When I started writing this blog five years ago, it was the result of being completely exhausted with the state of writing around fashion, streetwear and their connected subcultures. For the most part, you only had a choice between a handful of blogs regurgitating press releases like clockwork with no deeper analysis, or broadsheet newspapers and lifestyle magazines who simply didn’t get what they were writing about.
So when I made the decision to just start writing about this stuff, for me, in the style I wanted, I didn’t really have much of a template or guideline to go off. I knew that I wanted to be engaged with the clothes, culture and references without being stuffy or alienating. I knew that I wanted to get people thinking harder about the fashion industry, about its more pressing connections with broader social issues, without lecturing them or turning them off with obtuse language. There was only one writer out there who really nailed that, and that was Gary Warnett.
For anyone who wanted to know streetwear, hip-hop and subculture on a deeper level, Gary’s blog, Gwarizm, was the original source. His knowledge of the world he inhabited was encyclopaedic, and a simple blog post about a pair of trainers would quickly dart to films, rap songs, magazine adverts, comic books and a milieu of other pop cultural references that always left you, the student, feeling totally clueless in the best way possible.
Over the next few years, I would slowly establish myself in the scene, getting to know people from stores, magazines, designers, distribution companies, PRs and so on, just doing what I could to get by. Every so often one of my peers would ask me, “Have you ever met Gary?” And my response would be that no, I haven’t had the chance to yet, but people kept telling me we’d get along. “Yeah, you and him… you’d have fun together, Gregk.”
I’d received compliments and praise for my writing from a few people in the scene, and it was always nice to be told I was on the right tracks, but when I heard, third-hand from a friend, that Gary Warnett was a fan of my writing, it was a totally different level of pride. I finally met him in 2014, and it went exactly the way anyone who knew Gary would expect; saying hello, asking how he was, and then being thrust straight into a sprawling conversation about trainers and culture, each point ricocheting off into another, him occasionally asking you, “You remember that?” and you, utterly bewildered, just having to smile, nod, and lie: “Ah, yeah? Go on.”
The fact is, I’m sure that 90% of us were completely out of our depth when we were speaking to Gary, but he never let on. One of the best things about him was how totally normal he was, how he never judged – as long as you weren’t a clueless PR or marketing department. He had raw, scathing criticisms of many corners of the industry, but to people as individuals he was the nicest guy in the scene. I would often contact him for advice, quotes, a nod in the right direction and other things, and he was always happy to oblige – a rarity in London’s often cliquey and cutthroat fashion scene.
For people whose outspoken opinions tend to land them in trouble, like myself, Gary was a shining light. He reassured me that you didn’t have to be a yes-man to get by; that you could tell it how it is, cut through the jargon, speak truth to power and survive. Gary was the guy that could be invited to speak at a brand’s event, get up on stage, spend 15 minutes shredding the brand’s product, marketing, PR and overall strategy to pieces, walk off the stage with a smile on his face, and get invited back next week. In a world where everyone’s tap-dancing for a free pair of trainers, Gary did everything his own way, stuck two fingers up at the network economy, and walked home with the trainers anyway. He was punk as fuck, in a very necessary manner.
I heard about Gary’s passing last night, on the way home, and it hit me hard. I had been speaking to him only a few weeks ago about the Nike Skepta collaboration, and a few days before had emailed him for some quotes for an article I was writing for Sleek Magazine. At first, I didn’t quite believe it, but gradually tributes started popping up on Twitter from all across the world and the reality set in. From LA, to New York, to Miami, to London, to Manchester, to Copenhagen, to Stockholm, to Tokyo, and beyond, a lot of people lost a friend last night, and you can feel the pain.
Not only that, with Gary’s passing, we’ve lost a man whose endless knowledge of sneakers, streetwear, fashion, music, culture, society and the intricate webs that tie them all together was totally unparalleled. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that his death is tantamount to the Library of Alexandria burning down. One individual last night summed it perfectly by acknowledging “the many dots we will now never connect”. We’ve lost someone who knew the streetwear brands better than they knew themselves, and knew culture like it was an extension of his own body. Gary was the thread that, through his writing, tied everything we love together.
For me, this is a great loss of a friend, a peer, and an idol, and I feel lucky to have been able to know him. Many other people will have things to say in the coming days, so I’m going to leave it at that.
One thing that I hope you will consider; Gary’s website, Gwarizm.com, is still here, but who knows how long it will stay up for. If you have any spare time over the coming days, please consider making sure this invaluable resource is still available in the future by backing it up on the Internet Archive. Just copy the link for each post, paste it into the Archive search bar, and click the “Save this url” link in the yellow box.
Rest in Peace, Gwarizm.