I’m disappointed that I never spotted this online before. Six years ago, Paul Lukas from the superb Uni Watch site upped a 1961 Champion Athletic Knitwear catalogue on his Flickr account (among other sporting catalogues from past and present). This is a standout spot of insight into a time when sportswear wasn’t a statement of fashion. Real performance gear of the time, plus letters, numerals and emblems. The dreaded “This photo is no longer available” has eaten up a few great images from this account, but these photos remain largely intact. Reverse Weave hoodies, nylon fleece hoodies as part of a warm-up suit, cheaper hooded pieces for the sidelines, a double thickness version and even a half-zip Rayon variation were on offer. Pure purpose and plenty of commercial illustration makes this more beautiful than any contemporary mode of marketing, even if you can see the slow creep of synthetics moving into the range and becoming the new choice for team wear. Go check his Flickr and browse the whole thing.
After over a decade of Champion as a licensed brand putting its name to some total crap in the UK, a trip to Jacket Required revealed that the brand was coming back in a big way. Whether this deads the brand as a cult object of desire or elevates the power of the C across the board remains to be seen (without Supreme’s co-sign at a collaborative level I’m guessing that this probably wouldn’t actually be happening — I recall meeting dead ends helping a friend try to release a similar collection over here before the Supreme store opened in London), but the (non American-made) product is good — Reverse Weave sweats with the chest and sleeve branding in the orange I always wanted, plus some bold colours that tap into the casual/Paninaro nostalgia as well as the usual skate and hip-hop cues, script sweats with the stripes on the cuffs and waist, plus, controversially, a crew with a vast C that reminded me of the medium-sized tees I was ogling in the nanamica store in Tokyo a couple of months back. My good friend Nick Schonberger hates the latter (which is dropping in five colours) — I’m into it at the moment, but I wish it dropped in Modell’s rather than the spots that might be stocking it alongside generic struggle streetwear on these shores. Looking at the IG debate when size? announced their Champion offerings, it looks like there’s still some damage control needed to give the brand the status it once had and sell sweats around the 80 quid mark. At least this product (which I believe is being distributed by the same company that’s putting the Canadian-made Todd Snyder pieces into top-tier stores) ticks a few boxes on a few wish lists in terms of details. Not bad.
If you pretend that nothing New Order-related has happened since early 2005 and ignore the beefs, the DJ gigs, the new lineups and the kind of person who won’t stop telling you how ace they were live at the The Haçienda or wherever they changed their life, they’re still a great, great band with an incredible visual identity. The 2010 Rizzoli Joy Division book that compiled Kevin Cummins’ images of the band was pretty good and next year they’re releasing New Order, a book of Cummins’ New Order photographs. The last book had Jay McInerney on intro duties and this time they’ve drafted in Douglas Coupland to pen the introduction. Nice cover.
First things first, I think Complex‘s HNIC, Rich Antoniello speaks a lot of truth in this video for the folks flooding the internet with hapless content strategy that are a waste of money (that I’d do excellent things with, given the chance). It’s interesting that we went from claiming that the 140 character approach to information distribution would dead long-form writing to suddenly getting excited about any “original content” that’s over 500 words, regardless of quality. Still, I’m not complaining, because this culture of content keeps me in Supermalt money every month, but those barely used hashtags that are part of a three-week promo strategy in the quest for that elusive, oft-discussed consumer engagement are just lurking in far-flung corners of social media platforms like sad phantoms in limbo, or those sickly, skeletal blogs that people send me as part of a CV to show that they’re assertive with just three entries that are all from March 2013.
If this site had a real name (I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually referred to it as GWARIZM in a blog entry), I’d make it a play on Champion in one way or another, seeing as it’s pretty much a Champion fan site. One thing I’ve bemoaned again and again is the UK’s raw deal when it comes to the brand — though, as I’ve mentioned, it’s the Animal Chin of sportswear in that it never seems to genuinely exist beyond a handful of global licences — with its budget status. That American licence has been all over the place, from the bulbous magnificence of their Modell’s fodder to the Todd Snyder stuff to the nasty shoe deal that puts out copycat, low-budget duds.
Over here, we haven’t seen much that’s interesting since stores like Aspecto got in some Reverse Weaves in the early 2000s (shouts to The Original Store for importing the goodness in recent years though). It’s been bad three-packs of socks, crappy sweatpants and anti-aspirational rubbish in the UK on the Champion front for a while and the launch of the Champion Europe site to sell in pounds sounded exciting until I saw the product on it (even the basic college gear fell short here through unnecessary and inexplicable embellishment — the antithesis of why pretty much everyone who loves Champion treats it with such reverence).
I even traded emails and calls with a friend as he crusaded to bring the good rather than bad Champion to these shores, to no avail. I was happy to see that we’re getting the simpler Reverse Weave pieces on these shores very, very soon, in what looks like a slimmer cut in line with Japanese pieces (even though I’m guessing by those blue labels, as opposed to the red ones, that it won’t be US-made). Sweatpants, crews and zip hoodies in navy or grey will be appearing at spots like Oi Polloi next month (as well as on the championstore.eu site) and I’m reliably informed that pale blues, heather and some other colours will make an appearance in March.
It’s baffling that its taken this long to happen, given the cult following of the little ‘C’ over here, but I’m guessing that it wasn’t easy to wrestle the name from whoever was abusing it. This is definitely a step in the right direction for fans of fleecewear that fights vertical shrinkage.
Record Store Day seems to be a time when a slew of cool shit you’ll never own drops and Joe Mansfield’s Beat Box: a Drum Machine Obsession documents his 75 strong drum machine collection, with a foreword by the Burroughs of the other kind of beat, Mr. Dave Tompkins. It drops in December and it’s on the list, but this special edition arrives early with a special 7-inch steeped in Paul Revere nerdery by correcting the direction of the drum program and a tape of beats made from the devices in the book. There’s soul in those 808s and this is a topic deserving of documentation.
Just a couple of days into New year and I’m already slacking. For that, I apologise. Blame my addiction to Christmas gift autobiographies and biographies. I’d sooner read Schwarzenegger’s tale of smashing a chair from the Napoleonic era to pieces while accidentally falling backwards as he took his trousers off, or discover that a 9-year-old Slash was taken to see Iggy Pop in a psychiatric ward by his mother and David Bowie than do much writing. When I’ve sated my ink (and pixel) lust, my work rate might be up again. Or I might put this blog to sleep for a while to proceed on another project.
I’m also trying to watch the atmospheric and deliberately paced ‘Berbarian Sound Studio’ (the fictional Italo-horror film opening titles, ‘Suspiria’-style witch impressions and studio logo alone makes it worth watching) while I write this. Something’s got to give. All I can offer you is a load of offcuts from a Champion-related post I put up here a couple of years ago — 1930s ads when it was Champion Knitwear, with the Champion Knitwear Mills store triumphantly talking of acquisitions from another sportswear store (the Gennessee Sportswear store from the same street), giving away a $15 Wilson tennis racket, optioning a suede wind breaker as a holiday gift and reminding us that, in their earliest days, Champion made leather jackets, plus a 1960s ad looking for a plant manager and a 1980 ad for the legendary Reverse Weave apparel.
There’s a lot of history to the brand, but in the brief interim between this blog and whatever the last entry about the brand was (and this blog was practically a Champion fan site), I’ve given up any hope of Champion mustering a modicum of integrity or sense of premium with its European licence. Miracles can happen on the brand front, but you miss heritage opportunities as well as a high-end preoccupation with all things fleecy, casual and cosy, that’s when you’re officially lost. At least Champion Japan knows what time it izzzzzzzzzz…sorry, I’ve repeated that point so often that I just dropped off.
After years of throwing up scraps on Harlem’s own Dapper Dan up here, his Tumblr-based reappearance (perfectly timed, and I’m assuming it was down to his son’s realisation that his pop helped create a substantial slice of authentic street culture that even the brands he bootlegged have been eating off lately) has ushered in some more comprehensive information on the man and the store. We should be excited that ‘Cocaine Cowboys’, ‘Broke’ and ‘The U’ (plus the impending ‘Dawg Fight’ on Kimbo Slice’s former bodyguard, exploring the backyard fighting scene) director Billy Corben recently tapped him up for an interview.
The new ‘Sneaker Freaker’s more shoe-centric Dapper Dan conversation is cool, touching on some AF1-related topics, teaching me that the Fat Boys’ shoes on the ‘Crushin’ cover were commissioned Nike customs to match the Dapper Dan garms and that he reworked some New Balance 572s, the shoe that was huge in the UK for a minute in UK-made form circa 1998 alongside the 576. A strange choice for a custom shoe — maybe I need to investigate the origins of that model right here in a future post. Maybe my declaration of this blog’s possible conclusion was a little premature.
This blog should probably become bloggingaboutchampiongearidontownagainandagain.com, but it’s my blog, so if I want to get stuck in the mud and dwell on one topic, I will. Nobody told me about the existence of this sweatshirt — I knew about last year’s Stussy collaboration on that slightly fussy M-65 style tracksuit employing Windstopper, but this ARMY Reverse Weave hoody in Oshman’s is the best Champion Windstopper design yet. Trying to give basic fleecewear technical properties is problematic. Angular, stiff fanciness defeats my primary purpose for putting a sweatshirt on. If a DWR treatment can’t sustain regular washes, it’s pretty pointless and if you can’t breath through the sweatshirt, it becomes a suffocateshirt. Water resistance has never worked for me on these garments, but Gore’s Windstopper protection layer makes sense and doesn’t infringe too much on the hand feel of a sweat. It’s good to see two technologies with over 50 years between them (I think this might be the Windstopper patent, a technology that officially debuted around 1992 while the 1938 patent here is a Champion one that seems to be focused on a Reverse Weave style technology). Pop fastenings on the collar, ribbed side panels, minimal vertical shrinkage, but annoyingly small Japanese sizing — everything that intrigues me about the work from a licensee that just does its own thing with a certain finesse.
The ‘Vintage Menswear’ book by Josh Sims and The Vintage Showroom’s Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett is good value for money. If, like me, you lay down £20 on a Japanese magazine covering similar ground just to gaze at the photos, the 130 items here and accompanying copy is a nice antidote to keep on the shelf. I’m still stuck in the military chapter, where reversible German mountain parkas, custom military greatcoats, eccentric footwear innovations, a truly remarkable Aero Leather company B-7 sheepskin flight jacket and a lot more deliver enough insight for an idea-free clothing brand to get at least 2 years of designs out of it. The notion that the British Army’s Paratrooper’s denison smock was painted with a non-colourfast ink so that it might fade in enemy territory and give the wearer a different kind of concealment by letting them blend in with civilians (though it’s just a rumoured innovation) fired my imagination. I had no idea that the reddish applications to brushstroke camo on the Indian Army paratrooper’s smock dated back to the 1940s — I thought they were a 1970s treatment to the (to tie it to the Windstopper talk, the Denison jacket design’s spinoff was the lighter Windproof smock) pattern. All of which goes to show that I know nothing about camouflage. Go buy the book and get educated — it’s bitesize pieces rather than an exhaustive history of anything, but the spotlight on the details.
Who else used to buy magazines for the tapes? ‘NME’, ‘Select’ and ‘Melody Maker’ seemed like better value for having them on the cover, even though I never listened to them. ‘The Source’ had a good Rush Associated Labels one attached in 1994 and on buying ‘Fantastic Four’ #376 in a mysterious polybagged pack for the tape, I was introduced to the mighty ‘Dirt’ magazine. Then dad-mags like ‘Q’ got all fancy and stuck CDs on their covers and by 1996, the cover cassette was done. Few genres justify continual use of a long-gone, labour intensive object like the audio cassette like doom metal does, and UK-noise bible ‘Terrorizer’ gave away a couple of CDs this month, but throwing Dorset-based stoner-doomers Electric Wizard’s new EP in as a tape was a glorious flashback to the newsagents of old. It was a shame that only select issues got it. It’s also a damned shame that I don’t own a tape deck any more.
On peeping the Nike archive in Beaverton late last year, I made so many mental notes that my memory seems to have crashed since, fragmenting the amazing things that I was shown. I remember Air Trainer Max with a 180 unit, some sketches of the Air Safari, with it looking more like a loafer of some kind and some BWs that looked like they were built for a memory — those are just extracts of a blur. One thing that leapt out was that Nike’s apparel was strong from the early days — I’d been led to believe from books like ‘Swoosh’ that apparel was a weak point until the early 1980s. Incorrect. Displayed in lockers, there were some pristine examples of excellent design.
The morning before visiting, I put my camera to the side, assuming I would get it smashed to smithereens if I so much as aimed it. On arrival, Dan (who does an excellent job of looking after the Department of Nike Archives) asked me where my camera was. That’s one error I may take to the grave. If my spirit has to tread mournfully through corridors, I want it to lurk in that vast, dusty, shoe-stacked space.
In that maelstrom of geekery that was the Nike archive tour, I managed to forget something significant. Champion x Nike pieces. Of course, I’m overstating the nature of the garments, because Nike were — quite rightly — focusing on footwear to start, in the mid 1970s, they printed a few (presumably rush made) designs on Champion Reverse Weaves, tees and polos. They did the same with Hanes and Russell Athletic too, but it’s bizarre to see two brands so close to my heart in a solitary piece of apparel. It was ‘Lightning’ magazine’s peerless ‘Nike Chronicle’ issue/book/bible (shouts to Russ and Koba) that reminded me of that sighting. It’s the greatest (sweatshirt) story never told.
If you haven’t checked out isysarchive.tv yet, then you’re slipping. Yeah, everyone’s making a blog about trousers or retros of retros of reissues, but very few are getting to the crux of the cultural context or even reflecting what anybody in the real world actually wears beyond clusters of circle jerks in beige and khaki single-gear hotspots. These folk are doing a good job of trying to capture the realer stuff. I need to get off my arse and write something for them, because they’ve asked me nicely loads of times and I keep stalling. They just upped an interview with Matt Wolf, who directed the impending ‘Teenage’ documentary based on John Savage’s excellent book.
I have to shout out Sharma from WAH for creating a format I copied for this blog when she dropped knowledge on Raiders caps many years ago and for giving me an uncorrected press copy of Savage’s opus back in 2007 — it was an education, and I loved the image of a “typical” Mancunian hooligan in the late 1800s, with “narrow-go-wide” trousers, an elaborate belt buckle and a peaked cap in an early example of sensationalist scaremongering with regards to the younger generation. I would love to see a “professional scuttler” on SBTV spitting bars about their crime life.
My people at MOTHERFUCKING Patta have relaunched their website with a little blog to accompany the e-commerce and other good stuff. Patta and Precinct 5 man dem are family, and it’s worth noting that they just upped a link to the first ‘Luffie Duffie’ from DJ Edzon. I hope they up the old Patta Mix Tape from the same year too. People need to know that there was once a time – not too long ago – when sneaker references on a freestyle weren’t the corniest shit ever.
While we’re talking about real gs on the European side of things, Thomas Giorgetti gets shit done. If you haven’t seen the screwface he administers at the mere thought of a Jordan II that isn’t made in Italy in the ‘Sneakerheads’ documentary, you’re missing out. That’s the sneer of a connoisseur. From graffiti to creating something that’s more than another workwear line or fey facsimile line, Bleu de Paname keeps with the power moves and this Visionnaire video is good. I like how Thomas ties graffiti to the most prominent of his current occupations. ‘Lil’ Tyler’ magazine doesn’t get the recognition it deserved — the father of many styles.
Edit – This Chris Isenberg interview by A Silent Flute’s Nat Thomson is worth your time.
Somebody make it stop. More PR blurb bouncing from blog to blog like a paragraphic echo over a 48 hour period, with loving descriptions of leather goods and other such gentlemanly matters, and the new spurt of non-groundbreaking sites pointlessly telling you how to dress in a shirt and a nice coat could have someone reaching for the Baxter of California Double Edged Safety Razor with thoughts of an afterlife. Did some kind of poison gas leak causing mass delusions of stylist-credentials? Saddled with information to the point of apathy, stockpile your Rogue Status and Campbells tins, lock yourself away and pray for the next coming of the all-over print. Seriously, it’s no less excruciating from the outside looking in than those dark days. The “cool kids” are putting a time-limit on timeless. Yet some lines get slept-on in hypesville, but just keep on bringing it in terms of solid product, intelligently executed – like No Mas.
American sports that aren’t pugilistic can be a tough global traveller, undeniably exciting, but so steeped in stats and history, that they can prove impenetrable to an outsider looking in. The gear, megabudgets, the lurid presentation, glamour and frequent rap references make it hugely appealing though. There’s an aspirational quality to US sporting activities, from seeing Lil’ Wayne in human ESPN mode to the humble sweat in a generous jock cut. No Mas embrace sport culture, and at a global level, in all its forms. Scandal, rap references, the next generation, true legends treated with non-ironic reverence…all of it.
Like the west coast’s UNDFTD, always consistent on the design front, team No Mas channel their locale’s legacy, attitude and aesthetic perfectly. They had gems on Digital Gravel, but during a trip to the Union sample sale in L.A, where Chris Gibbs knew what time it was with the sample Stussy world tour varsity at £44 in UK money, seeing the No Mas ‘Former Champion’ project in the flesh, instantly created a No Mas fan. The brand’s name, seemingly riffing on the second Duran and Sugar Ray bout was cool, but stitching disgraced sportsmen’s names on the back of US-made Champion Reverse Weaves and hand stitching ‘Former’ before that familiar lettering felt like the fruits of a high-five laden bar conversation brought to life. They even added their spin on the original Champion tag. Now that’s dedication. The Dee and Ricky assisted collection of bags made from old ‘Starter’ jackets, retitled ‘Finisher’ was clever too.
For the most part, we tend to skirt around the sporting origins of those grey fleece garments you’re rocking now by looking too close under the microscope (guilty as charged here your honour) at the direction of the stitch, the collar the cut and the authenticity or recreation rather than the utilitarian reason for being of, say, a sweatshirt, or a t-shirt…dwelling on day-to-day lifestyle instead of ever breaking a sweat seems to lose sight of the bigger picture. Chris Isenberg and Dan Larzelere founded the brand in 2004 based on pure passion for the subject matter, and the No Mas brand has grown into a media outlet too, whose updates are always worth your time – more on that later. Oh yeah – have a look at their guest-edited Frank151 from a few years back too for the ‘Illustrated History of Recreational Drugs in Sports.’
Like Supreme, the tracking down of relevant figures and official licensing dodges the cheapo pitfalls that left most streetwear brands floundering a few years back – currently, their use of the Wiffle Ball licence (an item recently marvelled over by a limey contingent in a Cleveland-based Dick’s store for its striking logo) on tees looks great, a collection of Ali shirt reproductions in association with Worn Free that aren’t tainted with the Superdry-style wack of so many other cotton garments bearing the man’s name, shirts dedicated to stubborn refusals to accept new ground names, and their sponsorship of Golden Gloves winning heavyweight Tor Hamer means tie-in gear too. Even after recent events, it’s tough to beat a ‘TYSON VS. GIVENS’ lettered zip-up.
The haymaker in the collection is the hookup with Everlast NY, and the reproduction of the EVERLAST NY t-shirt worn by the legendary Floyd Patterson during training. This isn’t bullshit nostalgia – this is a labour of love, seemingly made for the handful who know the deal with both fighter, and a legendary brand. It’s a shame it seemed to go under the radar, as it’s one of the most perfectly executed collaborative creations in some time.
Before this blog entry hops off the dick, back to the visual treats; the No Mas ‘Rumblevision’ project let James Blagden, David Rathman and Jerome Lagarrigue interpret key elements of the “Rumble In The Jungle” through animation. Victory is celebrated as often as misbehaviour in Isenberg and Larzelere’s world, but even the most non-sporting can appreciate Blagden’s visual interpretation of Dock Ellis’s LSD-addled antics. Seriously, just check out their YouTube channel. If you were a fan of ‘Ben Younger’s fine debut, ‘Boiler Room’ aka. ‘Wall Street’ with added O.C. on the soundtrack, watch his ‘Hammer Of Tor’ Hamer documentary for Playboy TV in association No Mas. If your boss calls you up on it, just say you were clicking on it for the sporting documentaries.