Tag Archives: rick ross


Note: Obviously this was written before it was revealed that Saville was a manipulative nonce. There was that clip from a Nolan Sisters documentary that was a tad seedy at this point, a strange comment with Louis Theroux and some David Icke forum rumours about him getting up to no good at a Jersey childrens’ home. Plus those necrophilia rumours.

“I spend a lot of time in the stacks in the libraries, looking at these stacks of unreadable masterpieces that men devoted their lives to, standing on the shoulders of geniuses before them — Bertrand Russell, ‘Principia Mathematica’ and all these things — who will read those? How will they change society? How do they really factor into things? Me? I was able to contribute with a lot of tricks. Those tricks now have names and those tricks factor into what everybody else does. In a very meaningful way I have helped create a vocabulary by which this community communicates. I mean you’ll hear people chat and listen to how skaters talk and the words and expressions…things that we created, it’s our language, but it’s also physical and it helps define us as individuals and how we fit within that framework and it helps define our community itself. And so, when I look and think of the contribution of all these geniuses and the smell and the browning paper of these dusty books that no one will read I think I am so rich in that what I have done has meaning.”
Rodney Mullen, ‘Bones Brigade: An Autobiography’

I really enjoyed Stacy Peralta’s ‘Bones Brigade: An Autobiography’. I enjoyed it so much, that not even a Fred Durst appearance could curb my enthusiasm (in fact, his memories of ‘Thrasher’ previews for ‘Animal Chin’ made my forget about his rapping). Skate folk love gossip and trivia almost as much as hip-hop fans do, so there’s bound to be some people who’ll complain that Peralta’s film only skims a pivotal moment in time, but there’s a humanity to his portraits of Hawk, Caballero, Mullen, Mountain and McGill, with plenty of introspect, tales of crumbling under competition conditions and a lot of footage that should resonate with anybody who grew up in the 1980s. This one won’t make for a Hollywood adaptation a la ‘Lords of Dogtown’ but it’s a tale that must be told, covering the vert to street switch, two craze periods for skateboarding, a golden era of graphics and plenty more. 110 minutes felt a little skimpy toward the film’s climax, but deleted scenes on a DVD are more or less guaranteed. The highlights of the film are tales of CR Stecyk’s lunatic copywriting and creative concepts, Rodney Mullen’s sensitive, intricate recollections of self and family imposed pressures and Lance Mountain breaking down at the end under the false impression that he doesn’t deserve the success he attained.

There’s some interesting talk of the marketing of the Bones Brigade too, and it’s fascinating to see how these personalities came together to change the industry, but Mullen’s final summary (see his excellent TED talk for an expansion of this worldview) as quoted above should stick with viewers, even if they get lost mid Rodney’s trail-of-thought., It’s a joy to celebrate legends while they’re still living. If you want a semi-definitive skate history you’re going to have to set aside at least 10 hours and play ‘Dogtown & Z-Boys’, ‘Bones Brigade: An Autobiography’, ‘Rollin Through the Decades’, ‘Stoked’, ‘The Man Who Souled the World’ and ‘Deathbowl to Downtown’ in one sitting, This documentary is an era of neon icons thoughtfully distilled. Who thought the stars of the only non-porn VHS you paused and rewound until they had a permanent static mist would wind up getting this kind of glossy treatment 25 years later?

In all honesty, there still isn’t a skate documentary that can surpass the skateboarding dog in sunglasses at 1:48 into 1976’s ‘The Magic Rolling Board’ (kudos to eDboy1955 for uploading this 16mm transfer). Skate peaked right there.

Berlin just got a pop-up Stüssy store in association with the gents at Civilist accompanied by an exhibition of German photographer and streetwear don Konsti’s work in documenting the city’s close-knit Tribe back in 1989. For years these guys had to make do with tees and sweats listing other cities, but now there’s a Stüssy Berlin collection. About time too.

After a recent post about Nike Cram shoes and another regarding Jimmy Saville’s formidable footwear collection, the impending Jimmy Saville auction is riddled with deadstock rarities. OG Pegasus, Terra T/Cs, Le Coq runners, unworn Cram Windrunners and ZX 600s are all in the mix. Jim might be fixing a posthumous wish for some fanboys out there who rarely see these things on sale.

With all the unnecessary brouhaha about Frank Ocean swinging both ways (doubly baffling, because more than a few soul stars have been gay and a handful of hip-hop pioneers are gay too), it’s fun to see that MMG members have been liberally and obliviously using the word “poof” as the sound of a genie-style magic trick being executed as per the chorus to ‘Black Magic’ where Rick Ross ditches MC Hammer during a backseat brainstorm smokeout in favour of the equally satin suited Vegas magic legend David Copperfield. Everyone’s favourite goon turned lyrical monster Gunplay even added a hashtag to it. The song could be misinterpreted as a pink pound anthem,“Pooof! There go the car! Pooof! There go the crib! Pooof! A 100 mill! Whooo! David Copperfield!” If ‘Black Magic’ blows up and goons in clubs do magical fingers at every #poof, I want to see it.

2012 and 2013 is the year are the years of missing the point by remaking Paul Verhoeven films. The mock ‘Rekall’ ads in the States for ‘Total Recall’ are pretty poor and should have been briefs for real ad agencies if the quest was to go “viral” or get attention and now it’s official that ‘Robocop’ is being remade, thanks to this OmniCorp commercial. I’m glad Hollywood is going tits up. Without bodies used as shields, Michael Ironside, rapists being shot in the genitals and ED-209 turning an employee into tomato puree, a remake of Verhoeven’s work is pointless. I hate ‘Robocop 2’ but even the ads within that film were better than this teaser.

For no reason other than because I didn’t update this blog on Wednesday (blame German Wi-Fi). here’s a couple of Nike-related ads from years ago.


This week I learnt a few things. Some PR people don’t like me any more (and emailed me to tell me that), Tumblr is a more powerful traffic source than big blogs as far as click-throughs go and the people who laughed at me when I told them that there would be some kind of hype Huffington Post method of content syndication were wrong, because my buddies at Hypebeast put my last entry up as an op-ed. Unfortunately I’ve been basking in some kind words and an abundance of snack foods that made me forget to blog yesterday, and this evening I’m hyping up those Concord XIs for sale, so I’m busy again. Christmas is a special time of year when people punch each other in the face in Texan shopping malls for shiny toed basketball shoes. If ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was made now, it would end with Jimmy Stewart shoulder barging a thirteen year old boy out the doorway of the Bedford Falls branch of NikeTown before running home triumphantly with a snow drenched Jordan box under his arm.

I’ve become addicted to sneaker footwear beef via YouTube of late – people doing “show reviews” via video is nothing new, but there’s a whole culture of beef, with disses and response videos regarding allegations of Jordan fakery and other such matters. Dribblez Tha God (“What the hell is the deal YouTube?”) resides in VA and he’s far more gooned-out than most — he’s always calling out his opponents and questioning their sexuality in angry rants. One 17:51 minute long rant involves him waving cheques and exposing alleged infidelity via text message — sports footwear = serious business. Dribblez even has his own clothing range (YOUTUBE’S MOST HATED MAN!!), that includes a t-shirt that embodies everything that the term “sneakerhead” conjures up to me — the font and the ultra literal image is a killer combo.

Seeing as tomorrow is Jordan brawl day, it’s probably an okay time to dump a piece I wrote that got rejected by Sneaker Freaker for the new issue in favour of people holding up shoes and an NB 574 based on Ray Meagher. It was meant to be an exploration of why people are preoccupied with Jordans rather than contemporary basketball shoes, but it turned into a rambling 2000 word waste of energy pretty quickly. But fuck it, here it is and there’s three of my favourite Nike Basketball ads at the bottom to reward anybody who scrolls down. That 1981 Dynasty one stays classic:

(Unpublished draft)


Whatever happened to all the heroes? We see the billboards, the constant stream of Flash videos deifying athletes and the constant updates, pumping jpg after clinically cropped jpg of signature shoe colourways way before release courtesy of those crafty back door factory super villains, but where’s the sense of magic that elevated players to the point of deification? Why aren’t we seeing the new brace of basketball shoes worn as much at street level as Mike, Sir Charles and Patrick’s signature shoes were?

Basketball shoes are evolving at a serious rate — just as 1992’s Olympic rollout pushed classics like the Force 180 and the Beijing festivities gave us the debut of Flywire on a court shoe, London’s summer event has kickstarted some new innovations, whether it’s the ankle reinforcement of the new Kobe design, the Y-3 inspired stretch lace strap of adidas’s D. Rose sequel or the Pro Combat lined LeBron 9, we’re less likely to see them on a foot than the shoes of old. Once, the boldness of the Jordan V, Flight Lite and — for the fortunate few — the towering Command Force were on the street, in an audacious era of neons, tongues hanging out like a dog from a car window and wealth measured in bulk and gimmicks. It wasn’t enough to have performance aiding technologies — people needed to see.

But ahead of all that, there was Michael Jordan, a player who transcended the sport. Whether those Mars ads hit your screens or not, the Jumpman was all-reaching. In an era where shoe-related crimes could hit the headlines and be enough of a zeitgeist to become soap opera drama devices, the price tag and escalating war of technologies had the masses scrambling for the shoes. The name alone conjured up a superhuman spirit, even if you’d never seen the man play.

Bucks exec Bob Zuffalato’s remark,”The man doesn`t live on Earth. He just shows up on Earth for practice and game days” hyped up that desire for a piece of Jordan product, whether it was a shirt or the shoes themselves. Jordan spinoffs of the original, like the (then) rarely seen KO created a blueprint for spinoffs within a signature series. After 1985’s first chapter, the II and III were a tougher find. By 1989’s IV was a more accessible option. Without cameras in the pocket of every attendee and coverage a Google search away, we were told that the offending “banned” Jordan shoe was a Jordan I rather than an Air Ship in black and red. Myths were easier to make back then.

The financial boomtime that fuelled the early days of Jordan allowed for extra risks. Sartorial conservatism was absent, in contrast to the powers that be at the time. There was less fear of strange. For all the informational exposure, the current generation likes to play it relatively safe. Given the moral implications of such a question, it’s tough to determine just how much a crack epidemic popularised bigger and better basketball shoes, but it was undeniably powerful in fuelling those ‘80s icons.

Then things began to look backwards in the early ’90s. Suedes, Campus and Cortez became desirable again beyond the hands of a few deadstock Columbos. Capitalising on the boom 1994’s retro III and early 1995’s retro I might have landed with an indifferent thud, but just as the post XI Jordan releases from 1996 became so admirably offbeat that only a basketball and inner city audience seemed to appreciate the output, Nike had forged a second lane to catch the new breed of nostalgics. Smart move. Creating a full Jordan brand in 1998 was even smarter, signing up athletes from multiple disciplines. All that before Google even went live.

After Jordan’s retirement Penny Hardaway was the logical successor to MJ’s sneaker dynasty, with a run of innovative releases, including the Foamposite — Nike’s next shock-to-the-system, but it never seemed to rock pop culture like the Jordan phenomenon. For regions where basketball isn’t a second language, Chris Webber, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Penny’s status travelled by the shoes on their feet rather than their feats on the court.

Still, despite strong product elsewhere, a wave of sneaker retrospect salted the earth for generations that followed. Nobody else could have a franchise on Mike’s scale, with its mix of talent, innovative marketing and a moneyed time that allowed for expensive output and a demanding audience. You can’t synthesize a moment like that. Not only is Jordan DNA in subsequent shoes, but it’s also embedded in the psyche of multiple generations passing that reverence for Jordan down to sons, grandsons, younger brothers an nephews. That’s a powerful lineage of brand loyalty.

But beyond that, why aren’t people freaking out over the latest basketball releases on a grand scale? The product’s there and Eric Avar and Jason Petrie are putting out work that certainly doesn’t pale alongside Tinker’s best moments. Do people want the “now” or will they hunt it down as a hybrid retro in fifteen years’ time? So why aren’t, say, Kobe and LeBron, creating seismic activity on the same level beyond basketball and inner city audiences when it comes to their footwear?

One theory could be an insatiable thirst for information that tarnishes attempts at mythmaking. All iPhones are on Kobe and LeBron at any given time — mouthing something regrettable becomes something that makes national headlines and it’s there in flash format for repeat viewings, again and again and again. No amount of Sonny Valachi formulated sports marketing can clean that up without a few specks remaining. It limits damage limitation. Google doesn’t forget easily. How would Michael Jordan have fared in the smartphone flashlight? With cameras in every pocket comes great responsibility.

There’s anecdotes and a few headlines, but with the lens readily available in clubs and casinos things could have been different. How many other NBA players with big money shoe contracts would have fizzled out if their behaviour was traced 24-7? It’s tough to place a player on the pedestal and make them seem immortal nowadays. That’s a “what if?” to match the-what-if-Michael-Jordan-signed-to-adidas? query. Would he have had some Forum-alikes that shifted some units because adidas didn’t have Peter Moore (yet) or Bruce Kilgore or Tinker, or would he have shifted the fortunes of adidas’s basketball division? LeBron’s 2010 media circus and oft-parodied aspirations for a league title buffed the shine a little too. With twitter allowing constant contact it’s tougher to remain necessarily aloof. Now, that constant contact and ability to know what to wait for means you’re perennially half-a-year ahead in terms of planning spending. We’ve lost the unexpected sense of shock and awe that opens the wallet.

Less choice in the 1980s than today’s wealth of retro, mashup and contemporary creations allowed the Jordan franchise to build, but there’s something to be said for the Wieden+Kennedy print and TV ads of the time. Now we’re assailed by attempts to monetize the internet, with popups, annoying 30-seconds of videos before videos and desperate attempts to go “viral” whereas a risky but iconic campaign, deliberately paced and the copy-heavy, powerful slogans of the 1980s and early 1990s proved deeply effective. Now the complete campaign seems a little more fragmented and the scope for distraction from the overall message is immense.

Style has changed – the power to say, “fuck you, this is what shoes look like now” has been replaced by an easier mode of consumer research that can be electronically aided. That fuels a certain low-risk style. Jeans were tight when bulky early Jordan shoes dropped and they’re tight again. Do consumers run to the new big shoes? Nope, not when there’s some Jordan Vs readily available. Zack Morris-style denim might be back, but that’s no use to new shoes with show-off features if ‘Saved By The Bell’ era shoes can still be bought.

Take a look at any hip-hop record (remember those big black discs?) sleeve from 1987 to 1993 and Jordan’s present somewhere if there’s a group shot. Even metallers, from the heavier sector like Dave Mustaine, to the weedier hair rockers like Kip Winger were repping the Jumpman. Even God-fearing oldies’ favourite Cliff Richard had been snapped in a pair of IVs. For the most part, the death of the album cover in the MP3 era could have been detrimental to the newer basketball styles.

Who could gawp and aspire any more? When it comes to newer shoes, they’re up against brand Jordan’s seeding savvy — Wale, Khaled, Rick Ross and other Maybach Music affiliates have broken out the ‘Brons as a refreshing alternative, but those Jordans are still the video stars (with flash video being the key visual vessel for hip-hop in 2011). Jay and ‘Ye’s ‘Otis’ is a perfect example. Would a contemporary comedian ever break out Kobes or LeBrons like Jerry Seinfeld in the V, VI and VII or a pre-Simple Larry David behind-the-scenes in VIs? Louis CK in Kobes? Andy Samberg in LeBrons? We haven’t seen that yet.

Each Jordan instalment is about all change. The franchise was powerful enough to allow for risks and as a collaborator Mike was open to madness at a pivotal time for innovations – from innovative colour blocking to Italian-construction during the crack era, visible air and — in latter chapters —interchangable innovations. Those colours, a lack of iD accessibility (you got what you were given) and patterns as integral to the shoes as the technologies were definitive. Now we know there’s more around the corner and sheer wealth of options can water down the offerings and dilute any notion of a definitive shoe.

From the beginning, the Jordan shoes tell a story of sneaker design’s evolution from simplicity to brave, avant-garde silhouettes, regardless of your opinion on the shoes. LeBron’s collection is strong, but there’s certain similarities between key chapters simply because that’s what the athlete favours and needs — Kobe’s adidas to Nike brand switch waters down that shoe legacy (try as you might, that Audi effort makes the Jordan XV look downright sleek by comparison. The stories don’t flow as effortlessly as Jordan’s basic shoe to moonboot narrative. Eric Avar’s work for Kobe for the lower IV and the even lower later instalments is excellent, but Mr. Bryant has an influential formula that works for him and it’s some fine and accessible variations on a theme.

Then there’s good old ability — it’s all in the stats. Numbers don’t lie. 38 points with a stomach bug? 10 NBA scoring titles? Twin that with some of the greatest marketing ever and it’s a hard act to follow. And if those spectacular sneaker design precedents and creation of a retro basketball market weren’t enough to kill your footwear franchise, Mike goes and contributes to the NBA lockout so nobody gets to publicly play in the shoes at all. Now that’s true boss behaviour.


Hype makes the industry tick. No blog buzz within 24 hours of launch? Disaster. Nothing gets time to breathe. I find myself laughing at peers picking up on something that went wall-to-wall on Facebook 48 hours prior, and it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’m convinced that the downside of this quick hit, tentacled notion of “street culture” is that while it might snake out far beyond printed tees (and my friend Mr. Marcus Troy made an interesting point on Hypebeast regarding the possibility that too many brands might be dwelling on an “over it” audience at the expense of an audience who want to wear caps, tees and hats, rather than washed-out, button-down blues), it doesn’t seem to take time to create any roots.

I also think that exposure to everything that goes down globally in ten minutes of browsing is homogenising local scenes. I still the joys of information overload provide benefits that outweigh that issue, but I felt it was something worth discussing, because when you turn into a miserable old fuck like me, you cease to create, and commence with utterly unnecessary introspect. Eugene at Hypebeast was kind enough to let me vent a little on the site about a lack of movements (though the title accidentally invokes my lazy way of life and approach to my career too), complete with a little disclaimer too for the site’s Op-Ed experiment.

Lest I look too much like an ageing hipster doofus, I wrote it a short time before the OFWGKTA movement truly went mainstream with the Kimmel and bug-chewing and I realised that nearly every hip-hop blog had become a redundant Johnny-come-lately. So please allow for the token trendy dad reference point. It’s the kind of unfocused ramble you might find here – mostly BlackBerry written and bearing my trademark cavalier approach to grammar. But the aim wasn’t another tiresome things were better in 19_ _ or 20_ _” rant, rather a query as to how cultures might progress in the abundant information age. You can find it here. The next Hypebeast crossover with this self-indulgent corner of the internet will be more focused, but it’s a fun opportunity I appreciate.

Any talk of HYPE also reminds me of the excellent 1989 Sports Illustrated article of the same name, talking about the relationship between sport and hyperbole, using the white leather jacket with “Don’t Believe the Hype” in gold and black across the back that Mike Tyson was fetching from Harlem’s Dapper Dan store at 4 in the morning when he ran into Mitch “Blood” Green and left him needing expensive sunglasses.

Just as the Lo-life gang’s illicit efforts popularized Polo, Hilfiger Nautica and The North Face in such a way that they altered street style forever, Dapper Dan deserves similar status — Gucci, MCM and Louis Vuitton can’t have been too pleased to see themselves bootlegged to the point where folk thought they might be making the madcap items taking pride of place on record sleeves sailing up the Billboard charts, but they created a brand loyalty and aspiration that’s made these houses a fortune. The Louboutin Swizz hookup and Kanye Vuittons are the by product of what “Dapper” Daniel Day was capitalizing on when he stayed open 24 hours for an audience of celebrities and the criminal minded back in the day.

Exclusive Game clothing are following that lineage with their gear for Jadakiss, Rick Ross and Diddy (check the custom MCM piece in the ‘Another One’ video) and anyone crying “FAKE!” might be missing the point. I only recently noticed that DJ E-Z Rock is wearing some customised Louis Vuitton monogram Air Force 1s in Janette Beckman’s 1988 photo shoot for the ‘It Takes Two’ album. Maybe I’d always been too distracted by the early Uptown sighting on an artist’s foot as well as that Dapper Dan tracksuit to pay full attention to the swoosh and heeltab. I always thought the designer fabric Air Force was a late 1990’s phenomenon, but this was Harlem style in full effect.

PHADE and the crew’s Shirt Kingz empire that ran relatively concurrent to the Dapper Dan movement with their printed sweats and tees deserves its props as part of the bigger contemporary picture now too. Mr. Paul Mittleman posted up some images of the crew’s heyday (I love the Safari sighting and some shots reiterate just how popular the Air Force II was — there’s some Assault action beyond the Fat Boys too) recently and it was clear that while the west had its own surf and skate culture for new brands to gnaw on, hip-hop’s golden age informed the east coast’s streetwear — Jamaica Coliseum Mall, where the Kingz had their retail operation apparently has a stall selling airbrushed shirts up to the present day, but PHADE, NIKE and KASHEME helped form a uniquely hip-hopcentric apparel and an industry that’s worth billions.

Shit, even the cheap artist photo tees that followed (usually incorporating a deceased artist) inspired Supreme’s teamups with Raekwon, Jim Jones and Juelz, plus the rest of those eBay-friendly releases. That lineage makes the sight of a sullen Lou Reed on a shirt even more entertaining.


“In these times, you can’t get a job as an executive unless you have the educational background and the opportunity. Now, the fact you don’t have a job as an executive is merely because of the social standing of life.”

Pause. You know what? Hip-hop’s pretty gay. I’m not talking the rumours of green-eyed producers, musclebound ladies men, middle finger issuers and hypemen. The Furious 5 and company’s attire could be dismissed as fruity, but they seemed to be dressing akin to Rick James at the time. Rick’s attire on the front of ‘Street Songs’ is flamboyant, but he’s just paralleling the Prince approach of being so swaggeringly hetro, one can dress like they’re some kind of future-loverman. Nah. As hip-hop veers between curiously conservative and utterly audacious, 2010 is the year it seems to have opted to get even gayer. It even goes beyond Lil ‘B’s ‘Pretty Bitch’ – eccentric as it was, Brandon’s boasts felt as ultra-straight as Prince Rogers Nelson’s self-adulation. It’s in the behaviour that social media is fueling.

Can any other musical form boast an audience this desperate for gossip? Jeezy alludes to Rawse and the entire hip-hop nation gets all theatrically, “Oh no he didn’t!” Even the mildest verses are being scrutinised in the search for the “shots” and joy in perceived slights. Jeezy’s right when he laments that, “Twitter is a muthafucka, by the way.” That hunger for drama is insatiable. Rappers face the camera to address any rumour, scowling soul mates of the Britney meme man. Just as so many gay fashionistas are opting for extreme ink, that neck of thorns is just as likely to be shared by the next southern phenomenon. Amplified levels of toplessness in any press shots up the flamboyance. The quest to give that ink an outing is outing emcees.

Yet even more oddly, hip-hop culture gets even more homophobic and insecure. Cam’Ron and company opened the gates for a retraction after each sentence, but now we’re pausing our way through stop-start conversations. It’s fun, but again, it’s pretty gay. Kanye’s never shied away from the finer things in life, and his current besuited persona, driving the Twitterverse to the point of mania is some executive styling. This can only have ramifications. Just as his big shoe movement and a slimmer denim style had the biters geared up in mismatching, borderline feminine attire, Mr. West is bringing back the suit. Cue Rapidshare rappers everywhere breaking out their big-shouldered funeral suits. Everyone’s the CEO of their label now too. There’s plenty of folk playing at being shot collars on a business level. The mere notion of realness as a sham that revelations of Rick Ross’s past revealed, built on who makes the most mixtapes and has the best ear for a beat, isn’t too far away from the notion of ‘Realness’ espoused in the classic 1990 documentary, ‘Paris is Burning’.

Rap’s rarely been rooted in reality. There’s always been performance, but for a former CO to play kingpin and be as accepted as Armin Tamzarian ultimately was in his Skinner role is the ultimate reinforcement that hip-hop is about that theatrical facade of Realness. Realness in the ball circuit was about convincingly passing as someone else – for example, hardrock posturing, trying to pass as straight. There’s definite parallels. Truth be told, as long as the records are hot, it’s all good, but as the members of the House of Chanel and House of St. Laurent proved, it’s about the escapism of that fakery. Even the designer name fixation that Kanye’s blown up to the point where Jadakiss talks Margiela and Rawse talks Rick Owens bears similarities to their flamboyant theatre of competition.

The best moment in Jennie Livingston’s masterpiece is the notion of ‘Executive Realness’ where suited participants compete in a walk-off, trying to look as powerful and business-like as possible. Opening a briefcase to reveal paperwork elicits rapturous applause. It’s a momentary attempt to defy the social standing participants have found themselves in, and total role play. At least they’re honest about the performance aspect. The CEO stance and power-tailoring is pure hip-hop. Taz, ‘Ye and Cudi took the look to Paris last year for their infamous, ultra-fly group shot. In fact, ‘Style Wars’ and ‘Paris Is Burning’ are as essential as each other in documenting 1980s New York. There’s a grit to them and that same determination to rise above that occasionally seems utterly doomed. Shit, ‘Paris Is Burning’ is even laden with designer clothing boosts. Again, what’s more hip-hop than that? And what’s more punk rock than CAP or Pepper LaBeija?

Now every blogger’s a fashion guru and 8 out of 10 twats are claiming stylist status, maybe that notion of ‘Executive Realness’ spills beyond the rap realm to other cultures tainted by perpetrators. But that’s a whole other post…


That title’s not a cancer reference. We’re talking Champion. Over the months this blog’s been mired in references to reverse weave, from talk of the genesis of the tactically stitched build, hardcore and No Mas’s loving tribute to the US-made versions. It’s time to dead that obsession on this URL, but not before one final love letter to Champion products. Well, it is Valentine’s day.

Hip-hop and Champion sit together like any other re-appropriation of the basics the subculture’s popularized, but while the bulbous fit with the ‘C’ on the sleeve largely represents the east coast from ’91-’94, and the brand never really left us, it’s currently in the midst of a renaissance. Is it tactical distribution from the brand? Who knows, but Jadakiss, Nas, Rae and Cam’ron have been C’d out in the heft of the Super Hood lately, while 50, Ghost and Rick Ross have been spotted in the brand’s newest creation – the Super Crewneck.

As staple as Polo in the cotton fleece arena, the brand’s gone one further with a giant applique ‘C’ that seems like a gloriously low-end retort to the big ‘Lo horse and rider (if a connection to the house of Ralph seems far-fetched check the feature below from December 1991 drawing a parallel).

It’s almost as far removed from the neat, slimmer cut Japan-made replicas of marl grey American masterpieces as you can get – ‘almost’ is employed there because the thinner, Double Dry fleece Classic Sweatshirt, another personal favourite, is cheap (fifteen bucks!) cheerful, and available in a mindbending array of shades, including some of the colours that had fans scrambling when they were in a reversed stitch. Many would prefer to shell out extra for the sleeve ‘C’ and a thicker cotton and polyester blend, but some might be able to appreciate that dementedly low pricepoint.

From the vintage shades, Cazal logo face ink and enlarged Vuitton custom gear, Officer Rawse has a certain aspirational aura that took a Champion fanboy back to the characters that elevated an athletic brand to him in the first place. It’s tough to single out the non-hardcore musical endorsees who made their mark the hardest wearing Rochester’s finest. Notable examples are MC Lyte in the snap button jacket in 1989’s ‘Self Destruction’ video, and Rakim’s large tonal logo on an orange hoodie during a 1992 MTV appearance, worn with white AF1s too. Inspirational. To be inspired to hunt down a sweat because a rapper wore it is some boom-bap pensioner behaviour – an act of second childhood, with that hefty branding acting as the perfect analogy for hip-hop’s current louder, brasher state, compared to the lowkey single vinyl murk of ’93.

Champion USA now resides comfortably as part of the Hanesbrand family – fitting that the Beefy-T and Reverse Weave are related in their much-loved basics that a certain subsection of Brits in particular, worship. It’s the American Classics generation – that store doesn’t get its full recognition, peddling the import necessities since 1981.

The curious lack of recent availability of classic (respect to the Original Store for filling a gap in the market) Champion products in the UK has given a new Reverse Weave the power to incite conversations between strangers – while fat laces and Vans are now no mark of a like mind, that ‘C’ still has clout. The Italian distributor catering to the EU is slipping, yet they’ve happily franchised the footwear side to produce some budget shockers, though to be fair, in NYC these Air Max 87 copies were spotted. C’mon Champion, when you dropped the suede block colour mids in 1990 with a spurious technology, we could sit them next to the Fila F13. These knockoffs damage the brand as a whole.

Not a good look.

And yes, the Double Dry and Super Crewneck have the ‘flying squirrel’ fit on the arms; minimal waist or cuff lengths, a preposterous amount of room, and room at the front for a fifty inch chest. But the high school jock fit is part and parcel of the contemporary Champion experience. The colours and thickness on the Super Crewneck in particular, are good. As the picture of Mr. Ross indicates, even with his weight, he’s not packing one of these bad boys out. At least the wrist ‘C’ is stitched rather than stuck on, and the Super Crewneck is bonkers enough to justify purchase if you’re a brand disciple. And yes, while the equally insane Super Letterman jacket feels like excellent value, padded, and only eight-five bucks, it’s just as hefty.

Double Dry & Supercrew – A whole lotta sleeve.

Those residing in Japan get some extra breaks. Asia’s licensee loves Champion. A cursory visit to sportswear mecca Oshman’s reveals gems. Having been introduced to the tees they sell by Michael Kopelman, who knows his garments, I noticed you’ll get none of the supersize with the China-made ‘Champion Products Inc.’ label pieces – from the neck detailing to the slimmer fit, they’re a near perfect shirt. The Reverse Weave zip parkas and crewnecks are slimmed-down too and superior in quality. There’s oddities too, like grey-on-grey polka dot zip parkas, yet somehow it all works.

If that doesn’t sate the Reverse Weave appetite, Osaka’s HUNKYDORY  have been dropping gems with an American-made replica line. We might be done with the US build preoccupation, but these fits here are superior, and these are beautifully packaged. The Remake Crew Sweat takes it way, way back, but the Reverse Weave Crew Sweat is all that the brand’s output could and should be. Beautiful. There you have it – from the ridiculous, to the sublime.