There are plenty of better things to be doing instead of reading this blog. You could watch the first three parts of Noisey’s There Will Be Quiet — The Story of Judge documentary, or you could read Paul Gorman’s blog and get excited about the fact he’s following up a retrospective of The Face with a biography of Malcolm McLaren that releases next year. A few interesting Futura 2000 oddities have emerged on YouTube too — after seeing his work on the opening credits of Spike Lee’s 1983 film school debut, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop I wondered what other film projects he’d worked on. Dale Cooper from Mo Wax Please (who also upped this RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ interview) uploaded the painted opening credits of 1983’s In the King of Prussia — a film by Emile de Antonio (who co-directed the excellent Underground about the Weathermen Underground Organisation) that depicts the trial of the admirably ballsy “Plowshares Eight” in a hastily shot, ultra-real way using the real participants and the real court transcripts. I have no idea what the provenance of this short video, entitled “Thaifood in Thailand” and uploaded by BUILDESTROY, was — is it part of something bigger? Was it a short shot for TV? But with a 1990-era Futura, Daze, Doze and Toxic, plus a handful of soundbites on the state of the scene 25 years ago.
I can’t actually wear caps because they make me look like a car thief, because I’m old and because my head is vast. That wasn’t always the case though — I used to have a Dodgers and White Sox hat (Ice Cube and MC Eiht inspired me) that I wore every day, until I saw a photo of myself with the cheap Starter hats perched high on my head, adding an extra four inches to an already sizeable noggin. That was that. But I’ll always respect the baseball cap. Some say it’s not British to wear one, but that’s usually strung-out rock stars and fashion advice gurus who dress like Paul Burrell. Their opinion doesn’t matter. They could counter my argument by pointing out that Jonathan King rocked a cap heavily on ‘Entertainment USA’ back in the day, and I’ll give them that one, but there’s a place for the hat in my heart, hanging in the affordable section of the sports shop, assisted by my mum’s 30% discount.
Before the reign of the fitted (my first fitted was actually an uncomfortable 1993 Hurricanes design in that glorious green and orange that lacked at least an inch in circumference), I was obsessed by Del’s peak in the ‘Catch a Bad One’ video from 1994. Just destructively folding the peak by that point was considered bad form, so I submerged the wool-mix test subject in the sink before fastening the peak around a length of plastic guttering using rubber bands and leaving it to dry. The effect was a temporary curve of at least 330 degrees, resulting in a long-term 180 degree effect. As you might have guessed, I was an odd teenager.
My oversized dome also led to shame on a purchase of a Stussy New Era a few years later, where shop workers frantically searched in the stockroom for a stray freak size fitted. It was like the time I witnessed a morbidly obese lady fail the turnstiles at Anfield and have to be let in a special door complete with dungeon master style keys. That deaded my personal relationship with caps entirely, bar my love for the Hundreds Starter tribute in 2006 that felt downright quaint in a world of 59Fiftys with spirit level straight peaks, complete with holograms and foil stickers. Who would have thought that the “snapback” (we just used to call them caps) would reign again alongside the 5-panel hat (another style I can’t wear)? Who decided that a fringe visible under the front of the hat was a good idea? Streetwear Dave steez in full effect.
Now I’m seeing more and more fitteds like the Our Legacy Ebbetts Field design, with plenty more Ebbetts creations from the hordes of imitators, but if it keeps a fine brand like Ebbetts busy, I’m cool with that. Is that a reaction to the snapback fever? I’m just glad that I never wore the Negro league Jackie Robinson cap I picked up all those years ago. I imagine it could have earned my pallid face some bruises, but I noticed that Starter are dabbling in those league designs again for later this year. I wonder if Chris Brown and Tyga will ever release a ‘Flexfit Back’ freestyle?
Back in 1990, ‘Spin’ magazine let Spike Lee, fresh from ‘Mo’ Better Blues,’ guest edit the magazine. Alongside excellent pieces on Public Enemy and Bad Brains, it also included ‘SPIKE LEE’S ALL-STAR B-BOY CAPS’ — two pages of Spike offering one-line reviews of his favourite caps, culminating in him decrying a man in a Celtics hat as an “Uncle Tom.” The images were shot by one Ari Marcopoulos and it’s an amazing feature. The Public Enemy piece has a nice picture of Chuck reclining in the white/cement Jordan IVs. He wears them well, though not as well as Hank Shocklee wore ’em in Glen E. Friedman’s images of the group.
While we’re talking big-name photographers in their jobbing days, before he was getting his boner out at any opportunity, Terry Richardson was shooting Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in Memphis to accompany a short Sacha Jenkins profile of the group (around the show that instigated the Three-6 beef?) before their cover story by Jenkins a year later. I’m in nostalgia mode, and the post signature wave of Karl Kani gear with the plate (I never saw the plaid shirt that Eazy-E wore in the ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’ video on sale) to elude bootleggers had me fiending in 1993/94 like the Ape Shall Never Kill Ape letters and Supreme box would have me hunting a few years later. Biggie, Keith Murray and Aaliyah made it look necessary — I got the hoody, but despite the plate being a fake deterrent, I ended up with fake denims. And just like that, they were uncool. Bone Thugs wore the plate hoody heavy in the Richardson photos and twinned with the vast cellular phone in a liquor store, it was particularly effective. FUBU, Mecca and the rest meant that Karl caught a bad one.
Farewell to Mr. Geoff Hollister, Nike employee #3 and a man who brokered an SMU for Elton John, created the Windrunner jacket, designed the Aqua Sock and created a promotional strategy for a struggling Blue Ribbon Sports. I never got the opportunity to meet the man during his visit to the UK to promote his book, ‘Out of Nowhere,’ but I heard nothing but positive things. Rest in peace Geoff.
It’s good to see that the Big Star documentary ”Nothing Can Hurt Me: the Big Star Story’ that got Kickstarter funding seems to be coming along nicely. This trailer’s promising. Teenage Fanclub taught me about this group, and with only one living founder member, it could get emotional. Some legends fall through the gaps, but the influence stays substantial.
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.
Between the day job and copywriting today, today’s blog is particularly aimless. Stuck between regressive and attempts to stay at least moderately progressive, my mind’s been on sports footwear. This blog was originally created as an outlet for things that aren’t shoe related, but I can’t deny my admiration for shoe design when its done right. Google Patents has been a godsend for studying the legal nitty-gritty of brands in general, and on the running/basketball/training shoe front, as brands battled in the technology wars of the late ’80s and ’90s, the sheer volume of patents filed was staggering – its on this, another of Google’s glorious timewasters, that you can see the original sketches of core elements that made up classics.
The imagery below is strictly for the nerds and fellow oddballs out there, but design-minds might get a kick out of it too. Good to see that Nike took the development of some of the stranger late ’90s performance pieces now cemented with a certain cultdom and misty-eyes on mention from types who spent hours poring over beat-led stoner music and Project Dragon once-upon-a-time. I’d really like to know more about this though.
You can tell me that sneakers are done while you slide around in your brogues in slapstick fashion, but when it comes to the more ambitious side of shoes with Swooshes, and messrs. Clarke, Hatfield and Lozano were feeling particularly inspired, you got the design classics. Looking at them as component parts here, I appreciate the damned things even more.
As a small, partially-related digression, while this retrospective is more fun than the actual movie, Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze’ doesn’t get the shine it deserves from an apparel standpoint. Custom adidas sweats? A prolonged Jordan II cleaning scene, and while I could pretend I clocked them in ‘Public Domain’ or on Jack’s feet earlier in ‘The Witches of Eastwick,’ is that a pair of Dunk Hi’s I spy as part of the most pauseworthy ensemble of Spike’s directorial career? If you’re gonna rock hi-tops, best not to combine them with daylgo Speedos that even the House of Xtravaganza in ‘Paris is Burning’ would deem a bit “much.” What’s with all the briefs at a pajama party? For me, reeling from the heavy-handed message at work, it was a curious introduction to a shoe that became a phenomenon.
The reason I’m dropping some truly gratuitous screengrabs is in tribute to the homie Jonathan Rockwell’s ‘A Fist In The Face Of God’ blog, mixing screencaps with a true knowledge of black metal, thrash and legends like Saint Vitus. It’s one of the best sites out there – big things a ‘gwan this year for team ‘Fist.
Working with sports footwear, or as Scoop Jackson would call them, gym shoes, on the daily, It’s easy to get very, very jaded, and lose sight of exactly what lured you into making them a profession of sorts. In my case it was a fluke. As with anything attracting disciples, there’s tiers of hoarders, collectors and fanboys who’ll pick a particular boomtime that was a cut-off when things were purer and the herbs were less involved.
With sports footwear it’s a tough one to call. Things are still mighty healthy, but the early ’00s was a point when the big brands truly capitalised on the cult of the collector, and when they entered the fray and saw the extra $$$ to be made, things went out of control. At time-of-blogging, visions of Jordan XI retros are on the mind – just as religious types can suffer a loss of faith, the avalanche of drivel has caused a few doubts lately, and to be excited about a release proves there’s still some personal mileage in the industry. But that shoe is a design that’s fourteen years old. It still looks fresh, but still, fourteen years. That things tailspinned from an aesthetic direction in favour of re-rubs of former classics is a debate that won’t be unleashed on this blog, bearing in mind that it was meant to be a sneaker-free spot. But hey, worlds are always going to collide on occasion.