The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. All shortlists are chosen by the in-house editorial staff at Highsnobiety, with the final result left up to you, the reader.
See the final results here.
If a tree fell in the woods, Gary Warnett could tell you what kind it was based on the sound, why the structure of the bark caused it to make the particular thud it did, and every single plant that came before it. Back in the days when street culture was a B-side, a gem of a rarity tucked away in the back of an independent record store, he never stopped digging.
Now, in a world where several streetwear brands are equivalent to garage rockers selling out stadiums, his type of cultural criticism and sheer referential knowledge is sorely missed. His blog, Gwarizm, stands as a testament to what sites like Highsnobiety aspire to—part educational, part humorous, but always excited about the future of whatever label we want to slap on this shared culture. The logo—a Ben Davis flip replaced with the popular Moomin comic character, was designed by a mutual friend, Charlie Morgan, and really spoke to Gary's penchant for venerable brands with a second life in subculture, and his inimitable appreciation for cheeky pop culture.
One of the things Gary and I often shared were references about The Simpsons and Seinfeld, where we compared things like Ned Flanders' covetable "Assassin" sneakers to Raf Simons' 2008 De Stilj-inspired hiking boots. It's the type of connection super nerdy enthusiasts have about any hobby, we just found a way to make it into our jobs. It never ceased to amazed anyone that knew him his ability to connect the dots between just about anything, from a rare sneaker to an obscure pop culture reference on a Supreme shirt.
In 2017, there's always a new sneaker on the way, a new lookbook to peruse, and a new collaboration on the horizon. Gary Warnett had seen everything under the sun over his short lifespan, but he was still excited to see it rise the next day.
Career-wise, he started out by finessing his way into Crooked Tongues, he started as a very informed forum member who went onto work for the company, and witnessed its downfall firsthand under an acquisition by ASOS. So that's another thing we connected on, seeing forum heads getting legitimized by a growing industry, and realizing it was possible to make a living out of being a super nerd about your interests.
After leaving CT, he occupied a space between copywriter and freelance journalist, touching just about every relevant brand you can think of: Supreme, Nike, adidas, New Balance and many, many more. He put himself in a place where he wouldn't have to work on anything he thought was wack—after all, he was a self-described ”lameaphobe.”
What's more important is that he was a cultural critic not in the sense that he could rapid-fire tell you whether or not he thought something was good or bad, it's that he had the ability to put it in the context of everything that preceded it. But what's most inspiring is how he never lost the passion for good product, or the genuine excitement about seeing a brand "get it right,” like when he helped make the Skepta Air Max 97 a reality.
The last time I ever spoke to him, it was for a podcast we did earlier this year about the 30th anniversary of the Nike Air Max. He was one of the talking heads featured in Nike's campaign about the remastered Air Max 1, and while he appreciated the excruciating amount of detail put into getting that reissue perfect, he was equally excited about Nike's newest VaporMax silhouette.
It wasn't even because he was in Nike's pocket, he was genuinely psyched that a company he liked was making new stuff that didn't fully rely on past relevance. And as we closed our conversation, he hit me with a quote that I'll take with me forever in how we approach things at Highsnobiety: “If there’s something genuinely strange and beautiful that comes out from a brand, then I’m backing it. Fully.”
Thank you Gary. We miss you, and will forever be lameaphobic.
The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. See all of this year's nominees here.