No time to write so it’s time to throw up more Polo and RRL ads from the past. It’s safe to say that the saxophone tie isn’t the strongest look from the Ralph Lauren archives — their ad spend in magazines during the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed to be enough to buy a private island. I still need to dig out that LIFE article from around this time that debuted the American flag knitwear.
There’s not a lot of stones left to shift in the quest to bring old classics back, but the New Balance M997 seems to have been resurrected the right way. It took a lot to release a shoe in 1990 that had some visual restraint that affords it an ageless quality, but NB did it with this one, despite applying all kinds of technologies like motion devices and rubber compounds with complicated names.
It’s a good time to be into the most esoteric and underexplored elements of hip-hop culture — there’s books on European b-boys posing and there’s a Shirt Kings retrospective, so why shouldn’t there be a book of Buddy Esquire’s flyer art? Born in the Bronx was a good primer, but Buddy Esquire: King of the Hip-Hop Flyer arrives in June and delves a little deeper of the man who created modern art from the flyer format before it was just a case of Photoshop and an existing iconic image.
Salutes to Alex Dweck for reminding me about the Givenchy Pervert piece’s parallels with a pioneering brand from the past.
As time goes on, what was once the shit — something worth seeking out — can disappear into anonymity. Due to streetwear’s cyclical nature, a healthy dose of reverence whenever content creation’s constant sprawl looks for an industry retrospective, the majority of brands I grew up loving have maintained longevity. Stüssy is still powerful, Supreme evolved, Holmes morphed into Silas who reappeared a little less appealing but seemed to transfer that old spirit into Palace, Fuct stays excellent, Nigo’s role in BAPE was minimized but the brand still has some clout, X-Large is big in Japan (or at least it seems to be), Gimme5 still has distribution clout, Fresh Jive does whatever the fuck it wants, Eightball and Droors gave way to DC, Union still does great work in Los Angeles, SSUR is on a wave right now, former Phat Farm and PNB operatives have huge roles in the industry, Zoo York fell off but the key people there made their own mark, STASH and Futura made good livings post NFC, Kingpin was great (R.I.P. Bleu Valdimer) but seemed to stop in the transition to Project Dragon. There’s a whole lot more, but for the most part, they’re either still in business or there’s a reasonable explanation as to why they shut up shop. All except Pervert.
Obsessing over stock at Planet in my hometown, Slam City, Bond and Dr Jives, Pervert was always a brand I actively hunted — it seemed to have the hip-hop and rave crossovers, captured the acid jazz craze of the time and had skater appeal too. Harking from Miami’s South Beach they had that beach life authenticity that made Stussy seem so authentic back when it debuted. That was a region that never seemed to be represented by anything this credible (Miami’s Stray Rats has done some strong work for the city in the last few years with a healthy respect for Pervert’s work), but Pervert had the name, had a photogenic frontman (and a great BMXer in his youth) who got some profiles in mainstream magazines like ‘Rolling Stone’ (see below) back when being in print was a huge deal in the shape of founder Don Busweiler who started it in his late teens. Trademarking Pervert branding in mid 1990 for “hats, T-shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, footwear, headwear, and swimwear”, Busweiler can be considered an elder statesman of streetwear (I don’t use that hated umbrella term lightly, but when a brand isn’t necessarily a skate brand but trades in printed and embroidered cotton, it’s all I can do).
Pervert’s Animal Farm store was an operations base (stocking Stussy, Fuct, Fresh Jive and the rest) and they were actively involved in the local club scene. It’s a testament to Pervert’s role locally that anyone I’ve met from Miami who’s 30+ years of age seemed to have something to do with the Pervert crew in one way or another. The brand would have cleared up in any number of streetwear booms, the rise in Mo’ Wax and the affiliated toys and tees — even multiple quick cash crazes for parody shirts (next time you see a PUMA tee in a tourist trap souvenir store, think of Don and his team), but it never lasted long enough, because in 1995, after a relationship breakup, Don Busweiler ended Pervert and joined Jim Roberts’ Brethren cult (also know as the Garbage Eaters) with its Christian values that pretty much deem anyone doing anything different a practitioner of perversion.
The beards and bikes of male Brethren members might seem hipster-esque, and the cult’s famous bin-dipping is bizarre, but there’s a real tragedy to this story — the comments on this post hint at the emotional damage of Don’s (apparently calling himself Micaiah) or disappearance and his parents have been quoted in documentaries and articles on Roberts’ activities. ‘God Willing’, a recent documentary (screened on PBS) documents the anguish of the parents of children who vanished to join the nomadic Roberts group and it’s powerful stuff. The ABANDONED status code of Pervert’s trademark hints at the sudden end of the brand. It’s a sad story of what could have been, but the impact Busweiler and the team made in those few short years is significant, but alas, it all occurred before the internet became an extension of the world we live in, so informationally, it’s as if it barely ever existed. I guarantee the influence of Pervert has corrupted your wardrobe in one way or another — bear in mind that Supreme’s creative director Brendon Babenzien started his career at Pervert.
If you haven’t already watched everything on the Gasface’s channel. including all five ‘Think B.I.G.’ installments, you’re slipping. Everyone with an SLR with filming capabilities might be a filmmaker now, but these French hip-hop obsessives are masters of their art. Somebody should just give these guys their own channel as the prove that only the French can do rap nostalgia and digging without coming off corny.
That was a lazy blog post, right? Here’s a load of old RRL and Polo Sport ads to pad it out. I know you love that stuff as much as I do (except that white guy with dreads).
That London RRL store on Mount Street has got me wanting to spend. The navy dip dyed stuff, deerskin hunting vests, Cordovan shoes which — like many Japanese repro merchants — make use of boxes of deadstock Cat’s Paw heel units, and an awesome N-3 snorkel parka made with Buzz Rickson are all expensive but beautiful. Somehow everything on this blog manages to revert to Polo talk. Last week I heard somebody remark that Polo had gone “commercial.” It was curious to see a complaint like that leveled at a billion dollar business, but we’ve all had that moment in time where a brand feels like our own cosa nostra, oblivious to its history and just how many folks got there before we did. One thing’s for sure – with the Independent and Guardian Facebook apps spitting out old articles and dry snitching on the reader via that loose lipped little column on the right, the British broadsheets only got round to discussing the Lo Life “phenomenon” this summer. Then that UK Lo-Life documentary embarrassed the nation.
Going back almost twenty years, ‘The Face’ was there relatively early, typifying what made the magazine so essential under the Sheryl Garrett administration with the October 1992 (when in doubt, pillage ‘The Face’ archives — please, please, please can somebody make a DVD set of issue scans or a pay-per-view database of that magazine’s halcyon years) feature, ‘Living The Lo Life’ by Steven Daly. It’s a memorable feature for a number of reasons — the gear is fresh rather than tinged with not-as-good-as-it-was nostalgia, the footwear isn’t reissue and it answers and creates a few questions along the way. Young veteran Superia is an interesting focal point — dismissive of Lauren himself, applying a sense of activism to his crusade for fresh rather than reverence for Ralph and annoyed at Harlemite group Zhigge’s Polo gear until it’s revealed that they’ve got a Brooklynite in the crew.
We find out that JanSport is out and that Boostin’ Kev has been discredited too. Beyond that, the photography is excellent — David Perez Shadi (who’s worked with Supreme, BBC and ALIFE as well as being the man behind House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ video) took some incredible shots (the bandana is particularly memorable). What was shot but left out the feature? I’m keen to see the out takes.
The list of brands mentioned is interesting, with Tommy, Guess and Nautica joined by Duck Head – presumably only in vogue for a minute, but a curious brand that started life in the late 1800s as O’Bryan Bros workwear, selling union-made Duck Head overalls in the early 1900s, kitting out several country music artists in the 1960s and ending the 1970s with a surplus of 60,000 yards of khaki fabric that was bought by a mill operator, leading to the preppier incarnation of Duck Head that rose in popularity throughout the 1980s and early 1990s with a middle class audience, offering a kind of Polo-lite. They closed a Monroe, Georgia factory in 1996 and shifted manufacture abroad, floundering a little under new ownership and being purchased in 2003, leading to its current position as a merchant of fairly nondescript, low price dadwear. Still, it’s interesting that it once shared racks with Carhartt — another company given some unexpected innercity reappropriation at the same time Polo gear was sneaking past security.
I try to offset nostalgia here, but it seems we can’t avoid 1992’s tractor beam of bold labels and powerful pricetags. It seems to aggravate a few purists that rap’s golden era is a subjective thing — kids losing their mind to ‘Shot Caller’ right now wouldn’t want it any other way, no matter how many times you bang on about ‘Funky Child.’ Consider it a work in progress. But hip-hop attire always seems to hark back to exactly what Superia and his boys were preoccupied with. I’d love to see a publication with ‘The Face’s knack for prescience. Shit, I’d like to see a Friday night show that had segments like this James Lebon filmed piece on Shyheim for ‘Passengers.’
Sometimes it’s nice to break away from the WordPress logger look and wear something a little more progressive. The best work comes from those with a more nebulous approach to clobber than just remaking past triumphs and Mr. Dominic Stansfield is one of those chaps who knows clothing design inside out, displaying otaku levels of interest in military apparel, but grew bored of the fixation with all things waxy and quaint. As has been reinforced here and elsewhere, the best things come from the minds knowledgeable enough to get playful. They’re not the Muppets banging on about curating or tastemaking, but rather the ones quietly getting shit done in the background. Rushmore and Stansfield were doing the stuff that everyone’s into now a while ago and swiftly moved onto the next thing after suffering an attack of reverse nostalgia. Stansfield’s work was already playing with existing design rather than being some kind of repro-facilitator, so what would happen if he was given an almost limitless supply of manufacturing resources? You get UVU.
While we wait for Mr. Stansfield’s sweatshirt project (bearing in mind he appreciates a Reverse Weave or two), the UVU collection is shaping up nicely. Notions of everyday performance sound nice when they’re reeled off in a brainstorm for the easily impressed, but when they’ve got you looking like some kind of angular future cop from the waist up once they’re on your back, the novelty swiftly wears off. That’s why real performance needs to be the driving force of technical apparel somewhere down the line. That’s why I love Arc’teryx, ACG and Rapha. Bear in mind that even Hiroki Nakamura learnt his craft at Burton before he started emptying your pocket with those beautiful boots and jackets.
UVU is made by KTC, who know performance manufacture inside out and it shows in the samples. Just as there’s evidently room in the market for a hundred old Sierra Designs-alikes, there should be room for several technical contenders when that bubble bursts. Hopefully the explosion should usher in the next rather than some neo-heritage twattery. This interview with FreshBritain main man Bob Sheard on the KTC site, discussing breaking down costs, brand integrity and notions of authenticity is excellent, as is the piece on Chinese manufacture. Like most people, I feel the urge to kit myself out with gear that could perform. That’s not to say I’ll ever put my Lunar Eclipses or Arc’teryx Alpha SV through the paces that they’re built for, but it’s nice to know that in a pursuit situation, or should I find myself stranded on a hill somewhere, I might survive an extra quarter of an hour before I’m stabbed or eaten by a bear. That’s what made wearing the UVU North Pole Race Jacket to commute to work these last few weeks amusing.
I can’t say I put the jacket through its paces, but I enjoyed the experience, despite being a little thrown by the pockets zipping upwards. That’s the kind of thing I would probably appreciate if I was legging it in sub-zero conditions where time wasted equals fingertips. Intact fingers crossed, I’ll never find myself in that situation.
At an un-athletic, luddite level I appreciated the olive accents and reflective ‘U’ details, plus the way the hood protected my massive head from rain without sending me sprawling across a car bonnet when I was crossing Euston Road. There’s your performance review. Set to offer casual counterparts to each part of a hardcore, cold running layering system, you can expect water resistant fleece sweats and shirts (that’s shirting in bellend parlance) with bonded seams that don’t make you look like you’ve just fallen from space — again, to create wardrobe staples that can perform without getting tackily techy from a visual standpoint is quite an achievement. I’m interested in seeing where UVU goes in 2012.
I’m also interested in seeing what Mos Def, Chris Gibbs and Alyasha are cooking up collaboratively for 2012 too. Did they meet up as some secret society for the really fucking well dressed?
Rice-tranced rap god Riff Raff’s twitter antics are easily the best of any rapper doing social media (“TALKiNG ON MY iPHONE SMELLiNG LiKE A PiNE CONE”) and he’s also alluded that he’s selling a copy of his alien chain with an “Ain’t nothing important to me except …codeine over ice” cup. Riff-Raff is a good advert for codeine misuse, and his twitpic group shot of chains (sadly excluding his Slimer effort) is inspirational in its riced-out glory.
Searching for some old West Coast punk footage for one reason or another, I reacquainted myself with ‘Urban Struggle: The Battle of the Cuckoo’s Nest’ documentary, but I hadn’t seen this footage of Gary Panter and Penelope Spheeris being patronised by Stanley Siegel in 1981. The heavy metal kid in the Hawaiian shirt is a true boss.
I like Double RL a lot, even if it’s hideously overpriced. Now it seems to be enjoying its moment to truly shine, with Ralph Lauren’s baby — a veritable Mr. Benn dress up in worn-in seasonal costumes that reflect a specific period — being the brand to be wearing. Tres Bien’s recent (intelligent) blast at the RRL sell-in, which was refreshing in a world where everyone seems to be outwardly nice about everything, linked to their Flickr, where they upped a phenomenal set of A/W RRL 2011 lookbook images. Now that’s woah. Sweden’s Très Bien actually have an amazing blog. Now every store feels obliged to have a blog because some tit told them they should, but like Oi Polloi, Très Bien seem so at ease with their chosen subject matter that they can get funny with it — watch them get their Black Rob on in a Dries van Noten post like this. To quote Rawse, fuck a blog, dog (unless you’re going to say something interesting in it). Despite being part of a vast corporation, Double RL maintains a certain mystique, and what’s reported there is probably part of it. They don’t just throw those accounts around like the dudes with ankle-tapper denim that dwell in that strange heritage gear hall at BBB. The very thing that pisses off partner retailers
In terms of marketing and approach, Double RL’s experienced some changes, but I still love the visual language of some of Bruce Weber’s original ads. Once, this line was a personal crusade for Lauren, but a perennial loss-maker in his Ahab-style quest to break the denim market with something he felt was authentic. Continuing the nautical literary riffing, it seemed to be something of a painstakingly vintaged albatross around the great man’s neck, appearing like some attempt to cash-in on a non-existent audience of wealthy grungers who would shell out $175 for distressed jeans in 1993. The Double RL bus doing the college rounds back then seems a little at odds with the densely packed curiosity store spaces and concessions scattered around the globe now. Lauren wants to imbue these pieces with implied stories like a hipper J. Peterman and I’m a fan, but once upon a time, he was buying back $10 million dollar’s worth of unsold stock to prevent it hitting sale racks with a vengeance. However, those horses from summer 1993, previewing the line and a particularly prescient selvedge turnup and vulc shoe combination from 1994 made for bold, brilliant campaigns. By looking back, Lauren was way ahead of his time. Oh yeah, was somebody trustworthy talking about Polo being discontinued soon? I hope it was just a bad dream.
Anyway, these ads are from the 1993, 1994 and 1995 print campaigns.
It’s nice to see these Supreme London box logo stickers cropping up too. This one’s shamelessly swaggerjacked and cropped from the homie Nick’s Tumblr. You knew there’d be a Union Jack Supreme box logo didn’t you?
Anyone else out there in a job that they find tough to describe to elderly relatives, old school friends at reunions and taxi drivers? I sometimes lie and say I work in accounts, hoping that the interrogator doesn’t start asking me about software, modes of analysis, VAT loopholes or — in a worst case scenario — to help them with their tax return. It’s because I find most people to be nodding dullards at gatherings and I can’t be bothered to talk about trainers. I don’t care what they do and I know that they’re only asking about my occupation because we’re conversationally handicapped by the fact neither of us wants to be in the other’s company.
Occasionally I write some copy for brands. Sometimes they’re brands that even that person might know rather than some friend’s project which I would never bother even broach in awkward conversation. Those projects validate my existence to some degree and allow me to tell the truth at social events that aren’t some godawful product launch that’s full of boring “tastemakers” taking pictures of carefully lit displays and pulling those strange momentary vinegar faces behind their 5Ds as they prepare to make Tumblr history with their documented awesomeness.
It must be nice to be able to describe your occupation in at least four words without having to make some lame mumbled excuse for your existence.
Though I can remember back to being able to say that I worked in accounts or I worked in a warehouse back in the day, yearning to be doing something really wanky. I watched a documentary after leaving higher education that fired my imagination — it featured a bunch of people in an office in some up-and-coming “hub” area of London working as “creatives” for some creative agency that’s either long dead or a multiple Campaign award winner by now.
There was no set start or finish time (I was in a job where cigarette times were pretty much run to a stopwatch at this point) people brought in dogs and whizzed around on little metal scooters. They didn’t actually appear to do anything, and I fancied spending the rest of my life in a role like that. But my bland covering letters and C.V. that lied and said I swam and played guitar in my free time (my dad suggested that was better than “Watching weird films and hoarding sportswear”) didn’t even get me rejection letters. So I ended in various accounts roles, including one role that involved brokering prices for corpse cleanup, all requiring numbers rather than the written word and rendering me mediocre, with little chance of promotion.
I looked up to Soho’s Unorthodox Styles because they did cool shit with brands and obsessed about tropical fish, Supreme and Nikes. They even had a webcam in the office and used a mysterious thing called Blogger to keep people updated on their exploits. They appeared to be the opposite of the yellow tinted sunglass wearing, Star Wars t-shirt sporting buffoons whose jobs I coveted a couple of years previously — they actually appeared to work daft hours. Yet it looked to be worthwhile. And through gloriously convoluted circumstances, I ended up at Unorthodox Styles, and on arrival Mr. Russell Williamson told me that I was a copywriter, despite having no actual copywriting experience. Russell is awesome like that.
So when I’m asked how I got into this nonsense, all I can proffer is, “dumb luck”. Because I can’t be one of those people who acts like they’re reinventing the wheel with anything I assist with (writing, SMUs and all that works with it doesn’t feel like real work, so I can’t take it seriously), I don’t think I’m a very good copywriter at all, so I’m always looking for some education.
For years, I’d been ordered to invest in ‘The Copy Book’ but the madcap Amazon Marketplace prices put me off. I’d attempted to heist a copy but failed and got confused by the differences between the 1995 original and a paperback edition circa 2000 called ‘The Copywriter’s Bible’. But now those concerns are an irrelevance and if you were stockpiling a copy and watching those prices rise, your speculation failed, because TASCHEN’s vast reprint and redux with D&AD ups the original 32 participants to 48 and runs the gamut from long-form, text-heavy advertising masterpieces to memorable triple word campaigns.
The stylish cover’s transparent overlay depicts eye tracking data, reiterating that good copy is indeed a science. Some commentary and advice from some personal heroes like Dan Wieden, Dave Trott, Nigel Roberts (“Words are great. People still read. But they only read what they want to.”), Tony Barry and Marty Cooke is occasionally contradictory but always absorbing. The crisply reproduced ads that accompany each spotlighted author’s writing could prove beneficial for anyone looking to maintain brevity, attention and stay on message without resorting to repetition (or lazy alliteration like that).
With those excruciating paragraphs before I even mentioned the book title, I’m already ignoring the lessons within ‘The Copy Book’ but I recommend picking it up as a celebration of marketing’s true masterpieces. If advertising is ever whittled down entirely to 140 hyperbolic characters for tracked Retweets or a clickable YouTube video that purports to have been banned for “viral” purposes, at least there’s this document of a time when notepads, napkins, empty envelopes and leaflets unlucky enough to be in the line of fire were annihilated in the quest to perfect the message.
On that occasionally out-of-print subject, shouts to Jeff Staple on Twitter for reminding me of the existence of FontBook for iPad on Apple’s App store. £3.99 beats £285.29 on Amazon Marketplace. The compare function is invaluable.
I like ‘Men’s File’ magazine. It always feels like the team behind it like going out and doing stuff rather than thinking of ways to create photoshoots in parks or gawping at each other’s sockless McNairy-clad feet. I respect the fact that this publication has the RRL hookup, and has done for a little while now. Any rag can get a co-sign from whatever brand we’re jocking at the moment, but the RRL co-sign is strong. The team got the invite to visit the Double RL ranch and took military historian Simon Delaney with them as models. That’s deep. Unless you’re Oprah, those tepees are usually out-of-bounds.
After the Nike campus and archive, this was always my second dream field trip. Having visited the former, I fear the ranch is a little less feasible. Of course, it’s all cowboy dress up nonsense, but at the core of it, that’s Ralph’s hobby and as photoshoot locations go, it’s a tough one to beat. You can buy as much second hand Polo on eBay as you like, but riding an RL branded (not in the red-hot sense) horse trumps everything. Issue #5 also talks a little about Paris’s Apache gangs, which influenced the latest Mister Freedom collection. Apaches are a very interesting phenomenon — I hope Mister Freedom reproduces one of their amazing late 1800s knife/knuckleduster/gun hybrids too…
Speaking of Polo, shouts to Piff Gang for channeling the power of underrated Dipset spinoffs plus Currensy and Creative Control with a UK slant. My favourite UK rap is generally based on goonery. Piff Gang don’t trade in mindless goonery but they do smoke a lot, can flow and crucially, they don’t dress like they’re homeless — the downfall of many a UK MC who forgets the need for clean living in difficult circumstances. Phaze One is a solid MC and the rest of the crew bring it too. Bring on the mixtapes while the sun’s still making appearances over here…
‘Black Moon’ doesn’t involve drivebys on skateboards or anyone hitting their head on the concrete to beat defeat. It’s Louis Malle’s once-maligned, 100 minutes of glorious confusion, originally released in 1975. If you can kick back, spark one up and go with the flow, there’s something in here about nature, sexuality and, um, talking unicorns. I’ve never really read into this film any more than I’ve attempted to decipher Jodorowsky’s very best, but to have this weird contemporary fairy tale in Blu-ray format via Criterion in a couple of months is a winner.
As has been noted before, where, say, ‘The Holy Mountain’ feels like a director’s shamanistic mindset translated onto celluloid with an earnestness that pays dividends and makes the escalating madness so compelling, Malle doesn’t seem quite so strange and there’s a sense that he woke up one morning and decided to do a surreal film. That contrived senselessness and 1970s look actually makes me admire it a little more.
The original poster is one of my favourites, with that block lettering and bird/moon interface, but kudos to the Criterion designer who took on the challenge of not recycling the existing imagery with a Rorschach/face/unicorn hybrid and a particularly elegant font. ‘Black Moon’ isn’t the easiest film to summarize visually, but as ever this imprint comes correct.
Shit. That wasn’t much of a word count, was it?
Time for some barely connected discourse.
Seeing as any mention of Black Moon evokes some NYC spirit of a frequently referenced era, with all this Mobb hype I’ve been desperately hunting 2006’s Supreme Mitchell & Ness ‘Hennessey’ baseball jersey — a definite one that got away — that was part of that collection that included the long-sleeve shirts . I thought the Prodigy book might explain a little more about the ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’ but apparently P may have been too cracked out during the video shoot to shed too much light on them. Why were Hav and P’s tees lacking an ‘N’? Could they only accommodate ‘HENNESY’ or was there more to it? Gotta love the ‘QUEENS BRIDGE 95’ on the back. P knew they were important – hence their inclusion on the legendary 2008 ‘TRENDS PRODIGY HAS SET SINCE 1992 AND STILL IS SETTING IN 2008 AND BEYOND’ list, “#6 CUSTOM MADE FOOTBALL JERSEYS WIT HENNESSYand E&J ON EM“
After his Supreme shoot (the real Skateboard P?), Prodigy has been getting his streetwear on via a Mishka interview and shoot, but 40oz VAN NYC got involved a couple of months ago, with a shirt inspired by the legendary ‘HENNESY’ efforts too. They repaired that spelling as well, and managed to get a shot of the Mobb in the shirts too. That’s good going. Now they’re putting out some H.N.I.C. ones too. Somebody still needs to reinstate the typo.* But as Mr. Ben Rayner recently pointed out, who’s fucking with Project Pat’s ‘Tennessy’ tattoo in that classic font?
*Shouts to Alex for alerting me to this Hennessey mesh jersey sighting. I also recall an anecdote from someone (a skater?) about obtaining the actual one from the video.
On a New York subject, Mr. Charlie Morgan put me onto the Smart Crew’s blog and their ‘NYC A-Z Series’ highlighting some acts of lesser-known gulliness.The Canal Street instalment touches on topics raised in T.J. English’s ‘Born To Kill’ — a worthy supplement to the awesome ‘The Westies’ by the same author.
Aaron Bondaroff linked to a YouTube upload of ‘Apple Juice’ — a 1990 skate documentary made by the crew from New York’s Skate NYC store. You owe it to yourself to visit the awesome NY Skateboarding site’s blog and read the piece about the store there. While you’re there, read the previous entries too. Skate NYC’s roster included Harold Hunter and Jeff Pang, and the images that accompany the blog entry are crazy — the hangtag that accompanied Harold’s own t-shirt is especially amazing, and the below video they’ve unearthed is amazing too. And what’s the current status of the ‘SK8FACE’ documentary?
It was NYC’s skate culture 8 years before this kind of proto-hype lunacy:
When I was a child, I had a plethora of crappy sweatshirts bearing fictional baseball leagues and rally-related imagery. They were hastily cobbled together and I was once quizzed by a kindly doctor as to whether I did actually play baseball, which made me embarrassed and caused me to spin an outlandish lie which I’m sure he saw right through, but opted to play along regardless. That fills me with an odd feeling of embarrassment and nostalgia — the same nostalgia that led me to pick up this dumb but awesome RRL sweatshirt from the American Graffiti collection.
I think there’s some 1930s and 1950s influence in the collection, but beyond the references to some Bonneville Salt Flat hot rod legends, it just reminds me of that goofy sweatshirt. Like Garbstore’s 1950s-themed Mechanic Sweat, this design’s saddle sleeved assembly gives it some extra personality — the detailing on the underarm is even more severe than the British interpretation of vehicle-themed fleece cotton and the mix of marl colours is a winner. It also looks like some pyjamas I had when I was a toddler. Again, I believe that’s a strong selling point when it comes to sweatshirt purchase.
On that note, I recently saw someone selling Polo Western Wear jeans from 1979 on eBay with excitable talk of it being a proto-RRL. Wasn’t that the ill-fated Ralph Lauren GAP hookup that bricked even harder than RRL did in 1993?
2011 is going to be some kind of Dunk anniversary year. Remember when you went crazy for them in the late ’90s? The late 2002 official UK drops? The eventual ubiquity? I love the shoe because in a roundabout way (my current employer was built on the sale of imported Dunks—think Foot Action and Footwork—before they became easy-to-find) they’re the reason I work with sports footwear and in 2005 they seemed to peak as the definitive totem of hype culture. Then they tailspinned into themed tedium. There was a celebratory year in 2008 that didn’t make a lot of sense too. The solution is to go back to the essence (the TZ reissue of some beautiful concept Japan lows) and in the case of the SB division, to rebuild the Dunk for the new year. I think I might just care about this shoe all over again because I’m easily swayed on the footwear front.
It’s the shoe’s ability to work with bold colours, working in duos of neutral and eye-bleeding shades with what seemed to be limitless makeups that made them so darned appealing. Except there were actually limitations, so everyone became mildly preoccupied with Air Max 1s instead. Whereas you’ve only got to look at films, record sleeves or photos from the mid ’80s with eyes peeled to spot a Jordan 1 (the Dunk’s fancier, more hardwearing cousin), the Dunk is a little more elusive. Still, when they’re spotted, they tend to crop up in some pretty interesting places. If the appearance of the Iowa/Goldenrods on the cover of the Mix Crew’s obscure (and only release) ‘Black Leather,’ dating back to 1987 and twinned with some kind of Bermuda short leggings, plus tassled leathers, doesn’t ring a bell, how about the pair of St. Johns variations at the pajama party in Spike’s 1988 film, ‘School Daze’? Or the same colourway on Dave Mustaine (an oft-overlooked Nikehead) for the ‘Wake Up Dead’ video from 1987? Incidentally, I’ve never seen a rapper or producer pull off the Dunk like Large Professor did with the reissues on the ‘1st Class’ back cover in 2002.
Even stranger, I’m sure Jack Nicholson wears the Iowa lows as Daryl Van Horne in 1987’s ‘The Witches of Eastwick’—I’m not so dedicated to research that I’m willing to pick up a Blu-ray of a film that I’m not especially enamoured with, but I took a few bad quality grabs around the tennis match scene. Why? Because I’m still a bit fucking weird. Still, it’s interesting to see the Nike Dunk go full circle.
Sometimes a product isn’t reassuringly expensive. It’s just way overpriced, but you still need it in your life. If you’re a printhead with an interest in old, well-made clothes, you’re probably aware that the sun rises in the east as far as information goes, but a Japanese magazine habit could end up costing you as much as an addiction to good quality yayo. It’s that serious. But once you’ve laid down thirty pounds on an issue of Mono, you’ve broken the seal. There isn’t anything in English language to match what the Japanese magazines offer…sure, there’s words, but it’s just padding. Magazines like ‘Free & Easy’ are a trove of information, but we just have to appreciate the pretty pictures, yet those alone outweigh any local publication. Still, after baulking at the deranged import pricetag (which wouldn’t have come cheap if you’d paid in Yen either) for ‘Free & Easy’ editor in chief Minoro Onazato’s ‘My Rugged 211’ book, it’s a very interesting collection. Is it worth the money? That’s open to debate. But if you’ve wanted a translated version of Minoro’s publication, this might be as close as it gets.
Once you’ve got over the irritation of a lack of card cover, the title sticker peeling off the binding, the occasional translation typo (was Dustin Hoffman in ‘Graduation’?) and climatised to the fact you paid big money for what’s pretty much an RRL retrospective, it’s easy to appreciate the contents. You won’t get this content anywhere else, just because the author has some very particular tastes. Some was pre-distressed and some has been worn (Alden Cordovan chukkas are creased works of art), but there’s a story to each piece. Onazato frequently uses the word “rugged” and likes items like the Traction Production round glasses because he can, “…transform into another person like Le Corbusier” when he wears them. You think you know about vintage…your inaugural browse of ‘My Rugged 211’ will remind you that you know nothing. Some Thom Browne and Margiela slips into the selections here, adding to the tough-to-pigeonhole notion of “Unfashionable Fashion,” but it’s just great gear.
Toro Kogure’s photography catches the personality of each piece and ultimately, it’s worth the post purchase jitters. Just make the usual excuses to yourself—there’s t-shirts that cost this much…some people drink this amount away in a night…a lot of work goes into a book…the content’s unique…you won’t buy any more this month. Let those justifications drift around inside your cranium and blindly buy it. It’s a shame that the documentation of one man’s individual approach will lead to a spate of copyists, spotlights on the previously unspoilt and heavy price hikes, but that’s just the way it is when it comes to any quasi reference guide targeted at a cultish audience with too much pocket-money.