How Adidas Invaded Nu-Metal – Kerrang!
Baggy-ass JNCO jeans. Mesh shirts. New Era snapbacks. Three foot wallet chains. Looking back, nu-metal fashion was fucking wild. From the skate-obsessed frat couture of Fred Durst to the steroid-goth glam of Dez Fafara of the Coal Chamber era, it was also a large church, full of artists eager to forge a brighter, fresher and more identity. stronger than anything I had come before.
Although it is easy to see the alt. credibility in extravagant hairstyles (frosted tips! drooping dreadlocks! animal print!), PVC frankly impractical bodysuits and facial piercings, there was something more subversive about the proliferation of sportswear – Adidas-branded clothing, in particular – in an outdoor scene that had for so long positioned itself as an alternative.
“It was about breaking the mold, man, ”smiles Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, whose Adidas tracksuit started the trend. “It was about breaking down walls and embracing all kinds of different musical styles and musical cultures. It was about going against everything metal was meant to be.
Growing up in central California – like so much nu-metal‘s brightest stars – JD was immersed in the sunny sounds of classic rock and new wave. Starting at DJ in high school he was exposed to the stars of old-school hip-hop and New York freestyle. The Beastie Boys’ Kangol Bucket Hats and KRS-One’s PRO-Keds were synonymous with these sounds. No look was more iconic, however, than the Adidas Superstar sneakers (often worn slip-on in a jail-inspired fashion) and the tracksuits popularized by the pioneers of the rap-rock Run – DMC (“I just thought, ‘It’s a cool look, ”says Jonathan. “‘I could live with it'”). Ignorance and disconnection from the traditional metal crowd allowed the young leader to chart a new course.
“I had no fucking idea, ”he laughs, remembering his sudden entry into the scene that would make him an icon. “I really don’t. I never listened to metal growing up. The heaviest shit I listened to was Led Zeppelin. I heard [Pantera’s 1992 album] Vulgar Display Of Power when released. Then, not even six months later, I was in Korn.
Satisfied even by the marginal standards of metal renegades, the Bakersfield Five were bound by their singular and twisted vision. Although fellow Californians Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine aggressively merged funk and rap with heavier rock foundations, Korn used a more subtle inflection – hip-hop basslines, electronics. 808 kicking, sample-mimicking scratch guitars – all the while stacking bagpipes and bizarre scat vocals, then plunging it all into quirky, introverted darkness. Their aesthetic was just as layered.
“I was wearing an old military green jumpsuit when I started, ”Jonathan recalls. “I looked like a fucking rag doll. Then that old tracksuit called me. I took a pen, drew the Korn logo on it with my left hand, and then carried it to the stage. Just like with bagpipes [and the other weird shit we did] it was about making people think, ‘This is not normal! Rock guys wouldn’t wear this! He added to [that aura of], ‘What is this band ?! ”
In an era when metal was stagnant, fans took advantage of Technicolor’s reinvention of sound and image.
“Everyone dug it out, ” JD remember. “It was just new shit. If you think back to when this was happening, you had grunge music, there was still hair metal around, and you had the pop-punk scene starting to appear. Then there was these fuckers. The people just sat there with their mouths open, as if they weren’t able to understand what they were seeing.
The visual amazement spread to the record executives who signed Korn 1993, as they struggled to rank players who looked and seemed to belong to multiple subgenres simultaneously and none at all. “It was like, ‘What do we do with these motherfuckers ?! Jonathan remembers. “‘This guy is playing the bagpipe in the fucking tracksuit, Fieldy has a big ass pimp hat on and Munky has his mouth shut! Then they put us on tour with No Doubt or Pennywise – OC’s punk rock scene. From there we went out with God lives underwater and KMFDM as if we were industrialists. Eventually we dated Megadeth and this metalworking culture kind of welcomed us.
As the nu-metal movement gained momentum, a host of other artists began to try their hand at similar styles. Golden State natives Deftones and Incubus stopped before switching to full tracksuits, but incorporated significant amounts of streetwear into their overall skate-inspired look. Gaudier nu-metal exhibitors like Limp Bizkit, meanwhile, played closer to Korn’s hip-hop influence, incorporating sneakers and athletic jerseys into ensembles that revolved around basketball shorts, body paint and the infamous New York Yankees red cap. The three-bar Adidas branding was a more commonly seen logo among fans than Black Flag.‘four at the end 1990Metal mega-shows and loose sportswear had become a sign of alt. credited rather than that of ignorant Chad intruders.
Where other bands wore the clothes, however, Korn sublimated them into the culture of the edgy underdog. Twist the popular schoolyard design that Adidas is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex, 1997 Single ADIDAS dared to play with the kind of dirt under their fingernails and sexual self-deprecation that was unimaginable of nu-metal contemporaries pushing more toxic machismo. JD explains that it also reflected the ubiquity of the Adidas brand in her childhood in America, and that she was as ripe for nightmarish subversion as swings and hopscotch pitches. Even the title of the parent album Life Is Peachy made reference to the Pee-Chee All Season portfolio of American teens they would often have carved out to say. ‘Life is fishing, but sex is an all-season sport ”(Pee-Chee declined to have his product pictured on the record).
“It was childish shit, ”Jonathan shrugs, “but it worked because we were kids at the time.
Adidas was more open to exposure to fashion, giving Korn free goods to wear on stage in exchange for the massive levels of free publicity they were receiving. Where Run-DMC had turned its unofficial representation of the brand into a very real working relationship, which resulted in 1986 banger My Adidas, however, the German giant denied the metalheads the same deal.
“Get that shit, ” JD shakes his head, clearly still painful from the light. “Their response was, ‘Adidas is a sports company. We play sports, not music. I would watch the crowd and see all these kids wearing Adidas crap at our concerts, but there was nothing they could do for us. Then you have Kanye West and all these other people with theirs [custom] shoes [in the years since]. What the hell is theft ?!
Refusing to miss out on an opportunity, Puma (the rival sportswear company founded by Rudolf Dassler, brother of Adidas founder Adi Dassler) signed Korn to what would have been a $500,000 treat in 1998, actively featuring the band and their music in commercials directed by Kevin Kerslake while directly targeting nu-metal fans. “We switched to Puma because they told us they would put us in an ad and give us some money to wear their shit, ”Jon says simply. “We were just like, ‘Damn yeah! This is more than what Adidas has ever done for us! It wasn’t a sold-out thing. It was a matter of respect.
Indeed, Adidas’ role in nu-metal – and that of sportswear in general – was less about the recognition of the fashionable brand than the massive rejection of the limits of the genres that had made it forbidden for metalheads. the previous years. As much as ‘True metal fans might despise it now, heavy music was dying and it took those kind of bold moves to bring it back from the brink. Ultimately, Jonathan argues that ‘nu-metal ‘itself was just another brand that we should learn to look past because it is much less important than the music and memories created under its banner.
“To this day we will always say that we are not metal. They came with the ‘nu-metal ”- which was good – but our attitude has always been punk rock. We were 24age-old punk kids going crazy, doing what we wanted, wearing what we wanted, making the music we wanted. And who would have thought it would have happened that way? I am fucking 50 years, I still speak about this thing today… ”
Posted on May 26, 2021, 1:00 p.m.