Until fairly recently (say, a couple of years ago), I wasn’t even aware that New Look did menswear. The fact that they are now one of the dominant forces on the high street and, in my opinion, one of the few big retailers doing anything varied or offbeat demonstrates the extent to which they’ve focused on developing the menswear side of things. As does the fact that they hosted a press day last week featuring only men’s clothing, something of an anomaly in a world where male collections tend to be something of a footnote at a lot of events hosted by high street brands. One of New Look’s PR team, Nicola, told me that this was a conscious effort on the part of the brand – ‘Menswear has outgrown that notion of only occupying a corner at otherwise female centric events – we like to host events like these, get the guys down and feed them up!’ She’s not wrong; the spread is spectacular, featuring everything from fish and chips and battered sausages to langoustines and an ocean of Buck’s Fizz. In which I pretty much drowned…
The room was divided into three, which corresponded to three main categories – ’90s revival, island life and rockabilly – the latter of which excited me the most. I instantly fell in love with this Day of the Dead inspired Mexican skulls t-shirt -
I was initially a bit sad to see that there are still a load of tribal prints around (I’ve kinda been over it since Topman decided putting it on EVERYTHING was a good idea), but I did like some of the more subtle Aztec touches. Like those on this shirt, for example -
Another favourite of mine was a pair of swimming trunks that seem to have been inspired by Orlebar Brown…
…but I somehow doubt that New Look’s dupe will sport the same £80+ price tag. I also have a suspicion that they’ll be finding their way into my wardrobe.
On the slightly more extravagant side of things…
Some of the ’90s section was a little more subtle, with shirts like this giving a quiet nod to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and splashy ’90s prints -
Overall, I think the team have done a great job of coming up with something fresh (yes, like the t-shirt above – THAT’S THE JOKE.) and original. I really like the rockabilly influences and can see it making a big splash on the high street. Who knows – maybe next summer all the One Direction-alikes who spend their Saturdays roaming Westfield will be dressing like James Dean and Elvis. All I know is those clydes better stay away from Bloomsbury Lanes or they’ll get a knuckle sandwich, ya dig?
Now, to get you in the rockabilly mood, here’s Tiger Army.
Once upon a time, long before I wrote a fashion blog, I used to be a music reviewer-cum-DJ-cum-club promoter. My coup de grace was convincing a then semi-popular minimal techno producer called Kanio to play at a house party I was helping to throw. Not that throwing a house party on Manor House Road required much ‘help’ – it was more of a case of ‘play music, and they will come’. My career as a DJ was fairly shortlived – I played a few parties and opened for a few friends with names much bigger than my own. Most of the clubs I performed in (and I’m hoping this is a coincidence rather than a direct result…) have since been shut down. The truth is, I was more a fixture on ‘the scene’ than anything else. Like a 21st century Bez.
However, one thing I (usually) managed to do pretty successfully was predict where music was heading – I was listening to French electro and minimal techno, albeit most of it culled from the collections of DJ friends, long before Urban Outfitters played it instore and I’d already seen Deadmau5 twice before his oversized head ever popped up on Radio 1′s Essential Mix. Two artists I maintain never really got the credit they deserved are SebastiAn and Surkin. While labelmates like Justice and Uffie soared to the top of the charts, it took a long time for SebastiAn and Surkin to become much more than ‘cult favourites’. I’m massively excited to see them bring their ‘weird but it works’ blend of dirty, bass heavy electro and DIY punk/metal aesthetics to London next weekend.
I’m also hugely excited to see my homeboy Unicorn Kid, who I’ve previously written extensively about bring some homegrown talent to what is otherwise a very French stage. This gig will be one of the first at which Sabin is playing ‘live’ rather than just mixing, though whether this means he’ll be bringing out the modded Game Boys remains to be seen. Judging from his latest single, Feel So Real, a mash-up of his own Chrome Lion with Love Decade’s So Real, the Kid clearly knows how to make something fresh and exciting out of tracks both old and new.
Tickets are now on sale here – http://bit.ly/PWOhyl. In case I haven’t convinced you yet, you can find some choice cuts by some of the acts performing below. Oh, and if you do end up buying a ticket, let me know – I’m currently going stag. That’s how much I love these guys.
Disclaimer: Because I’ve previously written about Unicorn Kid, the guys putting on this night invited me down to check it out for free. Don’t be crazy enough to think that that compromises any of what I’ve written above.
To any of you who have read my Twitter bio and asked what skramz is, I finally decided to write something about it. So this is for you.
In 2005, five dudes from Redwood City (a suburb of San Fran, California) started a band called Comadre. As well as having a thoroughly unique sound, they’ve also created a distinctive visual style. Partially because no-one else really has, I thought I’d write something about both.
Although they are part of the skramz revival of the late ’90s and early ’00s, the band is hardly a neat fit with the genre. Jangly American Football-esque guitars sit alongside harsh, occasionally grating vocals, and breakdowns that wouldn’t look out of place in punk and hardcore tracks appear pretty regularly.
As with most great screamo crossover bands, much of Comadre’s brilliance is in their lyrics. Take, for example, their new track, an up tempo track in the vein of Refused (incidentally, I’m absolutely convinced that Comadre are this generation’s Refused). Cold Rain’s lyrics feel as chopped up as anything by William Burroughs and as charged with meaning as any e e cummings poem. While this makes them less easily digestible than La Dispute or Kodan Armada, it does give them a thought provoking charm.
The visual style of the band’s merchandise swings wildly between fairly standard hxcmerch.com stuff, often bearing a lot of similarities to Loma Prieta’s artwork…
…and designs that have much more to them. Take for example one of their latest shirts, bearing a quote from Beau Navire’s drummer that references Jackson Pollock, which is pretty much a deeper version of those jocky ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’ t-shirts.
I also like their Face Tats design a lot. It seems to say a lot about a scene in which people rely on tattoos and fashion to say more than they do with their mouths. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into things. As usual.
It’s kind of appropriate that in the band’s new video they’re wearing shirts emblazoned with everything from the Battle Royale logo to Rocky Votolato (a singer songwriter who’s like an edgier Chris Carrabba) to a Lord of of the Rings reference – the skramz scene is pretty much the only one that places as much stock in t-shirts as the producers of The Big Bang Theory do.
Anyway, Comadre’s new full length (their first in three years) drops in January 2013 and I’m pretty much counting down the days.
Pretty in punk. The punk playlist (one that would make Fat Mike spin in his oversized grave. If he’s dead yet…). ‘Add a touch of punk chic with blah blah blah’. I see it so often, it’s a wonder that the misappropriation and misdefining of the words punk, grunge and emo can even fill me with rage anymore. But, somehow, they do.Once upon a time, punk meant something. No, I don’t mean the sort of pseudo anarchistic bullshit put out by bands like The Sex Pistols (created by manager Malcolm McLaren with the sole intention of creating controversy, with Johnny Rotten leaving the band when he discovered that the band was as big a manufactured fraud as Leona Lewis), which is about as well thought out and meaningful as someone buying a V For Vendetta mask and deciding they’re a member of Anonymous.
Punk was never (just) about making a scene. The motivations behind punk vary from making a statement about gender (c.f. the asexual antics of Joan Jett, who refused to let the fact that she was female define her musical identity) to defying social conventions – here I’m thinking of the cathartic lyrics of Minor Threat and the birth of the straight edge movement. The medium of punk and screamo music may be distorted guitars and tight black clothes, but they are never the message.
From about 2000 onwards, all of that passion and meaning started being stripped away. When Versace released their collection inspired by Fight Club, they took something visceral and counter cultural and turned it into something devoid of substance. While I wouldn’t particularly recommend starting up a fight club or burning a lye kiss onto your hand (both of which men did in droves did after Fight Club was released) I will forever have more respect for those who did that than industry airheads who thought sewing razorblades into a shirt made ‘like, such a statement.’
While there’s something brash and Fight Club-esque about brands like The Ragged Priest (who, admittedly, I kinda like) buying up vintage denim, tie-bleaching it, putting some spikes on it and ripping out the labels, only to export it back to mainstream stores with a hugely inflated price tag, I hate the way it commodifies the DIY ethos of punk and skramz. Almost as much as I hate girls who wear Ramones t-shirts and don’t know any of their songs besides Blitzkrieg Bop.
A couple of years back, Vice published a piece about leather jackets. The piece really resonated with me because of the way each jacket seemed to tell a story, which is (to me) what fashion is all about. Yes, Jeremy Scott’s winged Adidas shoes are pretty out there, but I like them because they remind me of Hermes (that’s the winged messenger god, not the brand). They send an implicit message about the desire to reach new heights, and delivering divine messages. Yes, if I ever manage to scrimp together the cash to buy a pair, I’ll probably joke that they make me feel like a 21st century Hermes with a blog.
The current trend of buying studded…well, everything, completely undermines the impetus behind it. Manufactured studs, spikes and acid washes that come as standard are truly style without substance. And that’s not punk.
Yeah yeah, I know, the title of this blog post is a bit ‘huh?’ It’ll all become clear.
Oliver Sabin, who I’ve written briefly about once before, has done it again. A humble DJ/producer hailing from Edinburgh, Unicorn Kid is fast becoming a game-changer. Not content with having his finger pressed tightly against the musical pulse of the Tumblr youth, it seems that Sabin is now hoping to directly influence pop culture.
In ‘rebranding’ Dolphin Dance, a track produced in mid-2011, as Pure Space (released earlier this year) Sabin effectively shunned a movement that many considered him to be a pioneer of. Seapunk. If you’re not familiar with seapunk, go hang out on Tumblr for half an hour it’s a weird self-referential subculture that’s one part 90s rave, one part sleeveless denim vests and one part vintage Seaworld t-shirts. And a lot of this kinda thing:
In his latest video, Need U, Sabin has totally bucked both the sound and imagery of seapunk, instead favouring manga and video game style visuals. Lore Oxford recently wrote an fantastic piece for Vice about how Westerners appropriate the shit out of everything (her words, not mine) and it’s worth noting that, although the bindi craze has been pretty hot lately, Orientalism in alt fashion hasn’t gone much further east than India. At least not for a while anyway. Sure, there’s been some adoption of Harajuku influenced stuff but none of that has permeated into the mainstream in the same way, or at the same rate, that seapunk stuff (c.f. all the ying yang symbols, pastel shades and green haired mannequins in Topshop) has.
It seems to me that, subconsciously or not, by saturating his latest video with Tokyo-esque neon and anime graphics Sabin is sending a message. Chiptune? Passé. Seapunk? Yawn. The next big thing in youth cultural fashion will be the mingling of existing symbols of counterculture (piercings, Doc Martens, apathy) with the imagery and iconography of China and Japan. Japunk.
Or whatever, maybe it’s just a music video.
UPDATE: Yeah, don’t mean to brag, but I was totally right:
I totally want this. It’s like galaxy leggings, except for guys (apparently galaxy leggings aren’t for guys…). Had to play a quick game of currency roulette when I read that the price was 179,00zł -literally could have been anywhere between a tenner and six grand. Turns out it’s only £34. I can definitely justify that, right? Sugar Pills have some crazy prints for both guys and girls (and I mean crazy, they make Mary Katrantzou look like a nun), definitely worth checking them out.
No, I’m not saying the boys from Alexisonfire are fugly, but the experience I had this morning definitely was. Despite being online the second tickets for their farewell tour went on sale, See Tickets told me there were none available for 5 minutes before telling me that, actually, they were all sold out. I also tried Ticketmaster, HMV Tickets and all the usual haunts, but to no avail. Oh, but reselling sites like Viagogo and Get Me In somehow managed to score hundreds of tickets to sell at three times face value. Brilliant. Luckily, I was able to snag a standing ticket for the second show that was announced later in the morning, but I’m painfully aware that I’m one of the lucky few to get a second chance. Clearly the episode of Dispatches that dealt with the scuzzy, back-handed tactics employed by tickets sites didn’t actually do much to fix the problem. And boy, does it need fixing.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a man dancing with a BMX. So here’s a man, Alain Massabova to be specific, dancing with a BMX. I’m desperate to make a pun about Swan Lake, so I should move swiftly on before that happens. Swan Brake. (Sorry.) Seriously though, I haven’t found an extreme sports performance this effortlessly balletic since I stumbled across skateboarder, Kilian Martin (widely regarded to be the next Rodney Mullen).
Anne Hathaway. As Catwoman. On the Batcycle. I’m more excited for the release of The Dark Knight Rises than Samantha Brick was that time she went to a mirror factory. If you can’t wait until the release on July 20th, there’s some cool teaser footage in this 13 minute preview.
Trying to describe the music of Port St Willow in words is to do them a disservice. However, if I had to try, I would say this – one part dreamy synth pop, one part American Football…the band, not the sport (though maybe that effect is largely due to an errant trumpet in On Your Side) and one part Bon Iver. In the same way that it’s difficult to imagine the epic, pensive shoegaze melodies of Holiday being constructed in any studio, it’s difficult to listen to the album in a normal environment without it threatening to shut down your brain and transport you somewhere completely different. Hence the album name, I presume. Completely transcendent.
Well, hello. Hopefully you still recognise me, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those people egotistical to apologise for not having blogged recently because, let’s face it…I’m sure you’ve survived without me.
Shockingly, this week I’m going to be doing a bit of philosophising (though it’s definitely going to be like…philosophy lite) rather than being all snarky. Or at least, I’m going to try. A realisation hit me this week, and that realisation was just how heavily my fashion sense (vom at that phrase, makes me sound like I think I’m Spider-Man, except…fashion-y) relies on what I’m reading, watching on TV or listening to. Before I get too much into it, I thought a few examples would probably help.
After my trip to the Louboutin retrospective at the Design Museum I found myself lusting after shoes like these Nelly spike heels. Sadly, they don’t do them in my size…But my new obsession went far beyond an interest in these seemingly Rollerboy influenced shoes, I started noticing the prevalance of spikes and studs everywhere. I’m not going to use the words ‘punk chic’, because aside from being a complete oxymoron the very phrase makes me want to vomit on a Dwarves record. The Ragged Priest, for example, have a ton of spiked denim jackets and stuff in Topman that I’d never really noticed until after my visit to the Design Museum. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting everything they do.
Example number two. After reading the sublime The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, my love for baseball was rekindled. I’ve recently spent some time in diners nursing a drink and watching ball games (I’ve also clearly been reading too much Bukowski), and the little number pictured above also made its way into my wardrobe. Despite having rarely seen the St Louis Cardinals play, the novel lent them a mythic quality that stuck with me long after reading it. While I was buying the cap I wondered whether or not purchasing (what amounted to) a replica of Henry Skrimshander’s cap was ridiculous, I ended up deciding that it was no different to buying any other movie or TV merchandise. I also thought ‘whatever, I already know I’m ridiculous.’
If you don’t know who the dude is above I’m not angry, but I am disappointed. As well as making lovely jangly acoustic music as City and Colour, Dallas Green (yes, he does have the coolest name ever) also helped to completely reform the post-hardcore scene in the early 2000s as a member of Alexisonfire, one of the most diverse, technical and intense bands to come out of the last century. Shamefully, I’d sort of forgotten about them (or rather iTunes shuffle had, since that’s pretty much exclusively how I listen to music) until pretty recently and I now have them on repeat almost constantly. It’s no secret that DG is one of my idols, and I recently picked up the shirt-jacket pictured on the right above fully aware that it was ‘very Dallas’. But here’s where things get interesting – at the time I bought my St Louis Cardinals cap, it hadn’t registered that Young Cardinals is the name of one of Alexisonfire’s albums. Hmm.
The fact that I chose to buy a baseball cap belonging to a team from somewhere I’ve never even been at the same time that I was getting back into Alexisonfire in a big way really suggests to me a subconscious inclination to tie as much of this stuff together as possible. I’ve always had a pretty versatile style (from scene kid to preppy Hamptons dude), and it’s always been very much dependent on my surroundings. However, the case of the Cardinals cap (which sounds like an episode of Scooby Doo) suggests to me that there’s something much deeper going on when people decide what clothing to wear.
In the past, it has generally been assumed that people dress as Goths, preps etc for one of two reasons – 1) to fit in with their peers or 2) to express themselves (c.f. parents reassuring themselves ‘it’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it). If my hypothesis is correct, then neither of these statements alone are evidence enough for people dressing in a certain way. Rather, the very content of certain types of music, film and television shows has the power to influence actions. Potentially much, much more power than the advertisements that break them up. The insinuations that accompany this idea are pretty dangerous – if media has this power over people, does this mean that video games and rap music really are responsible for increases in high school violence and young men acting in a degrading way towards women. Was The Daily Mail right all along?
Firstly, apologies if you have me on Twitter or Facebook because I’ve been going on endlessly about this song. Secondly, I take back that apology because I can’t talk about this song enough. At a conservative estimate, I’ve already listened to it about fifty times this weekend.
With Pure Space, Unicorn Kid not only bucks his already pretty distinctive (tough enough to create as it is – there are only so many video game noises…) take on the chiptune genre by mixing in old school house piano riffs and steel drums. The song is a total chameleon – it comes across completely differently depending on whether you’re listening to it in a club environment, on a summer day at the beach or walking around a city at night. It is by turns cheerful, epic and haunting, and I’m totally at a loss as to how Unicorn Kid has accomplished it.
There is no other word for the video than sublime – it at once recalls the vague meandering style of Kids, The Fifth Element, Lost in Translation and (sigh, yes, I SUPPOSE) Skins, alluding to a a narrative that is never fleshed out. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Fader remarks that the video is ‘endlessly screenshotable’, which is completely true – the video encapsulates the nihilism and disenfranchisement of today’s youth better than a thousand Tumblr pages.
Most of all, the video kind of makes me jealous that I’m way too old to have weekends like this anymore. So for that, fuck you Unicorn Kid.
Note: Google spiders would probably prefer I called this article ‘tribes in fashion’ or ‘post tribalist style’ (apparently they don’t ‘get’ puns), so I hope you ’80s kids appreciate the reference.
We all know someone who looks like this, right? Yes, they might not have the beard, or the chest piece, but you know someone who is just like this person. And if the site I drew it from is correct (which it almost always is), they’re probably a fan of acts like Girl Talk, Ratatat, Animal Collective, Freelance Whales and Grizzly Bear. Two of which a female friend (and manifestation of the fixed gear hipster) literally recommended on her Twitter the other day.
This week I stumbled across an article in Shortlist’s fashion magazine for men, MODE, about tribes in fashion. The article sets the scene well (recounting Hooligans, mods, Teddy Boys etc), which is nice as I don’t have the energy to rehash all of that here. However, its slightly weak conclusion (namely that hipsters sampling various styles from different eras is just another form of tribalism) left me feeling that Robinson ended the piece where it should have just been beginning.
The MODE article neatly references Ted Polhemus, an anthropologist specialising in street style, who claims that ‘most of us are now both post-tribal and post-fashion. The name of the game is to do your own thing.’ I call bullshit. As Tyler Durden uttered in Fight Club, ’you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.’
Although we are definitely not post-tribal, we do seem to have developed the ability to inhabit more than one tribe at once. Take me, for example – by day, I’m a preppy, fashion blogger type. By night, you’ll usually find me watching underground bands like Loma Prieta or Touche Amore screaming their way a set in some grim bar’s basement. You’d think that’s a combination that wouldn’t be too common, right? Well, it’s one I share with Brian Kanagaki, the bassist of Loma Prieta. And about twenty other guys at any one of their shows.
So how, all of a sudden, are we able to switch between tribes so easily? I blame the internet. In ‘the old days’ if you wanted to become (or at least look like) a punk, you’d have to spend years buying Doc Martens, a denim jacket to safety pin patches to and all the vinyl The Misfits and The Ramones had put out. Everyone in your town would know you were a punk, and that was that.
Now? I could finish work and set my laptop to download The Damned’s discography, get some studded DMs from Topman, order a bunch of patches for a vintage store denim jacket from eBay and be heading out to The Black Heart by 9pm. Instapunk. In the same way that people might present themselves differently on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, they often have a collection of interchangeable images of themselves that they project in different social situations.
As well as becoming more spasmodic and interchangeable, tribes in fashion are also becoming more metatextual and cyclical. Towards the end of the 20th century, rappers began to mix brands like Cartier, D&G, Ralph Lauren (traditionally the preserve of the white upper classes) with excessive bling like grills, bejewelled canes and pimp cups. In reaction to this, the white upper classes took a u-turn and began to dress in a style that seemed consciously ‘uncool’ – thick glasses, cardigans and deck shoes were once again en vogue c.f. The O.C‘s Seth Cohen wearing Original Penguin by Munsingwear, a brand formerly associated with ageing white dudes like Richard Nixon.
It took a very long time (well, as long as we’re not counting Erkel…and we’re not) for young African Americans to take on these trends, but it finally started to happen. The picture above of Tyler, the Creator and rap collective Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All) shows the way in which many young black teenagers have started to reappropriate the image of white, middle-class, often nerdy teenagers in their own way. Yup, so in the queue waiting for the new Supreme collection to drop, there will inevitably be a bunch of white guys trying to dress like black guys who are trying to dress like white guys. For more on Supreme and its phenomenal success, check this excellent article.
Stereotypes like this, that initially seem obscure and unique, are everywhere. Fashion bloggers with that Chanel quote about only being irreplacable if you’re unique (irony.) in their Twitter bio, who look coyly at the floor to their right and act surprised in every photo…even though they’re the ones who set the self timer. Screamo kids wearing wool hats and Jansport rucksacks at gigs, arms crossed and nodding their grudging appreciation at French post-hardcore bands. Tumblr kids with dip dyed pink hair and upside down crucifixes on their t-shirts who listen to The Cure and The Smiths (who they heard about from 500 Days of Summer) and obsess over manga. Gaggles of chino-clad fourteen year olds, with the strings of their American Apparel hoodies tied in a bow over a tribal print Topman t-shirt, who all hate One Direction. Despite looking just like them.