Tag Archives: walker wear

URBAN VS. STREET

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I never understood the streetwear and urban wear differentiation — if it isn’t sportswear and it isn’t surf or skate wear (and there’s plenty of grey area there), what is it? Why ghettoise apparel? Urban wear has been treated strangely, especially now the new FUBU is Raf-alikes by folks who wish that they were weird. Let’s not sweep the brands that burnt brightly in their heyday — the black-owned lines that paved the way, and the cash-ins too— beneath the carpet by pretending that we never wore them. Especially because folks who learnt their trade in the class of 1990s and early 2000s urban wear are the ones calling some senior shots at Nike Sportswear, Jordan Brand and adidas Originals. Karl Kani was streetwear, Cross Colours was streetwear, Maurice Malone was streetwear…any brand that gets kept out of the conversation with a hip-hop centric POV is streetwear. The perception that every rapper is dressed like General Zod or Rusty after he steps out the Rome boutique in National Lampoon’s European Vacation is erroneous — Bobby Shmurda’s G-Stars and Fetty Wap’s bejewelled True Religions are a testament to that. I’m happy to see that April Walker’s Walker Wear is back and collaborating with another of my teenage brands of choice, Starter — Walker’s boyfriend is former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, who has a substantial stake in the Starter company. I spent a lot of time trying to hunt down that WW logo before I ever had access to the WWW, but my grail was always the plate hoody by Karl Kani and it’s interesting to see that the current 1990s nostalgia boom has led to a reissue of this gold-plated design (incidentally, I was thrown when I spotted a Karl Kani store in Harajuku recently) that recently appeared on Kani’s Instagram (though the fit looks a little slimmer than it did in late 1994). It’s unlikely that I’d ever wear one again, but I’m glad that a pioneer could make some coin from it rather than an unofficial homage. Soon, Skepta’s current ascent is going to bring back the spirit of Dee Cee Clothes N Garms, with an Akademiks and Lake Elsinore New Era revival, so you should get familiar anyway.

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Troop was, famously, not black-owned. That’s why false allegations of racism damaged the brand like they did back in the late 1980s. With its athletic-inspired luxury looks, over the top use of pattern and insane detailing (outsoles based on a map of the Bronx being a personal favourite), it’s a company that was key to me taking an interest in the things I have a tendency to discuss here. That Fila-esque T, the sponsorships, the insane price tags and the strange world of Troop licensing (the feature on the UK wing of Troop from a 2006 Sneaker Freaker is essential reading) and the speed in which the brand ceased to be makes it ripe for revisiting. Enough time has passed that the brand is worthy of a revisit whether you hated it in 1988 or not (the fact they sponsored LL Cool J and hooked up Stetsasonic made them instantly cool to me as a youngster, and cash-in or not, an early brand rooted purely in hip-hop) — that the minds behind the brand had the balls to launch it in the first place and turn it into a brief phenomenon is an amazing feat. SPX will always be trash to me though. I’m unlikely to ever wear a pair, or bust out a Hi-Deal graphic shell suit but I always though that this was another brand that deserved to be revisited properly. It made a brief comeback that bricked in 2003 and Nelly tried to relaunch it in 2008 — now the line seems to be returning via the same squad that resurrected Ewing Athletics, which means that the abundance of extra details, like hangtags banging on about madcap, placebo-effect cushioning innovations will be back too. As with the Ewing site, the newly launched World of Troop site has some great archive imagery on it (see above and below) that’s worth checking out, and if you’ve been waiting decades to finally own a pair of Ice Lambs (did the 2008 reissue even happen in the end?) and a leather jacket with flock lettering, you just lucked out.

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While we’re talking unfounded racism rumours, I never thought I’d find myself gripped by footage of people flexing their Tommy Hilfiger Team Lotus thrift store come ups until I found myself watching hours of thrift store “unbagging” videos on YouTube. Try it, and tall me that you don’t end up disappearing into a 45 minute session, with at least two finds that have you cursing the lack of similar spots near you. Videos based in stores are doomed to end up having that Discovery Channel scripted drama applied, but the folks who run Round Two, a second-hand shoe and clothing spot in Richmond Virginia, have a popular Vimeo documentary series that’s genuinely likeable. Going on the North Face and Polo gear they wear each episode, Richmond is a good thrift spot, and in episode #2, when one of the store’s owners rushes in to announce that he found a Hilfiger Lotus five-panel for the princely sum of 22 cents I won’t pretend that I wasn’t faintly exhilarated at the prospect that bargains like that still occur in the eBay age. I’ll take that drama over some scripted beef.

BOOTLEG

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“I might have been in my Shazam mode or something and shit. I just wanted some bangles, ‘nah mean?”
Ghostface, from this excellent Juan Epstein interview.

I’ve never known exactly why the brand knockoff tee or sweat seems to be marginally more tolerated than the knock off trainer. Maybe it’s because as kids, we didn’t have access to fake Jordans (unless you counted those godawful Abdul-Jabbar LA Gears), even though there was plenty of access to terrible Nicks and Matchstick releases that feigned fanciness and failed. My first exposure to designer garments was a t-shirt from some sunburned-Brit riddled part of Spain that featured Nike, BOSS, adidas, Cerruti and Lacoste on the same garment in rainbow fade reinterpretations of the recognisable logos. SCAT on Bedford town’s High Street shifted fake swoosh and Futura font pendants a year or so after i-D’s 1987 ‘Bootleg Fashion’ shoot with Barnzley in the fake Hermes tee and the fake Chanel shirt in the mix. Stüssy taught me the power of the linked ‘C’ homage shortly afterwards and Dapper Dan was giving rappers some defiantly fake gear that dared to go where the brands wouldn’t officially go aesthetically and locating itself at a spot where the average high-end consumer would be scared to visit.

Some of the best shirt (Duffer did their ‘Ducci’ and took a bite from Hermes too) designs over the years have been none-too-subtle designer rips and there’s a certain joy in the brazen thefts that don’t even feign legitimacy with phony holograms and bullshit disclaimers on everyday leisurewear. While I want the ’88 era MCM tracksuit that Tyson wore more than anything (which I believe is authentic), the spirit of loungewear with logos lives on in the Marriani sweatsuits with some phony Givenchy, Versace, Hermes and Chanel looks, with multiple branding to evade any semblance of subtlety via the mythical “Marriani Sampelle.” The tank tops and sweats homaging boutiques and fancier department stores (the Neiman Marcus releases are particularly fun) create a garment that never actually was and, in a curious way, they feel more legit than the logo gear the brands bang out specially for the outlet stores. Like Ghostface’s legendary truck jewelry (and as that interview reveals, you can thanks bags of wet for his finest moments) this gear is some Shazam mode apparel.

Vol 3 31

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Elsewhere online, go check out the trailer for ‘We Out Here’ (an annoying phrase when it’s uttered by middle class kids, but hard to knock if it’s the mantra of kids from Brownsville) which looks like the best thing Airwalk have bankrolled since the Jason Lee pro model, this list of Nikes at Complex that will probably anger the kind of people who write more than 100 words in blog talkbacks, this piece on Western European basketball I done did for some obscure sportswear brand and LTD’s quick chat with April Walker of Walker Wear (who also schemed to start a Team Tyson line with Mike). Did April put the Air Pressures and Shirt Kings gear on Audio Two during her styling days? Fair play. This piece on brand authority by multi-brand veteran Bob Sheard that man like Glenn Kitson just sent me looks like the start of a fine series too.