What’s all the fussing and feuding for these days? I’ll never understand the people pretending that they emerged from the womb fully clued up, nodding sagely. Life is about discovery and evolving tastes. Got into something a year ago? Feel free to comment, regardless of what some old misanthrope who hopped on it five years prior tells you. Those who were really there at the start of anything, don’t sit and waste their time typing, blogging and dissecting them, unless they made a bad business decision and ended up on the outside. If something makes a few thousand kids YouTube Ninjaman or New Order, even if it’s just to get bragging rights over their online peers, then it can only be a good thing. then A brand like Supreme might not have been as widely discussed 20 years ago, but it was still fêted enough by the style press to warrant a page in The Face around Christmas 1995 — a magazine that was on the shelf of my local newsagent, with a then-circulation of around 113,000, back when mentioning anything in relation to Stüssy had us interested. Supreme was even on the shelf relatively locally at Dogfish in Cambridge for a bit earlier that year. It wasn’t necessarily a secret society then either — just a good brand, carefully distributed.
My updates here have been sporadic due to work distractions. For that, I apologise (I actually need to get this basic blog template redesigned at some point soon too). A couple of pieces I wrote are in the new 032c. It’s easy to become jaded in a world where much of what you love has become cyclical cultural mass, but that’s how you become so embittered that you render yourself unemployable. I still manage to get hyped about things like this. As somebody who’s an admirer of ACG, 032c and ACRONYM’s work, I was excited to see the All Conditions Gear article we put together in the new issue, plus an extract from a conversation I had with Toby and Sk8thing from Cav Empt. There are longer versions of the interviews that might find their way online too. Shouts to Joerg for letting me get involved. Go pick up issue #28, because it’s still the best magazine of its kind on the market — the What We Believe piece is bold and brilliant, plus there’s a rare spot of Supreme print advertising in there too. There’s an 032c clothing line coming soon that, going on the strength of some brief IG previews (and knowing that they don’t do anything by half), will be good.
On the magazine front, upping the seminal Ruder than the Rest article from an early 1991 issue of The Face half a decade ago amassed a lot of interest at the time, with this period of real London streetwear barely documented or celebrated. The logical follow-up to it was Norman Watson’s Karl and Derick styled New Skool shoot (mentioned on this blog a couple of times before) from later that year (which includes Mr. Charlie Dark as a young ‘un). That piece united skatewear, streetwear and sportswear perfectly — Nike Air Max and Huaraches worn with Pervert, Poizone, Fresh Jive, Anarchic Adjustment and Insane, plus haircuts by Conrad of Cuts and Rollin’ Stock. It was incredible — the look that dwells in the Basement and gets hectic in Wavey Garms now, but back when it really seemed to take form for a wider audience to watch from far, far away.
6:77FlyCreative have put together an exhibition called Ruffnecks, Rudeboys and Rollups that gathers imagery from this pivotal era of style in the country’s capital, with submissions from the likes of Normski. It runs from a private view on Friday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 24th at 5th Base Gallery at 23 Heneage Street in east London, with some very appropriate sponsorship from Supermalt. I’m looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it’s the start of something even bigger.
Linking every topic above again, something interesting is happening with The Face archives by the looks of things — Maxwell Logan and Nick Logan have started an Instagram account called THE____ARCHIVE that showcases me gems from the magazine’s vaults for its 35th anniversary, like these logo prototypes from Steve Bush. This outlet, plus Paul Gorman’s book, should provide some extra insight beyond the fancy design and memorable features. It’s the 35th anniversary of the very much alive i-D this year too.
You may have noticed a predilection towards rap magazines here before, and finding a stack of 20-year old publications a few weeks back I thought I’d lost had me feeling a little nostalgic for the days when WH Smiths had at least a few homegrown publications of worth on the shelf. Mainly because, with my Medusa touch, I managed to make every single UK rap magazine I’ve ever written for fold within a few months of publishing my work. Hip-hop magazines are a hard sell when you can log on and get something more up to date or catch something long form on Unkut or Complex.com, but there’s room for something created with care that captures the current state of the industry. Those with a long memory will recall an underrated British ‘zine called The Downlow that ran for four or so years (1992-1996) with an over designed, occasionally unintelligible layout with a ton of electronic typefaces that recalled David Carson’s work on Ray Gun around the same time or Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft’s FUSE. It favoured words over pictures. 1992’s BLAG (which is, admirably, still standing) and 1995’s shortly-lived True (which switched to Trace after True folded) united hip-hop culture with style well, bringing some spirit seen in America’s Vibe and The Fader. I’m interested to see BRICK, a new British hip-hop publication, in the flesh — especially after enjoying the second issue of another London-based project, Viper. Founded and creatively directed by photographer Hayley Louisa Brown, designed by POST — and edited by RWD’s Grant Brydon, the careful approach to the all important look — complete with custom typefaces — is both evocative of the more sincere locally created mags of old and hip-hop’s current aesthetic (despite, bar honourable exceptions, a dip in the quality of album cover art during the last decade). Neil Bedford’s shots of Supreme-hating, Cobain swag jacking stoner Wiz Khalifa for one of BRICK’s cover stories made the Daily Mail (we’ve come a long way since that Snoop “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT” Daily Star cover) and hopefully that attention will turn into sales. Shouts to the team for making it happen. Go check out this fine It’s Nice That feature on the making of issue #1 and visit the official site here.
On the subject of rap and typography, the Heated Words crew are studiously examining the history and legacy of the mysterious but influential b-boy font seen on Dynamic Rockers, RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, Mick Jones, Biz Markie, Malcolm McLaren and Joe Strummer that defined 1982-era hip-hop style. Supreme have used a replica of this classic heat pressed typeface several times and Alex Olsen’s Bianca Chandon recently homaged a Paradise Garage tee with it on from back in the day. It’s integral to UK street style too — imported by intrepid tourists who hit up the Albee Square Mall to get a custom creation and the Heated Words: Initial Research exhibition to set off the project opens on the 27th of this month for a couple of weeks at London’s House of Vans. Videos, photographs by Martha Cooper, Mike Laye, Michael Markos and several others, old ads and some of the clothing in question. If you like some of the nonsense I link to here, you’re liable to really enjoy this one.
While we’re talking old magazines and Neville Brody, this Gilded Words piece is great: Jamie Morgan talking about a contact sheet from a classic Buffalo shoot for with Felix Howard for the March 1985 issue of The Face and the moment when every person started calling themselves a stylist.
Huaraches have been ruined by appalling colourways and weird shapes, plus the fact they’ve been rereleased in one of the least imaginative periods in recent history. But not everybody shares that opinion. In fact, the shoes offer almost Jordan levels of traffic if you’re looking for click bait. My friends at Complex asked me to write a brief history of the shoe (excluding the pre-release situation when the shoe was scrapped) in the UK. That’s a good excuse to put that murky, lo-fi photo of the best way I ever saw the shoe worn (sans laces too) from The Face back in 1991 back up here. No time to do much of any substance on this blog today, so head over there if you want something a little longer. This nation did the shoe thing better than anyone else back in 2000. Now? Not so much.
Can we use the news of Neneh Cherry dropping a new album with Four Tet as an excuse to put pictures of her in the late 1980s and early 1990s up here? My crush on her was colossal and her personal style put me onto some serious shoes — she looked incredible in those Air Delta Force Hi makeups and the adidas Attitudes with the pattern on the upper. Around 1992, when she was recording with DJ Premier she broke out those Jordan IVs (I’ve put up the picture here before), which seemed like a blast from the past back then before the reissues. Neneh has more swagger than any of your male sartorial role models.
I’ll repeat myself on another matter too — what was so wrong with the intimidating shopping experience? Now there’s competition from the internet and stores take strange, cuddly social media forms to keep you in the loop, but I’ll always cherish those memories of coming to Soho and feeling intimidated wandering into the stores I spotted as stockists in The Face. It wasn’t that you got scowled or growled at, it was just that you seemed to be completely transparent when you entered those doors. My younger self always found complements on a record or item of clothing from those staffers to be something to cherish and the experience made me appreciate an object more. It was a rite of passage of sorts and to get conversational was even more of an accomplishment — some of the best staffers over the years seemed to act as a filter against stupidity. Without them the floodgates are open.
Half the moaners who complain about poor service are liable to enter a shop with a storm cloud expression anyway. I’ll miss The Hideout for the chats about esoteric documentaries and the labels I couldn’t get anywhere else. Remember their Probe account days or taking the wrong turn to find Hit & Run? Michael Kopelman has gone beyond the call of duty to help me out over the years and Richard is one of the ultimate raconteurs. That store had the Post Overalls account at least half a decade before workwear hit hard and they got Jim Lambie on a shoe collaboration (among other things) — the industry has dumbed down since. Farewell to another London institution.
The debt I owe to The Face for at least providing me, the reader, with the perception of being in the loop is immeasurable and it’s something that completely changed how magazines looked, from costly tomes to free supplements. While a Rolling Stone or New Yorker style digital archive would be tremendous (and I wish Vice would do the same for i-D), a book on its rise, reign and slide is a good idea and with Paul Gorman — the man behind the excellent Reasons to Be Cheerful, Mr Freedom and the classic The Look: Adventures In Pop & Rock Fashion — writing it, Legacy: The Story of The Face (Thames & Hudson) is going to be a necessity when it arrives in 2015. As a hint of what’s coming, the talk of it being made with the participation of founder Nick Logan (to whom any appreciator of perfect print owes a significant debt) is previewed in Gorman’s conversation with Logan in the 20th anniversary issue of Arena Homme Plus. To commemorate two decades in the business and having the credibility capital and creativity to outlive its parent publication, that issue really delivers — provided that you can deal with the abundance of male nudity that it defiantly throws in the mix, it engages in some champion shit talking, with shots fired in i-D and Morrissey’s direction, Jean Touitou giving a typically good interview (complete with comedy accents), MA-1s, my friend Gary Aspden’s essay on the misappropriation of sportswear and the rise of the real deal, plus some other things. There’s a lot of substance between the glossy stuff and pics of dicks (innuendo unintended but inevitable).
Shouts to Long Live Southbank, Hold Tight films and all involved (Ben Powell really nails it with every comment he makes to the camera) for Long Live Southbank: The Bigger Picture, a measured response to the famed undercroft’s threat. As the Southbank Centre celebrates the 40th anniversary of this skate spot by deciding to shut it down entirely, this puts the case across for its preservation with contributions from famous faces and the activists and volunteers putting in work to try and keep it alive. No stick it to the man ranting and no hysterical retaliation.
In a world where we want to talk about past triumphs and educate from indoors, nobody in power wants to understand the psychology of skating. There’s nothing like promoting creativity by stamping it out in its purest form and nothing breeds apathy like people in charge dismissing creative activism as small-mindedness. I’m inclined to think that those 64,000 petition signatures would have hit 100,000+ if everybody rocking a five panel cap and weed leaf patterns on their socks in the city had signed it.
I’ve long been a fan of Ewen Spencer’s work — he’s responsible for documenting plenty of subcultures that few others sought to shoot, possibly because they felt they had little worth. Guess what? Now everybody’s nostalgic for Moschino and Classics right now and Mr. Spencer is sitting on a goldmine. If you read about late 1990s and early 2000s British club culture in The Face, you probably bore witness to what he captured and he’s still out there trying to find the enclaves and little scenes around Europe because, while he doesn’t necessarily like the music, he’s drawn to the energy.
From the overpriced champagne dance days to the scowls, spliffs and clashes to kinds far, far away blasting Flo Rida from crappy phone speakers, you don’t need any audio to visualize the soundtrack to the pictures he’s gathered over the years. As part of some recent self-funded jaunts, Ewen visited Naples and documented a group of teens out there. There’s plenty of alpha activity and apparel that’s of a distinctly Euro look, but there’s some familiarity in there too, but there’s no Camorra recruits holding up knives for the camera — it’s all posing and trying hard to look like you don’t give a shit (being a teenager, basically), with some candid moments in there too.
Ewen asked me to contribute a few paragraphs to the publication that contains the fruits of his Naples trip — Guapa-mente Issue 01. This is just the start of a series of explorations of European youth style and behavior — the parallels and the curious contrasts. With this being a snapshot of mid-summer 2013, if you want to look back a little further (and get a prequel to Open Mic), Ewen’s also finished putting together a book of UK garage imagery which has changed its name from Brandy & Coke to simply UKG, which ran parallel to the sweater, less clobber fixated late 1990s happy hardcore nights that Ewen also visited, resulting in the imagery that accompanies this excellent VICE piece. UKG is going to be an essential acquisition for anyone in the UK who heard those basslines from tackily decorated motors pre and post millennium or made the pilgrimage to the Empire or Colosseum.
With people getting nostalgic for old raving and the boom in bomber jacket popularity, is someone going to retro Dreamscape and Roast merchandise like the MA-1s? Will eight-packs of cassettes be dropping for record store day?
While we’re talking apparel and dance graphics, I don’t think Anarchic Adjustment gets it dues as a seminal British skate brand (even though its popularity seemed to stem from a move to America). A lot of the designs might look naive now, but manga, subverted taglines (Just Do It re appropriated for pill popping) and Miles Davis’ face on tee all had me fiending for the (former RAD art director) Nick Philip and Alisdair Mackenzie’s vision as a youngster (I think Alisdair and Nick split up as business partners early on, leaving Nick to run the brand). A cult brand in Tokyo (an example of Hiroshi Fujiwara’s clout, with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito pushing it too), Anarchic Adjustment is the tie that binds Hiroshi, Spike Jonze and Wired magazine in its earliest incarnation. There’s something in their whole “digital workwear” vision, even if time hasn’t been kind to the graphics. These guys were collaborating with some big names long before the rest were. This 1991 showreel is on YouTube looking 22 years old, but bringing back some memories of RAD ads and aspiration for cotton goods.