Tag Archives: relax



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 made few resolutions for 2012, but one was to up more interviews here. I’m a terrible interviewer — I spend much of my time talking over the subject if I get excited about something. Eric Elms is a good guy and an artist and designer I look up to, so I was keen to chat with him at the launch of the Vans OTW part of the pop up House of Vans space in Berlin late last month. This was meant to go somewhere else, but there’s barely any talk of sports footwear. Plus I cannibalized some quotes from it for Dazed Digital. The solution was to throw it up here. What it excludes is several minutes of conversation about Worldstar HipHop at the start (incidentally, I’m obsessed with the Wounded Dog dance now), but the rest is intact. It really is just a conversation rather than an interview.

Listening back to it, I really must like the sound of my own voice. Except when it comes to transcribing an interview, where I cringe at the ridiculous, nasal noise that emerges from my mouth throughout. You don’t need me to right-click from other people’s sites with regards to Eric’s work. Go Google it — there’s loads out there, or you can check his site or AndPress‘ sites out. Thank you to Eric for his patience. I know you’re supposed to give things quasi-intellectual titles and deep-thinking pull-quotes (ERIC ELMS: ARTISAN AESTHETICS or some such fanciness), but on this site, we don’t play that.

Me: Eric, what’s the advocate role at Vans OTW about?

Eric: I guess it’s kind of the lifestyle equivalent to the skate team. They just put it together to do interesting things represent the brand. We have a little input in the shoes and we do our own versions, but most of that stuff is done in-house.

Tom Cooke has a good eye for hardcore stuff.

It started out with Tom and Rambo the marketing guy. It started out small but it’s growing slowly.

They seem to have a good eye for decent creative roster. You can do a zeitgeisty “look! we’re eclectic!” thing…and it won’t necessarily work.


Wasn’t the RZA involved?

He just DJed at the party.

Were you there at the launch party?


We were in the lift with Amber Rose. I still don’t understand the hype. I didn’t expect him to play Black Eyed Peas. I expected him to play some dusted Memphis stuff or something and he played ‘Boom Boom Pow’…who was on the team then? But having Mister Cartoon on the team and I remember the Blackouts being on it too.

Yeah, me, Ato, Atiba, Dimitri and Mister Cartoon..

It was an interesting way of getting multiple disciplines there.

That group bonded super-well, because we were together for two years and I knew Ato, I didn’t know Atiba very well, none of us knew Dimitri and I’d met Cartoon but didn’t really know him.

He’s a nice guy, but he’s gnarly, right?

Yeah, super, super nice guy.

Did you go to his studio?

Yeah. It’s crazy.

Did you see the ice cream truck?

Yeah, he has a huge warehouse.

Maxime at Sang Bleu hooked it up so we went there with Estevan a few years back. I remember it being near a gun range.

Yeah. It’s just off Skid Row.

I laughed about that place then I saw it and was frightened.

They’re like zombies. ‘The Walking Dead.’

Like ‘The Walking Dead’ meets ‘The Shield.’ So they put you together A-Team, and what was the actual aim – was it to come up with creative concepts?

They asked our opinion on the general vibe and showed us the shoes to make little changes on them. So we’d each do our model of an existing silhouette.

I saw the Bedford and shoes like that with a partner name in the colour part of the boxes.

Yeah, you could do whatever you wanted.

It was refreshing that it wasn’t VANS X MISTER CARTOON or VANS X ERIC ELMS.

Yeah, you know how crazy colourways got or how crazy colabs got?

Did you ever get caught up in that?

For me it was always a double-edged sword. If an artist is doing whatever — a Vans or Nike or any object they’re always like, “I want something that reflects me and it’s like my art!” But then it ends up unwearable — a disaster visually, or you do something that’s low-key visually and wearable, but then people are like, “What’s the point of that?

To project an identity on a shoe is hard. With KR, he just has to apply the Krink and it’s recognisable but wearable, but when it comes to other artists it’s tough. Like the Kilroy work you’ve done with KAWS on a shoe might not be so good. Maybe it might work on a canvas shoe.

A lot of the original Vans had patterns, so it’s almost traditional.

Have you met Steve Van Doren?

Yeah! He’s super nice.

He’s awesome. I wish he was my granddad. He told us how people could bring in anything when his dad started Vans…you could bring in a duvet and they’d make a shoe out of it.

Oh yeah, me and Dimitri were talking about it. I don’t really collect shoes but the needle point ones are amazing. They’re the ones I liked — the girl’s ones. Supposedly they were for cheerleaders. He had the strawberries, the lady bugs…

He’s passionate. Just as he was telling us how Vans did Ronald McDonald’s shoes, my recorder cut off. He said something about them having a clown shoe division. So how do you make something that doesn’t look like a clown shoe?

Because I know that this is a longer relationship, like a few years long. I feel I can make something wearable. You know sometimes you do a shoes and you never talk to the company again? I know that the shoe will be supported. I know I have more images and artwork ALONGSIDE the project so it all fits together.

It’s nice that the environment we’re sat in now isn’t too contrived. (Note: We’re sat in a room of pennants made by Eric — one has a Brick Squad reference on it) Did you make these for the event?


Jesus. How long did that take?

Not that long. I just bang ’em out. I didn’t have to show them this stuff. The first time they saw it was when I was hanging it up. They’re not like, “Oh! It has to be like this!” I told them that I’m making some stuff and they were like “Alright!” I think they kind of trust me. I think. They asked if I wanted to print anything.

I like the ‘FTW’ stuff.

It’s so generic at this point!

Do you get approached for collaborations a lot?

I’ve done a million t-shirt graphics over the years and it’s cool to do, and it’s not something that I want to stop doing. It can get a little tiring though.

I like the whole Kevin Lyons behind-the-scenes tee design thing.

Kevin used to be one of my teachers when I was at Pratt. That’s how I met him. I started out helping him out.

What stuff did you help him out on? I love the stuff he did with Russ for SSUR for Supreme.

I used to help out Russ on stuff for Supreme.

Did you work on the Santana shirt? I love that one.

I think that was right before I started.

It’s such a perfect design.

That was a different time. Now it would be an official collaboration.

It’s a different time. It’s not a negative thing either.

There was a time when people would just take it.

Before it probably wouldn’t even be noticed by Carlos Santana’s people — but now Supreme is a big deal, so it would require some officialdom. Like that Hennessy stuff recently was licensed, so it’s a Mobb Deep repro that’s official…that makes it even more exciting to me.


There’s a whole era of design that feels like a different world.

I don’t think things are worse now — they just evolved.

I love Erik Brunetti’s stuff because he is a real artist — no Photoshop nonsense on those classic shirts. Were you a journeyman kind of designer, going from brand to brand? Kevin seemed to work for a lot of brands — like KINGPIN was my shit around ’94. Some of the designs look a little ugly now…

But there’s a time and place.

To put an image of ‘Mean Streets’ or Travis Bickle on a t-shirt now wouldn’t work, but then, it was crazy. Fuct did it with ‘Goodfellas and Supreme with the ‘Taxi Driver’ shirts.

In the 2000’s, things got so crazy that they got kind of unwearable.

But there’s a charm to the unwearable. I like it when something reaches breaking point.

It’s a moment in time.

How did you get involved with Kevin?

When I first moved to NYC I met KAWS and I was art assisting him while. That was before I met Kevin and I was just helping him paint. Everything happened and I just got lucky. Kevin was one of my teachers and I knew how to screen print. He was working on a show — I’m not sure where it was. I think it was Philly and it was one of Rostarr’s shows. It was one of those things. I was helping him screen print for that and he said, “Do you want to come along?” He was doing Tokion then and he was with Russ from SSUR, so I came along to his office to do stuff.

Did you have any real aspirations at the time?

At the time I was just making stuff. Making cool shit and meeting people. At that time, everyone came through the office — A-Ron and a steady cycle of downtown kids. I wasn’t even super exposed to that world at that point either. I was just getting thrown in. I worked for Russ on and off for a while, and was still in school. I think Kevin may have moved away for a little bit at that point. KAWS knew James (Jebbia) and he was asking him whether he knew any designers. He said, “Oh, you should talk to this kid Eric” and that’s how it happened. So I left school to work at Supreme. I was there a couple of years and then went freelance.

I like Supreme because they’re thorough. In this industry, everyone’s so vague and full of shit, but James and the team go in.

He’s on point at both sides of the spectrum. His business and taste levels are super high. It shows.

It’s still a Teflon brand to me. Any criticism that “Everybody’s wearing it!” is dumb to me. Everybody wears Polo. Polo’s still great to me. It always will be.

People get very possessive over things they feel they own.

People get possessive over things they got into very recently. That doesn’t mean anybody getting into something earlier is cooler than the next…I used to be like it with hip-hop.

My music knowledge is fairly low.

I remember trying to deny my love of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, back when we were all into that Mike Zoot stuff.

That backpack rap shit.

Really, I just wanted to listen to ‘Crossroads.’ It’s odd that everybody’s a critic, an aficionado and a curator these days in every other spectrum, but musically, if anybody plays ‘Thong Song’ everyone loses their mind. Nobody’s even trying to pretend to play it cool with that pop/hardcore ratio any more. We’ve dumbed down musically. I’m kind of glad.

I don’t care what music anyone likes unless they’re DJing. It turns into a judging contest. I mean, some people really like talking about it, but I’m not into that.

I hear you — it can get really muso. I’ve met some good friends through Three-6 Mafia appreciation. Hip-hop fanaticism is like having a second language. I had you down as a hip-hop dude — not because of some art and street cliche, but because you drop references in your work.

Yeah, a lot of my work is pulling from polarising worlds in a way.

You see the innate funniness of hip-hop.

Yeah, I grew up in San Diego so i saw that and skate and took in all these influences. It was cool to grow up there. Now I live in New York and there’s a lot of opposites. That’s where I got this dual thing. Looking at something in a context that’s different to what it actually is is always funny and more interesting to me.

I like the fonts and the letterforms. Do you have a favourite font?

It’s kind of corny to say it, but I like Helvetica.

I like Albertus MT, but you couldn’t work with it for, say, signposting…too creepy and gothic. It would be like, Subwaaaaaayyyyy or Nurserrrrrryyyyyy…too weird.

A creepy kid might want to go in.

Do you have a specific style?

I don’t have a specific go-to thing like KAWS, like a character….

With the Kilroy thing were you pushing towards like that.

But that character’s from way back when. I did that show but then I decided to pause on that. Not having a thing is like a blessing and a curse at the same time. It frees me up. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut, like a one-trick pony. KAWS does well, because he can flip it and revolve it, but some people are just stagnant.

He has that authentic graffiti background to back it up. Did you ever write?

I dabbled, but I like to stick to things that I’m good at. Like, I skated a little but I never wanted to be a pro skater.

I like hardcore, odd things. I fixate on JA or Worldstar or the self-destructive Baker guys. Do you follow the “scene” on the internet?

I look at things in the same sense you look at CNN — not in the sense that it’s worldly, important news, but just to see what people are doing. For keeping tabs. I don’t know if it stops things from evolving.

Fashion media and blogs can be very serious. When it comes to footwear do you hoard things?

I have to get rid of things because my girl yells at me. I have all these shirts that I never wear. Like, my drawers are full of things I don’t wear that I carry around from place to place.

In this culture now you can’t just put something out and be like, “laters!“— you need a viral video of you sat solemnly talking it through, going through the inspirations.

Yeah, I don’t have a case study, but there are things that don’t fit with me.

When you’re just doing graphics, then you’re behind the scenes.

Yeah, but that turns into design work that pays the bills…the studio stuff.

Were you a big Vans wearer before this OTW thing?

Vans is one of the very few brands that has lasted from when I was a kid in San Diego to now. I remember wearing them when I was in elementary and junior high.

In New York it feels like a very post H-Street movement.

Yeah, even of the last two years, that whole Tyler thing has meant we see a lot. Five years ago everyone was wearing Nikes.

Strange to see a backlash against Odd Future and their influence.

That’s the same kind of thing that we were talking about before though.

A kid came through and created a movement with his crew, with an openly gay producer and became a global sensation. That’s awesome!

At 20 years old. It’s crazy to get so famous in a year. That’s kind of cool. People want things to be theirs. Like, do what you want! Who cares.

And the flipside is people dressed like old men at trade shows. People wearing ties.

Dressed like they’re going to rob a stagecoach?

It’s like those sepia toned pictures in cowboy gear you can get at Disneyland.

People dress like bartenders. I think it’s a reaction. But it’ll change.

A collective reaction. And things seem to be going back to sneakers. Everyone is wearing camo again.

You know the crazy thing? I look at Hypebeast, and I see the BAPE stuff now and I think, “Those are nice!

People have short memories — they forget the thick stock and scarce supply of BAPE. I don’t understand how it became the whipping boy for an era.

But do people feel like that any more? I feel like it’s going to make a comeback.

It’s one of those rare examples where something seemed to hit London before it hit New York.

We were three years behind on that. But you guys had Goodenough and Footpatrol.

I think the blog explosion post-2005 put us all on level ground.

Before that it just seemed to be ‘Being Hunted.’

‘Being Hunted’ is my shit. That was the blog then. Then there was ‘Rift Trooper’ too.

I remember that!

I used to live a lot of my life vicariously through what Jorg at ‘Being Hunted’ was doing.

I remember meeting with Jorg for an interview.

They supported what James did at Supreme, what Kevin was doing and what Marok was doing with ‘Lodown’ and they had the ‘Relax’ fixation.

With those covers? Fuck. Those covers were…

I get depressed looking at those covers and how good they were. I wish somebody would do something like that now.

But would it work any more?

I don’t know.

I saw Marok yesterday. You couldn’t get those magazines in many places.

But everybody seemed to find the same things. Like, we’d post on the Mo’ Wax forums and everybody was there. Gravitational pull.

We were the last generation to grow into our teens without the internet. We had it, but when I searched on the ‘net, there were no web pages for what I wanted.

Do you use it as a research tool a lot? I find a lot of imagery from 1999 to 2004 has been eroded. Like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or something. It’s as if everything started in 2006.

A lot of people who started those sites seem to have taken them down.

I remember a lot of acts of site suicide where people were like, “I’m ending this site. Thank you for the support.” There was a certain integrity there. Remember GeoCities?

And Alta Vista?

A lot of movements are lost there. As if they never existed.

I guess it’s good though. For kids now, it’s just different.

I like being out of touch.

Yeah. I love it sometimes, like when I get a coffee in the morning and go through all the sites or whatever and there’s some gossipy stuff.

It’s expected that you know about you know everything. It’s quicker to fall out the loop but easier than ever to get back in it. When it comes to agency work, is there a huge difference for you. In this current realm, is there a greater understanding from clients and suits that what you do takes time?

It depends on the job. Some companies come to me for me and there’s a trust level and a little more freedom to do whatever you want. But if you’re working with a creative director or art director that you respect then that’s good too. You look back and constructive criticism is helpful. On the art and personal stuff there’s none of that influence, so I can just go off. On some things it’s close to what I do and other times it’s just straight up corporate. But I like both of them, because I like doing corporate identities. That stuff’s fun. A lot of the time it’s just problem solving. It’s really easy to make something look good visually, you know? That’s not hard. I like that stuff.

Logos are hard. Who are you a fan of in terms of graphic design?

There’s the classics…like Paul Rand. And the old classics. I don’t think I was directly affected by people I worked with.

The older generation of designers never had Google Images.

Those dudes like Paul Rand would never give options. He’d tell them that he’d go and do options but he’d give you what was best.

Do you still fan out when you meet certain people? It’s not a very New York thing to do, but you’re a transplant there.

It’s not Japan where it’s okay there. I grew up into the whole crew like Kevin Lyons, Michael Leon and Geoff McFetridge. For me, that was the generation ahead of me that kept crushing it. I remember how I looked at those guys when I was 20 years old. Kevin was older than me, but he was only around 29. When kids are looking at my work are they looking at it the same way? I’m just some dude trying to make some cool stuff. You don’t think about yourself in that same manner.

Did you sign autographs at the Japan show recently? Was that awkward?

Oh, super awkward. At the opening there was three hours straight of autographs. I was signing the bills of caps and taking photos. I was exhausted. I went to dinner then straight to bed. I didn’t party.

What does your family make of it all?

I don’t know if my parents get what I do. Even the kids from New York I know who were there just for the show were like, “This is fucked up!

But it’s nice.

Oh, it feels great. It’s for the work, not me. It’s not a reality show. It’s for stuff I made. It’s validating in a weird way but you never get used to it. It’s like doing interviews.


I hate the overuse of of “street culture” as an umbrella term for what blogs frequently promote. I’m sure as fuck not “street.” But I can concede that the big overpriced, overhyped brew that fills blogs and expensive magazines has gone overground in a major way. That’s not to say that the blog realm hasn’t been a major topic in boardrooms globally for years, but the Art in the Streets exhibition at MOCA and Jay-Z’s Life + Times portal site feel like some big-budget crossover moments to tether multiple zeitgeisty moments. If you’re still deluding yourself that a Supreme tee on your back and pristine boutique-bought Dunks make you part of an “in the know” secret society, you’re misguided. That look has blown the fuck up.

Pharrell buddying with NIGO, Lil Wayne with the BAPE belt, Dilla in Stussy and ‘Ye in Supreme in Vibe’s November 2003 issue were just the beginning. Lupe’s ballistic nylon Visvim backpack, Bun-B’s streetwear fandom on the Weekly Drop and MURS talking Undefeated circa 2006 gave way to a limited edition lifestyle becoming the norm. That Jay would get involved (after all, he’s a business, man) was an inevitability. It’s something bigger than street culture — it’s the new face of aspiration across-the-board. The definition of what constitutes hype is gradually spreading to keep pace with the hyperactive, OCD minds of the consumer – chairs, electrical goods, business matters, luxury goods, supercars, big budget movies, pencils and architecture are all contenders now. They don’t need a screenprinted or pleather tie-in tool to justify inclusion, because things done changed.

Just as popular culture has appropriated the hype, the hype is picking from popular culture. It’s a good move too, because I was becoming increasingly jaded by the five-brand circle beat-off that created a rut that nobody could be bothered to queue for. I still can’t see much on the Life + Times site that Hypebeast, Complex, A Continuous Lean, High Snobiety and Selectism can’t fill up my RSS or Twitter timeline with. Casting my mind back to Slam X Hype, Hypebeast and High Snobiety’s early days, it’s mind-boggling to see something that started purely from fandom become the prototype for every attempt in the quest to win the hearts and minds of a particularly sophisticated audience — you can’t just stick lurid colours on something and tell them to wait overnight for it any more.

Jay’s move is a more intelligent echo of Damon Dash’s (as an aside, I love what he’s doing with Creative Control) America magazine release a few years back. Dame knew there was something there to harness beyond the voluminous denim and hefty fleecewear, but it got derailed by an ego trip. Shawn seems to have lifted elements of that halfway-there business plan in his predictably calculated manner. The site deserves some credit for creating content rather than aggregating it, unlike those curious bottom feeder URLs that lift from the blogs. Bear in mind that Jay’s “little brother”s much-feted blog started life happily heisting content from the likes of High Snobiety without a credit. I liked the shot of Jay’s Margiela sneakers too, but I’m in no doubt that Madbury and Street Etiquette were screengrabbed into the Powerpoint presentation to secure funding for the site.

So if a lifestyle portal like Life + Times represents some sort of neo-hype megabudget, mainstream movement and the blogs we check regularly are hype in its traditional, easily-digestible form, what about the proto hype outlets that helped to inspire a whole movement? They deserve a little more credit than they get.

It’s curious to think that hip-hop was one of the last subcultures to truly embrace the internet, given its power on Trending Topics nowadays (witness the recent afternoon of Earl Sweatshirt awareness), but the notion of looking at rap on the internet seemed downright goofy and at odds with the “keep it real” culture of the time (though these 1993 alt.rap entries are a charming reminder that folk have been saying “hip-hop’s dead” for almost two decades — even during a perceived golden age). Platform.net was a pioneering site on its creation circa 1996 – a proto Complex.com in some ways, that got plenty of corporate interest from the likes of Sony back when the internet scared brands the first time round and everyone threw money at unprofitable business models.

Platform offered, well…a platform for record labels and clothing brands, plus original content that sometimes talked to me like I’d never heard of hip-hop, but let me hear Ghostface’s ‘Apollo Kids’ (RealAudio, yo) for the first time, while hosting HAZE, Strength, Trace and Triple 5 Soul‘s online presence…or something like that. It was a particularly overdesigned site, but I used to visit frequently. It had vanished by 2002, but the site’s founders, Ben White and Tina Imm were part of the original Complex team in 2002. It was an ambitious move at a time when online hip-hop consisted of white men arguing about Atmosphere on message boards or sparsely designed online stores, but it pre-empted the culture’s ownership of the web.

Relax, Street Jack, Boon, Lodown and Mass Appeal provided plenty of paper content circa 1999, but it was also the time when plenty of sites began offering collated information in an English Language format. My respect for Being Hunted and RTHQ is substantial, and something that’s been covered here before several times. 1999-2001 felt like a silver age of online hype culture. Both Being Hunted and Rift Trooper HQ were utter fandom — otaku levels of interest via Europe (Germany and the UK respectively) and the blueprint for the blog realm.

Spine Magazine’s London-based mixture of sneaker, skatewear, sticker and magazine fixation, plus extensive hip-hop content is the reason I do the job I do now, but it felt utterly fresh on its debut, offering the same excitement that Phat magazine offered seven years earlier (also involving Mr. Chris Aylen too) — it also spawned online store Crooked Tongues in late 2000 (that model of sister sites would become more ubiquitous later on down the line) and even had a Recon collaboration. Now, anyone might be able to have a blog (Crooked and Spine had Blogger functions — one of the first times I ever saw the word mentioned) but it currently feels like a collection of vaguely overlapping, cliquey closed circles. Back then, simply registering an interest got me involved (big thanks to both Christophers, Steve and Russell).

Nike Park was a good source of Nike news during the Alpha Project days and a purer time when brands were a little more apprehensive of internet fandom. That would lead to Niketalk in late 1999, and Nike Park’s spam-filled message board came to a close in early 2000 — shouts to Collie, who supplied plenty of Euro exclusive images to the Nike Park and Niketalk back in the day. Fat Lace deserves props for maintaining since 1999 too (not to be mistaken for the UK-based rap ‘zine which also deserves props).

Online stores like the Tokyo-based resellers Concept Shop (Simon from Concept Shop seemed to be a frequent poster on a number of forums), Streethreds (now Hanon Shop) and Shoe Trends with their enviable collection of Air Max and FrontPage ’98, clip art laden site fill me with a certain nostalgia for electronically window shopping.

Mo’ Wax may have been struggling between 1999 and 2001, but their bulletin board proved pretty damned influential. Just as the label let cultures converge (with varying degrees of success), as with the Crooked Tongues forums, plenty of friendships were forged between likeminds on that site, with its noisy intro and black background for extra migraines. Splay seemed to operate alongside it. By the way, if you’re assuming that forums are redundant, bear in mind that Hypebeast’s forums were a breeding ground for Street Etiquette, On Award Tour and OFWGKTA (plus the Celebs Rockin Heat! thread is one of my favourite things on the internet). I remember Futura making some very gracious visits to the Mo’ Wax site too, long after the launch of his labyrinth website and around the time of the Booth-Clibborn book launch. At least I assume it was him, because anonymity on that site was a piece of piss. Superfuture and Tokion seem to slot in alongside those sites too. A fair amount of users spilled onto FUK as well.

My Internet Explorer (what can I say? I was saving for a Mac) bookmarks seemed congested at the start of the 21st century, but in retrospect, there was barely anything out there. Nothing. That’s why I feel the original obsessives deserve a little shine. I don’t think they knew how far things would go — from blindly navigating a collection of quotes and Lenny’s scanned-in photography and sketches, to a pair of Futura AF1s on Rozay’s feet. Worlds most definitely collided, and a fair few who deserved it got paid. Those who didn’t get paid deserve to be remembered too. Proto hype sites, I salute you. Internet pre-2005 seems to be gradually disappearing from memory and from Google search (I’m blaming defunct hosts too), but the dead links and missing in action images form the unassuming backbone of a snowball effect in the years that followed. Gotta love that old-world web design.


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.