honest i swear it’s the turnstiles that make us hostile
Life is about journeys and stories, that much I’ve learnt. It’s probably the only thing I’ve really ever learned. We take one and give the other away, or maybe on our dark days we give one and take the other away, the art is knowing how to balance the two out. The tragedy is we never really know where we are until we stop and look back behind us. And the best writers, poets, artists, singers are the ones that leave just enough of a gap to allow something of yourself to slip through.
It’s 7am Sunday morning, the sun is blazing through the top deck window of the No98 into town, there’s a weird eerie silence and rows of empty seats as I’m flicking through Proper 19 on my way to work, bus belting along near-deserted roads catching every green light. Half way through reading Andy Mitten’s article my mind wanders off into Cantona quotes and Keane’s autobiography, Brian Greenhoff’s missing obituary and how United’s 1971-80 socks was the most beautiful piece of kit design there has ever been. Life occasionally is about football.
Football on the radio, football on the brain, football everywhere you go, football in the rain
Proper 19. The unofficial football issue. Bang in the middle of Euro2016. National anthems sung badly and shirts made of space age material. Perfect timing. And it only seems like yesterday we were thumbing through someone’s obsession with concrete in the last issue. Journeys and stories, taking us where we need to go.
And we always end up returning to the north west of England, stopping off to consider how such a relatively small geographical area has had such an instrumental historical and cultural impact on the modern world. It’s not bravado or bullish oneupmanship that makes me say that, it’s just what it is.
And there’s definitely an article that needs to be written about the profound relationship the North West of England has had on the three mainstays of male cultural identity – football, music, fashion. Why these things, why here in particular? I say they are all interconnected in some way, each feeding off the other and all have developed beyond their means from the fertile ground of past generations embedded into the psyche of the northern working class male. On these streets where we were raised.
It started with fashion back in the beginning of the 19th century. The original navvies (the very first canals were built in the north west), they were there at the birth of capitalism, they created its arteries, the canals then the railways, they were present at their own making, the English working class (with a lot of Irish thrown in as well), and yet the lefty middle-class academics of the day (Marx living the life of a bohemian bum in Soho on the money gifted to him by his rich factory owner mate, money made by exploiting the Manchester working class) ignored them, refuse to acknowledge their existence. And it was the navvies who would go around the country, hated by the press, taking over pubs, picking fights with the locals, mobbing up, kicking off against the police, starting riots, it was the navvies who had their own distinctive dress code, elevated sense of style, setting them apart, looking the part, the original dressers, the first hooligan firm.
The North West became the centre of the textile industry, Cottonopolis, where the Manchester working class would make the materials to dress a nation. And it was in these factories, and the slums that grew up around them that organised football came into being, stolen from the ex-public schoolboys and made popular, made skilful, made into something worth putting your heart and soul into. To be fair it was the small mill towns around Manchester that should take credit for football’s emergence – Bolton, Blackburn etc but the poor factory workers of the North West saw something in the game they took from the playing fields of Eton and socialised it as part of their community, turned it into a national obsession that would go global.
When the World Cup winning Argentina manager César Luis Menotti said “our football belongs to the working class” you can guarantee there was a bit of Lancashire blood running through his veins, if not his team. Football had a way of making heroes out of the most humble of origins.
Music came later on, soundtracking our late 20th century lives – the bitter decay of capitalism’s great lie. A bunch of fucking kids with guitars and machines from the same area making noise that became institutions. Why these things, why here in particular? If Manchester was a dying city, battle-scarred and brutalised throughout the 80s its children would ensure something fertile would grow from it. Manchester music of the 1980s-90s was never really just entertainment; it chronicled the inability of a generation of working class kids to find a place within the context of those in power killing our class off once and for all. If half of us wanted to be adored, the rest of us would find solace in the chemical half-light and busy shadows of a subculture that articulated a voiceless sense of dying rage. Bolts from above hit the people down below. We were the great great grand children of the first factory workers, and the last generation to see the Factory close. Ours was an obituary written in jangling guitars and lolloping drumbeats. And we got to dance badly as well.
But the music remains. Utterly spellbinding. A reminder of a different age, a different society in action, progressing, in turmoil, a different set of conditions. Like old football kits and classic re-issued Adidas they give a hint of what society was like, on the streets of this town. Today if you want a vision of the future imagine the front page of Hypebeast website stamping on your face forever…
Could Proper have come from anywhere else? Possibly, probably, but never in just the same way. It is the culmination of a set of very particular social circumstances coming together to create a unique document about your favourite trainers. For that we should celebrate. Issue 19 is their most comprehensive edition yet.
Issue 19 contains:
- A rundown of expensive t-shirt brands ripping off other brands logos, ironically
- Interview and photoshoot with young England player Ross Barkley, on his way to the Euros modelling the new England kit
- A stunning 30 page spread direct from the Massimo Osti archives in Bologna. Featuring an incredible interview with Lorenzo Osti and some of the most glorious images from Osti’s past work. If Stoney-porn was a thing this would be the Penthouse edition. Worth the cover price of the magazine alone
- History of Palace vs Brighton rivalry by tsptr’s Russ Gater
- Sports journalist Andy Mitten on the conflict between being a United fan and watching England play
- Fashion shoot featuring the staff of (Ulverston’s premier skate shop) Working Class Heroes in their normal work clothes. Dressers
- Big fuck-off interview with Blossoms, the sound of young Stockport. A band who recently had an online punch-up with Sleaford Mods, and won. Music to soothe the troubled masses
- French graphic designer Matthieu’s interpretation of famous football shirt designs, bit like those on the much sort after Mundial/Proper mugs
- Interview with US based photographer Nalinee Darmrong who’s just published a book on her rare Smiths tour photography (as featured on the cover)
- A eulogy to Eusebio, Portugal’s footballing legend by Edd Norval
- Oi Polloi’s Nigel Lawson’s top five Clarks shoes. In order. From back in the day. When fashion was just better.