I’m late to the party again, but I only just realised that two Read And Destroy tributes are on the market and both are excellent. After the RAD event a few months ago, there seemed to be a new wave of nostalgia for the legendary skate magazine (shouts to the team behind the recently launched Free Skateboard Magazine after Sidewalk’s recent demise — DIY efficiency in effect). Two shirts coincide and compliment that goodwill for the scene’s most iconic publication; Dear Skating is a love letter label that remakes the much-missed or impossible to find tees from a golden era of street skating, like Gonz’s Israel design from Video Days, with a vintage wash, and they’ve made an homage to the shirt that was advertised in the magazine that’s available now in stores like Flatspot and Native. if you’re looking for a tribute with a twist, Fergus Purcell and Sofia Maria’s male wing of the excellent Aries brand has created the RADER hybrid of RAD and Thrasher to take it one louder. It’s a fusion that works (was Skate Action the Transworld to RAD’s Thrasher, or is that bit of a reach?) and it unifies two of the greats. Slam Jam and Palace have got the Aries homage in stock. One of the forums created a DAD version for the skate fathers out there a few years back, but sadly, I couldn’t find a picture. Memories make for good gear.
A lot of brands could benefit from walking before they run and while I always want to celebrate homegrown organisations here, I rarely get the sense that there’s anything behind the brand to differentiate it from the rest when I get emails about new lines. That’s because I’m still judging things by the standards that Gimme 5, maharishi and Slam City set (and there’s a whole book — or at least a booklet — to be written on Duffer’s contribution and legacy). Shouts to Trapstar, Grind London and Y’OH (currently on hiatus) for creating brands with a sense of substance and none of the thirst that deads a brand from the offset — every brand I ever loved as a kid didn’t even seem to want my business and that was appealing to me. it still appeals.
Personable, transparent, super-social, heavily PR’d wannabe Supremes miss the point of why Supreme built foundations that can sustain waves of hype that could kill a lesser brand — crucially they have a skate heritage. If you’re making streetwear for streetwear’s sake without any subculture at the core other than a quick blog buck from the slew of British sites who’ll post any old shit then you’d better be making the best tees, hats and sweats ever. Most aren’t. Having said that, the blokes behind brands like Hype are almost certainly richer than the people behind interesting product, so credibility as we knew it back in the day might be an archaic concept.
Palace is interesting in that it’s rooted in the same spirit as Slam City spinoffs like Silas (given the folks involved, it’s practically a sequel), but it seems to have hit multiple audiences without compromising, as that triangle is on nearly every moodboard and presentation I’ve seen in the last year in one way or another. Shouts to Gareth and Lev for that one — jaded old farts like me love what they’ve created and so does that lucrative 16-19 year old consumer that brands are baffled by right now. I still think that the handful of alpha kids who know have an innate understanding of whether a brand is begging it by trying to bamboozle them with Tumblr-sourced skulls and galaxy patterns or whether a brand — or the folks who run it — have a certain subcultural provenance. Maybe I’m deluded.
To see Palace rise from a collective putting out book reviews, tees and clips to something that brands —from high street to high-end lines — want a bit of in a few years is phenomenal. If Relax ran the classic (shouts to Mr. Chris Law) October 2002 Slam City feature now, that diagram (above) would probably only be slightly different (for starters, TONITE, Aries and Palace would be there). It’s unhealthy to live with two feet in he past, but I think it’s always good to get retrospective in order to understand why Slam is such an important part of our culture and it’s an institution that’s key to appreciating the importance of skateboarding as a central force in creating a market for daft printed tees in this grey climate of ours.
The Palace Christmas Pop-Off opens this Friday at 100 Shoreditch High Street (an address that seems to place it within the Ace Hotel space) and the flyer promises nothing but awesome things rather than just garms, hardware and shoes — “a new silver board that makes you skate faster”, “hyper-printing techniques” we haven’t seen before and bobble hats, plus the new Palace Reebok project are all going to be there. This will be popular.
I don’t usually read many magazines because I’ve written for some and that’s all I need to prove that they’re probably not what they used to be. It’s turning my surroundings into an expensive barely browsed fire hazard. But I like Fantastic Man because it’s written by people who know far more than I do about the history and business of fashion despite a name that makes associates on the train home from work think I’m browsing gay erotica. I just want to read about clobber by proper journalists rather than chancers like me. By putting what’s just a long form FM article in small paperback form, Buttoned-Up (Penguin) is a fair use of 4.99 that can avoid the peculiar provincial town glances reading the magazine on public transport brings my way. I’ve found that an out-of-town commute has been the best book club (albeit a one-man book club) ever making me kind of literate after years of reading very little other than rap rumours. This book lasted from Bedford to Elstree, which is a good 40 minutes of start to finish content, which might be last a little longer if you’re not prone to hastily inhaling text rather than calmly absorbing it.
A 108 page examination of the button-up collar’s shirt and its ubiquity in east London is presented in the style of a Fantastic Man magazine and it’s a topic that fits the magazine’s clinical irreverence perfectly. At the same time, I get the impression it was pitched in a free form way over artisan breads on Kingsland Road without much preparation. Some have marveled about the specific nature of the fastened shirt collar as a book subject, but I’ve read far longer books on less. The interview with Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys (I remember Chris Lowe‘s Issey Miyake and Travel Fox gear blowing my mind as a kid), who are underrated in the style stakes, essay on the power of the collar in fashion through the 1990s to the present day, and its tees to dandyism and other manifestations of sartorial movements by Alexander Fury and Simon Reynolds’ piece on the buttoned collar’s position in mod culture, skinhead style, The Who, The Creation, Subway Sect, Secret Affair and a brace of 1980s groups who turned the aggressive uniform into a sensitive statement, including Orange Juice (who are cited as key button-uppers a few times in the book).
Personally, I have to pop that top button otherwise I feel like I’m being throttled by cotton, but it’s fascinating to find out just how much meaning can be ascribed to a simple gesture. Buttoned-Up is an amplified but pocket-size example of what Fantastic Man does very well.
Another publication that comes correct is Proper, because everybody who writes for it seems to enjoy clothes and the cultures around them. It reads like Mark, Neil and the whole crew are having a blast putting it together. If they secretly all hate each other like Sam and Dave and found the publishing and editing process hellish, I’d have no bloody idea, because Proper is so fun. The themes continue, with the surf-centric issue #13 following up the psych-hike of #12. This one contains Yusuke Hanai, lad holiday recollections, histories of the board short and aloha shirt, an Our Legacy interview and an amazing chat with Andy Weatherall (who had a shit ton of tattoos long before everyone else went all Max Cady/Brian Setzer/Mike Ness). I remember going to Magaluf and pick pocketing an overweight holiday rep for extra beer money before falling asleep in a lift. Great times. Proper has undergone a self-fulfilling prophecy by become more proper with each issue in terms of presentation. A few years ago it was like chatting with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but disheveled bloke down the boozer — now it’s all slick but still full of content like a caffeinated coffee shop conversation in one of those places where they know the provenance of their beans. Go and support the new issue.
I’ve never known how to feel about the shellsuit. I have some fond memories attached to it, including a relative who rocked up at our house one Christmas in a shellsuit, white toweling socks and loafers, Gazza, bare-chested beneath his flamboyant tracksuit spitting bars about how ace being a Geordie was and an episode of Casualty that included a plot about market-bought shellsuits and their notoriously flammable ways. Somewhere down the line, the definition of a shellsuit seemed to get twisted — waterproof running/training suits weren’t the same (some of the Italian sportswear brands made amazing ones) and hypernonce Jimmy Savile’s metallic numbers were something different too. For me, the shellsuit was slightly wrinkly, often unsparing in its use of logos and bore only a slight gloss. I recall owning an Umbro tracksuit with shellsuit trousers but a conventional glossy nylon track jacket. It was shit. I always wanted an adidas one, but now they’re the brown tie and flare combination of the early 1990s — a benchmark of terrible dressing of their times and implicated as part of Savile’s sex offending arsenal due to their elasticated waist.
It’s a shame, because there’s something a bit Stetsasonic circa ’88 about a flamboyant shellsuit. The Palace crew are trying to bring it with a Trailblazers logo homaging variation in the new collection at Slam — it actually has a 70% cotton count on the shell unlike the OGs which were made of nothing but polyester and napalm to immolate you while you were cooking Super Noodles. Palace played with World Cup 1990 imagery for their Umbro collab, so it looks like they’re following it up with a tribute to Gascoine’s post semi-final stardom steez. Theo Parrish wore this jacket at Boiler Room and if anyone can bring back the shellsuit, it’s Theo and Palace. After the current preoccupation with fleece, raglan and loopback, are we going to regress back to the shell? I kind of hope so. If the year ends in everybody breaking out pajamas and shellsuits in public, Liverpool’s got another thing to never, ever stop bragging about.
Another MacBook is unleashing the spinning wheel, so I’m using an Acer that doesn’t have PhotoShop and doesn’t seem to want to accept the card from my camera. So you can make do with over stylised, untrustworthy Instagram shots with the filters that make terrible things look acceptable. I’m grateful that as yet, no magic haze has made writing look much better, though we hobbyist copywriters were hit by nobody actually reading anything over two sentences any more and people trying to tell us to write with Google in mind, so I think we’re all equally screwed by social media in 2012. I visited Jacket Required on Friday and got to wander around a tradeshow devoid of men who look like Zucchero and the guy from Nightcrawlers wielding multiple Wrangler and Superdry goodie bags. There were plenty of beige and camo things on display, plus lots of people seemed to be doing animal printed Y’OH-alikes without Kara’s reference points, but highlights came from Wood Wood’s technical-looking, sporty stuff, Our Legacy’s athletic pieces and Soulland’s Versace faux house of Soulland style sweats.
Lots of colour, lots of embroidery and a look of diffusion line that should set of something in the head of multiple generations who grew up desperate to amass labels. Soulland make beautiful, brilliant clothes and Silas Adler just gets it – I would have thought this brand was amazing for collaborating with Jacob Holdt a few years back, but for continually evolving, surely it’s due to blow up imminently? The orange sweat in particular had me bugging out the most. The blogs are about to go wild for technical apparel (which only a handful of factories in the world can execute properly) and food, but these sweats hit the sweet spot between older brother wear nostalgia and simply being bold and brilliant and confident in those tonal embroideries. US men’s magazines are all over Scandinavia at the moment, but they make it sound like little more than blonde women, slicked back hair, beards and rolled up pants, which I suppose it is, but additionally the clothing coming out of there leaves your heritage brand sprawling by evolving into the perfect mix of basics, avant-garde and detail.
What also had me hyped (though it wasn’t necessarily on display) was the UK-made Palace gear. Being a non-skater doofus who still wears the shirts, I was accosted with regards to the source of my Palace shirt during my recent NYC holiday and the brand seems to have gathered hype at an alarming rate. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch either. See those eBay prices for the Chanel tribute sweats? The way the Trail Blazers snapback is everywhere and how the afterthought New York Giants tee became a bestseller? Crazy. Now the brand has been bootlegged multiple times, people seem to think the comedy surf line is a fake too, but they’re mistaken. British made shirts (are we allowed to use that term “cut and sew” with its visions of gun print tee brands switching to preppy chambrays and chinos really badly?), jackets, plus trousers and other stuff is a nice expansion of the Palace brand and a nice Tango slap to anyone who thought it was just about bolshy screenprints. That’s’s something to look forward to over the next month.
If you know central London, you know that Camissa & Son does the best sandwich in the area at a good price. My friends at Slam City know that and they’ve contributed that recommendation to Vans’ Syndicate newspaper, ‘These Days’. I’m on Syndicate’s dick because it always gets things right. That LXVI stuff? I’m not convinced yet, but Syndicate’s packaging, risky choice of collaborators and hard-core approach to distribution is always appreciated. Their paper (supplied to me by Mr Charles Morgan) reminds me of Berlin’s fine ‘Aspekt Ratio’ in its broadsheet execution, but the lengthy Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen interview, guide to making your own tattoo machine, W(Taps’ TET on his first Vans (a pair of Sk8 His), an Ice-T interview (bringing the whole $YNDICATE thing full circle), chat with skate ‘zine legend Gary Scott Davis and a Mike Hill Alien Workshop design retrospective are all tremendous. I know creating a tangible piece of print media is this year’s equivalent of the dull video lookbook and teaser, but this is absorbing, passionate content that should resonate with multiple generations.
Lots of people hate Byron Crawford, but you can’t deny that his musings are the perfect antidote to a world where everybody’s toadying with hip-hop so they don’t get locked out the listening party. He’s just put out a Kindle book, ‘Mindset of a Champion: Your Favorite Rapper’s Least Favorite Book’ charting his rise from proto-blogger to-day jobber and internet, sorry, internets, star. It reads like one vast, sprawling, semi-proofed blog entry, but it’s a fun read. Crawford has a knack for capturing mundanity that matches his appetite for controversy (“KRS-One himself has never been on crack, as far as I know. he’s just crack-ish. he used to be homeless. He’s know for making off the wall statements.”) and there’s tales of rap board wars, talkbacks and hip-hop journalism that justify the £2 outlay within just a couple of chapters.
This interview with Brent Rollins is excellent. Like me, he wishes he came up with the UNDFTD logo, but unlike me, he’s a design genius and it’s revealed that he’s the Jordan IV and orange sock dude on the ‘Do the Right Thing’ poster. On a Complex-related note, this rant from the perspective of some chisel toe shoes is also worth your time.
The Kate Uptons of this world will come and go, but people will still get excited about Kate Moss. Yayo footage couldn’t stop her and neither can any number of sket upstarts. There’s a whole book about her called ‘Kate: the Kate Moss Book’ dropping in November via Rizzoli delivering a full retrospective of her career thus far. Jefferson Hack and Jess Hallett editing, plus an $85 pricetag and 368 pages indicates that it might be pretttttttty good.
I’m sat in a Portland hotel room watching CNBC documentaries on Whole Foods, Costco (kings of the white t-shirt) and awaiting the J Crew documentary on personal hero, Mickey “Helloooo” Drexler — one of the greatest micro managing CEOs ever, before heading out to order a burger from an eatery staffed by people in thick framed glasses, bearing knuckle tattoos. In the time zone confusion, I forgot to update this blog with things. Other than watching retail-based TV, there’s a few other things I’m into at the moment. The gents at the increasingly bootlegged Palace brand are making power moves of late and their whole Fall lookbook has a VHS fuzz that’s appealing — I was amused to see the Palace Surf “sub brand” within the range, complete with the all important colour fade in the script and stonewash cotton fleece to evoke an appropriately surf-centric look. I think the crew are amusing themselves with memories of the lurid gear we used to break out back in the day — surfwear birthed street and skate wear as we know it anyway. That Tri logo is slowly taking over and I’m looking forward to seeing the less lurid shirts and trousers too when they eventually materialise.
On the subject of Londoners making power moves, Kyle and Jo at Goodhood’s ‘Unloveable’ lookbook is a winner too (as is their ‘How Soon is Now?’ women’s collection shoot). There’s no men in OBEY sauntering round a local park here — good food and beverage accessories, crisp photography, black and white and apparel picks worn right. I’ve mentioned it a lot here, but the R Newbold and Goodhood gear is some of the best collaborative clothing on the market. This season’s college football shirt gets a look right — something that can get a little too Superdry in the wrong hands. Crucially, this imagery makes me want to go and buy shit from them (which is kind of the point of the project) rather than feeling like some obligatory action to get a couple of thousand apathetic blog impressions and significantly less click-throughs. This is the kind of thing you get when designers are in charge rather than copyists. Cassavetes’ letting his team roam free might feel a million miles from Drexler’s tightly run retail empire, but both visions are quintessentially American in their own unique, driven ways. There’s lessons to be learnt from both characters.
Now Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk are all improvising together in the afterlife, it’s always worth taking another look at a ‘Life’ magazine issue’s shots of the production of ‘Husbands.’ I’m a Cassavetes fan, but I’m not a huge fan of this film, yet I love the documentation —1970’s ‘Omnibus’ on the movie and this May 1969 collection of photos capture John’s emphasis on creativity and personal expression. Now when an actor juggles mainstream movies and their own indie flicks, it usually signals kooky self-exploration and tedious soul-searching, but Cassavetes did it with an unsurpassed integrity. What a guy. From suits to sweatpants, the mid-life crisis addled trio look cool between the yelling and drinking.
My entire childhood was eroded by occasional exposure to Australian cinema like ‘Long Weekend’ and ‘Patrick,’ but even beyond those intentional attempts to chill the viewer, even TV shows like ‘The Sullivans’ every weekday lunchtime would bring me down with that curiously Antipode breed of budget, overcast televisual misery, despite the country’s oft-glorious weather. The UK and Canada can create grim films, but Australia seemed to master it. Even when they’re not trying to bring me down, their film and television output has a drabness that’s tough to beat.
So when they’re trying to make something deliberately depressing, they deliver. Having just finished watching ‘Snowtown,’ based on the squalid mid-late 1990’s case of inter-community serial slaughter by a group led by John Bunting, I’ve not seen such a sobering depiction of psychosis in many years, and I’ve seen pretty much every downbeat, brutal movie ever. Australia triumphs in the matey psycho, who’ll cook you breakfast, ask how you’re feeling, then pressure you into slaying a household pet. Every minute of ‘Snowtown’ is sheer doom, where everybody’s a potential deviant, but some are willing to deviate beyond all comprehension. Daniel Henshall’s turn as John is a perfect performance, with no theatrical twitches and stares — just a conscious evil and unnerving charisma that amasses accomplices. Nobody explains why he does what he does (something that even the equally bleak ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ offered the viewer), and the musical cues crank up the troubling atmosphere.
The prolonged strangulation scene is still embedded in my psyche, yet for all the monstrous behaviour and miserable shack-like cluster of outer-Adelaide residences that make up the film’s backdrop, the cinematography’s beautiful, giving the inhumanity on display an eloquence of its own. As a carefully crafted character study, it’s notable that Bunting still remains an enigma – offering no answers channels the essence of the case. The best killer films aren’t about carefully laid traps, ‘CSI’ style apprehension and transparent motive. They simply remain queasily ambiguous. ‘Snowtown’ is a solid accompaniment to 1998’s profile of murderous behaviour and alpha males, ‘The Boys,’ another Australian film based on a significant true crime (the John Travers gang and the Anita Cobby case) that’s still a cause of outrage. I recommend ‘The Boys’ for a feel bad viewing session that pre-empts incarceration with classic Australian prison films like ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead,’ ‘Everynight…Everynight’ and ‘Stir.’ Just make sure that you’ve got the ‘Seinfeld’ box set on deck to restore your sanity afterwards.
If those films aren’t enough to erode your sanity, 1983’s ‘Angst’ is the greatest portrayal of murderous insanity ever made. 1979’s ‘Vengeance is Mine’ is a strong portrayal of a remorseless maniac, Japan-style, but Gerald Kargl’s Austrian vision is mind-boggling yet, due to distribution issues, often unseen. You’ll get no fuel to unleash the ‘LOL’s or smiley faces on social media in Kargl’s film, but what you get is a film that’s two decades ahead of its time from a technical standpoint. The antithesis of documentary style filming, ‘Angst’ is a dizzying box of tricks, soundtracked by Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze in a synthesised style that makes it doubly unsettling. Based on the Werner Kniesek case (and from accounts, it seems fairly faithful), it’s about the pure pleasure of killing, and no ‘Saw’ or straight to DVD ‘Hostel’ sequel can maintain that sense of terror. Erwin Leder’s eyes alone beat any special effect, but that sweaty intensity and primal but inept killing techniques, twinned with the innovative, nightmarish set pieces, make it a lost classic.
It’s odd that Kargl’s IMDB profile ends with this film, but director of photography, co-writer and editor Zbigniew Rybczynski went on to pioneer HD techniques. If you’re a Gasper Noé fan, ‘Angst’s hyperactive camera and use of sonics will help you understand how his style was developed — this is one of his personal favourites. While there’s barely any dialogue to accompany the plot, the killer’s narration needs subtitles, and sadly, Barrel Entertainment, who promised a DVD for half a decade, went bankrupt a year or so ago. Not a pleasant experience, but a necessary one for fans of cinema. Just don’t come crying to me with tales of subsequent trauma. ‘Snowtown,’ ‘The Boys’ and ‘Angst’ — a perfect trinity of murderous misery.
On a lighter, very different, note, I’ve been trying to hunt the mysterious Boyz II Men Jordan XI and tux award show moment, but I can’t find it. Was it a gig? Why is there no video footage? Maybe it’s an apocryphal thing, but I’m certain that I saw a shot once. What I did find in my hunt was a picture of the Boyz in matching white suits and 2000 white/chrome Jordan IVs at a BET bash in May of that year. It’s hard to get hyped on any celebrity wearing retro Jordans (though the internet says differently), but I say that the cutoff is the stray black/cement IIIs on the cover of ‘The Blueprint’ in 2001.
The UK is killing it at the moment. Most football related attempts to be down crumble because, unless you’re a visiting rapper, there’s not much that’s cool about wearing a football shirt and beyond all the fancy stuff, Umbro’s never been a cool brand — it’s a utilitarian one that was affordable without fear of a playground beat down (unless you wore Umbro trainers, then you deserved what you got). But the hard-wearing twill of the drill top was the budget wear of choice in and outside of my school. I’m glad that team Palace have acknowledged that in their Umbro and Palace collaboration that includes a trill looking drill top that brings back that appeal. I like the idea of a Trill Top.
On a Palace affiliated note, Slam City Skates releases the ‘City of Rats’ DVD next week and you need it in your life, because, unlike the days of skate VHS bare-bones, there’s an abundance of extras too. It’s still mind-boggling that this is the first ever full-length Slam City skate video, but it’s okay, because it only took them 25 years to get it sorted. Big.
Graffiti magazines are a different breed nowadays compared to the things I’d overspend on at Tower Records or the ‘zines I’d send an SAE off for only to get nothing in return (maybe they thought I was “the man” or maybe they were just lazy), but truly iconic publications have been few and far between. That’s because graf kids make the ‘Maximum Rocknroll’ readership sound level-headed by comparison, and one man’s masterpiece is another twenty people’s “sellout shit.” The internet was pretty much made for the art form, with internet fame being as fleeting as moving trains, and ‘Crack & Shine’ and ‘Also Known As’ gave destruction a certain gloss that set a new precedent. I’m looking forward to seeing the paper spinoff of Hurtyoubad, ‘Hurtyoubad Journal’ which has been in development for a while promising, “A graffiti publication with no graffiti.” This will be the cause of much anonymous commenting and hipster allegations, but will be an excellent read. And seeing as it’s coming via Topsafe, it should look pretty too.
The Diggers With Gratitude team are holding it down for that peculiarly British breed of rap nerdery (and there’s plenty of crossover between our love of skate and rap, with more experts per person in those topics than many other nations) with their issues of lost tracks by the kind of characters you may have briefly checked for in their day but promptly forgotten. For the DWG team, that enthusiasm never died. To paraphrase Ice-T from ‘Colors’ — it just multiplied. Now they’ve gone and put out Latee of the Flavor Unit’s unreleased 1992/3 recordings on the ‘Who Rips the Sound?’ EP. But now they’ve all sold out, so you’re going to have to hope for a second volume of their reissue work compiled on a CD at some point in the near future.
And if that mix of plugging, serial killer films, skate stuff and Boyz II Men wasn’t an odd enough mix for you, here’s an interview I did for my buddies at Sneakersnstuff about Stockholm and Baltimore’s sports footwear scenes.
And shouts to ‘i-D’ magazine, Kate Moss and Alisdair McLennan for this:
The Palace crew went H.A.M. with their ‘Gangbanging at Ground Zero’ promo. I love the skating, the third-generation mate-of-a-mate fuzz (anyone else remember the dark footage of someone getting hit with a skateboard on a Union video?) in an era of artful virals shot in hi-def video on a friend’s Canon and the soundtrack. The soundtrack was the highlight. Skate videos helped with my musical education over the years, but it was the soundtrack that really killed it. When you’re filming in New York City, you can’t help but echo classics like Zoo York’s first Mixtape (I’ll take a hundred region 1 DVD dilemmas over the NTSC tape traumas from back in the day).
I like being reminded of a time when I’d phone skate shops on a JR Hartley flex (and I’m not talking about the trancey dickhead redux) hunt the black Zoo York hoody with the white stitched lettering. That captures the Mixtape and Peep This era to me…back when that brand was at the Supreme level of necessary apparel. Then all of a sudden they were dropping their own Dunk-a-likes, featuring printed birds in their sweats and devoid of edge.
The Palace video pays tribute by using that Fat Joe and Keith Nut WKCR Stretch & Bobbito freestyle that felt quaint back when Zoo York used it for the Jeff Pang segment. At that point, when Joey was wearing mafia don suits, it felt antiquated, but for some reason that shock-value, no-budget sound seems a little more relevant. Where did Keith Nut go?
Nowadays, if a rapper mentions Satan or moves their hand unusually, they’re accused of devil worshipping. It’s good to see a new wave taking it back to a less conservative time, but even when there was an element of shock-tactics, Keith claiming that “I ain’t your ordinary nigga mister/I do shit like suck my own dick, and child molest my little sister” made Bushwick Bill seem like Drake.
I’ve never heard such a boast of equal deviance since, and while the rest of Terror Squad made some noise – even Prospect is traceable, making some good records – I haven’t heard from Keith since Terror Squad’s ‘The Album’ in 1999, but I recall demos on Stretch and Bob’s show, freestyles on Doo Wop tapes and a fine verse on ‘Jealous One’s Envy’. Now he’s M.I.A. I blame that noncey lyric.
That just stretches back to a lineage of audio gulliness on tape — the Mobb on 411VMs (shouts to Rodney Torres) and best of all, Mike Carroll in Plan B’s ‘Virtual Reality’ skating to ‘Story (Pinky in the Twat)’ by The Beatnuts with the “Sucked her tits then I pounded her clitso” lyric. Most rappers aren’t quite as nihilistic as they used to be, but it’s good to know that Waka Flocka and Lex Luger are bringing that same spirit from the south. Their inclusion on the Palace tape, for Chewy Cannon’s section makes a certain sense. It’s interesting to hear contemporary gnarliness over a lo-fi look. G-check, G-check, G-check…
Another skate mainstay is the constant battle between the skate rats and the artsy types. I love watching it develop in 39 page threads on the Sidewalk forums over the cost of Palace sweatshirts…yep, 39 pages. Even Josh Kalis and Jason Dill are still engaging in upriver/downriver debate. It wouldn’t be the skate industry without heated debate over utter trivialities with an anti-hipster undertone.
Those Palace critics must be typing their fingerprints away over the latest developments for the brand, with a GQ Style magazine feature with Lev and company stood with naked ladies. The impending button-down shirts and Palace x Lavenham jacket should make them even madder, but they get it right every time and the skating’s excellent, which is the important part, right? That, plus the hundreds of thousands of views directed at threads about the price of printed cotton. All promo is good promo, but Palace’s promotional game is fucking good when it comes to films and photos. Brits in New York being very trill indeed, with snuff movie production values is a winning formula.
My Tyson preoccupation is something that crops up time and time again here. That’s unlikely to subside as Mike’s career takes some curious turns. Bear in mind that I once turned down the opportunity to party with Christian Hosoi to attend a preview screening on ‘Tyson’ just in case the big man attended (my very own pop-cultural ‘Sophie’s Choice’). His Oscar season viral videos indicated that he’s got an innate aptitude for comedy, but I’m hooked on the Animal Planet ‘Taking on Tyson’ show too.
A pigeon-based reality show simply frameworks some introspective moments that complement Toback’s documentary perfectly. It’s also been hugely educational in explaining the appeal of racing these feathered athletes. Last week’s remark from Mike that people thought, “This guy is a dreadful, offensive cad!” on seeing his ‘90s antics matched the talk of stomping out Don in front of decrepit old white ladies. You enter Tyson 2.0’s entertainment outings with a smirk, expecting a freakshow, but you come out enlightened. I’m pleased to see a happier individual on my screen.
The Nintendo ‘Punch-Out’ game represents a fair amount of my late childhood, and I was amazed to see that a group of fanboys purchased the ROM of the mysterious and unreleased ‘Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch’ a couple of years back. The rape trial and quality issues meant that this game never came out as it was meant to. Dropping in 1992 as the flop ‘Power Punch II’ without Don King and his hair and with Mike replaced with “Mark Tyler” (around the same time, Mike Tyson-alike M. Bison in ‘Street Fighter II’ would be renamed Balrog due to legal concerns), it just wasn’t the same. While it’s available as a free download, the $30 cartridge is what you need in your life. Tyson punching aliens is high concept stuff indeed.
Tyson’s ad-libs on Canibus are the sole highlight of ‘Bis’s career. Canibus is beloved of the kind of people who think a raspy-voiced rapper babbling about UFOs is Nobel-calibre. They belong to the same group who purport to have submitted essays on Ras Kass’s made-up history of mankind ‘Nature of the Threat’ as degree projects. Jesus Christ. Now he’s back, claiming Premier worked with Christina Aguilera circa 1998 and ethering himself with a bizarre attack on Mr. Christopher Martin. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I believe an ill-fated 2004 photoshoot truly destroyed Canibus’s career.
The Dismasters ‘Black & Proud’ cover, the Dre Wreckin’ Cru era images that Eazy used to wield, Weezy looking like he was being bummed by a cop in a condom ad and that pauseworthy XXL Soulja Boy/Boo-Boo cover seem downright sensible compared to these images.
Did he demand some “Bollywood ’97 steez” attire from his stylist? “Kraków nightspot ‘07 styles”? That belt, the jacket, the savage levels of boot cut…and that buckle. Did he refer to himself as “The black Richard Hammond” back then on a record? These pictures still perplex me. What the heck was going through his mind when he broke out these garments? For a notoriously tin-eared MC like Canibus to pop shots at Premier after these shots seems doubly ridiculous. I’ll take that same old scratched Nas line and plodding piano over some bloke rasping about supermathematical illuminati armies (I just made that up) or whatever he talks about any day.
I don’t care much for UK rap. I try, but it’s either some old shite sampling hit records from 1990 with a baffling level of immunity (this is because most people are pricks) or a slightly squalid clone of the southern rap in my iTunes library that — as UK rap has always done — wants my coin just because I’m meant to support my own. Fuck that. Where did I put those Waka Flocka MP3s again? It wasn’t particularly good during the last 18 years or so either — just lots of people with group names like Elevated Mindz (apologies if that’s a real group name) talking about how bloody British they are and how they devastate mics. That Skepta video with the tagged in but from a Ben Dover looking production is excruciating. It makes the post-watershed ‘How Do You Want It’ promo look like ‘Caligula’ by comparison.
The ragga crossover stuff gets a pass though — it still sounds hard. Shouts to Scary Éire’s DJ Mek for his ‘UK Ragga Hiphop Mix.’ For some reason West Indian culture permeated UK rap with a greater success rate (RIP SMILEY CULTURE) than those terrible ragamuffin moments that sullied decent US LPs and mixtapes (word to Mad Lion, Lil’ Vicious and Red Fox). This mix is a lot of flashback fun and a fair amount of it holds up better than what came next. Break out the suede Champions and have a listen:
The excellent Grey Skateboard Magazine (not to be mistaken for Grey fashion magazine) has reached issue #4, with a launch party happening right now, plus a screening of some nighttime skate movies, including ‘Minuit’ and Grey’s own ‘Grey Nights’ film. The teaser alone indicates why Lucien Clarke is a badman. I’m also liking Mr. Sam Ashley’s Palace Skateboards in NYC pictures a lot too.
This blog was actually meant to be about British things. Back when Acyde asked if I wanted to contribute, it awoke some kind of blog-demon within me and I tried…really, really tried to keep it British as a point-of-difference from all the other blogs out there, but I got bored and my yankophile tendencies got the better of me. I’m not trying to be a flag-burner, but a lot of British stuff (note the fact I said, a lot — not all) at street level is fucking corny. If it’s good, the minute you’ve covered it, you’ve wrecked it — like one a well-meaning missionary introducing a remote tribe to western confectionary and soft drinks, and managing to destroy their way of life in the process. Of course, America and Asia is riddled with corniness too, but we’ve condensed corniness.
Plus – if we’re talking “streetwear” — the good, aspirational stuff is meant to be on the cool kids, not the gimps. But now the tough kids wear black hoodies, vast tracksuit bottoms and Fila F13s or Air Max 90s, not the eclectic, expensive garms that led me to my “career” path. Nerds wear all the pricey brands – hardrocks probably aren’t paying more than £25 for a hoody. I used to assume that if you saw someone in a Supreme box hat, they were — in some idiotic, cliquey generalisation — one of “us.” I don’t even know what constitutes “us,” but the box is so ubiquitous, that I and most wearers are estranged. We’d have nothing to say. Supreme is still one of my favourite brands, but I can’t assume that I share an affinity with each and every wearer any more. It’s probably a good thing.
So I can’t be bothered to rep the UK specifically any more. It’s too limiting. Alas, this entry was written on a PC, where Photoshop and something as simple as Grab don’t exist. Even the card from my camera isn’t compatible. As a result — until I visit a Genius — the imagery here is just pilfered from elsewhere (with credit, of course).
I don’t feel that there’s enough history on UK streetwear pioneers on the internet. There’s a certain Brit-mindset that’s keen not to blow our own trumpet too much, doubly downplayed by avoiding blasting those brass instruments in a realm where to enthuse too much is uncool. As a result, things just disappear. We had to get to where we are now somehow, but after the popularity of the raggamuffin style blog entry here last year, I thought I’d take a look at skate culture in the UK and a key brand. Brit-publication ‘RAD’ (that neon sticker that ‘SK8 Action’ tried to bite was kind of the box logo of its day) taught me a lot. it had me hunting for Slam City Skates and M-Zone (the UK’s Stüssy spot of choice, where jackets seemed to price hike from £50 to £200+ between 1987-1991), and it introduced me to some British skate brands like Poizone and Anarchic Adjustment, but it’s Insane Ironic Skate Clothing that evokes the fondest memories. Ged Wells is a UK pioneer.
Looking back at 1980s skateboarding, Americans seemed to be in two camps – the neon, hair metal rockstar idiots or the gnarlier, tattooed Santa Cruz kids. The British contingent seemed to have merged the two to look an awful lot like squatters and crusties. I find it hard to get misty-eyed looking back at old ‘RAD’s (BIG UP DOBIE and check www.whenwewasrad.com for scans of old issues) in terms of fashion, but Insane was something far ahead of its time. Skate style in the UK isn’t something that could come effortlessly — we’re not really a print tee kind of nation, so that look would always seem imported and as a result, extremely posey and awkward. Not Insane. It seemed to take few cues from the States and channelled that oddball charm that makes British skating so evocative with its cartoons, fluid, bouncy fonts. It was strange-good.
Insane was the forefather of Slam City affiliated brands like Holmes, Silas (with artist James Jarvis providing their unique character-led world) and Palace. The romanticized notion of all skaters as artists is of course bollocks, but Ged could switch from foot planting in a pair of Visions (or were they Pacers?) to creating these weird garments. I’m sure Insane was inadvertently responsible for a fuckload of awful clubbing-related brands too — the kind that would be bunched together in distributor ads at the back of ‘i-D’ magazine (with whom Insane actually collaborated for tees), but it’s not the brand’s fault that people were and are idiots.
Circa 1989, Insane seemed awesome and underground. Before Insane, there was talk of the Jim-Jams brand that led to the Ironic Skate Clothing’s genesis. It was on tees, bum bags, sweats, shorts, hats, jackets, videos (‘Mouse is Pulling at the Key’), stickers and tracksuit bottoms. The adverts in themselves were mini-masterpieces. There was even an Insane Skate Supply store in Camden in the mid 1990s. It could be displayed alongside Stüssy without shame or any allegations of lo-fi imitation — the strawberry graphic tees and shorts were particularly good. Insane was very much its own entity. How many other brands could claim that? Ged’s work was present on skateboards for Slam City, but they distributed Insane too, doing a fine job of getting it into spots like Glasgow’s legendary Dr Jives.
In many ways, Insane’s ascent occurred at the point where vert died and the freestyle kids got the last laugh (well, the ones with business minds anyway) so it’s popularity in 1991/2 ran adjacent to an exciting, progressive time for skating. Having launches at the Wag Club in 1989 just conferred the merger of the era’s most well-regarded spots and subcultures. ‘Face’ and’ i-D’ photo shoots placed the gear alongside Nike and Stussy too in a raggamuffin style. The surreal imagery even captured some of that Native Tongues hype of the time. Over a decade before Robin Williams got kitted out in UNDFTD and BAPE, he could be seen sporting Insane around the time of the underrated ‘The Fisher King’s release.
Nothing gold can stay and Insane ultimately left us, but Ged’s still active as an artist and designer. He’s exhibited fairly recently and remains progressive and innovative, but (refreshingly) he doesn’t seem to shy away from his Insane work. He has something to do with Trisickle magazine too, but I’m not sure what happened to the plans to resurrect Insane and retro key pieces in 2006 (was that inspired by the nostalgia tsunami ushered in via Winstan Whitter’s ‘Rolling Through the Decades’?). A Japanese audience obviously took Insane (and Slam City Skates) in as one of their own, embracing the overseas authenticity of these legit Brit reinterpretations of a Californian artform — just as that R. Newbold ‘Monster’ tee Slam City colab seemed to arrive from nowhere, it was refreshing to see Japan’s Tokishirazu team with Insane for an anniversary collection a couple of years back.
All the Insane images here are pilfered from Ged Wells’s Flickr account
www.flickr.com/photos/gedwells — go have a dig there for some classic ads, shoots and apparel, plus information on how some imagery came to be. His website is www.gedwells.com.
As a sidenote, ‘RAD”s letters page actually had an email address in 1988, using British Telecom’s complicated-looking Telecom Gold service: 72:MAG90459 from a time before @’s were the in-thing.
Slam City Skates logo designer Chris Long’s online portfolio (www.chrislongillustration.com) has an excellent ‘Relax’ cover from winter 1996 he drew that captures a very UK style.
Taking pictures from a Facebook account is a lowblow, so I’ll avoid it, but the homie Thomas Giorgetti (who knows more about sneakers and graffiti than you or I) is making power moves with the Bleu de Paname brand alongside partner Christophe Lepine. The line just gets better and better, defying the preconception that it could just be another denim brand, or another workwear renaissance. It’s far more than that. The pocket tees and sports jackets were killer and Thomas premiered a sample of a Comme des Garçons collaboration on his Facebook the other day. Great line and an astonishingly quick ascent in such a short time. Gun fingers to the sky for Thomas. That and ‘Crack & Shine’ #2 are two things worth looking out for over the next few months.
I’m part of the problem when it comes to plugging things that are hardly revolutionary, and thus aiding and abetting the slow, sludgy flow of mediocre ideas, but by god (bar the excellent social life) I’m glad I’ve evaded the summer’s tradeshows. Just as dogs supposedly see in black and white, only when I leave certain areas of London am I aware that I see in more than just light blue and beige cotton. We’re flooded with it. The heritage lines are in full effect. If your ailing brand is more than 30 years old, start a heritage line. If it’s new, make it look like a heritage line anyway. Bread & Butter is generally awful, but this year’s sneakily shot offerings were total Emperor’s New Clothes (the emperor’s attire in this case being the same tiresome bunch of collaborators on bland brands and brands good enough to know better, and some once-great lines reacting to blog attention and playing themselves by losing that charmingly oblivious aura).
Naturally, the good people of Pointer and Wood Wood are excluded from vitriol as their offerings are looking excellent.
But how much post-Albam crap can we possibly take? Albam make excellent gear, fairly priced, but the slew of Albam-alikes pumping out button-downs, chinos, denim and totes makes a man want to self-harm. Regardless of the material weights, painstaking treatments, sourcing or manufacturer who’s within walking distance, a substantial amount of feverishly WordPressed product looks like Blue Harbour by Marks & Spencer. Ignore my quest for the perfect blank for a second. Bring back the print tee.
Print t-shirts never feel fully British — neither does the tee itself as an article of clothing, seeming more like a sought-after import that arrived and never left. John Lydon’s gleefully defaced Pink Floyd effort, Malcolm McLaren aided graphic output and Katherine Hamnett’s sloganeering seem like rare examples that made a significant impact. There were skate brands in my wardrobe that were keepers, but it took Holmes, Silas and Barnzley-era Zoltar or Tonite to really match the Shorty’s, Stussy and Supreme preoccupation. I think Gimme 5 was an underrated brand with graphics are worthy of a retrospective too. Can’t forget Carri’s Cassette Playa imagery either.
My respect for what Palace is doing doesn’t need require reiteration (Incidentally, Lev’s TMI quote pertaining to Fergus Purcell, “Loads of people try and bite Fergus’s shit as well…he’s the OG guy…” carries some weight) and the Ferg-Tour tee is a great piece of design, and T-Shirt Party, who I’ve enthused about before are still fulfilling their shirt-a-week mission, currently on number 21 with an England backpiece image. Just as they made their ultra low key arrival, Mr Andrew Bunney — a walking encyclopedia on a number of matters and a man who knows a fair few things with regards to subcultures and apparel has started a small brand with artist Daryl Saunders called British Remains for a simple reason – they couldn’t find the kind of t-shirts they wanted.
T-Shirt Party and Palace are channeling a certain Britishness that’s alien to or US cousins but easily accessible. To convey UK imagery without descending into mockneyisms or tiresome levels of nationalism is tough. I remember a streetwear brand called Artful Dodger, never my particular cup of PG Tips who were presumably (I certainly hope they were) American, and their awful ads in Frank151 that bordered on Dick Van Dyke chimney sweep patter. We don’t want to go there. But the Britain I love is a mixed bag, and I love to see our grimmer side showcased. And boy, do we do bleak well. Andrew seems dedicated to researching and unveiling the country’s treasures and oddball elements, and mixed with a keen eye for aesthetics, that means some nice shirts (plus totes too if that’s your thing) that play with some localised elements, some as common as W.C. cubicle signage, the glorious London Brickworks (which operated near to my hometown) and some class matters.
Just for riffing on the Hambert and Deverson’s ‘Generation X — Today’s Generation Talking About Itself’ study, familiar to a certain generation of sociology student as being, alongside Dick Hebdige’s ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ a rare moment of interest in an otherwise tedious curriculum on the ‘Generation X’ design, the brand impressed me more than most on first impressions. I look forward to seeing where this line goes, as I’m in no doubt it will confound any presumptions that printed white cotton will stay the sole medium. I love the type on the press release/statement of intent too.
As you may have gathered, I really like t-shirts, and London is making me proud at present.
Go get British Remains and Palace from www.hideoutstore.com