A couple of things drove me to think about the Nautica jacket era this evening — old Gino Ianucci coverage (if you take the Chris Hall Champion homage, the Salvador Barbier Polo graphic and the Ianucci Nautica bite, you’ve got a holy trinity of sorts) and this great Proper interview with Steve Sanderson from Oi Polloi that dabbles in discussion of classic nautical gear. It seemed fitting to chuck this 1993 Yachting magazine piece on technical windbreakers up here (surprisingly devoid of Helly Hansen, though that might have been considered a weightier, more traditional sailing option.) This model is killing it — you can keep your normcore irony and pay tribute to this guy’s array of expensive outerwear, because he looks like the sort of guy who really would own a yacht and blast Hall & Oates from a Bang & Olufsen system as he glides across the water, quite rightly without his tongue in his cheek. And naturally, this stuff got reappropriated brilliantly.
Too busy to blog, so here’s some pictures of Raekwon instead. I know that’s meant for Tumblr, but I’m too old to be upping 1990s rap imagery on there. Why Rae? Because I see more and more adoption of the 1993-1999 hip-hop aesthetic across lookbooks and products means anachronisms galore plus I think this guy always edged Puba in the style stakes. Even when he’s in that Michael Douglas Basic Instinct knitwear on the beach in linen trousers for Vibe to promote that patchy second album Lex Diamond is still styling it. Motorola phones, Polo, Sertigs and shorts, fly medallions. The rest of the Wu were style masters too, but this guy always stood out. Shit, I’m hyped at the prospect of Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies (no amount of tees worn by I.T. bods and dudes called Dan at design studios who get fully Movembered can kill my love of the film), Crispin Glover and Snake Plissken action figures made in a faux early 1980s Kenner style, but the appearance on Tumblr of this shot from a 1995 Rap Pages shoot (the coolest of all Rae shoots — to quote the man, “…soon to get an article in Rap Page“) that I’ve been hunting for a while has brought back some powerful memories of keeping a mental note of everything this guy wore and then trying to find something similar and wearing it badly. He wore the box before most other rappers too when he posed with his bodyguard for Kenneth Cappello in 2005 and since he rocked up at RapFix in head to toe Fila ahead of the release of this year’s Fly International Luxurious Art album (which promises to be a celebration of the gear he’s worn throughout the years), this guy still seems on it, even if the more eccentric outfits of his younger days seem to have been jettisoned for the F, the C and the man on a horse.
If in doubt, just pillage a magazine archive for ads. I like to ramble on about morphine-addled authors and the like, but it goes quadruple balsa in terms of visits (still, all of you who read that stuff are quadruply appreciated), so every now and again it’s good to conform to typecasting and up some old Polo stuff. Anyway, if you haven’t already been to Oi Polloi and checked out ‘Pica~Post’ No. 3, I feel bad for you. And if you’re a rival retailer, I quadruple dare you to beat that photo shoot of people bearing fish. Today I mentioned somewhere that 2Pac in the Karl Kani ads beats pretty much all photoshoots bar the Staple X book and Chimp’s canine cap project, but that one’s a winner too. The Andy Votel piece in there about a collector mentality and the birth of Oi Polloi (plus steel-toed adidas Shelltoe obscurities) is also excellent. I wish I could answer his decade-old film query. I’ve got one of my own — a late 1970’s/early 1980’s sci-fi horror that involved a paralysed man with a robot assistant that turned bad. It involved a decapitated head in a washing machine and no, it’s not ‘Demon Seed.’ If you know the answer it’ll be rewarded. I managed to solve the mystery of what the film was where a man went down a mystery hole to hell and went insane (‘Encounter With the Unknown’) or the film where a boy with an aging disease was cast as an alien (The Aurora Encounter’) but this is the only film from my childhood that I just can’t name. Anyway, on the northerners who know their stuff front, ‘The Rig Out’ No. 5 launches tomorrow. A good time for paper coverage of clobber. I wish I could use the term “madhead” in conversation, but as a southerner, it doesn’t work. Anyway, go check those things out. To pad out this blog entry, here’s a slew of Polo ads from between 1979 and 1986, taken from ‘Texas Monthly.’ That big money region was evidently a Polo hotbed. There’s some repeats between this and the ‘Ralph Lauren’ book, plus the handful of Polo-centric Tumblrs, but that illustrated ad above, depicting the Lauren life an overblown cinematic style is amazing and warranted inclusion here. And is there much call for wild knitwear in Texas?
That London RRL store on Mount Street has got me wanting to spend. The navy dip dyed stuff, deerskin hunting vests, Cordovan shoes which — like many Japanese repro merchants — make use of boxes of deadstock Cat’s Paw heel units, and an awesome N-3 snorkel parka made with Buzz Rickson are all expensive but beautiful. Somehow everything on this blog manages to revert to Polo talk. Last week I heard somebody remark that Polo had gone “commercial.” It was curious to see a complaint like that leveled at a billion dollar business, but we’ve all had that moment in time where a brand feels like our own cosa nostra, oblivious to its history and just how many folks got there before we did. One thing’s for sure – with the Independent and Guardian Facebook apps spitting out old articles and dry snitching on the reader via that loose lipped little column on the right, the British broadsheets only got round to discussing the Lo Life “phenomenon” this summer. Then that UK Lo-Life documentary embarrassed the nation.
Going back almost twenty years, ‘The Face’ was there relatively early, typifying what made the magazine so essential under the Sheryl Garrett administration with the October 1992 (when in doubt, pillage ‘The Face’ archives — please, please, please can somebody make a DVD set of issue scans or a pay-per-view database of that magazine’s halcyon years) feature, ‘Living The Lo Life’ by Steven Daly. It’s a memorable feature for a number of reasons — the gear is fresh rather than tinged with not-as-good-as-it-was nostalgia, the footwear isn’t reissue and it answers and creates a few questions along the way. Young veteran Superia is an interesting focal point — dismissive of Lauren himself, applying a sense of activism to his crusade for fresh rather than reverence for Ralph and annoyed at Harlemite group Zhigge’s Polo gear until it’s revealed that they’ve got a Brooklynite in the crew.
We find out that JanSport is out and that Boostin’ Kev has been discredited too. Beyond that, the photography is excellent — David Perez Shadi (who’s worked with Supreme, BBC and ALIFE as well as being the man behind House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ video) took some incredible shots (the bandana is particularly memorable). What was shot but left out the feature? I’m keen to see the out takes.
The list of brands mentioned is interesting, with Tommy, Guess and Nautica joined by Duck Head – presumably only in vogue for a minute, but a curious brand that started life in the late 1800s as O’Bryan Bros workwear, selling union-made Duck Head overalls in the early 1900s, kitting out several country music artists in the 1960s and ending the 1970s with a surplus of 60,000 yards of khaki fabric that was bought by a mill operator, leading to the preppier incarnation of Duck Head that rose in popularity throughout the 1980s and early 1990s with a middle class audience, offering a kind of Polo-lite. They closed a Monroe, Georgia factory in 1996 and shifted manufacture abroad, floundering a little under new ownership and being purchased in 2003, leading to its current position as a merchant of fairly nondescript, low price dadwear. Still, it’s interesting that it once shared racks with Carhartt — another company given some unexpected innercity reappropriation at the same time Polo gear was sneaking past security.
I try to offset nostalgia here, but it seems we can’t avoid 1992’s tractor beam of bold labels and powerful pricetags. It seems to aggravate a few purists that rap’s golden era is a subjective thing — kids losing their mind to ‘Shot Caller’ right now wouldn’t want it any other way, no matter how many times you bang on about ‘Funky Child.’ Consider it a work in progress. But hip-hop attire always seems to hark back to exactly what Superia and his boys were preoccupied with. I’d love to see a publication with ‘The Face’s knack for prescience. Shit, I’d like to see a Friday night show that had segments like this James Lebon filmed piece on Shyheim for ‘Passengers.’
Anyone else out there in a job that they find tough to describe to elderly relatives, old school friends at reunions and taxi drivers? I sometimes lie and say I work in accounts, hoping that the interrogator doesn’t start asking me about software, modes of analysis, VAT loopholes or — in a worst case scenario — to help them with their tax return. It’s because I find most people to be nodding dullards at gatherings and I can’t be bothered to talk about trainers. I don’t care what they do and I know that they’re only asking about my occupation because we’re conversationally handicapped by the fact neither of us wants to be in the other’s company.
Occasionally I write some copy for brands. Sometimes they’re brands that even that person might know rather than some friend’s project which I would never bother even broach in awkward conversation. Those projects validate my existence to some degree and allow me to tell the truth at social events that aren’t some godawful product launch that’s full of boring “tastemakers” taking pictures of carefully lit displays and pulling those strange momentary vinegar faces behind their 5Ds as they prepare to make Tumblr history with their documented awesomeness.
It must be nice to be able to describe your occupation in at least four words without having to make some lame mumbled excuse for your existence.
Though I can remember back to being able to say that I worked in accounts or I worked in a warehouse back in the day, yearning to be doing something really wanky. I watched a documentary after leaving higher education that fired my imagination — it featured a bunch of people in an office in some up-and-coming “hub” area of London working as “creatives” for some creative agency that’s either long dead or a multiple Campaign award winner by now.
There was no set start or finish time (I was in a job where cigarette times were pretty much run to a stopwatch at this point) people brought in dogs and whizzed around on little metal scooters. They didn’t actually appear to do anything, and I fancied spending the rest of my life in a role like that. But my bland covering letters and C.V. that lied and said I swam and played guitar in my free time (my dad suggested that was better than “Watching weird films and hoarding sportswear”) didn’t even get me rejection letters. So I ended in various accounts roles, including one role that involved brokering prices for corpse cleanup, all requiring numbers rather than the written word and rendering me mediocre, with little chance of promotion.
I looked up to Soho’s Unorthodox Styles because they did cool shit with brands and obsessed about tropical fish, Supreme and Nikes. They even had a webcam in the office and used a mysterious thing called Blogger to keep people updated on their exploits. They appeared to be the opposite of the yellow tinted sunglass wearing, Star Wars t-shirt sporting buffoons whose jobs I coveted a couple of years previously — they actually appeared to work daft hours. Yet it looked to be worthwhile. And through gloriously convoluted circumstances, I ended up at Unorthodox Styles, and on arrival Mr. Russell Williamson told me that I was a copywriter, despite having no actual copywriting experience. Russell is awesome like that.
So when I’m asked how I got into this nonsense, all I can proffer is, “dumb luck”. Because I can’t be one of those people who acts like they’re reinventing the wheel with anything I assist with (writing, SMUs and all that works with it doesn’t feel like real work, so I can’t take it seriously), I don’t think I’m a very good copywriter at all, so I’m always looking for some education.
For years, I’d been ordered to invest in ‘The Copy Book’ but the madcap Amazon Marketplace prices put me off. I’d attempted to heist a copy but failed and got confused by the differences between the 1995 original and a paperback edition circa 2000 called ‘The Copywriter’s Bible’. But now those concerns are an irrelevance and if you were stockpiling a copy and watching those prices rise, your speculation failed, because TASCHEN’s vast reprint and redux with D&AD ups the original 32 participants to 48 and runs the gamut from long-form, text-heavy advertising masterpieces to memorable triple word campaigns.
The stylish cover’s transparent overlay depicts eye tracking data, reiterating that good copy is indeed a science. Some commentary and advice from some personal heroes like Dan Wieden, Dave Trott, Nigel Roberts (“Words are great. People still read. But they only read what they want to.”), Tony Barry and Marty Cooke is occasionally contradictory but always absorbing. The crisply reproduced ads that accompany each spotlighted author’s writing could prove beneficial for anyone looking to maintain brevity, attention and stay on message without resorting to repetition (or lazy alliteration like that).
With those excruciating paragraphs before I even mentioned the book title, I’m already ignoring the lessons within ‘The Copy Book’ but I recommend picking it up as a celebration of marketing’s true masterpieces. If advertising is ever whittled down entirely to 140 hyperbolic characters for tracked Retweets or a clickable YouTube video that purports to have been banned for “viral” purposes, at least there’s this document of a time when notepads, napkins, empty envelopes and leaflets unlucky enough to be in the line of fire were annihilated in the quest to perfect the message.
On that occasionally out-of-print subject, shouts to Jeff Staple on Twitter for reminding me of the existence of FontBook for iPad on Apple’s App store. £3.99 beats £285.29 on Amazon Marketplace. The compare function is invaluable.
I like ‘Men’s File’ magazine. It always feels like the team behind it like going out and doing stuff rather than thinking of ways to create photoshoots in parks or gawping at each other’s sockless McNairy-clad feet. I respect the fact that this publication has the RRL hookup, and has done for a little while now. Any rag can get a co-sign from whatever brand we’re jocking at the moment, but the RRL co-sign is strong. The team got the invite to visit the Double RL ranch and took military historian Simon Delaney with them as models. That’s deep. Unless you’re Oprah, those tepees are usually out-of-bounds.
After the Nike campus and archive, this was always my second dream field trip. Having visited the former, I fear the ranch is a little less feasible. Of course, it’s all cowboy dress up nonsense, but at the core of it, that’s Ralph’s hobby and as photoshoot locations go, it’s a tough one to beat. You can buy as much second hand Polo on eBay as you like, but riding an RL branded (not in the red-hot sense) horse trumps everything. Issue #5 also talks a little about Paris’s Apache gangs, which influenced the latest Mister Freedom collection. Apaches are a very interesting phenomenon — I hope Mister Freedom reproduces one of their amazing late 1800s knife/knuckleduster/gun hybrids too…
Speaking of Polo, shouts to Piff Gang for channeling the power of underrated Dipset spinoffs plus Currensy and Creative Control with a UK slant. My favourite UK rap is generally based on goonery. Piff Gang don’t trade in mindless goonery but they do smoke a lot, can flow and crucially, they don’t dress like they’re homeless — the downfall of many a UK MC who forgets the need for clean living in difficult circumstances. Phaze One is a solid MC and the rest of the crew bring it too. Bring on the mixtapes while the sun’s still making appearances over here…
“These ain’t even real clothes/Homey, I’m pajama rich.”
Kanye West on ‘Start It Up’ Lloyd Banks ft. Fabolous, Kanye West, Ryan Leslie & Swizz Beatz)
Kanye done did it again. The master of the outlandish boast declared himself “Pajama Rich” recently, declaring his expensive attire to be nothing more than bedwear. That’s hip-hop in full effect right there. After some tactically executing bad behaviour that afforded him PR for months, he seems to, as Jack Donaghy put it in a recent ’30 Rock’, be “Reaganing” —the phenomenon of succeeding in all his tasks and error-free living. You don’t need to read a single more sentence regarding the man’s new album—nor do you need to read any more about his Rosewood approach to dressing. That’s because the album is instant classic and not dressing as if you’re fourteen when you’re thirty plus is a given. But to taking pajama rich concept a little more literally, to be able to saunter around in bedwear without risk of sectioning is truly living the dream. I want to see bedwear become the next hip-hop style movement.
I’m thinking of something a little more structured than T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye’s vast swathes of unflattering fabric back in the 1990s. If you’ve felt a curious sense of liberation wandering to the local shop in pajama trousers, trainers and a tee for dairy products, media and tobacco products, that’s because it’s a feel good style. Band of Outsiders and Opening Ceremony’s cooler-than-thou collision resulted in some excellent sleepwear and Ralph Lauren’s Polo empire puts out some pieces at a pricepoint that veers towards luxury without breaking the bank. They’re my perennial loungewear of choice, offering the perfect mix of comfort and the faintly excessive. Do you really need the horse and rider on your PJs? Yes. yes you do. There’s a certain joy in it, even if it’s only impressing you, the wearer. Polo’s plaid creations are phenomenal and the very notion of a button-up pajama is gloriously old-fashioned and strangely decadent—a patterned suit specifically for sleep? It’s the kind of thing that fast-living should’ve—but thankfully hasn’t—phased out.
I’ma let you finish, but Turnbull & Assar’s Sea Island pajamas are the ultimate. Sea Island cotton, cotton piping and mother of pearl buttons in a selection of beautiful Bengal stripes is aspirational nightwear. It’s some regal gear for lazy behaviour and dandyish lounging. Despite their 24-hour openings, Cardiff’s Tesco store recently outlawed pajama shopping. It’s interesting that pajamas were never developed as attire especially for sleeping. They can be pretty effortless and elegant. I’d triple-dare them to eject me, red-eyed, from the instant noodle section in that kind of slumberland finery. Homer Simpson knew the score during Springfield’s first (and only) ‘Do What You Feel Festival’ sauntering down the street in dressing gown and novelty slippers—“This is great. I can finally look like I want and not get hassled by the man.” Damn right.
Oh shit, more Ralph Lauren talk? Like the anonymous caller that ushers ‘Protect Ya Neck’s Shaw Brothers headnod “Ah yeah, again and again…”
It’s been a busy week. I’m feeling lazy, work is breaking balls and I was desperate for something to fill this evening’s blog void. If in doubt, I fall back on a couple of things close to my heart – Polo and Champion. I think I’ve exhausted the latter, but there’s always mileage when it comes to the former Lipschitz’s empire. First things first, I’m re-reading Dana Thomas’s ‘Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre’ – essential reading for the brand fiends out there – though it’s worth noting that while the fragrance industry catches an slap to the head in Dana’s book, Hermès and LV are still projected as premium. If you’ve never picked it up, from the headquarters of brands to the truth about manufacture and Rodeo Drive’s origins, plus the LVMH interest in Asian-friendly outlet shopping, it’s a good one for the commuters out there looking for more insight than the usual vapid fashion week talk.
The real appeal of Ralph Lauren lies in those visits to the wood-furnished Ivy League looking stores, where to quote Lenny Leonard on clocking the Fleet-A-Pita van outside the Springfield power plant, “It looks like it doesn’t even need our business!”
In tribute to Ralph, here’s a few recently unearthed Polo-centric happenings – firstly, the always-excellent (seriously, for spotting James Jebbia’s brief classroom TV appearance he gets props over here) Martorialist just talked Zhigge, and noted that they’re pioneers of the Lo’ Life references on record* as well as wearers of some fine garments linking the group to Hiroshi in a roundabout way that 99.9% of bloggers would lack the knowledge to execute. A little remnant of my ‘New York Magazine’ pillaging post from last month, the ‘Ralph’s World’ cover story from September 1993 is based around the opening of the Polo Sport store and the launch of RRL (“The leather jacket, the worn-out flannel shirt, the beat-up hat represent living, not fashion’ he spits out the last word.“) and is a good piece of Ralph history.
In line with my attempt at doing my bit to kill the e-pollution of retrospective pieces, my token spot of retro-offsetting arrives in the shape of a short Q&A with Ralph from the new ‘Man About Town’ via Philip Utz – I laughed at editor-in-chief Huw Gwyther when he appeared on ‘Dragon’s Den’ asking for cash. The joke’s on me, because this is a good publication (I’ve never picked up ‘Wonderland’) – Simon Foxton is in remarkably restrained mode, still on a young black teenagers vibe (and I’m not talking whiteys with dreads and Reverse Weave hoodies), but showcasing some clean Polo and Purple Label pieces in a Parisian setting. The shoot’s right here, but the interview is worth your time too.
*Though the non-major label antics of Boostin’ Kev preempt Zhigge by a year.