I was happy to help out on some stuff for Will Robson-Scott’s The Best of adidas tribute to the adidas Equipment range. The end result is an 18-minute documentary (you can see part one here) that features a few folk I respect that you don’t see on video too often — Peter Moore (who, between the adidas performance logo, Air Force, Jumpman and McEnroe logos defined the look of sportswear from the 1980s to the 1990s, even if he’d concede that he’s not much of shoe designer) is a hero of mine for his branding and marketing skills, and seeing behind the scenes at mita in Tokyo is pretty cool too. It all goes out next week to coincide with the reissue of the fan favourite EQT Guidance (the 1993 version, not the 1991 edition.) I’m super impressed with Will’s work. I genuinely hate a lot of modes of marketing footwear these days. I understand that attention spans are precious and that long-form copy isn’t the solutions, but a lot of comms folk would do well to understand why their brand is excellent, rather than some corny crap in the name of engagement or because a budget needs to be blown. You don’t need to be regressive to stay true to your strengths. I like this video because it feels adidas to me — it isn’t the same fucking faces pretending they ever cared about the shoe in question and I think there should be a documentation of the EQT project’s essence, because most bloggers and advertorial magazine dudes aren’t going to tell it. Speaking of pure adidas attitude, this Oi Polloi piece where Nigel breaks down his favourite adidas trainers is excellent — Hans Bitzer’s Viennas are probably the best bit.
The adidas Equipment line has long been a preoccupation of mine because there seems to be so many stories behind the whole collection. I remember the bags and sweatshirts being popular around my way (and Common wearing the sweat when he was Common Sense) after adidas seemed to be solely discussed in old school terms. Over time I appreciate the shoes as pieces of industrial design, but it’s a collection that brings arch-rival brands Nike and adidas together like never before. Peter Moore, who was brought into the Nike fold by marketing man Rob Strasser, was a key part of the team (as Nike’s creative director) to fight back against Reebok’s reign over Nike in 1984 by creating the Air Jordan I and its related campaign.
Moore was also half of the design team (with Bruce Kilgore) behind the less successful (but brilliant) Air Jordan II, a mastermind when it came to selling visible Nike Air and he designed the Jumpman before he and Strasser left Nike in 1987, leaving the design duties on that line to a former architect he recruited called Tinker. For those achievements alone (and it’s worth noting that Moore himself doesn’t consider himself much of a shoe designer), immortality in the industry was guaranteed to some degree. Leaving to start their own company (and apparently making an attempt to get MJ on board too), Sport Incorporated, with Benetton, Taylor Made and PF Flyer as clients, they took on the inner-city market targeting VanGrack brand, that used MC Shan as a frontman for a promo video. Then Rene Jaggi — chairman of adidas — got in touch in summer 1989, asking for a meeting.
In the era of technology wars and brand battling, adidas was suffering. Now, designs like the ZX 8000 are considered classics, but beyond core European markets who were 3-stripe loyal, the brand was losing money and found itself in an unfocused situation that had killed its visibility in the USA. While Reebok’s position at the time was strong (this was the year of Pump) the very things that Moore, Strasser and Mr. Hatfield had created had done some serious damage to adidas’s share of the industry.
The situation was grave enough that the Sport Incorporated team, leaving Portland for onetime enemy territory in Germany, proposed an anti-glamour, pure performance, no-bullshit approach to the top-tier products with a name that was defiantly fashion-free, Equipment (“The best of adidas“). Every discipline would get its own flagship shoes in a new colour palette with a new logo that was created with Moore creative directing and legendary adidas designer Jacques Chaissaing (creator of the ZX 500 and Forum) bringing them to life. Cottons and nylons on apparel and bags would be picked for their quality and the notion of the ultimate didn’t mean extra technologies — one of the tenets of the original designs was to use the 3-stripes as support features whenever possible so they actually functioned. This wasn’t heresy — it was an attempt to bring the spirit of Adi Dassler’s vision of sportswear as a tool back to the company.
Moore never seemed to have much love for the fairly recent Torsion Bar technology, but it was present in the original March 1991 rollout and first few seasons as part of the original Guidance, Support and Cushion, but would be altered dramatically in the next year for the new interpretations of those three shoes (named, appropriately matter of factly, after the main purpose of each design). EQT (which even released its own jeans) seemed like a retaliation to ACG’s then-popularity. There was EQT football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton and much more — each linked by a certain refinement and advertised in a particularly no-nonsense way.
That adidas were willing to let the colours get switched (reds and blues would be added over time) was significant but letting the man behind the Jumpman change the logo from the trefoil to the stripes was an indication of how open they were to solutions as a new decade started. Moore and Strasser felt that the trefoil represented another new category they’d been discussion — Originals, which would be upgraded lifestyle versions of classics that capitalised on an interest in classic adidas at the time. Sadly, Rob Strasser would pass away in late 1993, but Moore would stay with adidas until 1998, and remains a consultant to the company.
That gap between Originals and Equipment would, in the decades that followed when what was once a shock of the new became the stuff of nostalgia, stop the series from being retroed, bar a scattering of shoes. How could Originals put out the product that drew that line in the sand that determined that it couldn’t be Originals? It’s good to see that issue resolved, just as it’s good to see the shoes brought back in an appropriately no-bullshit way.
One of my favorite things about the Equipment line is this video from 1990, cut to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel and assailing the viewer with a montage of Nike, Reebok, ASICS, Geraldo, Mr T, Tyson, Rambo, Madonna and much more. Made for internal use to give either employes or potential retailers a sense of what EQT was meant to be a reaction to.
The Jordan II is the last bastion of mystery (other than the IE on the XI Lows which I believe stands for International Exclusive because we wouldn’t be able to take the patent toe looks of the original — but that could be bullshit) within the Air Jordan line. When a key selling point is your European place of manufacture, it’s clear that (bar that fairly recent dark leather Italian made variation that I can’t recall ever dropping) this has never been retroed with the original appeal intact. It’s unique selling point is absent and it’s a shame — an Italian-made Jordan II with the excellent box reproduced would be a thing of beauty and it’s one of the few editions that isn’t played out despite having a substantial hip-hop following (Skinny Boys, Heavy D and more wore it well) in its day. I always got the impression that MJ was never fully happy with a signature shoe until part III (though I always heard he threatened to bounce after Peter Moore left) and while there’s a name to a shoe each time before and after, I’ve never fully known if Peter Moore or Bruce Kilgore created the AJII (it’s generally assumed that they made it together — did Bruce take over the project? I know Moore exited Nike in 1987 and this patent from 1986 that cites a Gucci shoe somewhere has their names on it and is for the
Italian-made Taiwan-made (thank you Simon Trenholm) Nike All England tennis shoe from 1986 that had the Wimbledon box).
What wasn’t made in Italy (it was made in Taiwan instead) was the mysterious Nike Air Python from early 1987, that’s occasionally spotted beneath shrink-wrap in Japanese deadstock spots (it seemed to be a big shoe with collectors there in the late 1990s) but carried the Jordan II’s animal texture concept and took it a little more literally. Just as the Safari was once an elusive creature, this shoe is a lesser-spotted one — was it actually made for performance? Part AJ II, part Air Force II with some high roller high-end cues (wasn’t that snakeskin real? Edit: it transpires that it was never, ever real), it’s just a strange, brilliant moment in Nike collector lore that’s the sum of two sequels. I wouldn’t be mad at a retro at all, seeing as the world seems to have caught up with this kind of weirdness. Plus, lest we forget, the Mad Foot Mad Monty snake design from 2004 was basically a Nike Air Python. I believe the collar detailing was changed for later Mad Monty designs (though it’s still pretty much the spitting image of a Python). Between the Python and PUMA’s The Beast shoe from 1988, there was definitely something in the water back then. The 1996 AF1s in python (in the brown and grey that both colourways of the Air Python dropped in), plus the early ’00s Python pack seemed to nod to the Air Python’s cult following. The Nike Air Python is a key Look ma, no swoosh! moment, but MJ’s model deserves the props for that. For ditching the newly recognisable branding that seemed like so much of a selling point, the Jordan II is a breakthrough moment in shoe design. The Sports Illustrated piece on the Nike Air Jordan II above is a decent snapshot of the expectations of that shoe back in 1986, including some tux talk that pre-dates the XI by nearly a decade and the Jordan Brand plan in its early stages.
Back in 2006, Bootcamp Magazine seemed to drop from nowhere, to pick up at spots like Stüssy and The Hideout alongside TET’s sadly defunct Philosophy ‘zine. Largely wordless to demolish a language barrier, the quality of some of the shoots, the black and white, plus the old style binding was all striking. It’s also completely free. I haven’t heard about Base Control and their basics and slouchy beanies in a while beyond some collaborations, but I’ve long associated it with Bootcamp because of the ads they carried and Bootcamp Magazine‘s creator, Motoki Mizuguchi of Shibuya’s mo’design agency being the creator of that brand’s logo. I never knew this publication was still running until I heard about the release events in Japan, but v.12 is good. I picked it up while in Nepenthes New York while ogling that Rebuilt by Needles recycled vintage military jacket that still haunts my daydreams occasionally.
It’s great to find out that Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock is an appreciator of the legendary Abel Ferrera flick Fear City, but anyone who cites Eric Red’s Cohen and Tate as a pivotal moment of 1989 would get extra points from me. If you don’t like Near Dark or The Hitcher (both written by Red), I feel bad for you. If you don’t like Blue Steel (written by Red and similar to Kurosawa’s Stray Dog — a film that has had two official remakes over the years) Body Parts (which Red directed) as much as I do, I can understand. Red even got the opportunity to rewrite ALIEN3 (alongside the rest of Hollywood at the time). Cohen and Tate is an ultraviolent fairy story that sits alongside later personal favorites of this ilk like Freeway and Running Scared, with a smart kid taken by mob hitmen (the calculated Cohen played by Roy Scheider and the unhinged Tate played by Adam Baldwin) and subsequently playing them off against each other. It was apparently based on the far more innocent and light-hearted short story by O. Henry, The Ransom of Red Chief and according to The Guardian last week (which also mentions the tragedy of Red’s March 2000 car crash — an incident which reads like a less stylised but equally ambiguous and vicious script from the man himself), Cohen and Tate seemed to inspire the Kane & Lynch video games and it definitely inspired John Wrathall’s script for The Liability with Tim Roth in a Cohen-informed role. After Red put out some incredibly brutal deleted scenes from the film a year or so ago, Cohen and Tate is getting the Blu-ray treatment in July via Shout! Factory with extras and the kind of premium packaging it deserves after years in the bad transfer, bootleg and VHS zone. This is a video shop classic.
Shouts to Doubleday & Cartwright for making their feelings on NYC’s recent sporting acquisition very clear in t-shirt form. I don’t know if this is ever going on sale, but it’s a great design that’s up there with No Mas‘ bestselling protest pieces.