Technical Outerwear: A Retrospective

September 26, 2010


As Chuck Klosterman noted in his review of The Sims, daily life boils down to a series of strategy problems. One of this season’s episodes of Jersey Shore demonstrated this perfectly, as Mike deftly isolated two separate groups of girls in the house, isolated and extracted an attractive female from her hippopotomic friend, and engaged in intercourse with said young lady. Concurrently, Vincent and Paul banged the first set of girls.  This process led me to call several area contractors, asking for estimates on ballpark figures for converting my home’s laundry/utility room into a “smash room.”

It’s funny how dudes use strategies for different goals, dependent on environment. Had he been born 60,000 years earlier, Mike might have devised a plan to drive a herd of woolly mammoths off a cliff. Had he been born sixty years earlier, Lieutenant Sorrentino might have utilized his strategic and tactical decision-making prowess to rescue a fellow American soldier from the Nazis within the murderous hedgerows of Normandy in the summer of 1944. Perhaps he would have devised a plan to blow up a German tank in the Battle of the Bulge. This type of Hemingwayan grace under pressure cannot be learned or taught. Or can it?

ANYWAY, because this is 2010, tri-state-area dudes use their strategies and tactics so they and their bros can get some ass.  Their success in this endeavor, like any other, is a function of the effectiveness of said strategies and tactics.

Along those lines, in the mid-Nineties, clothing because strategic. Around 1993, the bLind jean/New Deal Big Deal pants faded away in favor of more functional, yet still loose-fitting, acid-washed fare. On the east coast, the wild fluctuations in climate dictated new strategies. In the wintertime, the first one was the rise of Nautica Jackets and a myriad of other forms of technical outerwear, mirroring the rise of technical skating. The creator’s of the feel-good internet video of the summer, the Etnies “Skate and Create” offering, also took note of this:

Note: Shockingly, the Etnies effort did not win Transworld “Skate and Create” contest–the only interesting thing the mag does every year besides the “What The Pros Ride” segment in the buyer’s guide issue. This, however, is irrelevant; as the video achieved (by “skate” standards) viral status, it became a transformative event. It brought people together. The feel-good video of the summer. Dudes I hadn’t talked to in a decade were like “Dude did you see that Etnies video? Bro…” Now if they would only reissue a faithful cup Sal 23…

ANYWAY, similarly to skating’s ties to “backpacker” hip-hop, I seem to recall Nautica jackets tying in with the whole “rave” thing. It seems goofy as fuck now, but that shit was cool at the time. In addition, the local nightclub/roller rink that had “skate night” every couple weeks also hosted raves from time to time. I think I went to one for like five minutes.

"Obviously, back in the day I wore a lot of Nautica."

Nautica jackets, and their brethren North Face, Helly Hansen, Spiewak, and of course Polo Sport, were effective for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, they provided ample for protection from the winds that came swirling down the concrete canyons of The City. This became a critical survival strategy when posted up at Astor Place for seven hours at a time, while intermittently skating flat, aggressively attempting to sell sets of used trucks and wheels, and smoking blunts on the stoop of the Cooper Union building across the street:

I had planned to include a paragraph or two on the impact and gravitas of Jeff Pang nollie hardflipping in a fleece at Astor in the Zoo 411 industry section, but then I went back and watched it and, lo and behold, he’s wearing a t-shirt. This tripped me out because I definitely recall having a conversation with someone–probably my friend Justin from Long Island with whom I skated a lot–along the lines of “fuckin sick, Pang doing nollie hardflips at Astor in a fleece.” This, however, is also irrelevant. The concept of nollie hardflipping–when no one fuckin’ did those–in a Polo Sport fleece at Astor** is inspirational in and of itself. Nostalgia is funny like that; reality merges with other perceptions to create a transformative super-reality that holds more power than what actually happened.***

For deep winter skating, A fleece, layered underneath a lightweight microfleece shell (like the green one Joey Bast wore in most of his Silver part) made skating in any climate above 25 degrees farenheit acceptable, if not comfortable. Lightweight shell parkas also faciliated skating decrepit metal minramps in dreary, recently liberated Eastern European locales, as shown by Mr. Penny above. At one point, I rocked a black  Zoo microfleece parka (which I still employ occasionally) with a turtleneck fleece underneath, black wind pants, white DC Syntax, and a Portland Trailblazers fitted (forward, not DJ Drama style). I suppose I resembled some kind of urban assault commando geurrilla motherfucker; an Ar-15 slung over my shoulder would not have looked out of place.

ANYWAY, I rocked fleeces for the remainder of the Nineties. This culminated in this Fourstar  fleece with the infamous “drug pocket.” I don’t know why I even called it that in the first place; a see-though pocket in a highly visible location is a completely nonsensical place to store drugs. As far as the North Face thing goes, it might have started with Carroll at the ’94 SOTY party, but it got to the point where, if one entered Supreme in the winter of 95-96, there was an 80% chance of at least one person rocking a North Face bubble jacket posted up in there. I don’t know what happened to mine, but for some reason I still have the hood, which I never wore.

ANYWAY, after winter gave way to the explosion of skate activity that characterized spring and summer, new tactics became necessary to deal with the crippling heat and humidity. The importance of said strategies increases exponentially as one gets older, and one’s ability to skate effectively in 100-degree weather decreases exponentially. However, there comes a point of diminishing returns, when the Gershon-level amounts of sweat emanating from one’s body actually make doing tricks hazardous.

Overall, though, in the Nineties, shit was more functional.  The advent of mesh shirts–such as the illustrious DC Eurosupertour team shirts– that enabled us to deal with summer without skating in wet dishrags. Shit’s funny; i remember some Rick Howard interview in, like, ’98 in which he espoused the awesomeness of mesh shirts; now it’s like flannels and button downs ALL DAY.

an advanced technical garment for advanced technical skating

I thought about this recently when our recently defunct, sorely missed foundation spot demanded creative strategies for dealing with the elements. The site of a demolished shopping mall, the large open space offered no shelter from the sun or the cruel winter wind; indeed, it seemingly contained its own ecosystem, complete with otherwise extinct foot-long dragonflies from the Cretacous era.  I am also reasonably certain the temperature there hovered about 10 degrees above anywhere else in town in the summer and 10 degrees below in the winter.

In the summertime, I began rolling up to the spot with a gym bag full of plain white t-shirts–a tactic I stole from some fuckin’ Jimmy Gorecki “Day in the Life” internet video. Mid-August, I used, on average, one per hour. Another tactic I employed was rolling with a hydration jug like this:

I appropriated this particular tactic from Lamont Macintosh circa Newport’s heyday. Fill that shit half up with ice, stays cold all day.  I  also came close to purchasing one of those “Under Armo[u]r” mesh shirts, but they basically cost the same as 15 plain white t-shirts. It’s a fairly safe bet that white t-shirts with a fitted will be cool for a hundred years or more.

Indeed,  one need look no further than the criminally underrated New Deal offering from 1994 Children of the Sun for documentation of this philosophy.  Overshadowed by the myriad of genre-defining videos that year (SHS, Goldfish, A Visual Sound, Fight Fire with Fire [?]), Children of the Sun is most notable for  both its heavy utilization of the plain-white-t shirt/acid washed jeans/backwards fitted motif and for its unique music supervision, which utilized Nineties altera-rock to devastating effect. Even Ron Knigge, who finally ventured outside of the Montclair, NJ area, skated to Buffalo Tom as opposed to some backpacker (does that term even mean anything anymore?) type shit.

Maybe it was the vibe in the air–like Friedberg knew New Deal 1.0 was winding down, leading into the Ryan Johnson/Rob Gonzalez version. Whatever. CoTS is the most Nineties alterna-rock video of all time, employing both “My Daydream” and a double shot of Buffalo Tom (Maybe Friedberg watched My So-Called Life religiously that year–I sure as fuck did). It seems lame now, but one of my few surviving memories from high school is eating lunch the day after the eighth and final episode of MSCL and me and circle of lunch friends bumming the fuck out. Did Brian Krakow ever get laid?

ANYWAY, many video parts have utilized “depressing” music (Markovich in the Color vid, Dylan Reider in MF), but seldom has a video part conveyed a soul-destroying vibe like Neal Hendrix’s CoTS part. Markovich’s choice seemed semi-ironic, and Dylan’s portrayal comes off as semi-affected, but Hendrix seems to be hiding some legit mental anguish. In any event, the only thing that would have made the video any more Nineties would have been someone skating to “Found Out About You,” a song that pertains to the interests of this site because it delineates very clearly the chasmic differences between the Nineties and the present day. As with skating, stalking someone in the Nineties required balls. It required actual eavesdropping on  individuals waiting for public transportation, listening in on barstool conversations, in addition to parking in the cul de sac near one’s ex’s house and scoping out her bedroom window. Just a psychologically devastating song, as is Hendrix’s part in the video in question.

HOWEVER, Rene Mathyssen’s part in said video warrants inclusion in the hallowed halls of Underrated Video Part Theatre; dude was one of the only dudes who consistently looked cool on a skateboard in the exponential technicality explosion of 1992-1994. His last part in CoTS exemplifies this; have 360 flip noseslides on curbs ever not looked cool? Dude also threw down the only fakie 360 flip tailslide that we would witness until Jesus in FF–albeit in a Paleozoic-era incarnation of SPOT. Indeed, about a third of the video is park footage.Fuck it though, no one made a big deal about park footage vs. “REAL STREET” footage back then; we were just psyched to see any footage.

In addition, COTS was ahead of the curve in a few other critical areas. If I remember correctly, New Deal was one of the first, if not the first, company to switch from the football-type shapes to legit 7.5″ popsicle sticks. In addition, Mathyssen is probably the only dude to get a trick in a video while wearing a sweatshirt tied around his waist.

This, my friends, is Hosoi-level swag.

The only thing that could top that is some dude b/s tailing some rail wearing a sweater tied around his neck–Carlton Banks style. Who knows, skate fashion is so fuckin’ wacky that I would rule nothing out at this point. Maybe Yacht Rock or freestyle will supplant Animal Collective and The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. Who the fuck knows? At least shit is interesting.

In the final analysis, though,  Children of the Sun remains a document of a cultural turning point, when record company A&R personnel were scouring college towns across the country for “the next Nirvana.” When Ybor still retained some of its infamous “Wild West” dangerousness. When the girls at Mons Venus weren’t so stuck up. And when a single trick switch crooked grind on a ledge met expectations for a last-part ender, as long as the dude was wearing a dope windbreaker.

*Last summer, I found myself watching the Tom Penny Menikmati bonus footage. In this footage, Penny comes super close to landing a 360 flip noseslide on vert, wearing (understandably) only knee pads. this led me to the conclusion that, while Penny may not be as culturally important as Mark Gonzales, his actual body of work is just as transcendent, if not moreso.

**try explaining to any “regular” person how Astor constituted a skate spot

***to paraphrase a back cover blurb from Eating the Dinosaur, which I just started reading and is really fucking good so far


14 Responses to “Technical Outerwear: A Retrospective”

  1. crazylike said

    Blown away. This is just the pick me up needed on an otherwise bad day to keep me laughing. Thanks!

  2. mo said

    whats the plain white t of choice sir?

    • thecarbonite said

      Oh dang…still looking for the perfect one. Right now I mostly fuck with the Hanes ConfortSoft 3-packs with the lay-flat (is that even a word) collar. That collar technology is fucking awesome; nothing worse than having a droopy-ass collar. They’re kinda thin though. For some reason, I think the kind you get at tobacco stores are the best.

  3. dylan said

    such a great read…and a gin blossoms reference!

  4. smorales said

    I’m tempted to read Klosterman but I don’t want to somehow blow your cover if that makes sense.

    • thecarbonite said

      nah do it man, he’s fucking awesome. The excerpt I read from downtownDowntown Owl was kind of mediocre though; stick with the essays and shit…

  5. smorales said

    oh yeah good job…

  6. AD_43 said

    Brilliant. I still abide by the Champion crewneck/ Khakis outfit as fall outerwear. If I could only find my Polo Sport pullover fleece for the appropriate technical kit of the season.

  7. alex dyer said

    Fucking spot on as always man. Nothing more to add.

    P.s lulz at the My So Called Life ref. I used to love that shit too.

  8. […] came across this interesting piece over at Frozen in […]

  9. first time reader.

    you just took me back. so back.

    shit, in florida we used to just skate with our shirts off, all fucking sweaty and disgusting. the hiphop kids thought we were stupid as fuck looking, but we were too punk to care! it all seems so silly now. and just… awesome.

    bookmarking now.

  10. Whitewine said

    Just for the record…Rene’s windbreaker at the end of Children of the Sun is by j Crew. I found one myself, it’s still in my closet…my shits forest green. One of my favorite parts ever. Shame we don’t have more from him. Brilliant.

  11. Whitewine said

    Lol tho, thing is so short and wide, that’s its downfall.’ It’s super we’ll made and seems like it would be so cool but it’s hard to get past the cut.

  12. […] and this great Proper interview with Steve Sanderson from Oi Polloi that dabbles in discussion of classic nautical gear. It seemed fitting to chuck this 1993 Yachting magazine piece on technical windbreakers up here […]

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