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.
Nothing much to report here right now because I’m fed up of the MacBook screen after transcribing two and a half hours of conversation. But here’s a couple of things I wrote for some friends who sell stuff — a short piece on the Stüssy Tribe for MR PORTER (that 1990 CUTiE spread above stays gold) and a bit on the Converse One Star (one of my favourite shoes ever — there’s something a bit longer written for another outlet on the same subject too) for size? Two subjects dear to my heart that crossed over with each other too (as evidenced in the UK newspaper supplement that showcased a couple of pairs on Shawn’s fireplace back in 1993).
I’m guessing that I’m not alone in buying stacks of Japanese language publications. They’re rarely cheap (unless you actually visit Japan, postage or the markup in UK stores can be brutal) and can, unless you stick to your favourite titles and their myriad spinoffs and specials, be a let down once they arrive. But generally, with a mood of all-pervading geekery and a single niche taking up the first chunk of pages, these men’s clothing bibles are a triumph of obsession, covering territory that few western editors would ever dare tread, unless they were looking to bruise their already sensitive circulation. Fortunately, the language of unfiltered nerdery is global and singular. I wait for my Amazon Japan delivery in the knowledge that I’m not going to be able to sit and absorb every word. In fact, I’m probably not going to find a single sentence in there that I can decipher. But I’ll get flawless photography, detail shots, a sense of history—because origin years of a garment will be included— and, as a bonus, there’ll be some excitable captions in English.
If you’re really into the same kind of things as many Japanese consumers—good coats, vintage clobber and things you didn’t know you needed, but are so aesthetically pleasing that they’re necessary—then you’ll always be happy with Lightning, 2nd (Lightning’s younger brother, geared at a younger crowd), Free & Easy, and the tens of other titles that appear each month. ibought magazine takes consumerism to its compelling conclusion with page after page of stuff people bought recently, while GO OUT is the place to see unexpectedly awesome things like big branded GORE-TEX New Eras and costly rucksacks. Sometimes, a cartel of magazine editors unite to create a Whole Earth Catalog style paean to expendable income book stuff called, appropriately, Stuff, with sequels like Stuff Returns. The notion of being able to wander to a 7-11 style store near your house and find a 200 plus page tribute to Americana that examines the minutiae of denim rivets seems otherworldly, yet in many Japanese cities, it’s a norm. Minimal advertising, vast distribution and king-like levels of content means that, to quote Dave Gahan, words are very unnecessary. Every now and again you get stung for 15 quid by buying something completely uninspiring, but you would have blown that on something grass-fed in a bun that didn’t deliver anyway.
The Japanese approach to over analysing and cataloguing sports footwear appeals to me, because it’s a lane of its own that isn’t a youthful preoccupation with six or so silhouettes, nor old man griping over the shape/price/materials/availability, or whatever this month’s moan is. Boon Extra editions from the mid to late 1990s are still my favourite books on the topic, even if the copy could be calling me a bellend for all I know. Japan’s age-old fanaticism for shoes is something that resonates with me. They were up into the high 990s and four digit masterpieces from New Balance before the inevitable slow crawl of hype made the alternative to the bullshit—shoes that are still masterpieces—into another item caught in the bot and queue crossfire. I still feel that some shoes, like the reissue of 1996’s 999 that you only ever seemed to see in Asia, and the MT580, should never have had a release in the western world. We’re not built to appreciate them like we should. We should be observing from afar and making the pilgrimage to bring them back for ourselves and friends with flattened boxes and a not-guilty walk when it comes to NOTHING TO DECLARE.
2nd’s New Balance Book is the third solid NB mook I’ve seen over the years, and while the text is Japanese again, there’s enough imagery of grey suede and nubuck running shoes, factory imagery and history (the 1995 M585 and original M580 from 1992 are useful to see) to make it a worthy pickup. Many will find something new in there and the know-it-all will pick it up anyway because they’re too far gone with this collector thing, and bask in the knowledge that they have the knowledge when it comes to this sprawling, occasionally illogical secret society of numbers on tongues. You’ll probably pay some extra loot to get it, but this is comprehensive enough, despite not trawling some of the rarer releases or delving deep beyond running — like all the other good Japanese publications, it’s best used in tandem with other far eastern records of archive excavation. You could use Google, but it’s so awash with crappy content for content’s sake, and depressingly devoid of all those great little Geocities fan pages, that pricey paper is still your best bet.
The world of footwear reselling is nothing new. People act like it was invented last week and while the Dunk played a heavy role in resell as we know it, it actually pre-empts the SB. Between 1996 and 1998, local newspapers in the USA were scattered with tales of the goldmine sitting in Americans’ attics, as Japanese kids were willing to spend big on their old shoes. In the mid 1990s, Japan had the shoe boom that never seemed to hit the western world until around half a decade later. The Nike Air Max 95’s role in this was substantial (the Jordan XI played a role too) with the shoe selling out and becoming one of the first shoes beyond the Jordan I or made in France Superstars I ever heard silly resell prices quoted for (though X-Large and Acupuncture were selling all things old school for a fair amount — and the hiked price on obscurities was an age-old phenomenon). In fact, a spate of Japanese AM95 (and, as I recall, AM97) robberies in Osaka even got column inches.
Post AM95 there seemed to be a surge in interest in AJ1s, Terminators, Pythons and mid 1980s basketball, but around 1997/98, the Dunk was the most sought after. That led to the sumo ads (sorry, no Force, Flight, Pegasus, Nike Air, Triax or Zoom — an indicator as to what was hot in Tokyo that year) that did the rounds urging small-town Americans to have a dig and make some money. Above, you can see another example of those ads, via the Grand Rapids-based Small Earth company. I’ve thrown a scattering of the column inches of the time, including a Michigan-based newspaper’s account of the far eastern popularity of their university’s colours on the Dunk.
The documentation of this phenomenon was a little warning (including accounts of unwary owners digging out old Daybreaks, Legends and French-made Concords to make a quick buck, plus Japanese collectors’ ability to spot the difference between 1985 Jordan Is and 1994 ones) about the hype to come, but it’s little surprise that some shelves and lofts were probably dry on the deadstock side of things once America realised it wanted to stock up on colourways too. Stop acting like this is a contemporary phenomenon.
(Image of the Small Earth owners from the Cincinatti Enquirer)
Quick update time. I’m in Tokyo right now, so I’m too dazzled by the bright lights to compile anything of note here. A visit to Daikanyama’s T-Site — a spectacular triple building monster of bookstore — has still got me shellshocked, but it’s nice to have my spending curbed by minuscule sizing. These Japanese-made Champion creations (which, admittedly, weren’t as microscopic in medium as many tees out here) at nanamica would have been in my possession if I didn’t get the JR Hartley treatment when I asked for a large. Damn. There’s big Cs and then there’s colossal Cs and this design celebrates the brilliance of that logo design on a great quality shirt. The urge to spend was briefly put in a headlock there, but the beauty of this city is the 100,000 other ways it’ll manage to separate you from your hard-earned cash.
As part of a recent Instagram conversation with those older and wiser than me on such matters, the subject of Tokyo’s legendary Let It Ride line emerged. Too many brands seem to be ignored in favour of lesser ones and just finding an old Japanese-made Let It Ride long-sleeve tee with what looks like bleached branding and a ’50s style back print during a clear out reminded me of the brand’s work. Established in late 1993, by former BEAMS and United Arrows employee Ken Sadomura and designer Kiichiro Kurata, the brand was a key part of the ELT (which I believe stood for Every Little Thing) store in Shibuya that also provided the foundation for a few more brands along the way (according to an entry on Pass the Baton, the store made Birkenstocks fashionable too).
Let it Ride made no secret of its inspiration from punk and Malcolm McLaren’s pre-SEX Let it Rock store, with the teddy boy style that imbued the Neighborhood aesthetic too. As the elder statesmen of the industry pointed out to me, Let it Ride was superseded a little by Unrivaled, as stocked in the mighty Goodhood — a brand with startling levels of attention to detail. It’s not that the brand ever declined, it’s simply that the minds behind it seemed to opt to avoid magazine and blog “celebrity” and just let the product talk. Kiichiro Kurata seems to be putting in some extra work on the Tuscany-made PRESIDENT’S line too (that Oddojob jacket is tremendous) but back in mid 1990s Kurata was an early partner with POST O’ALLS on a sub-brand with ELT called SPANISHCURVES, inspired by the rear view of Hispanic ladies during an NYC trip. This ELT site proves that Let it Ride is still very much an ongoing project.
Salutes to Let it Ride for opening my eyes to (cue up the ‘Aladdin’ soundtrack) a whole new world alongside GOOD ENOUGH. Out of interest (and I know some of you can answer this in a second), what became of Sarcastic post 2006? I’d also love to know more about another early POST O’ALLS collaborator — Shinichi Nakasone, who founded the LL Bean, New England style of Harajuku’s Labrador Retriever store in September 1988 with some vintage pieces, imports and dog-centric takes on rugged Americana way, way, way before the majority. I know it split into two companies with the same branding in the mid 1990s, causing a little confusion, but Nakasone’s contribution to the culture is deeply significant.
Did the YO! MTV Raps documentary leave anyone else as melancholy as it did me? That show changed my life back in the day and the mild sense of anarchy, title animations and even those white album and directorial credits affected me in a way that’s tough to describe. We got a weekly mashup of those daily episodes on a Saturday morning and I’m not mad at the MTV Europe insert of Marxman and Al Agami videos where US videos would have been either. Even the crappier elements are rose-tinted to me. What Ted Demme pushed for changed my life. R.I.P. Ted.
I still maintain that the Demme co-directed documentary ‘A Decade Under the Influence’, released posthumously and screened on IFC is absolutely necessary if you’re a fan of 1970s cinema — there are few better love letters to cinema’s most subversive period. While it might feel a little rushed, there’s several anecdotes delivered by some folks who’ve since passed on that make it a joy to watch in its three-hour form. It used to be on YouTube in its entirety, until music rights and whatever else led to it being alopecia patchy in the chapter stakes, but you can sample the first part below. During the final YO! In 1995, was that a Supreme sweat that Ed Lover wore or was it made by somebody else? (Edit: Sung from Clae, a former PNB founder member, confirmed that it’s not Supreme and it’s actually a 1993 PNB Nation sweat with a WEST FC handstyle) Bearing in mind that the good folk at Milkcrate Athletics upped some footage of Fab politicking with Stash, Futura and Gerb in tradeshow mode (I recall Fab presenting from NFC retailer Triple 5 Soul in 1990, but I’m sure this was from 432F a couple of years later), maybe Ed got tipped off — his clothes were usually on point anyway.
Some are struggling to decry ‘Prometheus’ as garbage, so they’re in denial, giving it ‘7’ and breaking it into two halves of differing quality. I just saw muddled rubbish that felt like a straight-to-DVD pilot to a show that never was. Despite falling asleep during ‘Robin Hood’ and the one with Russell Crowe and wine, the marketing had me fiending for a film that turned out to be as engaging as the appalling “AVP2: Requiem’ with that smartly executed TED talk.
I don’t want to know how those curious HR Giger designs came to exist, especially when the Space Jockey looks as though it’s basketball player height compared to the reclining behemoth in ‘Alien.’ The only piece of Giger mythology I wanted answered is how he and Chris Stein from Blondie became buddies, but apparently it was just a meeting at a gallery after ‘Alien’s release, resulting him creating the cover art to ‘Koo Koo’ and directing the videos for‘Backfired’ and ‘Now I Know You Know’ being full of his work. There’s some good photos of Giger’s house on Chris Stein’s site that don’t disappoint — the baby faces on the garden wall are a nice touch. The ‘Now I Know You Know’ video is better than all of ‘Prometheus.’
I’m on holiday, so I’m taking a holiday from even attempting to make anything in this blog entry particularly cohesive. I forgot it was Wednesday, so I’m just chucking the contents of the tabs on Chrome and what’s in my Gmail up here — I hope it’s sufficient. Anyway, you shouldn’t even be here — you should be on Egotripland reading this piece on the making of the ‘Lil’ Ghetto Boy’ video.
One of the most interesting things I’m currently looking at is Will Robson-Scott (the man behind the lens on ‘Crack & Shine’ 1 and 2) and James Pearson-Howes’s ‘Top Deck’ project with Mother and London clothing brand Utile (all London everything) of images shot from the top deck of London buses. Having spent more hours than I’d liked to have spent gawping from double deckers down at London, the traffic choked leisurely pace has given me some interesting perspectives of the city and the behaviour of those who dwell in it. It’s a shame that I’m usually too irate to appreciate them, but Will and James’s images should resonate with any of us who aren’t stupid or rich enough to attempt to navigate it by car.
Launching as an exhibition downstairs at Mother (Leonard Street) on Thursday and being printed and collated in a newspaper format, ‘Top Deck’ celebrates a ubiquitous but oft-squandered view. Two years of dreary journeys documented is proof that we take our surroundings for granted and if I didn’t only use buses over the underground in a hapless attempt to save time, meaning I’m too agitated to relax and just absorb the overhead view. At least the Routemaster (and the new reworking of it) offers more scope to get lost in a flight of fantasy than the curious tension — of wild-eyed fidgeting loners, screwfacing women having to stand with a pushchair and sweating fare dodgers — that’s present on each and every bendy bus. Go grab the publication here or attend the exhibition and grab it while you’re there, but make sure to check out the tie-in Tumblr.
What could be more British than staring from a bus? How about a mug made to commemorate a UK hip-hop favourite? Like a ‘Fat Lace’ joke made physical, the ‘Serve Tea Then Murder’ mug from Style Warrior sees the makers of tie-in Brit rap merchandise with the nod from the referenced artists and labels shift from cotton to glazed ceramics. It started as forum banter, but now Style Warrior is taking pre-orders on them. Brilliantly at odds with the po-faced, harder than hardcore content of the record, the 1991 Music of Life release provides the no-nonsense imagery and lettering here. Consume enough caffeine from it and you too can be a No Sleep Nigel. While plenty of Britcore releases leave me a little cold in 2012, creations like this hot drink receptacle remind me of the kind of mad merchandise I’ve seen in Tokyo hip-hop outlets over the years.
In fact, the quest for the Sophnet Nike ACG Mt. Fuji jacket from ’07 in an XL led me to hero and all-round nice guy, DJ Muro’s King Inc. site and its Diggermart pages again. But I’ve blogged about them a couple of times before. What caught my eye was the bizarre key charm from Lil ‘ Limo in association with Muro and for Warp Magazine’s birthday last year. ‘Sesame Street’s Elmo in multiple colours with a ‘King of Diggin’ tape and 45 attached? Why the fuck not? Only in Tokyo could something like this exist, yet it sits alongside the Elmo that Raekwon cradled for Supreme, or Agallah’s ‘Crookie Monster’ as a strange piece of Jim Henson hip-hop tie-in. Anyone else remember the official Cookie Monster DJ Muro sweat with the crazed creature munching on vinyl. Nobody got quite as sick with the hip-hop imports as Japan did, and I’m preoccupied with the footage — from the ‘Wild Style’ tour to that eye opening 1994 Yo! episode where Fab 5 Freddy returned and did his awkward language barrier thing to look at amazing record stores, and beyond.
While we’re talking YouTube videos, every Onyx video between 1992 and 2002 is on there as a compilation in cleaned-up quality, plus the Bad Brains CBGB show from Christmas Eve, 1982 in better quality than the hundredth generation VHS look of most hardcore show documents from that era.
And for the sake of it, here’s a Shawn Stüssy interview from ‘Spin’s December 1991 issue. It’s not the most enlightening feature, but it was available and this blog entry’s lacking, so I upped it.
Rick Ross might have shut down the internet for a few minutes on Friday, but Springsteen is still the true Bawse. Still, the prospect of a live E Street Band without Clarence is a troubling one. ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Jungleland’ won’t be the same without Clarence Clemons and judging by the laborious process to even find out if tickets for Springsteen’s London shows are still available, it looks like Ticketmaster won the war when it came to paying to see him, but Bruce still maintains a certain magnetism. He’s not the greatest dresser — misguided souls might believe it was jingoistic excess, but ‘Born in the USA’ wasn’t a regrettable phase musically, but that leather, denim and headband hasn’t held up well — and nor is he the worst, but the construct of the Bruuuuuuuce mythos means the outfit must come second to the sound to represent that absolute dedication to the craft (that doesn’t apply to the rest of the band, who wore some wild suits in their day).
That utilitarian approach to dress meant that Bruce managed to dodge some of the most regrettable looks of the 1970’s, but also put together some excellent outfits — the jacket and white v-neck tee (swooping, but not to the point of 2012 man-cleavage douchery or Givenchy chest bearing) on ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in 1978, the wooly hat and rolled up denim shirt from the sceptic smashing Hammersmith show in 1975 and the early Columbia press shots are my favourites. 1973 was a good year for my heroes and their garments, including Marvin Gaye’s double denim (yeah, the trousers might have been flared, but he still pulls them off — Bruce’s Hammersmith Odeon slacks were a little voluminous too) and red wool beanie from Jim Britt’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ session shots make for the coolest looking Marvin in his career, but while Gaye was in the process of redefinition, Peter Cunningham’s images of Springsteen around the release of ‘Greetings from Astbury Park N.J.’ in February 1973, in full interview conversation mode are the most effortless Springsteen outfit — beard, grey hoody, flannel shirt and denim. A no bullshit uniform from a time that taste occasionally forgot.
The sound matured from word-cramming opuses and the decades-old throwback romanticism, but Springsteen emerged cool. Not everybody could go balls-out like Bowie when it came to attire in 1973 and pull off teal tailoring or a pirate eyepatch and hoop earring combo. Still, they ended up meeting in 1974, and Bowie covered ‘Growin’ Up’ during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ sessions and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (with a coked-up soulful excellence), both from Springsteen’s debut. An image from John Kalodner captures the meeting of a megastar and a man on the edge of stardom with two very different dress senses.
Looking for some inspiration for something I haven’t made yet, I revisited Hype Williams’s troubled ‘Belly’ from 1998. Now the film’s fondly remembered after some negative reactions, but while the bulk is style over substance (not necessarily a bad thing, hence my love of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’ with a vampiric Bowie and a lesbian scene with Susan Sarandon that blew my pre-pubescent mind), the byproduct is still stunning. DMX can almost act, Nas can’t, but the film still captures that excess of the era perfectly. In fact, that film lacked a certain substance but reveled in excess makes it as much of an embodiment of hip-hop in 1998 as ‘Wild Style’ was of a rough and ready (and still sketchy) scene in 1982. The opening titles are still some of my all time favourites — the gooned-out masks in ultraviolet lights, the way the beat drops, silenced gunshots and the movement within the BELLY letters are all still on point, with Hype’s techniques still trickling down to WSHH premiered promos of mixtape tracks.
Hype Williams was 29 when he made ‘Belly’, having evolved from bad graf on the walls for ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1991 to his first video, ‘Two Minute Brother’ for BWP aka Bytches With Problems (he also directed ‘Come Baby Come’ for the equally forgotten K7) and then changing the look of an entire culture half a decade later from working with female acts with acronyms as group names. Seeing as Hype was inspired by Gaspar Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ for ‘All of the Lights’, I expected big things from a ‘Belly’ follow-up when it eventually happened, but his plans to direct a film from a Joe Eszterhas screenplay called ‘Lust’ was unexpected. Both Hype and Joe have pretty much been off the Hollywood radar since the late 1990’s, and yes,because Eszterhas is involved, it’s an erotic thriller. I’m interested to see how the film turns out if it’s ever made.
David Fincher’s translation from music video man to film director might have had a ‘Belly style production ordeal with ‘Alien³’ but he came of age, and just when it looked like he was going to be the stylish film with a big reveal guy, he drops ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Social Network’ on us. What’s consistent in his films is a focus on typography, motion graphics and the art of the opening title — Kyle Cooper’s ‘Se7en’ work (complete with Bowie’s ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ over the end titles if we’re going to tenuously try to link these entries with a Bowie birthday theme), Picture Mill’s ‘Panic Room’ sequence and P. Scott Makela’s ‘Fight Club’ design are all memorable. ‘The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’ doesn’t match those highs, but it works well as a slippery, gothier, bleak take on Bond opening credits, but like ‘Se7en’s opening, Trent Reznor’s work suits the mood. There’s a good breakdown of how the film’s opening titles were developed here, talking to Blur Studio’s Tim Miller who directed it. Salutes to masterful motion graphics dude Onur Senturk too. The sequence looks like the commercial for the Hewlett-Packard peripheral from hell, with Rick Owens on creative direction, but somehow that suits the movie.
I’m late to the party on this video interview with Stüssy Triber Lono Brazil, who also uploaded some footage of the International Stüssy Tribe 1st Annual Tribal Meeting in Tokyo from 1991. It’s worth a watch. Because I just used to gawp at the VHS cassette in clothing stores back in the day without every buying it, I’m not sure if it was on the old Stüssy tape back in 1992.