Is it ever cool to dress like a cop??

How to swaggerjack 12, rare Japanese GORP: "Personal Spyplane" intel

Every now and then at Blackbird Spyplane we do an open-call for reader questions: We collect yr custom-recon requests about life, love & the science of jawns, then work our way thru the most interesting ones. The result is an “unbeatable service-driven series” we like to call PERSONAL SPYPLANE … and today is the latest installment.

BEFORE WE GET 2 IT: Paying for a Blackbird Spyplane subscription is fun, it unlocks exclusive posts, giveaways, presales and SpyCommunity features behind the paywall — and Erin & I charge so little for it that several spiritual leaders tell us our generosity guarantees us blissful afterlives. So smash the SUBSCRIBE, underpay us, & we’ll see u in PARADISE !

“Should we appropriate military/police gear?” — @bigfoot1459

The question of if, when & how anti-authoritarian-minded jawns-enthusiasts can dabble in “infantry drip” (and its militarized-local-law-enforcement variants) has been around basically as long as jawns culture itself … but the issue has obvious topicality as we wind down 2020, when in addition to still not ending the endless wars we’ve seen heavily armed cops rocking all kinds of tactical bulls**t, driving warzone-grade armored vehicles thru U.S. streets and brutalizing the citizens they are paid to protect property from.

For decades, obviously, designers have been flipping and tweaking camo prints and putting their own spins on time-tested military pieces like M65 jackets and liners, OG-107 fatigues, N1 deck jackets, A2 flight jackets, etc. … Not to mention designing joints that get into the riot-police end of the spectrum, like ballistics vests, combat boots and S.W.A.T.-looking-a$$ cargo pants… jawns embodied at their best by the WILD Issey Miyake bomber that Robin Williams legendarily wore to the 1997 Flubber premiere…

Whether we’re talking about rocking fashion “warcore” cop-gear from Issey or actual militarized cop-gear from an army-surplus shop or, like, 5.11 Tactical, our thinking boils down to, “You can try it if u want, but if so you’ve got to freak it…” Otherwise u risk looking like a straight-up militiaman and/or pulling a maneuver that historians of failed ‘80s presidential candidates refer 2 as “hitting ‘em with that Dukakis”:

Take a BBSP-beloved piece of footwear: Hoka boots in the taupe and black colorways. These are established contemporary heaters BUT if yr building a fit around them you MUST work to reduce their potential riot-cop / Desert Storm vibes …. like how Robin Williams offset his bomber with roomy trousers & chunky-soled sneakers, bringing a softness to the fit and decreasing its warmonger quotient to near-zero.

There are enough examples of cool ppl successfully flipping military garments to fill an encyclopedia, but a cool one THIS NEWSLETTER UNEARTHED is the army jacket André 3000 told us about customizing with a picture of his son aged 2 … Or in the excellent Sorry to Bother You, Tessa Thompson rocks an oversize fatigue-shirt that director Boots Riley got from Billy Bragg, who first got it from The Clash’s Joe Strummer — incredible radical-leftist hand-me-down heirloom s**t …

Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You with Tessa Thompson, who’s rocking an army shirt that originally belonged to Joe Strummer, pictured w/ Paul Simenon

We were emailing recently with Jeremy Smith, co-owner of the excellent, heritage-jawn-heavy Oakland clothing store Standard & Strange … He is firmly on his antiwar s**t but carries several brands, like Real McCoys, Eastman Leather Clothing and 1st Pat-rn, that do repro military jawns … Jeremy noted that it’s impossible to extricate military apparel from the DNA of menswear (“gendered as a category, not by wearer”) and that at S&S, “we sell obsolete camo because it’s no longer used in war and there’s something satisfying about reclaiming it as an aesthetic pattern.”

Contemporary French military trainers, left; wildly oversize Kapital “fleecy knit” sweatshirt w/ camo paneling and a “military honor pin” on the chest

So yeah: To the degree that any piece of military gear is symbolic, what it symbolizes can always be freaked / détourned / deconstructed by SAVVY FIT-ASSEMBLERS in a process that tends to get more limber the more distanced & abstracted it is from actual hegemonic military activity … (There’s a long history of freedom fighters combating oppressive states, which is obvs a different story.)

But THAT brings us 2 a MORE VEXING question — what happens when brands we otherwise f**k with specifically because of their CRUNCHY / POSI / NATURE-ADJACENT AURAS don’t just incorporate tactical-military elements into their designs but become literal defense contractors??

Take Arc’teryx and its Law Enforcement & Armed Forces (LEAF) line, joints from which pop up regularly on sick mood-board accounts like Organic Lab dot Zip and, for big $$$, at resellers like Grailed …

Is it fraudulent / “ethically sus”/ deeply anti-GORPY for Arc’teryx to 1) straight-up sell joints to cops, profiting off the bloated defense & law-enforcement budgets that anti-racist activists want to defund while simultaneously 2) launching projects like their recent collaboration with Harlem graff artist Shaun Crawford, proceeds from which benefit the Brooklyn Bail Fund??

It’s not just Arc’teryx — they’re just relatively more forward-facing about it than Patagonia, who also supply armed forces with combat-ready apparel. (GQ published a piece about this, here.) POLARTEC — the inventors of fleece themselves ! — initially developed their new “Alpha” fabric (which our friends at Oregon’s Senchi Designs cut into amazing ultralight hoodies) for U.S. Special Operations Forces, a fact Polartec touts in its marketing materials. Jeremy from Standard & Strange mentioned that his “favorite eco-friendly fabric, Ventile, was originally designed to SAVE THE LIVES of British fighter pilots getting shot down over the channel.”

Defense budgets r gargantuan and can wind up helping to fund all kinds of cool s**t that eventually makes its way into non-military contexts… but it would be way more doper if we had a comparably cash-rich mechanism for publicly funding research & innovation that didn’t get funneled thru the military-industrial complex, and it would be similarly more doper if GORP giants like Arc’teryx and Patagonia kept their crunchy vibes 100 and divested from their dealings w/ the damn WAR MACHINE !


“Any Japanese outdoor brands to recommend beyond the basics?” —@ryanswanger

Longtime Blackbird Spyplane readers know that when it comes to neo-GORPIO that’s readily available in the U.S., we salute Japan’s And Wander above all else. BUT we gotta admit that we have been EYEING THE S**T out of Tokyo-based brand Comfy Outdoor Garment since it debuted last fall, overseen by Makoto of Harajuku’s Lost Hills store — the brand’s name (which originated with a Seattle company in 1910) is self-evidently fantastic, and their clothes (above and below) are self-evidently sick.

Several of their joints could have gone in the instant-classic PUFFY + SOFT COZY-JAWN roundup we ran for Cla$$ified Subscribers this past Thursday … HOWEVER, if u want to cop a comfy garment from Comfy Outdoor Garment u gotta make “INTERNATIONAL MOVES”: there’s a few pieces on eBay and Grailed, and some foreign stockists ship to the U.S., but otherwise yr best bet is to go thru the Lost Hills webstore (which, like the official Japanese And Wander webstore, offers “WorldShopping,” a built-in proxy service.)

The dope thing about proxy-only Japanese joints is that NORMIE HERBS think they’re a headache, GET SCARED and run off to CRY TO MOMMY while meanwhile u just click your mouse a few more times & in return receive a popping FOREIGN-GORP MASTERPIECE that, statistically speaking, NO ONE ELSE IN AMERICA OWNS BUT YOU.

“What should I be putting on my head?!” — @piercemarq

This one’s easy — u should check in on the Cla$$ified-tier Blackbird SpyMall, where we’ve been on a HOT STREAK of finding sick under-the-radar hats FOR THE LOW, such as the wildly dope ‘93 U.S. Open cap above right, which is so wildly dope that Blackbird SpyFriend Jacob Gallagher of the Wall Street Journal singled it out when he wrote about us the other day. One of our Classified readers copped that within about ~10 minutes of us posting it, ditto the Eastern Mountain Sports cap above left.

We shovel FIRE caps & other RARE HEAT into the JAWN FURNACE at all hours of the GOD DAMN DAY so take a spin thru the SpyMall & KEEP YR TEMPERATURE UP, lovers !!

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