This blog seems to have become a place to loosely collate the variety of Nike one-offs made for showbiz purposes. Rod, Elton, Zappa, Devo, Jefferson Starship and the mysterious one that might have been made for Bob Marley have been discussed. So have the Friends, Home Improvement and Seinfeld crew editions. There’s still things that elude me — did Mike Love ever wear the Aloha? I heard he did, but couldn’t find imagery of them on his feet. I want to see the mysterious animal print Converse hi-top SMUs created for Dimebag Darrell too. It never ends. The appearance of an Eddie Van Halen one-off in an 8.5 on eBay the other week has got me assuming that there’s hundreds more oddities out there. It’s a bland looking shoe that’s barely even semi good-looking (to paraphrase Diamond Dave), but after Eddie tried to sue Nike for the SB tribute to his guitar a few years back, it probably isn’t going to get a reissue. These were a BIN at the $450 mark, but they went unsold.
There’s too much good stuff out there to maintain focus at the moment. Even I want to get way from the WordPress backend and read this right now, but the voices in my head won’t let me until I’ve uploaded something. It was good to see Jerry and Michael Richards talking about that fateful heckling incident…by incident I mean massive outburst of racism. I never bought the joke-gone-wrong theory, despite my love of Kramer, but I’m inclined to believe he had a post ‘Seinfeld’ breakdown of some sort that manifested itself alongside some extra issues. 6 years of sadness on, I think he’s served his time and he cuts quite a miserable figure on ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ — especially at the very end when Jerry talks to him about the career-killer. The other blast from the past in the latest episode (as seen on other installments too) is Jerry’s Nikes.
Funnily enough, Jerry’s swoosh obsession has been very good for my “career” and after Mr Josh Porter (formerly of NikeiD a few years back) told me that Seinfeld’s occasional appearances in the NYC iD space always involved him grabbing Shox and reportedly shrugging and saying, “I love the Shox” it’s no surprise to see him in the onetime rudeboys’ favourite technology. Seinfeld is still very much a Nike man. This entire episode feels like a bittersweet ‘Seinfeld’ epilogue – more so than the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ arc that was a be-careful-what-you-wish-for for the show’s nostalgic fans. It’s a moment of catharsis and a one-man intervention for Richards that’s a long way from Richie Appel’s fictional one back in 1992. It’s worth giving the wire-haired eccentric points for at least conceding he fucked up, unlike Enoch-backing pseudo bluesman Eric Clapton.
Mr Nick Schonberger hooked me up with a copy of ‘Forever: The New Tattoo’ and it’s excellent. There seems to be a movement that doesn’t want to consider itself a movement within the trade of tattooing and this book does a great job of documenting some key practitioners who are vandalizing bodies with a skilled brutality that’s mesmerizing to look at. Tradition and free thinking, plus a certain unwillingness to participate in those TV shows and webisodes where a woman comes in to get a dolphin on her back to represent conquering some terrible malady makes pinning down some of these masters of the needle difficult, but Nick seems to be in that inner circle, asks some insightful questions and writes extremely well. Geometry, homemade styles, French cartoons and big, cool snakes and daggers for the fuck of it in the most visible places are all on display and the book’s design is beautiful. It’s not an encyclopedia, nor one of those ‘1001 Tattoos’ £6 from Fopp tomes — it’s an elegantly gnarly cross-section of the current mood. Guy Le Tatooer, Fergadelic, Duke Riley, Alex Binnie, Duncan X and Curly’s work is remarkable and in this format, paper does it justice. Go buy this and pick up the new ‘Sang Bleu’ while you’re at it – yeah, the new issue is £75, but you’re only going to spend twice that on a bad shirt that you forget to eBay and end up shifting for £60, so compared to that sartorial misfortune, ‘Sang Bleu’s a bit of a bargain.
I sneaked a look at an unfinished copy of the new ‘Hurt You Bad’ magazine and stole this picture from Sofarok’s Instagram too. If the notion of a graffiti magazine without graffiti in it seems absurd, you can get your fix of train and wall damage from a swift Google search these days. You don’t need to pay £12 for 24 pages of scanned photos and excitable German text to get your fix and the HYB team’s output is strong. Crucially, you won’t notice the dearth of drippy tags or throw ups until after you finish reading it – that’s quite an achievement. Where a lot of publications lose their footing — despite some bold press release proclamations — is the lack of an editorial agenda, leading to a cluttered, scrappy pulped tree equivalent of (insert blog name here) that defeats the point. I don’t know when it’s coming out though, but you need to pick up #1 — it’s the best graffiti magazine (the new breed of beautifully designed books don’t count) I’ve browsed since ‘Life Sucks Die.’ And I really liked ‘Life Sucks Die.’
Y’OH Streetwear has made some serious moves this year by creating gear with just enough nostalgia for the older heads who long for the Iceberg and Moschino era that got kids dressing back in the day and plenty of prints to ride today’s wave for the youth who couldn’t care less what we think. It’s a potent mix and Kara keeps creating it. If you ever longed for one of those tees from a diffusion line that was just expensive enough to get peer props and distract from your cheap denim — maybe you lusted after a Guess Jeans design with the embroidered letters — Y’OH’s embroidered take on the excellent Y’OH Sport design drops next week. Everything looks better when it’s embroidered. Shit, even NAFF CO.54 and any other knockoff on cotton or nylon coach jacket fabric used embroidery as a distraction from their fugazi nature. Great stuff.
“The first house call anyone can remember the Nike Lady making was to the Seinfeld set. Her impact was immediate–especially on the show’s star, who apparently had an unambiguous sense of entitlement. Seinfeld’s appetite for free sneakers became legendary. His office overflowed with shoe boxes, and one ex-writer remembers Jerry emerging “like Evita, tossing extra sneakers to the staff.” In time the staff members too became hooked, and for them Tracy provided a catalog in which they could check off whatever they wanted. “It was everything–running shoes, hiking boots, sandals. People were taking up extreme sports just to get the shoes.” (From ‘Sneakers In Tinseltown’ by Garry Trudeau — Time Magazine, April 1998)
Back in 2010, during an email back and forth with Mr. Carbone and Mr. La Puma at Complex, I suggested that a top 50 sneakers in Seinfeld would be a good thing. “But it might need some research!” I wrote. No shit. If you look at Complex’s analytics, presentation and timeline invading social media savvy you know that they’re not dreamers like me, content to put an idea out there, then leave it in a ponder state for a prolonged amount of time. They’re doers. And thus it came to pass that they requested the guide last month. And I was ready, albeit not quite ready for the scale of the screengrabbing task at hand.
Especially when VLC stops working on some discs and I have to resort to screengrabbing by entering a code on Terminal each cap to do it on the MacBook’s notoriously by-the-book built-in player. But I always wanted to do this one — I was going to do it on here, but I got discouraged by the prospect of uploading images. So here it is, on Complex.com. Shouts to Dan in the Department of Nike Archives for his patience in clarifying some of the more mysterious entries too.
But because I know some of the folks who visit here like trivia, I made a few more discoveries along the way. I never really noticed that Jerry puts his Nikes (Driving Force Low) in the picture from the slightly crappy 1989 pilot episode onwards. I assume it’s because he is a bonafide Nike fan, but I’m sure he was aware that a spot of product placement would help his case. Bear in mind it took until the third season to really breakthrough (when Jerry’s at least 25 screen shoes deep) and faced the axe up to that point. It’s no mystery that Nike did flow Jerry product (there’s even articles that mention his love of seeded footwear, taking delivery of vast piles).
Between seasons one and six he wears a ton of Nike footwear, from ACG to Jordans. Then suddenly it comes to a halt just prior to episode 100. Around 1992, ‘Home Improvement’ (word to Tim Allen’s Hot Lava Tech Challenge II) and the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ were laden with lengthy scenes with a prominent swoosh or Jumpman. Jerry’s frequently tarred with the assumption that he’s a tennis shoe wearer — that’s certainly the case for a substantial amount of episodes, but I’d argue that he’s more of an Air Trainer and Cross Trainer man — technically those can be utilized on the court (and looking back at the crossover concept’s 1987 debut, John McEnroe was the face before Bo ever knew) — when Jerry could evidently afford his own tennis court, he seems to opt for some extremely technical performance designs built for that sport.
Did FCC regulations crack down in 1994 to stop excessive product placement? After that comes the “brown shoe era” wherein Jerry rarely wears sneakers unless he’s in a sporting environment. ‘The Race’ represents a parting shot for the product placement, with him swooshed from the neck down, but after that, spotting a sneaker on him is reserved for tennis scenes, softball or gym scenes and some scenes surrounding them. He sneaks a Force-branded holdall in periodically, but his crafty Sampras shoe (the Repete) in ‘The Understudy’s (the finale of the sixth season) opening is the sole throwback to the earlier showcases of classics.
After all the Jerry having 500 pairs of white shoes rumours and the 1998 ‘Time’ article that depicted LA-based sneaker giver to the stars, Tracy Hardy-Gray flooding primetime with product, it’s strange that Jerry seems to curb his enthusiasm four years prior. It’s actually the least sporty who don their sneakers the most in subsequent episodes — George remains committed to Cortez (though he actually wears Reebok in the earliest episodes — possibly a GL model of some sort) and curiously, Newman gets his money’s worth out of a pair of the mighty Structure II. For a workshy postal employee to wear such an advanced performance piece with the Foot Bridge technology) may have been part of the joke.
It’s reassuring to know that when Lloyd Bridges’s Izzy Mandelbaum enters the scene in the final two seasons, we’re going to get a flash of white leather and a swoosh as a subsequent shot, but for some reason, Jerry opts for some Vasque-looking boots, wheat Timbs (in just a couple of shots) and most commonly, some bad Rockport looking moc-toed shoes with a rubber sole that make Larry’s Simple shoes look advanced by comparison. End of an era. I loved the days when even Frank Costanza’s cape-clad lawyer walked on Air.
I have to admit that it’s not entirely complete. A few shoes eluded me — the mids with the black swoosh in ‘The Barber,’ the white shoe from ‘The Old Man’, the mids in ‘The Wife’ and the all white upper tennis-looking designs from the same season (five) are all mysterious to me. Any identifications in the comments section would be much appreciated to put my mind to rest because I had to tap out on those models. Sadly there was no room for more than a mention of the mysterious Air Seinfeld shoe – a canvas Nike GTS with a Jordan homage on the heel, given to the crew in 1994 as a holiday gift, possibly as the 99th episode wrapped and the 100th episode was edited. ‘Home Improvement’ got a shoe (I believe it’s an Air Edge II SMU) for their 100th episode in 1995 too.
While we’re talking ‘Seinfeld’, kudos to the bootlegger who knew that all whiteys look the same. ‘Frasier’? ‘Married With Children’? Nobody would ever know the difference…
Wow. There’s been a lot of talk of murderers and psychopaths on this site over the last few weeks. Maybe it’s time to dwell on some apparel for once. Having said that, on a holistic level, everything’s somehow related. I think the more macabre topics could link into the none-blacker Rick Owens aesthetic, and even if that’s not your thing for everyday wear, last week’s Paris show is up on his site, complete with the slightly warped Felix ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ edit as the soundtrack and none of the shaky fashionista phone camera flaws that plagued the rushed YouTube uploads. I could never pull off a damned thing from the show, but the spectacle is undeniable and a glorious, experiential antidote to third-hand jpegs.
That whole gothalete look has an elegance that prevents the right wearer from looking like Dave Vanian at a Fitness First. It’s an all-or-nothing approach to attire. Those Raf Simons hiker dress shoes are clearly the next logical step in stylistic mixes, looking like some abstract atonement for the strange moonboots of seasons past. They’re the all-in-one solution for post-sneaker wankers troubled as to whether to go casual or formal—it’s like a knowing flip on the craze for giving smart shoes a Vibram base.
Too much of the good clothing is high maintenance. You can’t sling it over a chair or merrily swing a burger around while you’re in mid-anecdote while you’re wearing it. That’s why I favour replaceable and utilitarian. Cashmere? I’m gonna George Costanza that neckline in seconds with my oversize noggin. White Oxford shirts? With denim they remind me of my mate’s dad’s pub outfits back in the day and they’re stain magnets. On seeing the perennially dipped Edson from Patta flossing in a suede coat I was immediately hating on a player, but in my hands I’d ruin it in seconds as well as looking a little like Dennis Waterman, yet there’s part of me that saw older kids macking in suede blousons as a kid and still wants one as a matter of closure. They’re the outerwear equivalent of buying a Mogwai…you just can’t get them wet. Jerry Seinfeld knew this in the ‘Seinfeld’ where he meets Lawrence Tierney. Want to spray protect it like a pair of Timberlands? You’re asking for an uneven finish. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rough suede, nap suede or shaved suede.
From the avant-garde Nicolo Ceschi and Isaac Sellam variations to the more grounded takes courtesy of the defunct (and very, very overlooked Invertere of Newton Abbott which is soon to be resurrected), Paul Harnden, the suede Baracuta lookalikes from Orvis (check the Bomber Jacket) and the excellent Golden Bear Sportswear (the Ross in suede) who make a mean varsity jacket too, to the long-gone suede take on J. Crew’s Stockton, I’ve admired many coats in the easily annihilated fabric over the years. But I’m accident prone, a frequent backpacker and incessant coffee drinker. Me and suede outerwear were never destined to be.
Bamford & Sons had the ill soft suede Field Coat, but Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label (the Purple Label Reinder Suede Hacking Jacket was truly fancy) wing has the most aspirational creations in the sensitive leather. The Vincent Suede Car Coat is baller status, but the current sale pieces (still monstrously expensive) like the down vests in goat suede go hard. I could live without a Walking Coat in the wardrobe, but the goat suede Stinson Down Coat is serious. It’s a shame that it would last around a week in my possession, before I manage to give it alopecia-style patches and destroy the sense-of-luxury. I’ll stick with the bland, resilient fabrics for the time being.
“I’m a gorilla, I beast everything in the eye/Rock an Eight-Ball jacket in the middle of July“ Ghostface
Elaine: “What is that?”
Puddy: “It’s my new coat.”
Elaine: “You ditched the fur?”
Puddy: “Yeah, I saw Jerry wearing his. He looked like a bit of a dandy. Check it out! Eight-Ball! You got a question, you ask the Eight-Ball.”
Elaine: “You’re gonna wear this all the time?”
Puddy: “All signs point to ‘Yes!”
When fibre-optic cable fitter Raoul Cooper agreed to meet police in a vacant parking lot in Mableton, Georgia on the evening of the 9th of July this year regarding issues of child neglect he got a surprise – in addition to members of the local force, a SWAT team and NYC police officers promptly surrounded and arrested him on suspicion of first-degree murder dating back eighteen years. The reason for the homicide? To obtain an Eight-Ball jacket. Now that trend’s been and gone, frequently lampooned for good measure just to put it to rest, Raoul must be more than a little salty that he threw it all away and took a life for a flash-in-the-pan piece of gaudy cowhide. I frequently suffer bouts of jacket envy; though I’d like to point out I’ve never been quite so enamoured with any outerwear that I’d take up arms, but for me, the Eight-Ball was one of my first true jacket lusts.
“In the past two months, at least 16 youths have been shot for their shearling coats or for equally popular jackets with a multicolored leather eight ball on the back. Six are dead, and several others have been gravely injured.” Michael Specter, The Washington Post, January 27th, 1991
Moises Gallego, 18 was shot in the face in 1991 during a robbery in the Bronx for his, the crime Raoul’s been accused of. Quan Horton was killed in 1991 for his, and Rashid Smith was murdered for his in 1990. What the heck was the appeal of the eight-ball jacket? It might have held appeal twinned with some Ewings, but now it looks ugly as hell. Jokes aside, in preliminary high-speed e-research for this blog post, I was startled at the sheer amount of robberies and homicides of young men with regards to outerwear.
That reports (possibly apocryphal) claim Chicago police had a crime category entitled ‘Starter Jacket Murders’ circa 1989/90 isn’t too much of a surprise – I clocked the names of at least fatalities in news archives, several more for the shearling jacket craze that seemed to run from Winter 1990 to late 1991 in New York, and a handful more for the Eight-Balls (considered passé among some as early as January 1991). It’s hugely disturbing that a life could be taken for something as trivial as a fashion item, but doubly disturbing that these young men’s lives amounted to little more than two cautionary paragraphs, or mentions in various early ’90s shock articles on fashion and gun violence and then…nothing. If they’d been white and middle-class, they would’ve had their own Crime Library entry by now.
The Eight-Ball era seems to run between mid-1990 and early 1992, when the craze exited inner cities and went to hicksville (“Gee! That there jacket done got a pool ball on the back!“), but managed to act as the totem for murderous mugging over a costly clothing piece. Schooly D reinforced this on the intro to 1991’s ‘Your Worst Nightmare’ from ‘How A Black Man Feels.’
And here’s the kicker – kids were rocking bootlegs anyway. The real thing came courtesy of leather impressario Michael Hoban and his North Beach Leather brand. Accounts of the time have kids citing prices between $150 and $300 for their take on Hoban’s Eight-Ball which retailed at around $800. The suede version my local market was shifting to older kids in my UK hometown was undoubtedly a knockoff too. Periodically I see onetime ‘faces’ in the area who’ve hit hard times since ’93, forced into a purgatory of wearing the eight-ball year-after-year out of necessity, but carrying the lucky but battered number eight with a certain pride, perhaps a souvenir of their tenure as top boy in the town.
The suede Eight-Ball
Ironically Hoban’s claimed his origins were with a Roxbury-based teen street gang he ran called the Warriors, and his nickname was ‘Hobo’, which crops up in the label of many of his leather designs (I think the Eight-Ball was part of another collection of colourful sports-inspired pieces, ‘WHEREMI’) and in the ’60s, based in San Francisco he, and business partner Frank Morgan were creating far-out leathers.
A small store moved to the North Beach District and became ‘North Beach Leather.’ Clients even included Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver as well as Sammy Davis Jr. and Elton John. Even Elvis swung through to get a leather cape. Hoban was instrumental in developing some tanning and treatments for leather that were previously implemented on apparel, and through the coked-out ’70s and excess of the ’80s, North Beach Leather got big. Very, very big.
In addition to some fitted feminine pieces, patriotic and sporty jackets in Technicolor, with pictures of basketballs, baseballs and pool balls captured the worst excess of the early ’90s too. With a substantial rollout of stores (eleven by 2000), Hoban suffered at the hands of the bootleggers taking advantage of grey areas of copyright, creating imitations of pieces like the Eight-Ball and American Flags designs. Hoban issued a few lawsuits, but in an odd twist, found he got on with the honcho of one copycat company so much after threatening him with a 1990 injunction, he allowed Excelled Sheepskin and Leather Coat Corp. to use old designs and help him with new ones.
It’s here that the eight-ball flooded the market. Why did it catch on over the baseball and basketballs? A cocaine reference? An Olde English malt liquor reference? Maybe it was just one of those moments when the must-have has no rhyme or reason, the right man rocked it, and necessity was conferred.
Hoban started a new company to capitalise on kids rocking the coats, ‘MH Sport’ in 1993, but the coats were much cheaper, because they were made of polyurethane. Not a good look. After closing several stores to focus on design in 1997, the transmission of the ‘Seinfeld’ episode ‘The Reverse Peephole’ on January 15th 1998, where the show’s punchline is David Puddy’s Eight-Ball jacket can’t have helped. Writer Spike Feresten put it in there as the embodiment of what he hated in New York at one point – his second most detested jacket after the dreaded man-fur.
9/11 was blamed for a further dent in the company profits and Michael lost the business in 2003 with it now owned by onetime general manager of the San Francisco store, Skip Pass. Michael apparently went to Hawaii. By 2004, one store remained, fittingly in SF, on Grant Avenue. Chances of an Eight-Ball resurrection, even after Ciara and her dancers made a satin knockoff look, umm…interesting in 2005, seem remote. I know that’s not an Eight-Ball in the second one, but she just edges Rhi-Rhi in the hotness for once wearing those studded Louboutin boots so I put there regardless. I assumed maybe the indiscriminate vogue for any 1992 paraphernalia might give it a second chance with hipsters too. Turns out I don’t give mankind enough credit.
Still, Michael Hoban – I salute you for creating a very ’90s icon. And apparently, North Beach Leather is on the comeback trail. Maybe WHEREMI range reissues will follow…