Thursday, 29 May 2008

Soul City 576

On the July cover of The Face in 1998 Ad Rock is pictured wearing some jeans with roll ups, a T shirt and some New Balance sneakers. I thought he looked so cool and pretty much went out and bought a pair of New Balance just because of that picture. That pair of shoes (RIP) lasted me years but it wasn’t until I saw Hanon’s Soul City 576 that the NB bug bit. Whilst the Hanon 576 colour way is my favourite, I prefer the 860 as a model. If the Soul City had been an 860, wow....

The following interview appeared in Issue 9 of Sneaker Freaker Magazine. My questions are posed to Brian Toft of Hanon Shop.

1. Who came up with the concept of basing the sneakers around the theme of the Northern Soul music scene? Sneaker culture is so entrenched in hip hop culture I found the concept a breath of fresh air.

1. Brian Toft here at hanon came up with the initial idea. The entire concept was inspired by the Northern Soul scene in England during the 60's and 70's and the rare 45' vinyl records , cover art and collectable patches were all contributing factors . Although the Soul Boys back then did not necessarily sport NB we felt the energy and excitement they invested in their culture mirrored that of the sneaker / trainer collector today. The project in a way was also a nod to the influence the North West of England has had in general to trainer culture over the years.

2. Talk me through the colours/design on the Soul City 576, and its inspiration. Was it based on the colours used on the records of the 60s UK record label of the same name?

2. The colourway on the Soul City was taken from an original 45rpm record of the same title released in the 60's. Each model in the series is inspired by or makes a direct colour reference to Northern Soul. The Soul city is a particular favourite of ours and we pretty much knew the colourway was right and would need minimal tweaking from the 1st sample. This model we felt captured the feeling of early Northern Soul. I guess one eye would have been on the hip hop inspired products you mentioned and and we probably were trying to combat the sea of camo and patent released styles out there.

3. The accompanying badges and postcards were nice bonuses. Who designed them?

3. The badges were designed by Edward Toft and each is based on a iconic Northern Soul record or patch. It had to be badges or patches and we hope the old soul boys would instantly recognise all four.

4. Brian Sweeney's photographs were tied in with the Sole City Series. How did you get him involved with the project?

4. I met Brian Sweeney through a journalist friend Greg Gordon who felt he would be perfect for the project. Brian is a much sought after snapper and his work regularly features within the music industry. He has captured stars such as Eminem, Oasis, Happy Mondays and The Chemical Brothers to name a few. His earlier work however centred much on the working class areas of Northern England. Touring with bands in the early 90's he captured the 70's architecture, run down football terraces and grounds of the towns they visited. These images were of the very areas where Northern Soul was born, and it was those reference points that captured the true feeling of the scene.

We approached Brian and he was very enthusiastic to the project. We worked closely together going through this period in his archives and selected the 4 images that would go on to be part of the limited edition canvases and postcards.

5. Hanon has put out several exclusive colourways with NB now. NB seems to be going from strength to strength of late with their fashion led models. What is it that attracts you and the Hanon crew to their shoes?

5. Having worn NB 576's since my youth I have always had a natural respect and affinity to their shoes. To me the hand built process of manufacture makes them to running shoes what Saville Row is to suits. They fact they are manufactured in England is also a bonus as when it comes to design, the opportunity to work closely with the factory makes a massive difference of what can be achieved. My next project with them - a M990 release reflects this flexibility as we are now working directly with Schoeller Technologies to develop a new upper.

Foot note: One reader was not amused that Ad Rock was wearing New Balance and wrote to the editior of The Face in a subsequent issue, unhappy with the stylist’s choice saying that NB wasn’t the Boys style! He was also wearing a nice orange Very Ape T a lot around this time.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Man Who Laughs

I will always be indebted to Hadrian for putting me onto the Bats. I’ve always dipped in and out of the comics world, but never hung around for long. A few issues of GI Joe, Groo then McFarlane Spider Man and the X Files held my attention for a while but then I just forgot about them. i think trade paperbacks are the only realistic way to break into a character as long established as Batman. There are one or two sites out there that help the novice approach the difficult matter of timeline/continuity for a newbie.

It hasn’t taken long to catch up on most of the titles that DC has put out. Both the artwork and story lines in Joseph “heroes” Loeb’s titles have been faves, as has the No Mans Land arc. Crisis and 52 proved to be a wonderful further expansion into the DC Universe but I don’t see myself going beyond that.

I finally managed to get into The Man Who Laughs today. The first page is very striking, with the artwork by Doug Mahnke. The story is about Batman and the Joker’s first encounter post Moore’s Red Hood. There are some nice nerdy references to other Year One events within the first few pages alone. This is turning out to be a cracking title....

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I have been after the BxH Pete for some time now, and finally managed to track one down. This was BxH’s second Disney figure after Mickey. I can honestly say I am no Disney fan at all, especially Mickey. Having said that I think that both the Julius and Pete sculpts are perfectly executed and both true to the spirit of BxH. Due to my total lack of any Disney knowledge I collected these two without knowing their “story”. What makes the BxH oeuvre have a particular resonance for me is that most, if not all, the figures have some meaning and relevance to Hikaru and Taka. Sometimes this is easily “read” sometimes it takes a bit of digging.

I was intrigued to discover a Disney Wiki that reveals Pete is Mickey’s nemesis, and appropriately for a mouse’s nemesis, he is a cat. I also found that he probably predates Mickey, having featured in a 1925 cartoon “Alice Solves the Puzzle”. Pete has appeared under many names, but Disney nerds have his true id pinned down as Percy P. Percival. This sculpt of Pete is from 1928’s Steamboat Willie.

I’m glad I found out a bit more about Pete, or I wouldn’t have realised that Julius is also Pete! Julius is Dr Frankenollie’s monster in the 1995 short, Runaway Brain.

Pete is made in China, and an official collaboration with Disney. He was released in 2001 and retailed for Y5800. He has a serial number stamped under his left foot. From the top of his hat to the ground he is about 10 inches. His head/neck and arms are articulated.