What do you know about tech penny loafers? Borne from a decision to launch a casual line of men’s footwear, the Nike Vagabond is a weird shoe — pure dad wear, this loafer was released in 1982. Part of a collection (shown here) that seemed to be a response to Freizeit styles from the Germans and was, according to lore, a decision made over targeting the aerobics explosion. Cambrelle lining, the Octo-Waffle spin on Bowerman’s traction patterning and, best of all, a full-length Nike-Air unit in the sole, this design and the Bedouin didn’t sell well. In fact, the Vagabond’s existence seems to have been forgotten completely. That’s a shame, because this model is so ugly that it’s actually memorable. I doubt that there will ever be a reissue of this obscurity. After Nike acquired Cole Haan in 1988 they flirted with some similar cushioning concepts — in fact, they put Tensile Air in their shoes — which included slip-ons — from 1990 (dropping the technology in 1992 to shift from rear and forefoot units to a full length version in 1993), half a decade before Tensile Air appeared in Nike products. Tensile Air would be renamed Zoom Air by 1996, making those earlier formal CH designs pretty pioneering. I always assumed that the delay in launching Zoom Air as an athletic technology was down to a focus on visible, bombastic forms of cushioning back in the early 1990s.
Tag Archives: vagabond
The only drag at this time of year is starting all over again. It’s best to try to start from scratch from January 1st, lest you become one of those people dragging old clippings around and making references to barely seen projects from half a decade ago. Especially if you’re writing for a living. The only projects that count are the ones ahead of you — we might live in a world of nostalgia and retro fixation, but don’t render yourself a retro. This policy began just as I’d started submitting sycophantic rap reviews to magazines to obtain free CDs and — rather quaintly — to get my name in print. It was 2001 — people cared about stuff like that back then.
In May that year, I watched a fairly joyless and disturbing Channel 4 ‘Cutting Edge’ documentary called ‘Brian’s Story’ that charted the street-level, hand-to-mouth existence of a Cambridge-educated journalist called Brian Davis, from the occasionally amusing misunderstandings and chaotic meanderings that replaced a successful ascent at a time when print press really mattered, as Brian slept rough and muttered his way through central London. Brian had written a book called ‘The Thriller: the Suspense Film from 1946’ in 1973 (with the cover using the classic shot of Popeye Doyle shooting Nicoli from ‘The French Connection’) considered to be a definitive text on the genre. He wrote for ‘Campaign’ and ultimately became editor of ‘Creative Review’ between 1982 and 1984 with an apparent reputation for perfect prose despite a shambolic way-of-life.
Becoming editor of ‘Campaign’ in 1984 at the age of 39, Brian walked out of the job after a week into a freelance existence marred by manic depression and alcoholism. Dave Nath’s documentary caught him sixteen years into that uncertain world, where a lack of work had put him on the streets. Brian wielded his bag of press clippings as the only link to a past life, talking about the big breaks that lay ahead of him and mumbling about a presumably fictional date set to interview Roman Polanski that would dig him out his rut. There was some funny stuff, like the jump cut from him being given a home to sleep in by a family member to a spectacular mess with marks on the kitchen walls from neglected cookery missions. Then there was the really unfunny stuff, like Brian falling to his death from the roof of a cheap hotel.
It wasn’t the triumphant back from the brink tale that he assumed the documentary would depict, but Brian was likable throughout and ‘Brian’s Story’ reinforced just how unreinforced our future is. If it could happen to somebody that talented — though nobody ever claimed he didn’t have his flaws — it could happen to anybody. And it’s a long way down. So I figured that it’s best not to be that person living in the past, with portfolio scans and LinkedIn lists replacing those faded carrier bags of old triumphs, and that it’s best to focus on the next.
Alas, like other documentary favourites of mine like ‘The Knocker’s Tale,’ Brian’s Story’ isn’t available online. Perhaps it’ll be added to Channel 4’s 4OD service at some point this year. Every time I hurl a BlackBerry across the room in a tantrum, give a MacBook the Ike Turner treatment or think back to my mum thinking I was autistic for being able to recall Dengar, Zuckuss and 4-Lom but not being able to add 1+1 I think back to Brian’s decline. The freelance realm can destroy a fragile mind.
(Picture courtesy of Sneaker Freaker)
It’s 2012. That means we must have robots cooking dinner, TVs implanted into our eyeballs and cars that do the driving, right? No. But we have got phones with cameras and affiliated apps that make the pictures taken look like they’re from the past. That’ll do. Plus we can spread rumours and make up Martin Luther King quotes for viral purposes by way of micro blogging. 2012 is awesome. What did you think a shoe would look like by this moment in time? the Nike-owned Cole Haan’s brogues with Lunarlon are an amusing mix of futurism and fuddy-duddy and I think I like them. That’s visible Lunarlon, not the secret drop-in midsole variation either. On discussing a friend’s move to Cole Haan, I joked about Lunar brogues and was told that I wasn’t too far off the mark.
Nike man Jarrett Reynolds’ custom saddle shoes with a Dynamic Support sole caused some attention just over a year ago, and the fruits of that project seem to be present in the Lunargrand wingtip that’s in the latest Sneaker Freaker. But why are people sleeping on the grey and lime variant in the traditional Lunar palette? That’s a truly insane creation that fills the strange cool kid gulf between total tech on the foot (witness the popularity of the Lunar line and Free Run+ 2) and Alden, Alfred Sargent and the rest. The Lunargrand is dumb yet amazing. Cole Haan’s been using Nike technologies for a minute, but they’ve long been the brand obstructing my digs in Nike outlets. This is something far more interesting.
Sports footwear trying to look like “proper” shoes is corny. Proper shoes trying to look like sports footwear is a far more entertaining proposition. Back in the early 1980s, Nike’s decision to make smart shoes using Nike technologies wasn’t a success, but it resulted in a range of forgotten shoes in plain and moc-toe styles like the Bedouin and Vagabond circa 1984, that used the Octowaffle pattern outsole as an adaption of existing Nike running technologies. Looking back, the styles are Clarks-alikes, and the decision to buy Cole Haan a few years later was probably a smart move, but I guarantee that many would lose their minds if somebody broke out the Bedouin now. The smart Nike shoes weren’t a success at the time, but the same thinking (and the popularity of Mark McNairy’s creations) makes these a little more timely. Nearly twenty years later, the HTM Zoom Macropus (a clever spin on the marsupial genus that contains the wallaby) was a bold move at trend level too.
While Nike are revisiting past experiments, they need to put out the stonewashed Nike Denim Full-Zip Jacket with the FORCE logo and underarm zips, plus the Denim Shorts that were released around 1990 to wear with the Air Force Five. A.C. Slater meets David Robinson is a strong look.
If you’re looking for something mindless to watch as New Year’s Day winds down, I recommend one of 2011’s most underrated action films — ‘Ironclad.’ It might outstay its welcome, but if you enjoyed 1985’s grim Paul Verhoeven-helmed ‘Flesh+Blood’ ‘Ironclad’ takes the medieval misery way beyond anything there. No fucking elves or orcs — just lots of fighting, and some of the goriest scraps I’ve ever seen. Forget Colin Firth with a speech impediment. This was one of the best British movies of the year. The beating of a man to death with a severed arm is a nice touch. Not even Paul Giamatti’s shit Engish accent could spoil it.