I remember being super-impressed in 1998 when Polo Sport seemed so powerful that it could spawn a sub-label like RLX. Then Polo Sport vanished, bar a blue bottle of fragrance (developed by the same nose that would launch Power by 50 Cent 15 years later). I’ve never known the reasoning behind that switch — if ever a brand was of its time, the metallic fabrics and big branding on Polo Sport was it, embodying the late 1990s. But post-millennium the cold weather RLX line would take over like a young upstart at the office elbowing out its predecessor in 2005 in favour of skiwear and golf gear with the three-quarter sleeves. Still, it’s better than U.S. Polo Association gear (I only just found out that there was once a U.S. Polo Association bear on their cheap luggage) Having said that, I’ve never noticed anyone wearing RLX (beyond Diddy), but I’m guessing that it must make some money and the last half a decade of Polo Sport seemed pretty unmemorable and maybe the SoHo store opening in 1999 that promised to be a more accessible experience killed it. Now, in a world where 1996/97 Hilfiger and Polo Sport colour blocking, arm lettering and mesh pockets and panels is being homaged heavily, it’s ripe for a resurrection, but it’s probably for the best that it stays on the other side and is left to the vintage and thrift store gods for rediscovery. The old ads with the Bruce Weber photography stay classic and while that Polo Sport tie is not top of my wishlist, the J Peterman style copywriting is no joke.
I’m still in NYC so this blog stays barren until I get back at the weekend. Just to prove I’m not dead and that this site hasn’t come to an abrupt halt, here’s a couple of shoe-centric images. My friend and favourite tattooist Mr. BJ Betts broke out these Gucci Tennis from 1988 at the weekend during a road trip to Delaware. He had these dyed black and requested the addition of a ripple sole from Dapper Dan in Harlem during an NYC trip back in the day and rather than retting a resole, that ripple has been glued over the existing unit to give them a running shoe/court/hiker appearance. Nice piece of custom footwear history from Betts’ insane collection and proof that he was stunting very, very hard while I was starting middle school. I miss the days when people engaged in expensive antics like that to avoid wearing the same shoes as the next man.
And continuing my occasional rappers-in-AM95s series, who could forget Onyx in The Source and HHC, promoting their second album in 1995 and acting all sporty for the photographers? Fredro Starr’s metallic windbreaker (which I believe was Polo Sport like Sticky’s hoody) and Air Max combination was this season’s tech-running look way ahead of its time. Interesting departure from automatic weapons and combat boots. He carries the facial expression of a teenager who just found he needs a code to look at porn or death videos on the family Dell desktop though.
Salutes to Alex Dweck for reminding me about the Givenchy Pervert piece’s parallels with a pioneering brand from the past.
As time goes on, what was once the shit — something worth seeking out — can disappear into anonymity. Due to streetwear’s cyclical nature, a healthy dose of reverence whenever content creation’s constant sprawl looks for an industry retrospective, the majority of brands I grew up loving have maintained longevity. Stüssy is still powerful, Supreme evolved, Holmes morphed into Silas who reappeared a little less appealing but seemed to transfer that old spirit into Palace, Fuct stays excellent, Nigo’s role in BAPE was minimized but the brand still has some clout, X-Large is big in Japan (or at least it seems to be), Gimme5 still has distribution clout, Fresh Jive does whatever the fuck it wants, Eightball and Droors gave way to DC, Union still does great work in Los Angeles, SSUR is on a wave right now, former Phat Farm and PNB operatives have huge roles in the industry, Zoo York fell off but the key people there made their own mark, STASH and Futura made good livings post NFC, Kingpin was great (R.I.P. Bleu Valdimer) but seemed to stop in the transition to Project Dragon. There’s a whole lot more, but for the most part, they’re either still in business or there’s a reasonable explanation as to why they shut up shop. All except Pervert.
Obsessing over stock at Planet in my hometown, Slam City, Bond and Dr Jives, Pervert was always a brand I actively hunted — it seemed to have the hip-hop and rave crossovers, captured the acid jazz craze of the time and had skater appeal too. Harking from Miami’s South Beach they had that beach life authenticity that made Stussy seem so authentic back when it debuted. That was a region that never seemed to be represented by anything this credible (Miami’s Stray Rats has done some strong work for the city in the last few years with a healthy respect for Pervert’s work), but Pervert had the name, had a photogenic frontman (and a great BMXer in his youth) who got some profiles in mainstream magazines like ‘Rolling Stone’ (see below) back when being in print was a huge deal in the shape of founder Don Busweiler who started it in his late teens. Trademarking Pervert branding in mid 1990 for “hats, T-shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, footwear, headwear, and swimwear”, Busweiler can be considered an elder statesman of streetwear (I don’t use that hated umbrella term lightly, but when a brand isn’t necessarily a skate brand but trades in printed and embroidered cotton, it’s all I can do).
Pervert’s Animal Farm store was an operations base (stocking Stussy, Fuct, Fresh Jive and the rest) and they were actively involved in the local club scene. It’s a testament to Pervert’s role locally that anyone I’ve met from Miami who’s 30+ years of age seemed to have something to do with the Pervert crew in one way or another. The brand would have cleared up in any number of streetwear booms, the rise in Mo’ Wax and the affiliated toys and tees — even multiple quick cash crazes for parody shirts (next time you see a PUMA tee in a tourist trap souvenir store, think of Don and his team), but it never lasted long enough, because in 1995, after a relationship breakup, Don Busweiler ended Pervert and joined Jim Roberts’ Brethren cult (also know as the Garbage Eaters) with its Christian values that pretty much deem anyone doing anything different a practitioner of perversion.
The beards and bikes of male Brethren members might seem hipster-esque, and the cult’s famous bin-dipping is bizarre, but there’s a real tragedy to this story — the comments on this post hint at the emotional damage of Don’s (apparently calling himself Micaiah) or disappearance and his parents have been quoted in documentaries and articles on Roberts’ activities. ‘God Willing’, a recent documentary (screened on PBS) documents the anguish of the parents of children who vanished to join the nomadic Roberts group and it’s powerful stuff. The ABANDONED status code of Pervert’s trademark hints at the sudden end of the brand. It’s a sad story of what could have been, but the impact Busweiler and the team made in those few short years is significant, but alas, it all occurred before the internet became an extension of the world we live in, so informationally, it’s as if it barely ever existed. I guarantee the influence of Pervert has corrupted your wardrobe in one way or another — bear in mind that Supreme’s creative director Brendon Babenzien started his career at Pervert.
If you haven’t already watched everything on the Gasface’s channel. including all five ‘Think B.I.G.’ installments, you’re slipping. Everyone with an SLR with filming capabilities might be a filmmaker now, but these French hip-hop obsessives are masters of their art. Somebody should just give these guys their own channel as the prove that only the French can do rap nostalgia and digging without coming off corny.
That was a lazy blog post, right? Here’s a load of old RRL and Polo Sport ads to pad it out. I know you love that stuff as much as I do (except that white guy with dreads).