The majority of documentaries on sports footwear are a bland retread of past glories with the same talking heads telling exactly the same stories. The world doesn’t need some guy in weirdly laced shoes asking people who’ve been queuing for 16 hours, “What is a sneakerhead?”, any more than it needs another Imelda Marcos reference in the opening of an article on collectors and resell. Dull. The much-hyped exhibition in NYC right now looks a little middle-of-the-road too, even if the first part of the book offers a useful primer on the history of athletic shoes Still, there’s a few slept-on productions with some rare footage out there, like Sneakers, a 2004 Dutch production that features Patta brothers and true shoe Jedis Tim and Edson (back when Tim had dreads), some super-dated “cool hunting” (which seemed to fascinate people back then), and some chats with Steve Van Doren, Tinker Hatfield and Nobukazu Kishi from Boon. Like much on the topic from this period, it’s dated, but in a nice way — like over-designed Flash streetwear and shoe websites from the same time frame that don’t work on Wayback Machine. Submarine did a decent job on this 50-minute film, so salutes to whichever kind soul took the time to subtitle this.
There’s a lot of freeloaders out there. I’ve seen people skirmish and bruised friendships over the Gollum-like effects of shoe envy. Tell grown men of almost any financial background that there’s free footwear out there and they’ll start scheming to make sure that they get their size, a size down, a size up, their girl’s size or something just to avoid feeling left out. It has that kind of power. Back in May 1989, Lincoln, Nebraska’s police force created a fake shoe store setup with the worst hand drawn signage of all time to dupe several alleged crooks with outstanding arrest warrants into thinking they were going to get some free adidas or Avia shoes. And, like Homer Simpson turning up for a sting to get his free boat, they turned up at the ‘Grabar Athletic Footwear Inc’ — a play on the old prison nickname ‘greybar hotel‘ and a proto popup store of sorts — to get their tennis shoes and even filled out an athletic needs questionnaire that was actually their arrest paperwork in disguise. There’s some good footage of the sparse and suspect looking store space and gullible victims in this HLN YouTube upload. I thought this kind of thing only ever happened in comedies, but it’s all very real. In 2014, I’m inclined to think that Air Jordan giveaways in a reopened Grabar could still pull in a few fugitives. One day, somebody should turn this into an Argo style movie adaptation.
This week I was fairly excited to see Questlove enthusiastically Tweeting about the Complex piece on films and shoes that I wrote last year and was pretty pleased with, despite a muted response. At the same time I put that together, I started drafting a top TV moments list, but I got rid of it, because for all my ‘Seinfeld’ love, my favourite TV and trainer moments are a little more localised, and they’d just make people agitated. While kids are queuing and getting angry with each other on YouTube over sports footwear in 2012, back in the early 1990s, as prices rocketed and technology got increasingly stupid, there were a spate of footwear plots on shows that were big in the UK, On the more populist front, I like the fact the Assassin shoe in the 1991 ‘Simpsons’ episode (with a fictional price tag of $125) that key influencer Ned Flanders inspires Homer into buying. I especially like the way it evokes the impending Yeezy 2 in its shape and applications. Neddy was ahead of the curve. But that doesn’t touch two rarely discussed storylines that worked in the deadly serious subject of basketball shoe theft on BBC1 during the 5pm to 6pm slot via ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours.’
In winter 1990, a scriptwriter on the other side of the world got bored and began concocting a footwear-themed plot, that was transmitted on UK TV in December 1991, a year after it screened in Australia, making it out-of-date straight away. The May 1990 ‘Sneakers or Your Life’ story from ‘Sports Illustrated’ indicated a Stateside spate of shoe crimes, but, as proof of the epidemic nature of both crime and fashion, it reached sleepy Erinsborough too. Commencing with the show’s resident moody teen, Todd Landers (played by Kristian Schmid who I last saw leading a party on Sydney Harbour Bridge as an instructor, but has apparently had a TV comeback), flossing with his new shoes at Daphne’s to impress the girls and crowing on about their $190 price tag, despite them being a pair of Hi-Tec monstrosities that would barely sell for more than £30 UK pounds at the time to the unfortunates with parents who wouldn’t heed their warnings of playground mockery.
In Erinsborough, basketball boots are called ‘runners” just as we Brits call any form of sports footwear a “trainer” and a bruised and battered Todd has to explain to Helen and Jim that he was robbed for his kicks by local goons and that he’s practising kung-fu in order to settle the score. You know you’re in the sticks when kids are robbing Hi-Tecs. A couple of episodes later, he and his buddy Josh attempt an entrapment and retaliation by borrowing Paul Robinson’s adidas Torsions (they look like Bank Shots — Stefan Dennis, the actor who played Paul rocked an assortment of expensive late 1980’s adidas during his brief, terrible singing career, including the astronomically costly ‘Best of Times’ leather jacket) that are a couple of sizes too big and using Josh as bully bait. As Todd and Josh approach a young thug on a BMX who, with his snapback perched atop his hair instead of over it, earrings and rucksack is a proto Streetwear Dave, he’s flanked by some goons who offer the threat, “I’ll give you a choice. Either I punch your head in, or you give me your treads.” Vicked. Josh loses a loose shoe during the scuffle, much to the fury of Paul, who purports to have paid $300 for those runners. It’s a deep plot indeed. There’s little more action after that, with the outcome serving as some kind of warning against shoe-related vigilantism.
This kid is rocking the Streetwear Dave look in late 1990
‘Grange Hill’ dropped some sports footwear knowledge during its 15th series in early 1992. For some reason, trainers were worked into pretty much the entire series, commencing with a young pupil amazing his fellow pupils so much with a pair of Jordan VIs, that they carry him into the class like a god and place him on the teacher’s desk to inspect their feet. For presumed legal reasons, the shoes are never referred to as Nike Jordans. Instead the kid crows about them being a brand called “Sportech” and that the shoes are $160 from the States and you can’t get them over here. He speaks enthusiastically of “roll bars” and “heel counters” on them but runs his mouth too much and gets them stolen from the changing rooms later that day. Loose lips sink ships bruv.
As a result, trainers are banned in Grange Hill, unless you’re a teacher, and a hapless character called Ray (played by an actor who I believe ended up DJing in my hometown for a while), wants to cop the same pair of shoes as the American temporary teacher who just started that term in an inexplicable bid to woo her by wearing women’s footwear. That leads to some outdoor sports store shots with Air Max 90s and Air Trainers in the mix, plus a couple of real brand names called out. Ray can’t afford any, so he’s inexplicably hoodwinked by a character called Maria, who goes into a sports shop and gawps at Reebok Twilight Zones before buying some sale stock from round the back and makes them into the worst custom shoes ever. I have little time for custom footwear, but these are especially bad. Somehow, via a sales pitch that they’re “exclusive” and “American” Ray buys them. Like a div. By the end of the series trainers are legalised in the Grange Hill halls again. Wasn’t this show about gritty real-life issues once upon a time?
Thank you YouTube for housing full episodes of the offending episodes too. Who sat and uploaded every ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Neighbours’? That’s commitment to the cause. Whether the current boom leaches into popular entertainment like that remains to be seen, but it’s worth mentioning that neither early 1990s plot was as excruciating as that AF1 storyline in ‘Entourage’ or a single second of ‘How to Make It In America’ but it harks back to a time when everybody beneath the age of 25 seemed to be utterly obsessed with footwear, not just the condensed band of weirdos you see today. I’m looking forward to a subplot in ‘Eastenders’ where one of the stage school newbies drafted in to play some kind of urban cartoon character sees pound signs over a box of fake Foamposites. Maybe those episodes will be as etched into the brain of the new generation of viewers as these episodes stuck with me, in all their heavy handed, poorly acted glory.
On a footwear note, the Honeyee piece ‘Good Shoes, Good Style’ showcases some good footwear, like Jun’s pair of Danner River Grippers. I wish every feature on that site had an English translation though — the Hiroshi and Kim Jones conversation looks particularly interesting, but the Flash nature of the pieces means I can’t even get my Babelfish on. Maybe I just need to learn Japanese.
Some things are necessary. They’re not always things that make much sense either, but Vans Caballeros made into Half Cabs BY Cab were necessary. Ever since I made good with a childhood vow to own every item of sports footwear I ever wanted in one form or another, I’ve grown to appreciate the absurdity of the situation. Hoarding shoes you’re never going to wear, with no inclination towards eBaying them is strange, but I still operate under the self-delusion that I’ll get round to it one day, despite only 40 or so pairs out of 1000+ being habitable for the feet of anybody over 30. There is an age cut-off for certain styles and it’s a damned shame, but it’s a universe closing in on itself as it reissues itself out of relevance with inferior materials and larger numbers. Once upon a time, in the UK, only a select few had the £110 and necessary stature to visit one of the nation’s sole Jordan III stockists in South London and pick up a pair. Now the Jordan III is becoming increasingly played-out and it’s a goddamn shame, because it was — until last year — my favourite shoe of all time. Indie kid sour grapes with fanboy potassium levels at work? Possibly, but a product’s near-holy aura can be dented by the evils of overkill. Remember the Dunk at the turn of the 2000’s? Remember how you didn’t want a pair when the next decade rolled around? Exactly.
For some reason, despite being readily accessible, shifting untold units and getting extensive train station advertising, the Vans Half Cab has maintained a certain hardcore appeal – it’s a product of the late 1980’s (despite the cut-down being made official in 1992), unlike its 1970’s siblings within Vans’ icon program. The others are sleek and minimal, whereas the Half Cab isn’t necessarily the most elegant design — it’s barely even a mid and it looks clunky. The homemade heritage roots are still present in production models, whether they’re inline, bulkier versions without the insole, or the sleeker, more comfortable Syndicate editions. The visvim Logan Mid and Nike SB Omar Salazar were obvious tributes, made because Hiroki and Omar are Cab fans. The man behind the shoe was a childhood hero of mine too — say what you will about Hawk’s height and and style, but Caballero had it going on. Everybody respected Cab. Even the guy’s name fired my imagination. Remember him on the November 1987 ‘Thrasher’ in the PUMA Prowlers (you can see more images of that very shoe right here)? He never seemed to wear Vans for a substantial chunk of the 1980’s, though the footage of Cab in his early teens in the ‘Skateboard Madness’ documentary shows him wearing a pair — incidentally, ‘Skateboard Madness’ in its entirety with the Phil Hartman commentary and ‘Heavy Metal’ style animated bookends, from the claymation intro to the cartoon conclusion, laden with weed and Quaalude references is actually superb.
When vert’s death rattle commenced as the decade came to an end, Caballero and McGill’s ‘Ban THIS!’ contribution felt like a dignified last gasp, and Cab sports the hi-top Caballero shoe sliced down for this custom variation there. That Steve has a spine condition should have made his success a matter of triumph over adversity, but when you skated as smooth as him, it just wasn’t an issue. That switch to street led to suicides, bankruptcy and dinosaur status, clipping the wings of those who’d been throwing stickers to baying crowds at demos year or so earlier. Gator’s “I SUCK!” cry during footage of his street skate attempts in ‘Stoked’ are just depressing. That street skating’s next generation embraced the Cab once it was made lower, assisted the Caballero legacy, but his willingness to embrace street and do an okay job of it (he mastered flip tricks nicely for ‘Scenic Drive’ ) was beneficial too. Those Powell ads that targeted indie brands meant they were doomed to suffer in the 1990’s at the hands of World Industries and their various spinoffs. It’s a shame that more didn’t keep the faith with vert, and I’ve never known whether Caballero suffered during skating’s darker days (he certainly never lapsed into any Hosoi-style misdemeanors) — he’s loyal to his sponsors and he’s got music as a side project, plus, as footage around the latest Vans release testifies, he’s still an extraordinarily fluid skater, despite the advancing years.
Everything’s cyclical though. The impending Bones Brigade documentary might tell that tale of vert’s ascent and descent, but it could also attract attention like ‘Dogtown & Z-Boys.’ That in turn could unleash a ton of documentaries on other crews of that era too. Will it fire imaginations like Jay Adams’ rockstar appearance and swift burnout did? Maybe not, but Caballero’s appearance will be substantial. Sneakers took 24 months out the spotlight in favour of a pair of Tricker’s. Sneakers started trying to look like shoes. Then Tricker’s had a Chas and Turner ‘Performance’ style metamorphosis into sneaker-style collaborative hype via their custom program and copyist retailers and brands — now people are back into sneakers again. Shoes…sub-cultures…everything has its moment in the spotlight.
I still have problems buying an object of clothing in the knowledge that I won’t ever wear it. Our notions of limited editions are skewed. When I was younger, I was fixated with comic books, until I worked with them in the back room of a comic book store at the height of Valiant/Image crossovers, hologram covers and monetary markups for metallic covers. Everybody was collecting and “limited editions” of 20,000 weren’t uncommon. Thankfully, DC’s Vertigo line dropped to deliver some hype-free content, but the whole thing imploded, and a million kids were left with worthless polybags of crap, alphabetically sorted for investment purposes. That made me wary of wilful hoarding, and it was paralleled in the sports footwear realm a few years back too.
When I heard about Steve Caballero trimming down 20 pairs of Cabs for Supreme, gaffer taping them and signing the boxes, there was no question of non-ownership. That’s a genuinely limited edition. I don’t wear sneakers with black midsoles, but they feel like a fitting tribute to a shoe that’s as important as the Jordan I to me — maybe more so. No other brand would let their star athlete tinker with a shoe like that, then shift them at retail either. As far as I’m concerned, the cut-down Half Cab is the best Year of the Dragon shoe ever. To some, it’s probably a baffling mess of a project, but seeing as I never got Caballero’s autograph at a Stevenage demo in July ’88 when my dad took me there, it feels like closure too. First Barbee and now this. Intrinsically, they’re worth a ton. The downside? Everybody else’s special projects will look tethered and weedy next to this one. And just in case I do choose to wear these Caballero creations at some point, I made sure I got my size too (thank you Jagger), because buying shoes that aren’t my size is one step too far into the abyss. And you can keep your hype on ice and jaunty coordinated caps.
While we’re talking childhood epiphanies, I also picked up this deceptively stylised poster for Jamaa Fanaka’s brutal, no-budget 1979 prison boxing flick, ‘Penitentiary’ this week. I love ‘Penitentiary,’ Penitentiary II’ and ‘Penitentiary III’ ever since I saw part II by accident when it was put in the wrong rental box. We wanted to watch ‘Jabberwocky’ (we dodged a bullet there – the box betrayed how dull and self-indulgent Gilliam’s film was), but we got fighting midgets and Mr T entering a fight dressed as a genie, carrying a smoking lamp. Our lives were changed right there, and a crusade to watch as many jail and borstal films began with that viewing. The first chapter of the trilogy is daft, but extremely gritty nonetheless. The underrated ‘Short Eyes’ (with the early Luis Guzmán appearance, minus dialogue) and the terrifying documentary ‘Scared Straight‘ are perfect supplements to Fanaka’s vision. Arrow Films’ ArrowDrome colour coded cult film subsidiary are putting out a DVD in the UK next month that contains the original ‘Penitentiary’ with a commentary by Fanaka, plus the significantly odder follow-up. Great films. Walter Hill’s underrated ‘Undisputed’ was steeped in ‘Penitentiary’ spirit, albeit with significantly glossier presentation.
Apologies for sports footwear related posts two blogs running. This was supposed to be a sanctuary from that subject matter, and if George Costanza’s “Worlds Colliding” theory is to be believed, this could end in me getting upset, but it’s been one of those weeks thus far. So you get sneaker talk here as well as elsewhere. I’m very fond of athletic footwear. I’m not remotely athletic, but I’ve always favoured the shoes — I’m not talking the sensible suede and gum soled training favourites that characters a generation above me lose their minds over, but the silly post-1985 techy stuff. The oddities and the commercial disasters are extremely relevant to my interests.
I don’t consider myself a “sneakerhead” — I loathe the term even though I’ve been known to use it in meetings, presentations and mumbling video interviews — simply because I associate that expression with lazy journalism from folk acting as if they’re hardened hacks looking for a major press award on missions to cover this new phenomenon, opening with creaky-old Imelda Marcos references in their witty lead paragraph under the misapprehension that they’re Martin Amis when in reality they’re simply exhaling seventh-hand smoke. I also associate the term with t-shirts that make reference to “Kicks,” irritatingly positive god bothering individuals, caps at funny angles and a serious yet curiously un-scholarly approach to the topic despite the po-faces. How can you sit poker faced while talking about a shoe on a webcam? Sneakers are a stupid subject so it’s worth getting playful with it all. Fuck a blog dawg — I’m fascinated by an SMU/Custom Nike Air Ship being the real banned Michael Jordan shoe, contrary to history rewrites making it a Jordan I. Sneaker conspiracies.
So it’s good to get an outlet from the good folk at Complex (Russ, Joe, Nick and the crew understand that sports footwear can be fun too) to go too far and really geek out. This time it was ‘The Top 50 Sneaker Collaborations of All Time’ (well, my top 50 — I can’t speak for everyone else) and I deliberately minimised any buddy-buddy footwear Illuminati inclusions between friends who design shoes, anything I’ve worked on, as few Dunks as possible (that story’s been told a million times), well-regarded collaborations that just copied prior ones or whatever didn’t age well. But it’s clear that collaborations had a golden age between 2000 and 2005. Much of what happened over the subsequent six years is just pumping and squirting lovelessly, going through the motions. It just got dull. So what I included is plenty of interesting and offbeat pieces that weren’t just lame retailer rollouts.
Fuck comment section democracy and calls for feedback — I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of that rundown. But I’m sad that in the list whittling process, the following shoes were excised: Parra AM1, SNS Goatskin Suedes, fragment Footscapes, Geoff McFetridge Vandals, Simpsons x Vans collection, Crooked’s Confederacy of Villainy collection, Ben Drury AM1, KR Air Force 1s, Sophnet Internationalists, IRAK Torsion EQTs, Futura FLOMs, DPMHI Terminator Hyperstrikes, United Arrows NB 997.5s, Packer Fila FX100, Wet Look Dunks and plenty of Vans Syndicate releases.
Inevitably, Nike take the lion’s share of that top 50, owning the market in the dual-label concept’s heyday. It’s interesting studying what legendary individuals like Nike’s Footwear Marketing Manager and Global Footwear Director Drew Greer instigated between 1997 and 2001 that changed the course of sneakers and redefined the collaboration for the brand. From the City Attack NYC swoosh Air Force 1 regional releases in 1997 to the Wu Tang Dunk (check out this Complex feature on Wu Wear with Power talking about bringing another Wu Dunk out and a shot of a Wu Beach Polo beach homage) and in 1999 to the Alphanumeric Dunk Lo Pro B in 2001, Drew and his team wrote the blueprint from the decade that followed. It seemed fresh when they created their Easter egg hunts with minimal numbers. What was unique then rapidly became an industry norm. From that, sprung apathy. That’s why everyone’s in brogues nowadays. adidas’s Consortium concept and Nike’s Clerk pack remain equally aped too. Through those imitations, the collabortion was created.
Long before those synthesised markets were generated, adidas had come over here in a slow trickle of wheeler-dealers, connoisseurs, savvy shopkeepers and good old-fashioned thuggery. Most documentaries or films with ‘Casuals’ mentioned are liable to be unwatchable, “You saucy cahnt!” fests that are simply cash-in exploitation of idiots for idiots. Less casual, more blokes in shit reissue sportswear fabricating fight stories. But the ‘Casuals’ documentary looks interesting, with an appearance by shoe Jedi Mr. Gary Aspden. So I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. Plus it involves a man who really, really likes Keglers. to the extent where he’s wielding a big framed picture of them.
Fast-forwarding to a world where we’re not solemnly looking at things from 1979 and 2002, Errolson Hugh’s DISÆRAN line with United Arrows now has a lookbook right here: disaeran.com/FW1112-slideshow/DSRN-FW1112.html — technical goose downs, apparel designed ergonomically, the humble marl grey fleece track pant redesigned, slim silhouettes, a font that looks Avant-Garde, space age surplus, and some old utilitarian favourites taken back to the monitor for fresh insights plus that underlying sense of stealth promises big things if Acronym and Stone Island’s new slew of Shadow isn’t enough for you. It’s probably safe to assume that it won’t come cheap, but UNDERCOVER and Uniqlo doesn’t arrive until next year, so dressing progressive on a budget could prove fruitless for the immediate future.
According to a Complex.com rundown, I’m one of the top 25 influential sneaker Twitterers. That was a nice surprise. Shouts to the Complex famalam, but I’m definitely not influential, unless being strange is considered aspirational. Still, it’s fun to be acknowledged in whatever form, even if it appears just after you Tweet than sneaker culture is just a load of old men in colourful hats and big shoes. Like all lists it also had some folks acting all “How come he don’t want me, man?” Will Smith too. Between the brands and the consumers, I still think the whole sports footwear cycle is in a dark, dark place right now. Blame the egos, their ’97 mindsets and forays into blog reliance. There’s good shoes out there — in fact there’s some amazing stuff out there — but we in the UK seem to be denied them in favour of some dreck.
Take the Zoom Huarache TR Low for example. Most updates of shoes are a letdown — the Platinum Dunes remakes of the sneaker world — but this shoe somehow channels two years of Huarache running designs and brings it up to date without being anything close to terrible. The Mids seem to be a more popular choice Stateside, but we Brits always loved the runner — from Derek Redmond’s old man (“Have You Hugged Your Foot Today?”) to Olympus sale racks and the Foot Locker and JD Sports high street resurrections.
Thus I’m baffled as to why this model — one of the few pre-Presto times when something so progressive got road wear before popular footwear on these shores went defiantly retro in white-on-white or black-on-black. This model debuted late last year but I’ve not seen any pairs over here. That’s a Bozo move, and with the subtle change in textures and Knicks colours, a bargain at $69 in NYC. Admittedly some other variations feel a little too plasticky, but this is a classic in the making. It’s fun that you can still saunter through ‘Nothing to Declare’ at Heathrow with a gem in tow, but I can’t help but feel that it’s an opportunity wasted over here. These were a breath of fresh air amid the city’s spectacular humidity.
Other online appearances this week included an interview with ‘Crack & Shine’s Freddie for the excellent new site, ‘The Heavy Mental’ that operates from Australia and launched quietly with a wealth of features on talented folk like Lev Tanju, Fergadelic, Luke Meier and Shaniqwa Jarvis. Even Union’s Chris Gibbs — a style king in a realm populated by herbs — is involved. It’s a great start and props are due to Ed for putting it together. It’s worth your energy and a fine antidote to padded paragraphs for SEO’s sake or the shackles of 140 characters.
It was also good to see Allen and the 12ozProphet crew making big moves at site and agency level at the moment. There’s evidently some huge things in the pipeline that they’ll be rolling out soon, but their meticulous approach to digital, paper and cotton product is an inspiration. There’s never a pixel of half-step on display from these guys and their appreciation for graffiti in its hardcore form manifests itself in the meticulous rather than cliche drips and arrows. I was privvy to some amazing, energising and inspiring work that’s all too rare these days, left as it too often is, in the hands of a head designer with a grip of Thames & Hudson tomes and precious little else. 12oz are role models and I need to get these stickers up by any means necessary, having seen the logo throughout both Berlin and New York these last few weeks. The amount of detail in the labelling and packaging of the tees is appropriately uncompromising.
The late, great RAMMΣLLZΣΣ may have decried the ‘SNEEZE’ logo as “toy” but for $2 (those import charges are a motherfucker) from that Lafayette vending machine, issue #12 is a banger. The almost jizzy, translucent cover lettering over Kate Upton, a big Prodigy fold-out from the Supreme shoot and an interview with the perennially wavey French Montana are all breaks from the bullshit. The Downtown broadsheet delivers time and time again — there’s some insightful content amid the gloss.
I’m unpacking from Berlin. My respect for Vans’s Syndicate line has been mentioned here an awful lot, as has my disdain for both the state of collaborations and physical retail spaces. If every footwear brand had the US/UK facilities that New Balance has as well as a top-tier project as strong as Syndicate, life would be a better and sneakers wouldn’t be as stale. Forgive the stereotyping, but the Germans are thorough. Berlin’s Firmament and Civilist went in this week, offering the antidote to Bread & Butter’s vast denim stands, chambray and Polo shorts and the popularity of Iron Fist clothing.
I love Germany’s ability to throw itself into a sub-culture with an obsessive zeal that’s almost unmatched beyond the otaku types in the far east, and their approach to skate was unhampered by the Berlin Wall before it began to fall on 9 November 1989 — they simply adapted to that existence and used the imagery, surplus and restricted landscape to forge their community. While we were swanning around in fluoro shorts and applying Rip-Grip all over our bulbous boards, East and West Berlin’s youth faced an adversity that strengthened their scene and necessitated a DIY approach. Shouts to Mr. Charles Morgan for the hookup on Civilist’s Syndicate pack — a set that leaves most other dual-label projects in the dust. The leather Chukka Low’s smartly executed, but the pin badges, military-themed Velcro badges on the bag and even the pocket tee that accompanies the set are pitch-perfect in their design.
Some people base a shoe on their favourite ironic ’80s film. Civilist opted to use the Berlin Brigade, the Allied Army unit based in West Berlin and culled from the units already in Berlin made of British and American troops as a result of post-WWII rulings. Brought together for the Berlin Wall crisis in 1961 and disbanded in 1994, the US Army’s Berlin Brigade badge, with its flaming sword, is a key identifier in this project. It’s a striking piece of imagery.
The Morganator put me onto last year’s ‘Transit: Berlin Skateboarding Retrospektive’ ‘zine too, providing some excellent background information and imagery on the scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Tied with an in-store exhibition, Civilist and Vans created the best thing I saw (or put on my foot) this week. Team Civilist are also the minds behind the mysterious Aspekt Ratio — a newspaper-size publication which I assumed never had a follow-up after issue #0 in early 2007.
A few years on and Aspekt Ratio #1 is out ( I think it dropped much earlier in the year), shitting on much of the print competition. I admired the preview issue for its sprawling interview pieces, but issue #1’s pieces on clubbing, Australian youth movement, the Sharpies (particularly enlightening) and interviews with Mike Mills and C.M. Talkington are very much my “thing” if that “thing” could ever be defined. I’ve seen a lot of attempts to put this thing of ours onto paper after the gradual cancellations of several key magazines that educated me during the ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s (are those rumours about the return of ‘Mass Appeal’ true?), but this is among the best thus far. Did I mention that it’s free? There’s a website (www.aspektratio.com), but don’t expect some cuddly abundance of detail on their. It’s worth the hunt.
I did another list for my buddies at Complex on the top 50 sneaker moments in movies – well, it’s more ’50 interesting appearances by shoes in films’ than anything comprehensive, but that wouldn’t bring in the click-throughs. I didn’t check the feedback because I assume it’s all, “You missed XXXXXXX you fucking idiot” and “This shit is lame, Complex fell off” etc. etc. Funnily enough, I couldn’t care a fuck – I’m onto the next one, though I am livid at myself for forgetting the PF Flyers in ‘The Sandlot Kids.’ Check out the list here. Shouts to Russ and Joe for getting me involved again.
Props to Mubi for risking his liberty to bring back these Patta mini-penknives that are a preview of their work with KangaROOS. Victorinox products are the promo products of kings. Shouts to team Patta for arming us.
I respect Kenneth Grange’s design savvy, with a portfolio that included trains and pens, and no signifier that they’re Kenneth’s work other than the fact each creation is very, very good. With an inspirational work ethic, the man’s a genius. In a world where you only have to change the colour of some buttons for some sycophant to bellow “GENIUS” on Twitter in the hope of earning an Retweet that doesn’t sound like much, but Kenneth Grange is the real-deal. To coincide with the ‘Making Britain Modern’ exhibition of his work at London’s Design Museum (bafflingly, the first Grange retrospective), there’s a book dropping in August too. It’s probably worth investing in.
The “I found it while I was looking for something else” argument for finding porn is shit, but it’s still used by husbands, boyfriends and sons globally, but I found the downgirlz.com (NSFW) site entirely by accident while I was working on a project on outerwear. I wasn’t complaining — not because I’m some kind of fetishist for feather filled jackets on females, but because, it was half-naked women and North Face. Then I realised that it’s a paysite and that some of the bondage content is a little creepy. Good titles though — “Betty is layered in 3 XXXL Nupste jackets” “Betty frogtied in Marmot” “Betty in Mountain Equipment Co-Op Expedition down jacket”
I had no idea that a North Face down jacket fetish actually existed but it seems I’m not worldly enough. It takes notions of jacket porn to a literal level.
Writing stuff on a plane is hard. Altitude, overexposure to family-friendly entertainment and watered-down coffee kill my work rate. The knowledge that I’m whizzing way above the ground in a vast lump of metal and that homeland security are waiting, ready to quiz me as if I’m two questions away from admitting to atrocities doesn’t help either. As a result, I can’t churn out the usual line after line of pop-cultural drivel. But I can still talk shit on a BlackBerry when it’s in flight safe mode.
Every day I’m blessed/obliged/cursed to be writing about sports footwear. Blessed because I’ve had an interest in the subject since I was 5 or 6 years of age. Obliged because that’s my day job and cursed because while I love my fellow fanboys and girls (in all honesty, it tends to veer towards the former), if you work with this stuff, you’re liable to get a little jaded with it. Jaded by solemn imbeciles blankly YouTube broadcasting a description of a fucking shoe to me, telling me what colour the upper is and talking about the accents and outsole and other things that I can see in a single JPEG. No cultural context. No history. Just a fucking piece of pleather in their hand and a serious face. Fuck that. Sneaker internet celebrities freak me out.
I don’t care for campaigns trying to sell me the notion of dullards keeping their shoes boxed and neatly stacked, trying to sell tat to a diminishing notion of the “sneakerhead.” Corny. Fuck your initiative. I don’t think the “sneakerhead” (sorry, I coughed up a little blood there) died out and the passion remains – people just wear what they buy nowadays. It’s better that way. I don’t have to listen to people deifying suede and nylon false prophets — non-Air runners from 1990 getting love for the sole reason that they’re “deadstock.” Sneakers went fully blown. My brother knows what a Dunk is. Jordans become trending topics. I like that.
Still, I love to chat with friends and associates who can talk for hours with passion regarding the losses, wins and reference points that makes sports footwear resonate with them. Those who pursue the esoteric, celebrate the noble failures and overthink this stuff are my kind of people. Age, experience and the amount of pairs amassed aren’t so relevant. I don’t care if your shoes match your hat and t-shirt either. It usually makes you look like a kindly simpleton, albeit in pristine footwear.
In fact, it’s all just fun to me. Easy come, easy go. I assume the stern faces and attitude is borne of insecurity. With a birthday looming, I know I’m too damn old to be working in this part of the industry.
Someone should introduce an exam for the douches who want to be authorities and (sorry, I just coughed up another globule), “influencers.” Maybe something a little like the snippet above that’s a real English test entry from 1996. An exam question based on buying sneakers, with an emphasis on price and build quality. Why didn’t they have questions like that when I was at school?
1994’s ‘Air Seinfeld’: a canvas Nike GTS from 1994. These sold for $25 on eBay a week ago.
“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.
The 1995 Nike ‘Binford’ ‘Home Improvement SMU: possibly an Air Edge II
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…
The hustle of retail is draining and I’m rarely surprised by anything on the shelves any more because everything’s either been blogged to death pre-release or is a global rollout that makes shopping abroad significantly less fun. So I ranted about it, and my friend Mr. Ronnie Fieg was kind enough to host my moaning on his blog.
Ronnie is that dude for a number of reasons — he knows his market as both a fanboy and as a retail veteran, he likes some weird shit and he’s one of the best E-marketers out there. Those qualities make him pretty fucking successful. I’m sure this is as close to a tangible collaboration as we can get because: 1. I can’t wear Ranger Boots, because they look wrong on me, 2. I can’t wear boat shoes without them looking wrong on me unless they’re those warship-size Visvim Hockneys and 3. Because I like mesh toeboxes and he rocks with nubuck.
Ronnie’s making ridiculous power moves with Sebago, and I’m in no doubt that a few more brands are going to be pleased they agreed to work with him too. It’s all about the relentless work rate. Plus his Clarks Weaver boots were — on the downlow — last year’s best footwear collaboration.
Again, go check that talk out on his blog. I want to just wander into a sports shop again and see that next shit on the shelf. I remember my small hometown (boogie-down Bedford) being home to no less than eight stores stocking an array of footwear circa 1990. That number of destinations was significantly amplified during London visits. Those experiences, often a simple case of window shopping, set me on the path to where I am now…sat on my arse, tapping away at a MacBook.
So here, out of sheer laziness (what can I say? I’m on holiday until tuesday) is the imagery I sent Ronnie for that piece, broken into bite size chunks. I really, really love the 1970 ad with the most remedial illustration of an adidas Superstar ever committed to paper, the $26 Campus, a shit Blazer picture and a store where you can buy rifles as well as Ewing Rivals and varsity jackets. I’m currently studying the world of store advertising before everything became ruinously slick. There’s merits in a cruder approach to marketing.
Mr Porter (not to be mistaken with Denaun or Charlie) is a good site. It makes me want to spend some cash, but I wouldn’t want to have to look after those journal features. That’s some high maintenance work right there, but they seem to be doing a fine job thus far.
My real gripe with online fashion retail is that the clothing has a tendency to turn up looking terrible. I’d sooner have someone take far too long folding up and bagging an object in front of my eyes than for it to arrive still in its plastic packaging as if it was “liberated” from a warehouse by a baghead acquaintance. They seem to be keen to break the spell of the aesthetically displeasing arrival with this much-hyped endeavor.
Mr Porter looks nice too…even if it ain’t hard to tell that ‘Fantastic Man’ was on the design moodboard. Selling Aubin & Wills isn’t a good look at all, but I guess that prick pound is a lucrative one. I just like gawping at brands like Marni one there — like Limoland (soon to arrive on the site too), it’s the sort of insider-favourite that crops up on the pages of ‘Monocle’ with pieces for the monied who seem to favour a certain restraint.
Two Tone Derbies and lambskin backpacks are some millionaire dress down styles, but the Contrast Front Panel Shirt is doubly ill for looking like a reverse version of Tré’s “Mr. GQ Smooth” comedy shirt in ‘Boyz n the Hood’ without the doubly bizarre circular detailing. That’s a strong look if you’re looking to engage in some Cuba-style gurning and wooing at daytime barbecues any time soon…