Who profited most from the great fashion wars of the 1990s? Was it the denim tycoons, thumbing thick wads of dollar bills earned by selling reams of earth-toned fabric stitched together to make World-branded pants? Was it the hedge fund moguls who sold short the stock of Vision Street Wear just as berets and tank tops fell under the scrutiny of parking-lot fashion police? Perhaps the midpriced mall retailers such as Gap and Ralph Lauren who somehow managed to briefly appeal to otherwise streetwise and snobbish LA ledgelords? Maybe the Dickies executive who refused to give up on a market that at first viciously rejected Ed Templeton’s gentle embrace of highwater-styled “butthuggers?” Or the venture capitalist soothsayers who backed those textile alchemists that fused spandex with denim just as Jim Greco and Ali Boulala began to raise the wrist?
Over a decade later the landscape has flattened. A sort of fashion equilibrium has settled over the industry, matching the anything-goes mindset now prevailing across teamrider recruitment, video part chemistry and skatepark layouts. The peaks and valleys offered by yesteryear’s goofy boys and Hot Topic bracelet shoppers was superceded by the more sober-minded white tee/brown cord/Half-Cab set, sensibly fitting flannel shirts and the more recent revival of the raglan sleeve. At the same time the critical fawning over “Dog Town and Z-Boys,” combined with a solid 25 years’ worth of material to chew over, gave licence to a decade of mythmaking and nostalgic navel-gazing that at its nadir gave rise to a ponderous web blog site on the internet futilely attempting to ‘make sense of it all’ through wordy postings.
Assessing the current state of affairs in succinct, 1000-word equivalent snack-sized servings is the recently introduced Skartorialist site done by Kingpin/Blueprint affiliate Sam Ashley, which puts a pockmarked urethane spin on the moment-to-moment fashion photo blogs that have given rise to a bustling Ebay trade in pocket squares and Sears catalogues from the 1950s. It probably helps that Sam Ashley operates in close proximity to Londoners who have generally proven themselves to possess a more refined level of taste when it comes to fashion choices, Paul Carter’s striped Osiris swishy pants notwithstanding. The site’s frank presentation and skateboard-as-staple theme may have crossed the radar of the OG Sartorialist, who featured not one but two skate pics this week.
This is a concept well suited to an audience as prone to pick nits over personal dress to the point that a passing comment about one’s preference for plain-black t-shirts (versus the more typical plain white t) can prompt a freewheeling and at times soul-searching discourse on the psychological and moral divide between the black- and white-T camps, and how this may or may not reflect a similar but much-older debate revolving around corresponding color choices in women’s underwear. The site also provides for the sort of self-benchmarking popularized by Hotornot.com, and in this spirit I was encouraged to see Angus Morrison sporting a throwback Powell Peralta shirt similar to a ‘winged ripper’ number I got the other day, on some youthful dream fulfilled by disposable income that’s probably a sure sign of some middle-age doomsday ahead.
The role of outfit choices was cemented several years ago by a scientific poll conducted on the Slap message board, which found a majority of respondents agreeing that a bizarro outfit can detract from an otherwise legit photo, or video clip. The Skartorialist blog seems to keep time as folks in one corner of the world decide where the envelope needs pushing and where it is already folded nicely. For better or worse most of the dudes in the pics so far wouldn’t draw a second look at your typical mall or football stadium or Dave Matthews Band concert, which raises some interesting questions. Has the appetite for risk-taking on big handrails gone up at the same time dudes have become more wary of looking like a fool on the street? Does this conservatism mean sacrificing any role as early adopters of long-running themes? Who will start and fund the next JNCO? Are tall, stripey socks this year’s 59fifty hat? Do the duotoned pants backed by Garrett Hill and more recently Neil Smith represent the final frontier?