Nothing to see here today. You’d be far better off heading to Papermag if you haven’t already and reading ‘An Oral History of X-Girl’ with contributions from Sofia Coppola, Kim Gordon, Eli Bonerz, Chloë Sevigny and Daisy von Furth. Can you imagine having Lyor Cohen as a babysitter? This is a comprehensive piece of streetwear history in an era and industry where womens’ gear is an afterthought and whatever crappy brand puts Kate Upton on gets the blog hits. The world needs another X-Girl — extra points to that brand for the clean Mike Mills-designed logo. To assume it was just a girly variant on X-Large would be far, far, off the mark. Prior to X-Girl, von Furth was writing for ‘Spin’ and the above Lollapalooza ’92 related piece from that magazine displays a proto (albeit significantly sluttier) X-Girl aesthetic at work.
That conversational piece answered a few questions about a brand that fascinated me before it vanished to Japan and seemed to become semi-mainstream like its male counterpart (it still makes my mind boggle that there was still an X-Large store off Carnaby Street until around 2006). It’s nice to see something with a little more mystique out ther too, like gardener-centric brand Sassafras who don’t make a replica of my grandad’s “gardening tie” (now that’s swagger), but make good gear that’s elusive on these shores and pretty much everywhere else. Their heather grey t-shirt is particularly direct, though I suspect it would be worn by an audience of less-than-greenfingered “crafted” gear fanboys. Now everyone’s shifting from parka fetishes to foodie inclinations, is horticulture the next sub-cultural exodus for the WordPressing and Instagramming masses? (Image taken from Doo-Bop)
Not from Japan, but appropriately otaku, Style Warrior making a Mighty Ethnicz t-shirt isn’t entirely unexpected but the execution’s very good. Mighty Ethnicz’s 2 Live Crew affiliations, 8+ year (excluding the Newtrament days) went from UK rap’s early era to that point when we all wanted to sound like Pete Rock or Muggs. The Bodé tribute character, complete with a star, machine gun, name chain, big shoes and fat laces is a good one and the tee’s available to pre-order right here. By the time I was utterly infatuated with rap, these guys, London Posse and the Brotherhood always seemed to deliver the antidote to fast raps about goblins and swords over corner shop Bomb Squad knockoffs.
On a Bodé note, I recently found a picture of a Ninja Turtle that Mark Bodé sketched for me in 1991.
Denim has pretty much been ruined by individuals who, if an aspiration to be in fashion hadn’t intervened, would be down Games Workshop banging on about orcs and invisibility capes. The joy of denim is its resilience and unfussiness, yet people want to muck with the formula. They want to up the weight of jeans to the point where they stand alone without being filled with a human, stood near your bed, plotting your downfall as you sleep. They want to studiously look at the chemical makeup of the detergent you use if — god forbid — you ever wash them.
They want you to stand over a bath containing your jeans, partially submerged in a couple of inches of light blue water and sodium solution to seal in the leaking dye. To be honest, they just seem to be making it up, smirking behind their Superfuture accounts. Jeans are jeans. Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss would be perplexed to look at how seriously folk take denim preservation. Beyond all the nonsense, the aim is simply to wear out a pair and move onto the next ones. I’ve annihilated Levi’s, visvim Fluxus, 101Bs and Rescue Raws — not to the point where they looked charmingly worn-in, but far beyond that, to the point where they simply made me look homeless.
One of my first copywriting gigs was to write a guide to denim preservation for a big brand. It was called ‘Let It Bleed,’ which I thought — barring the Rolling Stones unleashing their legal team — was a very clever name. I studied and studied the art of denim preservation, pored of Mister Denim in ‘Lightning’s do’s and don’ts and read page after page of internet debate. There was the aforementioned, plus a million other rules and theories, but the quest for validation via a “Cool fades bro” on a message board seemed to be the eventual aim. People talked about the glory of “whiskering” too, and after reading it, I realised that it’s all bollocks. Just disrespect your jeans.
The never-wash theory in the quest for the perfect finish is by far the most bizarre — to break the no-wash rule was as frowned upon as being the first to visit the toilets during an all-dayer with particularly boisterous friends. There’s encouragement to discourage dirt by hanging jeans outside or freezing them or — best of all — just to Fabreeze them in order to mask the scent, effectively creating the sartorial equivalent of a baby-wiped whore’s bath. The selvedge preoccupation is nothing new either — broadcaster and occasional irritant Robert Elms managed to annoy Geordies by calling them, “northern scum” on ‘The Tube’ in the 1980s for being ignorant to the sacred strip’s aura.
To cut through the conjecture, here’s a fact: If you wear denim all year round and never wash them, they will smell of piss and sweat. That’s fine behind an artfully shot jpg, but women won’t be seduced by your manly scent. You simply have the lower half of a local oddball. Just with nicer shoes. I wear jeans every day. I’ve only worn Levi’s Vintage for its unfussiness. I trust Levi’s. I also buy into one notion of the denim realm — it’s a fabric that works with the wearer, taking on shapes and characteristics and pleasantly mutating with every wear and wash. I’m also very lazy, and if there’s an excuse to live in the same jeans, I’m all for it. Putting on a new pair is irritating, because the break-in process has me walking like an android and giving sofas a navy hue wherever I choose to sit. It takes me out of my comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. But while I’m not participating in rodeos or working on a ranch like some kind of Lipschitz fantasy, I seem to wear a pair to destruction every 24 months through the most mundane of tasks.
I’m about to retire these 1933 501s due to damage. Not cool damage – motorbike seat wear and tear or oil marks. Just mundane contemporary scuffing and ripping. This isn’t Minoru Onozato or Doug Bihlmaier’s discerningly sloppy clothing-with-tales timelessness. I’ve simply rendered them hard to wear and given them an aura of poverty. Using the coin pocket to carry notes rather than a wallet caused some wear, two BlackBerrys (one in either pocket) over a prolonged period — even when sitting — caused two strange, holster-like markings that look like a smartphone Turin Shroud. Sitting between train carriages, cross-legged on the floor during an overcrowded commute wore the cinchback strap away to the point where it simply fell apart and it made the keys in my back pockets cause holes that rendered them unusable.
Deadliest of all, the regular rubbing of a bag on a daily walk from station to office caused the pocket area to rub away completely, exposing both my pocket and boxer shorts — cotton denim met cotton twill for a daily confrontation and twill won, emerging entirely unscathed, bar a permanent blue bruise where they made regular contact. The 1933 cut’s one of my favourites, eschewing any semblance of fit with that almost-exaggerated seat (which proved functional from all that sitting) and offering a slightly lighter, softer denim in its raw state than some later models. It served me well.
But when it comes to the thorny subject of pre-distressed denim, how many commercially available washes come close to real wear? Who gets that contrived and controlled pocket and ankle fray, with the lines symmetrically appearing at the thighs? It’s tethered destruction. The real thing’s much more freeform. I’ve got more respect for the patchwork creations, merging sloganeering with faded and dark denims that one might see in a provincial nightclub than the cop-out wash imitations feigning the look of a month on the body.
I actually got these jeans after the denim guide was completed a few years back. In retaliation for the information overload, I didn’t listen to a word I wrote. So these jeans tell a story. It’s just a shame it’s such a dull one. Still, at least they were partially destroyed on the railroad — even if it’s not in the manner that Strauss and Davis might have envisioned.
I’m feeling this raincoat by London’s UTILE crew a great deal for all-out cleanliness. No fussy business, dumb branding or irksome points of difference for the sake of it. It’s the right length and it’s made by people who know. www.utileclothing.com
If there’s one good thing to come out of our preoccupation with the past, it’s the creation of amazing merchandise like this homage to Greek Street’s legendary and long-gone Groove Records (as seen in ‘Bad Meaning Good’). Based on the shop’s carrier bags, it’s appropriately yellow. Style Warrior UK is putting out some unlikely but admirable British hip-hop designs. www.stylewarrioruk.wordpress.com
It’s good to see that the Reed Space’s ‘Reed Pages’ has reached issue one with a more substantial, perfect-bound offering than the launch edition issue zero all those years ago. I know I’m prone to assuming cancellation when follow-ups aren’t forthcoming, but almost two years is quite a gap. Just bear in mind that Mr. Staple is no stranger to printed matter.
It’s worth taking this moment to take it back to a time when you were still mildly optimistic about Rawkus releases, when Zab Judah was on the rise and Gravis Tarmacs (were they co-designed in any way by a pre-Visvim Hiroki?) were still a contender. ‘The Fader’ does an excellent job now on the music front, but in 2000 and 2001 it was a bible to me in my Bedford residence for matters of style too. I was more than happy to shell out around £6 an issue at the Piccadilly Circus branch of Tower Records in the hunt for this title and ‘Mass Appeal,’ ‘LODOWN’ or the lesser-spotted Transworld spinoff, ‘Stance’.’
These were pre-blog (shouts to the Mo’ Wax bulletin board massive, Spine Magazine, Rift Trooper and Being Hunted though) days, and if I saw an article I liked, it got memorized like rap album thank you’s. Jeff Ng’s contribution to the editorial side of early issues (the jeffstaple design was excellent too) gave us some English-language profiles of brands, product and people that had been confined to Japanese publications like ‘Boon’ and ‘Relax.’
It’s always nice to see the smart Supreme advertising that ‘The Fader’ carried, but Jeff’s 2001 Paul Mittleman and Hiroshi Fujiwara/Nike Japan profiles from issues #4 and #5 were very strong and resonated with me for some reason. The Hiroshi piece places plenty of emphasis on an innovative early ’00s boomtime—the Monotone collection white/green Terra Humara are something I’ve looked out for ever since in a US10 and the Air Max 120 remains underrated. Paul Mittleman’s recurring Arc’teryx coat and the shots of the never-bettered Dunk Lows (reissued next week) that built on his appearance in ‘Stance’ talking about the same shoe.
I spilt coffee on issue #4 of ‘The Fader’ and lost it when my mother culled my magazines left in her loft back in late 2002. Since then, I’ve been looking to read the Hiroshi article again (I’m sure that at one point it used to reside on its own http://www.fader.com/hiroshi URL). Then the homie Masta Lee at Patta saw my Tweeted plight and hooked me up with scans of the piece—props and praises to him for that act of kindness. Shouts to Jeff and the Fader for creating some essential content that resonated with an info-hungry freak like me.
UK RAP RENAISSANCE
Just because I think some folk need to deal with hip-hop’s progression doesn’t mean I feel some UK legends deserve to exist in a netherworld where their names are only uttered by the older generation during talk of the olden days. I think most of the current wave of UK hip-hop that’s broken through is still a crappy imitation of our American brethren, and while I appreciate that men rapping about demons over very fast Bomb Squad-style production isn’t going to cut it any more (maybe in some other parts of Europe, but not here), I love to see some of the old guard who made some classic LPs and reinterpreted rap on their own terms deserve some shine.
Take Hijack for instance—they had one of the best visual identities of any British band, but remained a cult favourite due to label politics—or MC Duke, or labels like Kold Sweat or Music of Life. There was a vitality to these names in their heyday and a sense that they’d go far to rep our nation at a point when hip-hop truly hit the mainstream circa 1991. Some are content to talk it up and simply recollect, some feel that they’ll give Giggs and Pro Green a run for their money at some point (still labouring under the misapprehension that their time is coming) and others entered a bigger industry and made a buck by taking off the blinkers and branching out. Respect to former HHC editor Andy Cowan for starting Original Dope—a label dedicated to reissuing old British hip-hop albums in remastered, repackaged and expanded form. Ruthless Rap Assassins, Blade and MC Duke fans should be delighted.
I remember the merchandise pages in Blues & Soul, HHC and several LP sleeves, but who was going to entrust their cash or postal order to some mysterious P.O. box address? I got my fingers burnt several times over the years, but I always wanted those mysterious tees and sweats that groups and labels promoted. Then there were the acts that should have had tees, but never did. What’s the solution? Officially licensed UK rap shirts from Style Warrior UK. Back in 2006 I spotted a MySpace for this UK label but missed out on a Hijack shirt…then I was outbid on eBay for it twice. Now it’s back—Overlord X, Son of Noise, Gunshot, M.C. Mell’o’, Music of Life (and there’s an excellent breakdown on their logo on the site), MC Duke, Silver Bullet, Kold Sweat are reliving their youth on cotton in a remarkably well-designed way, and there’s even two Hijack styles to pick from. The blog’s very good with some video links to the old ‘3rd Eye’ video magazine, talk of Stereo MCs and Cash Crew tees on the horizon and a history of the Demon Boyz logo too.
Today’s actually the cut-off for picking up the Hijack ‘Style Wars’ shirt. I assume there’s some rapidly aging fuckers like me who bug out at that kind of thing. It’s up there with the Japanese BBP licensed Showbiz & AG tees from five years ago in the very necessary stakes. Props to all involved.
JIM REDMOND: NIKEHEAD
Thinking about Nike endorsements, one of the most extensive one-man brand examples actually comes in the shape of an athlete’s father—Jim Redmond, the dad of Derek, who memorably accompanied his stricken son to the finishing line of the 400 metres in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. From the “Just Do It” hat to the Huarache t-shirt, socks and 180 running shoes, Jim was Nike down that day. I’m not 100% sure if the shorts were the brand’s own, but in late 2002 I bumped into him at an event and asked if he’d sell me the Huarache t-shirt. He laughed deeply and wandered off. I don’t think he realised that I was being serious.
It’s no surprise that ‘Confessions’ (‘Kokuhaku’) has been nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar. It’s a unique, strange, overblown, almost operatic blast of human misery, but it’s also one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen in a long time. The entire film pretty much moves in a stylized slow-motion, but it doesn’t jar or de-humanise the hyper-emotive nature of the film. Best of all, it relies on certain facets of Japanese culture that would confer any attempts at a Western remake to failure status.
THE RIDE #5
I’ll confess—I have no interest in riding a bike at any time in the future. I lack coordination and live in a town where the roads simply don’t want to accommodate car and bicycle at the same time. It’s a democratic mode-of-transport though, and for some reason, that seems to breed great journalism. ‘Rouleur’ is awesome and ‘The Ride’ journal is good too—from the ilovedust covers to the 700 word stories and accounts of bike experiences, brief interviews and fine photography, it’s evidently a painstaking production. I can’t be arsed to take foot to peddle, but cycling is such a broad church—far more than Eras, rolled up Uniqlo chino legs and fixies – that it generates absorbing and eclectic reading matter. It’s available at Albam, Howies and some other spots right now. Anything with a piece on 1960s Eastern Bloc cycling artwork that adorned matchboxes is worth the expenditure, plus all profits go to charity. It actually makes me want to take a ride, and only the knowledge I’ll end up under the wheels of a bus within an hour discourages me…