‘The Departed.’ Specifically the end scene where Mark Wahlberg’s foul-mouthed Sgt. Dignam shoots rat cop Colin Sullivan in the face with hospital shoe covers to cover his tracks. Gourmet have always maintained a healthy preoccupation with a shady living blend of tracksuit, fancy footwear and pinky rings, but this clinical tracksuited outfit ups the ante of anti-hero outfits. Cross trainers, renegade cops doing the right thing and technical fabrics in one shoe? Salutes to the crew.

If you haven’t bought a copy of ‘The End’ compilation, and you’ve got an interest in the roots of Britain’s adi fandom, you’re slipping. The adidas sponsorship of the book is perfectly pitched and isn’t gratuitous like, say, UK rappers looking glum in PUMA, Salutes to Sabotage Times for putting it together too (it’s available from Selectadisc, Oi Polloi, Garbstore and HMV now too). The adidas ads in there include a great Forest Hills one, but the ad inside for a special made-in-Germany Munchen for February 2012 is the most interesting element, harking back to early ’00s issues of ‘The Face.’ One of adidas’s finest late ’70s moments (and way, way, way better in PU sole form as Munchen or Suisse than the skinnier ’72 version too) is coming back in homegrown form, and even the box looks on point. The casual connection can be horribly mishandled, but adidas and ‘The End’ are great partners.

Shouts to Gabriel and the Origin London team on this i-D feature too — young London talent on the rise, offering something that isn’t steeped in wearying self reference. 17 years old and already running a brand? Salutes.

NO MAS APPEAL

Edit – This Chris Isenberg interview by A Silent Flute’s Nat Thomson is worth your time.

Somebody make it stop. More PR blurb bouncing from blog to blog like a paragraphic echo over a 48 hour period, with loving descriptions of leather goods and other such gentlemanly matters, and the new spurt of non-groundbreaking sites pointlessly telling you how to dress in a shirt and a nice coat could have someone reaching for the Baxter of California Double Edged Safety Razor with thoughts of an afterlife.  Did some kind of poison gas leak causing mass delusions of stylist-credentials? Saddled with information to the point of apathy, stockpile your Rogue Status and Campbells tins, lock yourself away and pray for the next coming of the all-over print. Seriously, it’s no less excruciating from the outside looking in than those dark days. The “cool kids” are putting a time-limit on timeless. Yet some lines get slept-on in hypesville, but just keep on bringing it in terms of solid product, intelligently executed – like No Mas.

American sports that aren’t pugilistic can be a tough global traveller, undeniably exciting, but so steeped in stats and history, that they can prove impenetrable to an outsider looking in. The gear, megabudgets, the lurid presentation, glamour and frequent rap references make it hugely appealing though. There’s an aspirational quality to US sporting activities, from seeing Lil’ Wayne in human ESPN mode to the humble sweat in a generous jock cut. No Mas embrace sport culture, and at a global level, in all its forms. Scandal, rap references, the next generation, true legends treated with non-ironic reverence…all of it.

Like the west coast’s UNDFTD, always consistent on the design front, team No Mas channel their locale’s legacy, attitude and aesthetic perfectly. They had gems on Digital Gravel, but during a trip to the Union sample sale in L.A, where Chris Gibbs knew what time it was with the sample Stussy world tour varsity at £44 in UK money, seeing the No Mas ‘Former Champion’ project in the flesh, instantly created a No Mas fan. The brand’s name, seemingly riffing on the second Duran and Sugar Ray bout was cool, but stitching disgraced sportsmen’s names on the back of US-made Champion Reverse Weaves and  hand stitching  ‘Former’ before that familiar lettering felt like the fruits of a high-five laden bar conversation brought to life. They even added their spin on the original Champion tag. Now that’s dedication. The Dee and Ricky assisted collection of bags made from old ‘Starter’ jackets, retitled ‘Finisher’ was  clever too.

For the most part, we tend to skirt around the sporting origins of those grey fleece garments you’re rocking now by looking too close under the microscope (guilty as charged here your honour) at the direction of the stitch, the collar the cut and the authenticity or recreation rather than the utilitarian reason for being of, say, a sweatshirt, or a t-shirt…dwelling on day-to-day lifestyle instead of ever breaking a sweat seems to lose sight of the bigger picture. Chris Isenberg and Dan Larzelere founded the brand in 2004 based on pure passion for the subject matter, and the No Mas brand has grown into a media outlet too, whose updates are always worth your time – more on that later. Oh yeah – have a look at their guest-edited Frank151 from a few years back too for the ‘Illustrated History of Recreational Drugs in Sports.’

Like Supreme, the tracking down of relevant figures and official licensing dodges the cheapo pitfalls that left most streetwear brands floundering a few years back – currently, their use of the Wiffle Ball licence (an item recently marvelled over by a limey contingent in a Cleveland-based Dick’s store for its striking logo) on tees looks great, a collection of Ali shirt reproductions in association with Worn Free that aren’t tainted with the Superdry-style wack of so many other cotton garments bearing the man’s name, shirts dedicated to stubborn refusals to accept new ground names, and their sponsorship of Golden Gloves winning heavyweight Tor Hamer means tie-in gear too. Even after recent events, it’s tough to beat a ‘TYSON VS. GIVENS’ lettered zip-up.

The haymaker in the collection is the hookup with Everlast NY, and the reproduction of the EVERLAST NY t-shirt worn by the legendary Floyd Patterson during training. This isn’t bullshit nostalgia – this is a labour of love, seemingly made for the handful who know the deal with both fighter, and a legendary brand. It’s a shame it seemed to go under the radar, as it’s one of the most perfectly executed collaborative creations in some time.

Before this blog entry hops off the dick, back to the visual treats; the No Mas ‘Rumblevision’ project let James Blagden, David Rathman and Jerome Lagarrigue interpret key elements of the “Rumble In The Jungle” through animation. Victory is celebrated as often as misbehaviour in Isenberg and Larzelere’s world, but even the most non-sporting can appreciate Blagden’s visual interpretation of Dock Ellis’s LSD-addled antics. Seriously, just check out their YouTube channel.  If you were a fan of ‘Ben Younger’s fine debut, ‘Boiler Room’ aka. ‘Wall Street’ with added O.C. on the soundtrack, watch his ‘Hammer Of Tor’ Hamer documentary for Playboy TV in association No Mas. If your boss calls you up on it, just say you were clicking on it for the sporting documentaries.

www.nomas-nyc.com