Blackbird Spyplane turned 3 this week! Yes — it’s wild to realize, but on the morning of May 7, 2020, this stealth-reconnaissance sletter had its turbines purring at an undisclosed “swag airfield,” dripping jet fuel onto the “digital tarmac,” cloaked in “sick titanium paneling” a.k.a. the cool clothes Erin and I (Jonah) were wearing — and about to soar.
Soar is what we’ve done ever since, thanks to you, the enlightened readers of Spy Nation. And truly? Thanks to us, for being so good at newsletters.
3 years… d*mn. In this hustle-bustle, topsy-turvy modern world — one where the old verities are crumbling, yesterday’s bold upstarts become today’s dusty-a** irrelevant hegemons, and swagless “disrupters” peddling GRIFTY HOGWASH proliferate only to sputter and die and no one cares — 3 years of a miracle like Blackbird Spyplane is something to celebrate.
In that spirit, whether you’re a Day 1 Sletter Subscriber or you hopped on the mf plane last week, it’s only natural to ponder some big questions right now, none bigger than — What was Blackbird Spyplane?
Blackbird Spyplane was blessed. Blessed with a “finger-on-the-pulse” polyglot cultural fluency and superhuman eyes for spotting dope s**t. Blessed with great readers who found their way to us amid the howling darkness of modernity and shared their own Mach 3+ intel about clothes and travel as part of the “unbeatable community” known as Spy Nation. And blessed with a strong moral compass that allowed us to navigate the contradictions of being an anti-consumerist dope-jawns sletter with a deft blend of “droll yuk-it-up wit and capacious reservoirs of personal integrity” (Graydon Carter, Air Mail).
One way our blessedness manifested was we never took a penny from anybody but our wise and noble Cla$$ified Tier Spyfriends. If you are not yet one of them: Paying for beautiful things feels great, and we still undercharge, so why not improve your life and come behind the recon curtain for basically nothing?
Another way it manifested was by unearthing fire slept-on vintage gems aplenty, year after year. Because 9 times outta 10, secondhand clothes aren’t merely “more s*stainable” than new ones, but straight-up they make you look cooler. We shined a light on talented people making new ingenious things at small scales, too — people trying to de-alienate and “re-personalize” the increasingly alienated and de-personalized practice of putting sick clothes & other slappers for sale in a market. And since we are not doctrinaire we also just wrote about a ton of s**t that — manifold contradictions of capitalism notwithstanding — was hella popping. A full life needs popping s**t!!
Along the way we launched the smash-hit “women’s vertical” Concorde and found time to yammer with gifted & famous Spyfriends about cherished possessions. Because we’re not in the business of pimping charmless mass-produced commodities — we’re in the business of pimping charming mystical talismans. In Month 1, the big homie Spyfriend Ezra Koenig came through for a lively interview about old school L.L. Bean catalogs, the Dead, & more. In Month 2, no less a Spyplane Hero than André 3000 — who heard about BBSP via mad chill people in his camp & f**ked with the vision — called us to talk about the George Floyd protests and a beautiful vintage army jacket he decorated with a picture of his son:
The Spyplane Parade of Goats grew to include Nathan Fielder, Lorde, Jerry Seinfeld, Tyler The Creator, John Mayer, Naomi Fry, Laraaji, Héctor Bellerín, Sandy Liang, Mac DeMarco, Emily Bode, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Sam Hine, Online Ceramics, Michael Stipe, Antwaun Sargent, Danielle Haim, Dean Kissick, 100 gecs, Matty Matheson, Daniel Arnold, Chris Black, John Wilson, Action Bronson, Andrew Kuo, Steven Yeun, and so many more we had to create an ever-expanding BBSPantheon to showcase everybody.
Anyone who reads Blackbird Spyplane who isn’t a hater, loser or dumb*ss will tell you our brains are big and craggy. You know this from the delightful bon mots we scattered all over the d*mn place week after week. You know it from our controversial-yet-correct Spyplane Holy Decrees against such sauce abominations as no-show socks, double rider leather jackets, and heather-gray tees. 🤢🤢🤢 And you know it from our brilliant essays. Essays about soul-expanding encounters with nature while wearing sick GORP. About Ungrammable Hang Zones; Auntwave; Blackpilled Swag Doomercore; Whether You Can Ever Escape Trends; The Era of Mids; Fake $5000 Nikes and the Taxonomy of Bootlegs; The Ugly-Genius Matrix; and whatever the f**k is happening with the way new cars look.
Our cultural criticism soon became staple conversation fodder for the American Breakfast Nook, to the degree that even a guy as cursed & unswaggy as Pete B*ttigieg tweeted about not understanding one of our essays when he should have been regulating the railroads…
We also talked about the intersection of politics & sauce with heterodox young thinkers like Yung Chomsky and Alex Press. And we spoke eruditely with Bestselling Spyfriends like David Grann, Suzanne Simard, Kelefa Sanneh and Patrick Radden Keefe about their great books — recommending those & a ton more “bussin literature” on our Spybooks page.
America’s thought leaders couldn’t ignore us. Cool podcasts & radio shows like Throwing Fits, How Long Gone, Time Crisis, Blamo and Cookies Hoops had yr boy on as a guest. Publications like Garage, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Guardian and The New York Times familiarized their generalist readerships with the gorgeous, unconventional contours of our game. Vogue, New York, GQ and n+1 did not commission the big fat profiles there’s still time to commission about us, but in the meantime they did all cite our work.
Blackbird Spyplane was slappy as s**t. We were in the slappers-recon business, so it would have been hypocritical if we weren’t slappy ourselves. I posted mad fit pics to IG and this is gonna sound like a brag but looking at them was like looking into the radiant face of g-d. Our illustrations and graphics changed the look of the modern internet despite / because of the fact that I literally don’t know how to use anything in Photoshop besides the lasso and layer styles.
And when it comes to non-virtual slappers? We dropped a limited-edition tee (top left below) where an iMac and a brain shake hands through subterranean mychorrizal strands while one washes over the other with music — a design so tight that Brain Dead ripped it off a couple weeks back for their Jeff Goldblum joint. (Look it up!) We made deadstock-canvas shoes with Tarvas in Helsinki. We made a Spyfriend-exclusive blue & cream Björk tee with Edgar from And After That (Zendaya’s favorite bootlegger, with good reason) and then we made a capsule of cool Miami Vice crew bootlegs with him. We whipped up our own bootleg Seinfeld 100th episode Nike sweatshirts and debuted them at a party with Intramural and Yobs at Leisure Centre in NYC… We also made Spyjawns commemorating the Fibonacci sequence, Toyota Previas, Deetjen’s, Sea Ranch, and more.
You know it all sold out!!
But there’s an old proverb — “Sell a Spyfriend a jawn and they’ll be swagged out when they wear it. Teach a Spyfriend how to freak jawns they already own and they’ll be swagged out for eternity.”
So, while making sletter souvenirs is cool, we took special pride in serving up visionary techniques for sauce-unlocking and advanced life-living. Dressing from the cuffs out … Finding your own personal style … Wearing colors well … Navigating a romance or friendship marked by a swag differential … and on and on.
FINALLY — Blackbird Spyplane was positive. In these dark times, there’s a burning need for righteous anger, probably even for acts of How to Blow Up a Pipeline-style revolutionary sabotage. And we’ll always argue that criticism, at its best, is a way to spark productive arguments, sharpen the culture, and elevate our societal standards of creative achievement — standards which can feel under threat by a tepid inferno of reflexive fire emojis.
But as Spyfriend Jason Stewart once put it (combining a classic bumper-sticker phrase with a classic Lil Wayne line about shooting an AK-47), “Mean People Suck — let Chiquita speak.” So when we conceived of BBSP we decided to keep our lil corner of the universe posi-vibed — to make the sletter a chill oasis where we don’t ignore the world’s ills but we do lead with kindness & enthusiasm.
And since we’re not bozos, it never once read as pollyannaish cornball f**kboi “self care” marketing s**t!!
Kindness and love— true kindness and love, of the type that most of us may only rarely fully achieve but should always be striving for — and not some empty, solipsistic, parasocial pantomime of kindness and love, but the real thing — will, in the end, be the only thing that saves any of us.
And there you have it. You do the math — Blessed, Big-brained, Slappy, and Posi-vibed??
Put ‘em together and d*mn it if you don’t get:
And we’re ❤️ JUST ❤️GETTING ❤️STARTED ❤️LOVERS !!
Thank you for rocking with the Plane. See you Thursday for another all-timer
— Jonah & Erin
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The Blackbird Spymall, full of rare gems, is here.
Our Profound Essays, Mindsets and “Unbeatably Spicy Takes” are all here.
The Master Jawn Index, featuring earth’s best Spyplane-approved things, is here.
cheers to three! Been with you guys for 2 of those and the lack of self-care marketing bs is v much appreciated, long may this bird stay in flight <3
I became a citizen of Spy Nation after reading about you in The Guardian. THANK YOU! These 'sletters fill me with joy - the writing style and the message is delightful. Keep slappin'!