The Spirit of `92 â€“ Revisited.by Steven Vogel
A few years ago, I wrote a piece called â€œThe Spirit of 92â€ for what was the third volume of the â€œuntitledâ€ book series. It was an interesting piece and I just went back to it, to see what I had written 3 years ago about a subject that has become increasingly prominent in the forefront of my conscious thought. This streetwear world has been an interesting ride, I must admit. The last 5 years have been intense in every aspect of the experience, trends came and disappeared faster than most of the world realized, it went from really exciting to disgustingly disappointing (yet addictive) in a matter of what seems just a blink of an eye.
In the article I wrote for the â€œuntitledâ€ book I digressed about how much music had played an impact on me whilst growing up and how throughout the late 80s to the mid 90â€™s, there seemed to be a beautiful, coherent, and corresponding soundtrack to not just my life, but everyone around me.
To this day, I find it absolutely necessary to be surrounded by music. Some of my worst experiences have been work trips abroad and forgetting my iPod. Even as I write this I am blasting David Bowieâ€™s â€œHeroesâ€ out of my stereo, which being only about a quarter mile away from where it was written is an additional uplifting experience, but I digress.
So back in 2004 I was complaining about the lack of revolution in street culture and concluded that what was once revolutionary, or even a counter-revolutionary expression of a youth movement had in fact sold out and become a farce; the opposite of what it proclaims it is: do as I say and not as I do.
It makes me laugh to think of 2004 as back in the days and even look back at those times with a smile on face. Man, had I only known what was yet to be. Hypebeast was exciting back then. I even interviewed Kevin (Hypebeast) and Adam (SlamxHype) respectively for the â€œuntitledâ€ books. Today it is a different story. No disrespect to either of those guys, they are colleagues, but letâ€™s face the fact, those sites were useful and exciting but today have become stale. Their contents seem to be more of a case of posting everything and anything without the enthusiasm that marked them earlier.
I do not, however, consider them the cause of the problem at all. Quite the contrary. They are just another symptom of what is wrong in this subculture. I do not mean to judge anyone. I do not think I am in that position nor do I ever want to have to be in that position, so before you get you knickers in a twist, these are mere personal opinions and philosophical excursions of the mind.
One of my main points, in the original article, was that at the time I was being ushered into this world that I now call my home, it was not cool to be interested in skateboarding, graffiti, hardcore, baggy pants, t-shirts, or hip hop (you remember the hip hop before it was killed by RnB? If not, check Todd Shimabukuâ€™s blog from in4mation, he knows.)
Iâ€™ll tell you what was cool. Techno. Clubbing. Looking smart. Damn it people, it was the 90â€™s man; Clinton was in power, the stock markets were rising, and whilst we all thought that we had destroyed the Reagan-area Yuppies with our hardcore music, we utterly failed.
Skateboarding and all that was associated with it, in those days, were the remnants of anti-movement that had failed. I guess it was not the smartest decision back then to join group â€˜aâ€™ rather than group â€˜bâ€™ but I did, and I was beaten, literally, ridiculed and never taken seriously, by anyone. From my family to the stranger walking down the street that would later return with a group of skinheads to teach this little punk some sense, with a baseball bat. Oh yeah, did I mention the cops? The recent pathetic online outrage about how those kids were â€œman handledâ€ by the Arkansas state police was joke in comparison. But again, I digress and wallow in semantics.
Fact is, it was not cool, not advisable, not respected to be into what people now call street culture and guess what, you never got laid either. But that was OK, because you had your friends, your music, your skateboarding and a real sense of community (without having to resort or claim a certain area in town) which today you have not. Sure, feel free to point to all the local scenes and communities: Fairfax, L.E.S, Newburg Street, Mitte in Berlin. I laugh at those faked out communities and shake my head in dismay. They are as gentrified as any hype site can be. Sure, to you behind the computer screen they are communities because nearly everyone involved does everything in their power to make you believe so. And you know why? Because they want you to consume their product. The reality of it all is that itâ€™s all a front to sell you more product.
Again, no need to get all angry at me here, I do not judge. I observe. If thatâ€™s what you want to do, cool. I just donâ€™t like it and I think thatâ€™s OK.
One of the conclusions that I have drawn recently is that what was once a small, very small, community of skaters and misfits, has now become an industry, hardly ground breaking I know but call me slow to catch on. One line comes to mind, I remember interviewing Dennis from Crooks and Castles about 2 years ago for my book and he said, that streetwear will be the new â€˜urbanâ€™, and you know what people, that is the case. Again, nothing wrong with that at all, quite on the contrary, â€œright onâ€ I say, I am happy for all those involved that they are making their money, but to me, it has nothing to do with my sense of being.
Streetwear and street culture as I have known it, and which is being propagated as such, is not what you see on the blogs or anywhere else. It will never come back, which, to be honest is also a good thing. I do not want to be that confused, beaten, broke kid anymore and even if I tried I couldnâ€™t even pretend to be so anymore.
However, I think that a lot of the brands out there need to start realizing this as well. The revolution has been televised, raped, and is over people. Streetwear and thus street culture is in its nature something revolutionary, or reactionary, but what the hundreds of brands (no pun intended) are doing right now is not. It is rehashing memories which (and letâ€™s be honest here) most of them have never even had. They are regurgitating memories of people in You Tube videos.
So who is the fool here?
On the other hand there is so much to rebel against right now, 2007 is a much worse time than 1991 but I am not seeing any revolution. The reason behind that surely is worth another discussion; a noteworthy one indeed. Iâ€™ll finish this rant with a quote I used in the original article, one that I use over and over again. After 17 years of my involvement, contribution and joy in this world, it still rings true with me.
â€œIâ€™m not anti-society, society is anti-me, Iâ€™m not anti-religion, religion is anti-me, Iâ€™m not anti-tradition, tradition is anti-me, Iâ€™m not anti-anything, I just want to be free.â€
-Mike Muir, Suicidal Tendencies.