On April 17, 1983, Steve Rapport was tasked by the Rolling Stone to capture images of Joe Strummer running the London Marathon. Given no further assistance or information, Steve set off into the job blind and drove to Blackheath commons, the starting point of the event. He parked his car and stepped out into the cold and rainy morning, hoping to somehow find Joe in the sea of 25,000 people. Ten yards from his vehicle, he noticed a crowd formed around a runner warming up, rocking a mohawk and wearing a DIY thrashed cotton singlet and a pair of shorts. The crowd watched in mesmerisation while maintaining a curious distance, as if simultaneously magnetically drawn and kept at bay by the boundaries of his undeniable aura.
By a stroke of incredible luck or what some might call destiny, it was Joe Strummer. Baffled and relieved, Steve quickly approached and asked him if he could get some shots for the magazine, only one of which was ultimately used in the Rolling Stone. When Steve relocated from the UK to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992, he left his photographic archive behind in the garage of a close friend where it sat forgotten, collecting mould and dust for the better part of 25 years, along with the memories of a closed chapter of his life. After much care and labor, we have assisted in helping Steve recover his massive archive, which includes a vast array of never before seen images of Joe Strummer running the 1983 London Marathon. These images serve as the inspiration for our latest drop, Run! Punk Run!, and can be seen for the very first time printed on our own thrashed organic and recycled cotton Moth Eaten T-Shirts and Muscle Tees.
In the weeks leading up to it, Joe Strummer joked that the biggest temptation would be “to run into a pub along the route.” Perhaps due in part to a misinterpretation of this as well as the misconceptions about what it means to be a “punk,” there is a mythology surrounding Joe’s marathon effort. People say he didn’t train at all and got hammered off beers the night before. In reality, he took his training seriously and actually gave up alcohol in preparation. Speaking about the marathon, Joe said, “I like the madness of getting up and running all those miles on a Sunday morning, when normally I would be fast asleep in bed.” He also used the 4 hours and 13 minutes it took him to finish the race to raise money for a leukemia-research foundation.
When Steve saw Joe in the crowd of people, he said it was like he was in his own ethereal world where it wasn’t raining or cold and he didn’t need a jacket. It was just Joe. Joe embodied the essence of punk, and it went much deeper than just his mohawk and thrashed singlet. When people are called punks or call themselves punks, rarely is it acknowledged that there is a mental, intellectual and spiritual disposition that sets them apart. Joe imbued passionate belief into everything he did—his music, his politics, and his running. The three of these were interrelated for him, as he would often compose songs as he ran, and use both his music and running as vehicles for his activism and beliefs.
Running provided a space and time for Joe “to think without being bothered.” We honor Joe Strummer in this newest drop, Run! Punk Run! by designing products that create a space for runners to spend time in unbothered. Our staple Moth Eaten tops are revamped in organic and recycled cotton, echoing the DIY singlet Joe himself wore for the marathon while also reflecting our own convictions about sustainability. We have experimented with a new Japanese acetylated cellulose shell for our Short Distance 2.5″ shorts, which floats weightlessly atop our Justice™ fabric liner. The predominantly black and white tones of the collection allow the few fuchsia pieces to glow, just like Joe’s aura. And of course, his mug radiates this energy on the tops as well. We will teach his twisted speech to the run believers.
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