Wednesday, 23 September 2009

It's the shoes: Nike Air Jordan

Manflet's resident sneaker pimp Neil Sanderson shows love for the most iconic trainer franchise ever launched.

1985. A trainer drops that will change the way sneakers are made and marketed forever. Now is the time for the branding of an athlete and his signature shoe to dominate the globe.

The first shoes designed by Nike for one of the greatest basketball players of all time were nothing short of a revolution. No sooner were the Air Jordan 1s introduced than they were banned from league play, their red soles flaunting an old NBA rule that the base of all sneakers must be white. In black/red and white/red colourways to match Jordan's Chicago Bulls uniform, they were instantly recognisable and have been reissued and revamped countless times. These days, you can find people selling the originals on eBay for anything between £400 to £800. If you had the sense back in the day to buy a pair and keep them deadstocked the recession may not seem so scary for you right now.

The commercial success of the shoe led to another, designed in time for the next basketball season. The Air Jordan II was the simplest, in terms of design, in the entire franchise. Nike stitched “made in Italy” on the tongue of original pairs, an attempt to position them as a high fashion design concept, rather than sneakers to be bought by kids the world over. While still popular, they failed to match the impact of the Is, and by the time a third signature shoe was planned, it wasn't clear how long Michael Jordan would stick with Nike.

The Air Jordan III saved the franchise. An instant hit with Jordan himself, the sneakers' popularity was secured when he won his second slam dunk contest while wearing them. They were the first in the Jordan line to feature a visible air unit in the sole, and the "Jumpman" emblem - a silhouette of Jordan dunking a basketball, which has become one of the most recognisable logos in the world. The shoe's designer, Tinker Hatfield, went on to create the next 12 pairs of Jordans. To this day, the III is one of the most sought-after shoes in the range, not least since Nike started reissuing all of the Jordans in the mid 90s. The "true blue" colourway remains a firm favourite, and when it was reissued to the baying masses in 2001, it sold out almost instantly. Since then, dedicated trainer spotters like myself have been scouring the sneaker blogs for rumours of its next reissue. True Blue was finally called back for release this year, and I was lucky enough to bag a pair of these supremely well-made shoes, with elephant print running from heal to toe. A great day.

The brand has continued to thrive and the interest in, and demand for, Nike Air Jordans shows no sign of waning. As Mars Blackmon (the infamous Spike Lee character from the early Jordan commercials) once asked, “Is it the shoes?” It most certainly is.

Do my balls look big in this (pair of jeans)?

I've had the title of this post earmarked since Manflet began (yeah, it's that good), but a weird thing happened when I sat down to write it. No, I didn't pass out from the pressure on my groin - quite the opposite in fact. Because, disappointingly, the jeans that had originally inspired the idea didn't seem that tight anymore. I'm pretty sure that my junk hasn't shrunk (I'm still the full inch that my wife assures me is more than adequate), and my waist definitely hasn't. And I haven't washed my jeans the wrong way - judging by the look and smell of them, they haven't been washed at all.

So if my jeans haven't changed, and I haven't (physically), then what has? I think, in terms of tight trousers, I've simply broadened my horizons - or narrowed my seams, if you prefer. My latest pair of jeans may even qualify as "jeggings"- leggings either made of denim or made to look like denim (for a fuller description consult that beacon of enlightenment, the Daily Mail, which can tell you if you're too old to wear them - but not if you're too male). Whatever you call them, they're OBSCENE. You can see everything - in front, my "Cyril Sneer" (Nicholas Downes, 2007); round back, my buttcheeks and, because they're low slung (my jeans, not my cheeks), even my asscrack.

Sounds horrible, doesn't it? So what's the appeal? Put simply, tight jeans make me feel like a rock star. And not in a Russell-Brand-comedy-is-the-new-rock-n'-roll-oh-so-hedonistic kind of way. No, like Iron Maiden circa 1982: ludicrous, slightly androgynous (girly from the back, all man in the front), and with my NWOBHMs on show. I'm rebuilding a collection of metal t-shirts, and now I just need some giant white high top trainers to complete the look. Because I like the attention - even if it just consists of a Big Mo-alike on the bus wondering aloud "I wanna know how he gets into them" (*shudders*).

But I want to know what the Manflet readership† thinks:
When it comes to men's jeans, how tight is too tight?

†That would be you, Gadsby.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Fashionably Hate: The shoe-and-jeans combo

Guest Manfleteer Neil Sanderson lays into the staple wardrobe of the City boy on his day off: the combination of scruffy jeans and posh shoes.

I am not the most fashionable guy, but I found a style I liked back in my late teens and have stuck to it ever since.

My main beef is that the fashion choice for men is dire. And as you get on in age it only gets harder to choose something that doesn’t scream out Velcro shoes and elastic waist trousers you can get from those awful mail order catalogues you get through the post box.

I have a crippling dislike of the shoe-and-jean combo sported by most men aged nineteen and above. They seem to believe it looks smart but I cannot see what could be more uneducated than deciding to wear a pair of polished black or brown leather shoes with a pair of jeans (normally stonewash) that are slightly frayed at the back. You end up looking like a tit. One that has spent most of his money on flash Italian loafers, and was left with only enough to purchase some already shredded jeans to go with them.

The men who commit this fashion faux pas inevitably seem to be self-assured arseholes who are convinced of their flashy looks and swan around pubs and clubs thinking they look just like a bloody Topshop nonce or something. It is almost as if they cannot get away from the uniform of starchy suits they wear to their City jobs and therefore cannot bear the idea of dressing comfortably. Maybe to put on trainers, jeans and a t-shirt is slumming it too much and should only ever be adopted if attending Bestival or any other posh-as-the-hills festival.

Now some of these people would argue that it is a sign of wealth to maintain a pair of shoes with all kinds of attire but should they venture to find a rather fetching pair of trainers, which can cost upward of a hundred pounds if they want something more elaborate. And I don’t mean the faceless hiking-style trainer worn by many a thin-lipped, high-brow intellectual, but a decent pair of sports brand trainers. Nike, Puma, Reebok, Adidas, Vans and many others have all collaborated many times with fashion powerhouses to design one-off trainers that are very expensive and hip to the Nth degree.

Cutting a long rant short I think it is high time men broke out a few more styles of their own and allowed themselves to be different, without advertising/peer pressure confining them to a certain look that projects success. A culture of fashion among men that is entirely without order may well be quite refreshing, and wandering down your nearest high street would open up a whole new avenue of choice.

But saying that, if it all went too far we could end up looking like clowns for hire.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gay for Mickey Rourke

You know that urban myth about the guy who bets his friends he can get a girl to touch his dick on the first date, and wins it by poking said member through the bottom of his popcorn box? Well that guy was Mickey Rourke, in his breakthrough performance as "Boogie" in 1982's Diner.

What's so charming about this scene, what makes you fall in love with young Mickey, is not the dicky trick itself - which isn't big or clever, and more than a bit gross - but the way in which he explains himself to his date: he was just trying to relieve the pressure from the massive hard-on she was giving him. In a way (although he leaves this unsaid), the whole thing's her fault, and besides, it's a pretty huge compliment.

With his cheeky grin, Rourke sells this line - and you completely forgive the girl for buying it. Hypnotised by his dirty-dog, come-to-bed eyes, you think you can make out the faintest hint of guyliner. This juxtaposition of masculine and feminine features - the boxer's nose (before the boxing caved it in), sitting between sky-high cheekbones and above bee-sting lips, all framed with a strong jaw brushed with stubble - meant that women wanted to be with him, and men wanted to be him. And then jack off in front of a mirror.

Time hasn't been kind to Mickey Rourke, and neither have violent sports, substance abuse or plastic surgery. You have to agree with his character in The Wrestler, that he's an "old, broken-down piece of meat", and if you were feeling cruel you'd suggest that the meat he most resembles is bacon - a Francis Bacon. But behind all that bruised flesh hides a heart throb, and one who now sports arms the size of tree trunks. Put a bag over your head, Mickey, and hold us...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Manflet Metal Round Up... 2009 so far

If I’d known when I was sullen teen just how socially acceptable metal was going to become, the narrow minded little misanthrope that I was probably would have hated it. But thankfully in the early 90s metal couldn’t have been less popular which makes it all the more remarkable that it’s now the most popular music form in the world.

Still, you wouldn’t know that this was the case given the confused looks you get from most people if you mention a band other than Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath etc. So, with Manflet being a veritable fountain of knowledge on so many subjects, I thought I would put together a list of my favourite metal albums of 2009 so far, so that the curious can dip their toes into the otherwise confusing maelstrom that is the genre, the poorly educated can add a few obscurities to their shallow library of metal knowledge and the disagreeable twats can tell me I’ve got it completely wrong.

1.Kreator – Hordes of Chaos
Who would have thought that one of the best thrash albums ever would be released in 2009 by Kreator of all the bands in the world. Kreator were somewhere very near the top of the pile of the German thrash scene in the 80s but following the world’s betrayal of metal in the 90s they went quite crap. 2001’s Violent Revolution was promising but Christ alive, dead, then alive again, Hordes of Chaos is truly jaw dropping. It’s catchy as hell, despite using the minimum of melody and the vocals sound like Reign in Blood era Tom Araya but seriously pissed off. I can’t believe this album isn’t part of a really cool dream from which I’ll wake up and feel slightly depressed at how dull reality really can be at times.

2.Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know
You might think you haven't heard of these, but technically you have as it's pretty much the Black Sabbath line-up from the 1980 and 1981 and 1992 albums Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Dehumanizer respectively with tiny metal god Ronnie James Dio (beloved of Jack Black) on vox. It’s a fact that few are willing to admit, but Ronnie is a better singer than Ozzy by miles even though he’s miniature and ancient – imagine if Bilbo had given in to the dark whims of the One Ring and you get the picture.

3.Crystal Viper - Metal Nation
What do you mean you've never heard of them? So what if they have less than 2000 listeners on Crystal Viper play metal truer than Manowar at Sunday Mass. Armoured skeletons on album cover - check, orchestral intro - check, song about Zombies - check and they're Polish and have a girl singer who occasionally goes by the name Leatherwitch. If Robert E Howard, author of the Conan the Barbarian stories, was alive today, Polish and into metal he would be in Crystal Viper.

4.My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
You haven't heard of these either? Okay, well I think you can guess from the band name what they're going to sound like. Now add violins and some keyboards and there you go. Probably too miserable for most, but they were/are one of my favourite bands ever so you'll have to live with it. I often refer to them as the Morissey of Doom/Death metal but to be honest that’s doing them disfavour as at their most morose they make Morrisey look like High School Musical.

5.The Gathering – The West Pole
Some less open-minded metal fans will decry me for including this release on a list titled ‘metal’, but I’m not doing some wanky post-metal roundup list because post- genres are just stupid. Anyway, this is like um... Okay there’s probably a whole book, nay a whole library to be written on the subject of whether music writing can ever come close to capturing the actual sounds of the music it tries to describe, especially in the case of bands who do their best to avoid categorisation. Put it this way, if you like moody, powerful, beautiful music with rich female vocals you might like this, if you don’t it’s because the descriptive terms I used are highly ambiguous and prone to idiosyncratic interpretation.

6.Madder Mortem – Eight Ways
Okay, I know you’re going to listen to this for ten seconds and say it sounds like Evanescence and call me a 16 year old emo faux goth but it totally doesn’t and I’m totally not. In a long tradition of metal bands that bring jazz-like influences into their music (well as far back as Atheist anyway) Madder Mortem do it in a distinctively Norwegian style, i.e. really fucking well with a disconcerting undercurrent of weirdness. By the way don’t be put off by the jazz thing, I’m not talking New Orleans or anything, more that it’s unpredictable and has some weird time signatures and stuff.

7.Revolting – Dreadful Pleasures
I couldn’t decide whether to include this or Denial’s ‘Catacombs of the Grotesque’ (oh the stress) as my favourite new old school style death metal album, this won simply because I happened to have listened to it more, such are the whims of fate. To be fair if you’re not a death metal fan you’ll fail to hear the sublime Entombed/Dismember/Grave/Carnage isms, you’ll just hear a god awful racket with a man bellowing in a Cookie Monster voice over the top. If you do like death metal you should love this because it’s just sooo death metal, no prog, no jaz, no posts, no acoustic passages, no keyboards, no singing etc.

8.Believer – Gabriel
Another thrash album makes the list and a bunch of Christians at that (James is not alone), who’d have thought it? It’s very easy to describe this as ‘progressive’ because it’s full of weird breaks and random passages of non-metal type sounds. But when it’s being less weird and very metal it’s a bloody heavy little bugger.

9.Wolf - Ravenous
Ah the Swedes, they just have a knack for making really good classic metal (see Grand Magus’ ‘Iron Will’ for further evidence). Maybe it’s because they don’t take themselves as seriously as the British that they feel comfortable playing this stuff or maybe it’s because they take themselves so seriously that the perfect replication of 80s metal has been transformed into an aesthetic pursuit that must be mastered. Anyway, there are bits of Maiden, Priest, Helloween and Running Wild (I had to mention a slightly obscure one) in here and some seriously catchy choruses, which lest face it is a must in the trad metal stakes.

10.Candlemass – Death Magic Doom
Back when doom metal was a dirt term Candlemass were being miserable and epic, and they continue to do so today and it’s made all the more epic because Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus sings for them (did I lose you there?). 'Death Magic Doom' is also one of the best album titles ever and the song 'The Bleeding Baroness' is probably the catchiest thing they've ever written.

11.Amorphis – Skyforger
You thought I was going to stop at 10, eh, what do you think this is the Manflet RnB roundup, jeez. Anyway I absolutely love Amorphis and have done since I heard a track on an obscure metal compilation in 1992. So even though this album is not that different from their last two, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a slice of pure genius, it just means it’s yet another slice of pure genius. As far as I’m concerned Amorphis are the last word in epic-ness. The (relatively) new singer does death growls and proper singing to perfection and the music is both heavy and melodic. As with all Amorphis albums the lyrics are based on the Finnish national myth cycle the Kalevala which makes for some interesting if not strictly intelligible song subjects.

Anyway that's it for now, tune back in in December for more. Actually come back before then December is ages away...

The day it all fell down

For a change, a Manflet man has decided to create something instead of deconstructing shit until it barely exists any more. He's called Neil Sanderson and he's written some prose. Enjoy.

As the day was drawing to a close I was beginning to feel slightly weak and drained. I felt otherworldly whilst being obviously grounded in this current world. I felt the uncontrollably human urge to intake some sugar to possibly level the wobbly feeling that had occupied my body. Having returned to my seat after retrieving a warm chocolatey beverage I sat and prepared to ease my suffering.

This is when it all went wrong. Reaching gingerly for my cup I already knew something bad was beginning. My grasp on the plastic container felt soft and childish and my movements felt like explosions under earth. As the cup melted into my fingers I could only observe as the brown sugary liquid floated over my stationery and my very being. I felt powerless to this torrent of wetness attaching to the very area where I sell my time. As the warm fluid dried its way into my clothing and notepad I began to shake with desperate horror of what this catastrophic event could symbolise. Whilst I sat there like a wasp’s wet dream I felt a sense of change had inadvertently thrust its way into my life and now I must facilitate these new emotions and let them take me where they will.