Highsnobiety, along with many other media publications covering style, music and sneakers, are indebted to the path paved by 1980 UK counter-culture bible The Face. But, what was The Face exactly? And why do people get so nostalgic about it?
The Face was a magazine launched in 1980 by former NME staff writer Nick Logan. The young editor wanted to create a magazine that reacted to the burgeoning youth culture of London at the crest of the ’80s: the New Romantics, the punks and the ravers.
It's challenging to imagine a world where youth media isn't ubiquitous, but under pre-internet conditions there was a greater sense of distance between the culture and its fanbase. The Face sought to bridge this gap, and it did so with aplomb. The monthly publication grew into a cult tome, featuring cover stars like David Bowie, Kate Moss and Kurt Cobain. The magazine's impact led to books documenting its legacy, numerous Facebook groups demanding its return, and it's even been added to The Design Museum's permanent collection.
We surfaced an issue from August ’95, a "fashion special" nonetheless, and we can learn quite a lot about what has and hasn't changed in fashion and media in the last 22 years. In his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that "time is a flat circle", meaning, in short, that we exist in an eternally recurring time loop. It's an uncomfortable concept, but dusting around the tombs of pop culture to look at cultural artifacts like The Face highlights the cyclical nature of fashion, repeating trends and the infinitely revolving doors of power and influence.
In between articles such as "What Happened To The Indie Kid?" (spoiler alert from the future: they're now Soundcloud rappers!), and a piece about the popularity of sportswear (all trends are either coming or going), there's a list of the top 100 most influential figures in fashion. We took a dive in and pulled out some of the most interesting candidates.
So let's begin with a name you know.
At number 92 is founder of Supreme, James Jebbia. The Face described him as "From helming the Stüssy shop to running things with his own Union line, Jebbia is the man with a finger in every downtown NYC fashion pie."
Well, what was happening with James Jebbia and Supreme in 1995? Just one year after the brand's conception, 1995 was a significant year on the Supreme timeline. Larry Clark's seminal coming-of-age movie KIDS was released to general moral outrage due to all the scenes of young teenagers fucking and the extras had been street-cast from the original Supreme store on Lafayette Street. When we consider that Supreme is one of the most influential and coveted brands in the world – across streetwear and high fashion – the foresight here is commendable, and a testament to the ability of The Face not just to tap into the zeitgeist (in the UK and internationally), but to accurately predict it.
For pioneering a business model in which every fashion brand could learn from, and creating one of the most iconic streetwear labels of all time, in today's list of 100 most influential figures we would surely rank James Jebbia somewhere near the very top.
Speaking of iconic brands, let's talk about the swoosh. At No. 4 is co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike, Phil Knight. Here's what The Face said about him in 1995: "So Jordan's back and not quite what he was, but that hasn't stopped the man who co-founded Blue Ribbon Sports in 1966 from leading his team Nike to further triumphs. Is he now having nightmares about adidas though?"
Amusingly, yes he is and probably always will be. As The Face's commentary shows, the interminable beef between Nike and adidas has been embedded in cultural memory for the best part of 20 years. For all his contributions to sneaker culture and the general awe-inspiring reach of Nike as one of the most well-known brands across the globe, we think this ranking is as applicable today as it was 20 years ago. However, we'd probably through adidas up there too.
Ranking at no. 58, it's the OG proprietor of streetwear, Shawn Stussy, and again, shout-out to editorial staff at The Face for recognizing streetwear at its most nascent stage. In 1995, Stüssy had been open for 15 years and had already laid its foundations as a bastion of streetwear that bled hip-hop, punk, skateboarding, New York City and Tokyo into a patchwork of subculture. Here's what The Face was saying: "Stüssy's wisely keeping a low profile while the skate wear wave peaks. But even when the tide has come in and out, you know he'll still be keeping his head above water".
Just one year after this issue of the The Face was published, Shawn Stussy would actually step down from his brand. He seems to have no regrets though. Speaking to Acclaim Magazine a few years later, he reflects on his decision: "with [Stüssy's success] came a lot of responsibility and twenty-hour work days and all the money in the world. But if you don’t have time to go spend it, what good does it do?" These are some wise words from a very different era of business that many people will fail to apply to our work-work-work-until-you-die mindset. To see what Shawn got up to after leaving Stüssy, check out our detailed biography of the man here.
At no.88, it's, er, The New York Fire Department? OK, clearly The Face had a few wild ones in its shortlist and this must have been one of them. But still, this is insightful af. Apparently, much like today, workwear and the people who wear it were having their uniforms jacked by styleheads and fashion designers in 1995, too. The Face paid tribute to "the only emergency service capable of really coming up with the goods when the going gets hot: the fire jacket with reflective stripes that was ripped off by everyone from Phat Farm to DKNY". Here's 1995, back at it again with the 2017 trends.
Trending then and now, it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the recent nu-workwear trend (utility jackets, mainstream enthusiasm for Carhartt, etc.) stems from the fact that significantly fewer people work jobs that actually require any physical labor and, maybe on some level, we feel the need to compensate for that. Is the 2017 man just kidding himself because he wears workwear and a reflective jacket but in reality just, kind of, sits at a desk all day? Anyway, props to The Face for recognizing the hard-working employees of New York's fire department.
At the number one spot, deemed, above all else, to be the pioneering influence and dominating force of fashion of the mid-’90s was not even a person at all, not even Kate Moss (who was no.64 lol). It was Photoshop.
Well, not quite. Quantel Paintbox was a revolutionary piece of technology that can be thought of as a pre-cursor to all major Photoshop and creative suites that we use today. This archive clip of David Hockney tripping his nut using it for the first time nicely illustrates the impact of this innovation. The Face says "the hardware that revolutionized fashion photography by making the impossible attainable. Previously used in commercial advertising, it's now being appropriated by the creative cutting edge to put subjects against imaginary back-grounds and retouch images to polished perfection. First seen at a magazine near you, this is the new virtual vision."
Before we think about how jarring it is to read that creatives could be "appropriating" CGI software from advertising companies, let's think about something Kendrick Lamar said on his double-platinum 2017 record DAMN., "I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop / Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor". It's true, perhaps our overzealousness for photoshop did run amok following 1995 as it led to unrealistic standards set for airbrushing and a reliance on CGI graphics that probably contributed towards a tyranny of average-at-best superhero movies dominating the blockbuster circuit for the past 10 years.
Changes are being made though. In France, as of October 1, a new law dictates that all commercial images that have been photoshopped will have to bear a label to indicate to the viewer that they're looking at a digitally manipulated image. Sigh, progress really does feel like a marathon and not a sprint sometimes, but we'll take it.
A final big change to consider is the way we determine who or what is "influential" in 2017. Yes, the meaning of the word "influencer" may have been lost in the semantics of sponsored ads, gummy bear vitamins and Adrienne Ho, but really the people who genuinely influence fashion nowadays extends well beyond the borders of the CEOs at the top of the industry.
If Quantel Paintbox was the #1 influential "person" from 1995, could we say the equivalent to 2017 would be Instagram? While we can blame social media for many things, it can't be ignored that with its induction into our daily lives, the gatekeepers of fashion are down, making this world less exclusive, more democratic and significantly easier for people from diverse backgrounds to make it big in the industry, at least compared to 1995.
RIP The Face, which was probably the most influential figure in fashion in itself. Check out the rest of the entries below, and you can pick up some vintage copies of The Face here.
01) Quantel Paintbox 02) Ralph Lauren 03) Miuccia Prada 04) Phil Knight 05) Helmut Lang 06) Calvin Klein 07) Rei Kawakubo 08) Giorgio Armani 09) Yves Saint Laurent 10) Dickson Poon 11) Dolce & Gabbana 12) Brian Godbold 13) Gianni Versace 14) Nick Knight 15) Paul Smith 16) Amber Valletta 17) Vivienne Westwood 18) Jean Touitou 19) Björk 20) Jean Paul Gaultier 21) Carine Roitfeld 22) Julien D'Ys 23) Mario Testino 24) Franca Sozzani 25) Tom Ford 26) Shalom Harlow 27) Karl Lagerfeld 28) Melanie Ward 29) Tommy Hilfiger 30) John Fairchild 31) Quentin Tarantino 32) Suzy Menkes 33) Fabien Barron 34) Juergen Teller 35) David Sims 36) The Italian VAT man 37) Liz Tilberis 38) Anna Wintour 39) John Galliano 40) Ellen Von Unwerth 41) Guido Paulo 42) Walter Van Beirendonck 43) Juliette Lewis 44) Jimmy Moffet 45) Mike D 46) Li Edelkoort 47) Dries Van Noten 48) Renzo Rosso 49) Nadja Auermann 50) Jean Baptiste Mondino 51) Donna Karan 52) Tank Girl 53) David LaChapelle 54) Patrick Cox 55) Tyson 56) Chris Bailey 57) Linda Evangelista 58) Shawn Stüssy 59) Vitorio Solbiati 60) Mary J Blige 61) Michelle Hicks 62) Martin Margiela 63) Camilla Nickerson 64) John Travolta 65) Kate Moss 66) Drew Barrymore 67) Michelle Montagne 68) Liam Gallager 69) Joe Mckenna 70) The Gucci Assassin 71) Schoerner 72) Gabrielle Reece 73) Uma Thurman 74) Hussain Chalayan 75) Absolutely Fabulous 76) Stella Tennant 77) No entry for 77 for some reason. 78) Method Man 79) Steven Meisel 80) Power Rangers 81) Grant Hill 82) Eugene Souliman 83) Gren Arnet 84) Didier Fernandes 85) Raymond Meier 86) Gaz from Supergrass 87) Alexander McQueen 88) New York Fire Department 89) Fiona Cartridge 90) Emanuela Schmeidler 91) Goldie 92) James Jebbia 93) Lucinda Chambers 94) Manolo Blanik 95) Issey Miyake 96) Anna Friel 97) Takeshi Kitano 98) Paul Weller 99) Linda Fiorentino 100) Charlotte Russel
Next up, check out our comprehensive Supreme family tree.