Tag Archives: spine magazine


I hate the overuse of of “street culture” as an umbrella term for what blogs frequently promote. I’m sure as fuck not “street.” But I can concede that the big overpriced, overhyped brew that fills blogs and expensive magazines has gone overground in a major way. That’s not to say that the blog realm hasn’t been a major topic in boardrooms globally for years, but the Art in the Streets exhibition at MOCA and Jay-Z’s Life + Times portal site feel like some big-budget crossover moments to tether multiple zeitgeisty moments. If you’re still deluding yourself that a Supreme tee on your back and pristine boutique-bought Dunks make you part of an “in the know” secret society, you’re misguided. That look has blown the fuck up.

Pharrell buddying with NIGO, Lil Wayne with the BAPE belt, Dilla in Stussy and ‘Ye in Supreme in Vibe’s November 2003 issue were just the beginning. Lupe’s ballistic nylon Visvim backpack, Bun-B’s streetwear fandom on the Weekly Drop and MURS talking Undefeated circa 2006 gave way to a limited edition lifestyle becoming the norm. That Jay would get involved (after all, he’s a business, man) was an inevitability. It’s something bigger than street culture — it’s the new face of aspiration across-the-board. The definition of what constitutes hype is gradually spreading to keep pace with the hyperactive, OCD minds of the consumer – chairs, electrical goods, business matters, luxury goods, supercars, big budget movies, pencils and architecture are all contenders now. They don’t need a screenprinted or pleather tie-in tool to justify inclusion, because things done changed.

Just as popular culture has appropriated the hype, the hype is picking from popular culture. It’s a good move too, because I was becoming increasingly jaded by the five-brand circle beat-off that created a rut that nobody could be bothered to queue for. I still can’t see much on the Life + Times site that Hypebeast, Complex, A Continuous Lean, High Snobiety and Selectism can’t fill up my RSS or Twitter timeline with. Casting my mind back to Slam X Hype, Hypebeast and High Snobiety’s early days, it’s mind-boggling to see something that started purely from fandom become the prototype for every attempt in the quest to win the hearts and minds of a particularly sophisticated audience — you can’t just stick lurid colours on something and tell them to wait overnight for it any more.

Jay’s move is a more intelligent echo of Damon Dash’s (as an aside, I love what he’s doing with Creative Control) America magazine release a few years back. Dame knew there was something there to harness beyond the voluminous denim and hefty fleecewear, but it got derailed by an ego trip. Shawn seems to have lifted elements of that halfway-there business plan in his predictably calculated manner. The site deserves some credit for creating content rather than aggregating it, unlike those curious bottom feeder URLs that lift from the blogs. Bear in mind that Jay’s “little brother”s much-feted blog started life happily heisting content from the likes of High Snobiety without a credit. I liked the shot of Jay’s Margiela sneakers too, but I’m in no doubt that Madbury and Street Etiquette were screengrabbed into the Powerpoint presentation to secure funding for the site.

So if a lifestyle portal like Life + Times represents some sort of neo-hype megabudget, mainstream movement and the blogs we check regularly are hype in its traditional, easily-digestible form, what about the proto hype outlets that helped to inspire a whole movement? They deserve a little more credit than they get.

It’s curious to think that hip-hop was one of the last subcultures to truly embrace the internet, given its power on Trending Topics nowadays (witness the recent afternoon of Earl Sweatshirt awareness), but the notion of looking at rap on the internet seemed downright goofy and at odds with the “keep it real” culture of the time (though these 1993 alt.rap entries are a charming reminder that folk have been saying “hip-hop’s dead” for almost two decades — even during a perceived golden age). Platform.net was a pioneering site on its creation circa 1996 – a proto Complex.com in some ways, that got plenty of corporate interest from the likes of Sony back when the internet scared brands the first time round and everyone threw money at unprofitable business models.

Platform offered, well…a platform for record labels and clothing brands, plus original content that sometimes talked to me like I’d never heard of hip-hop, but let me hear Ghostface’s ‘Apollo Kids’ (RealAudio, yo) for the first time, while hosting HAZE, Strength, Trace and Triple 5 Soul‘s online presence…or something like that. It was a particularly overdesigned site, but I used to visit frequently. It had vanished by 2002, but the site’s founders, Ben White and Tina Imm were part of the original Complex team in 2002. It was an ambitious move at a time when online hip-hop consisted of white men arguing about Atmosphere on message boards or sparsely designed online stores, but it pre-empted the culture’s ownership of the web.

Relax, Street Jack, Boon, Lodown and Mass Appeal provided plenty of paper content circa 1999, but it was also the time when plenty of sites began offering collated information in an English Language format. My respect for Being Hunted and RTHQ is substantial, and something that’s been covered here before several times. 1999-2001 felt like a silver age of online hype culture. Both Being Hunted and Rift Trooper HQ were utter fandom — otaku levels of interest via Europe (Germany and the UK respectively) and the blueprint for the blog realm.

Spine Magazine’s London-based mixture of sneaker, skatewear, sticker and magazine fixation, plus extensive hip-hop content is the reason I do the job I do now, but it felt utterly fresh on its debut, offering the same excitement that Phat magazine offered seven years earlier (also involving Mr. Chris Aylen too) — it also spawned online store Crooked Tongues in late 2000 (that model of sister sites would become more ubiquitous later on down the line) and even had a Recon collaboration. Now, anyone might be able to have a blog (Crooked and Spine had Blogger functions — one of the first times I ever saw the word mentioned) but it currently feels like a collection of vaguely overlapping, cliquey closed circles. Back then, simply registering an interest got me involved (big thanks to both Christophers, Steve and Russell).

Nike Park was a good source of Nike news during the Alpha Project days and a purer time when brands were a little more apprehensive of internet fandom. That would lead to Niketalk in late 1999, and Nike Park’s spam-filled message board came to a close in early 2000 — shouts to Collie, who supplied plenty of Euro exclusive images to the Nike Park and Niketalk back in the day. Fat Lace deserves props for maintaining since 1999 too (not to be mistaken for the UK-based rap ‘zine which also deserves props).

Online stores like the Tokyo-based resellers Concept Shop (Simon from Concept Shop seemed to be a frequent poster on a number of forums), Streethreds (now Hanon Shop) and Shoe Trends with their enviable collection of Air Max and FrontPage ’98, clip art laden site fill me with a certain nostalgia for electronically window shopping.

Mo’ Wax may have been struggling between 1999 and 2001, but their bulletin board proved pretty damned influential. Just as the label let cultures converge (with varying degrees of success), as with the Crooked Tongues forums, plenty of friendships were forged between likeminds on that site, with its noisy intro and black background for extra migraines. Splay seemed to operate alongside it. By the way, if you’re assuming that forums are redundant, bear in mind that Hypebeast’s forums were a breeding ground for Street Etiquette, On Award Tour and OFWGKTA (plus the Celebs Rockin Heat! thread is one of my favourite things on the internet). I remember Futura making some very gracious visits to the Mo’ Wax site too, long after the launch of his labyrinth website and around the time of the Booth-Clibborn book launch. At least I assume it was him, because anonymity on that site was a piece of piss. Superfuture and Tokion seem to slot in alongside those sites too. A fair amount of users spilled onto FUK as well.

My Internet Explorer (what can I say? I was saving for a Mac) bookmarks seemed congested at the start of the 21st century, but in retrospect, there was barely anything out there. Nothing. That’s why I feel the original obsessives deserve a little shine. I don’t think they knew how far things would go — from blindly navigating a collection of quotes and Lenny’s scanned-in photography and sketches, to a pair of Futura AF1s on Rozay’s feet. Worlds most definitely collided, and a fair few who deserved it got paid. Those who didn’t get paid deserve to be remembered too. Proto hype sites, I salute you. Internet pre-2005 seems to be gradually disappearing from memory and from Google search (I’m blaming defunct hosts too), but the dead links and missing in action images form the unassuming backbone of a snowball effect in the years that followed. Gotta love that old-world web design.


I wince every time I see someone with an outlet for their witterings, be it a blog or inexplicably, a place in a magazine starts calling themselves a writer or, god forbid, a journalist. You can hurl the dictionary definition my way that might say otherwise in a most literal sense…shit, you can hurl the whole dictionary at me for all I care, but chances are—and this is especially applicable in my vapid field of work—you’re not. You just string a few sentences together to make a PR happy, to get free things or win the respect of your equally one-dimensional peers. You are most likely, like me, a chancer. Nowadays, if you can button up a denim shirt, you’re putting “stylist‘” on your CV. If you beg friends on Twitter, you’re in “communications“. If you watched ‘Helvetica’ and can crop on PhotoShop you’re a “designer“. If you’ve can do all these things, maybe you can claim you can offer some “creative direction“. Chances are, you’re a prick.

If you’ve written an uncritical, bombastic paragraph about a new t-shirt company by slightly deconstructing the promo-guff someone emailed you as a PDF attachment and are patting yourself on the back I’d like to get semi-literate for a second and point you in the direction of the books above. George Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ isn’t necessarily journalism, but as an act of utter immersion, and even if there’s a few liberties with the timeline, as a lesson in scenic setting, characterization and pace minus the pointless sentences that lower eyelids, it’s a necessary read. Don McCullin’s rise from East End snapper to the photojournalist’s photojournalist, risking life and limb in any hellhole you care to name (‘The Bang-Bang Club’ is highly recommended too on a similar topic) is an inspiring and humbling story. He’s an excellent writer too.

Michael Herr took a typewriter and a notebook to Vietnam rather than a Nikon, on assignment for ‘New America Review’, ‘Esquire’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ – he writes with abstract eloquence in heinous conditions, and ‘Dispatches’ is the greatest of all war reports. Then there’s Gay Talese—the impeccably-dressed master of the written portrait. His pieces on Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Floyd Patterson are flawless, and if traditional tailoring and the inner workings ‘Vogue’ are of interest, he set precedents with profiles there too. The minute I got my name in print, the sheen was buffed by the corruptive presence of ad money. I enjoy writing, but it’s stifled by cash-led limitations. As a result, I can’t claim to have done much more than write advertorials. But at least I know my place.

The aim here isn’t to belittle what you do, but to offer some perspective. Reading the above will broaden some horizons, and with luck, bitchslap you into hesitating before you bellow those journalistic credentials. I can’t imagine that Orwell, McCullin, Herr or Talese could flourish in pixels alone. The more intelligent and lucid the writing (though The Sabotage Times has been taking up my web time in the best way possible of late) or imagery, the more the screen makes me squint. Maybe I need glasses, but it leaves me wanting to see it on paper. Any time anyone pays me the slightest compliment, I return to these books to understand my position in the scale of things. You can be okay in the field of fashion footwear, but it’s like being the skinniest kid at fat camp…compared to everyone outside the camp you’re still a waste-of-space.

Digression One

It’s rare that I mention my employer here, just because it has its own online presence and this blog was started as its distant cousin, but Crooked Tongues is 10 years old this year, and that warrants a mention. That’s a long time in E-years. Many sites have comes and gone—even much of Crooked’s pre-2005 history has been lost for this or that reason. While I seem to have taken some role as a mouthpiece for the site (and the next hack that claims I created it gets a slap), the site’s history pre-empts me by years. Shouts to Russell (the HNIC), C-Law, Chraylen, Acyde, Kahma, Tim, Grace, Niranjela, Dean and Phil, plus the likes of Jeff and Al, and of course, my partner-in-crime (now-Vans) Morganator and the current roster of Mumbi, Tom, Amberley and Jade. Oh yeah, and Zaid, Jaymz, Leo, Chris, James and all the rest. Plus everyone else who ever passed through and many more who were there before me.

I only joined just over half-way through that decade (I wrote some crappy LP retrospectives that Chris Aylen graciously didn’t delete on sight on April 2000 for Spine Magazine)—freelance for Crooked only commenced from mid 2004, leading to a full-time role from January 2006. Ah, memories. There was little like Crooked Tongues before (Nikepark, Shoe Trends and Altsnks were ill though). Were it not for the trusting minds behind the site, my life would be significantly shittier right now. For that, I’m eternally grateful to Russ and the duo of Christophers. I don’t care a fuck for what you think of it now, nor that you’re “over” sports footwear, but Crooked changed the game. The big dogs paid attention. In many ways, it may have been partially responsible for the boom in theme pack “limited” crap, as brands started to take more and more attention to the sneaker weirdos. You may not see overt linkage to it here (it’s my day job), but I’m immensely proud and honoured to be involved. When it happens to piss brands and retailers off, I’m even prouder of it.

From wandering to the site (and ‘Cavemilk’s) launch party at the Great Eastern Hotel in January 2001, wearing Zoo York and Wallees, to the 2004 BBQ, an attempt to capture a “block party” vibe (which I believe, was originally meant to be in a basketball court according to nascent planning), to the April 2005 DMPHI book lunch, to the 2005 BBQ in the same venue as the year before, to the adidas ‘Black Monday’ 2006 event, to the BBK 2007 BBQ, to 2009’s party, the real-world events have been remarkable, forging more than a handful of friendships. While the food will run out fast, and people will angrily text me for being left waiting outside, I hope tomorrow’s tenth anniversary BBQ will be equally memorable. Still, at least we’ve got goodie bags to give away.

Digression Two

C-Law posting up the House33 New Balance 576 recently reminded me I’ve still got my one of ones in the loft. I can give or take the orange laces, but the carbon effect ‘N’ and forefoot is a winner. Can’t forget the PUMA Clyde ‘Warnett’ edition either. The stitched rather than printed lettering makes me love these an awful lot. Like I said, Crooked has afforded me some excellent opportunities.

Digression Three

I’m collating some examples of Slayer self-harm (plus a more professional but equally disturbing ankle scar artwork). These guys really mean it more than Jimmy, Cam, Freeky and Juelz ever did. The chap in the ‘Live Intrusion’ who gets it carved on his inner forearm in the ‘Live Intrusion’ VHS gets extra points for having rubbing alcohol ignited to cauterise the wound. Flaming Slayer skin slashes aren’t big or clever, but I find it an oddly inspiring act of devotion. If you want to leave negative comments surrounding self-harm scarification glorification, I suggest you keep it to yourself-maybe you could carve it onto your thigh or forearm instead. With Slayer, it’s never a cry for help—it’s just a thrash metal war wound.