The Elite Heat of “Blackbird Spyplane”


In the middle of last year, a stylish newsletter started popping up in email inboxes, asking existential-sounding questions: “Did your parents let you DRIP to the max?” “; “Is it always cool to dress like a cop?” “; “Is the loot genetic?” “; “What is AFTER POLAR?” “; “Would socialism KILL cool clothes?” “; and “Are you wearing Cursed GORP?” The name of the sender only added to the mystique: Blackbird Spyplane — a reference not to some streetwear brand or fashion genre but to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a sleek scouting plane. high altitude deployed by the US Air Force during the Cold War.

Out of nowhere, or like a supersonic culture vessel, “Blackbird Spyplane” has started to drop introspective interviews with the kind of celebrities that style editors click with envy. Singer Lorde shared photos from her trip across Antarctica in 2019 and talked about ECW gear (short for “Extreme Cold Weather”). Jerry Seinfeld learned of his rise to ’90s style icon and sprang from his 1962 Volkswagen Beetle. And Andre Benjamin, or half of OutKast better known as Andre 3000, spoke about the origins. of his slogan T-shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and the story of one of his favorite pieces of clothing: a ragged, faded green military jacket with a picture of his son when he was two sewn into the back .

Today, more than a year after its first thoughts on renegades, “Blackbird Spyplane” has become an inimitable clearinghouse for writing about clothing. With a slight penchant for menswear, the newsletter is obsessed with the unique, nostalgic, confusing and gorgeous clothes (and items) that exist outside the e-commerce grid. Or, in Spyplane parlance: it provides “unbeatable recognition” on “joints under the dope radar”. With a precision worthy of its military eponymous, the bulletin articulates concerns of style still to be expressed in the public sphere.

Posted twice a week on Substack, “Blackbird Spyplane” is a co-creation of Jonah Weiner, a cultural journalist, and Erin Wylie, a talent seeker for Apple. The couple, who live in Oakland, Calif., Presented the newsletter during the calm first weeks of the coronavirus shutdown as an outlet for their long-standing interest in quirky things: 2000-era sneakers, hand-dyed Japanese bucket hats, the wide spectrum of outdoor tech equipment (or GORP, in Blackbird parlance) and eBay’s extensive digs. All of these enthusiasms are unified by an appreciation tinged with nostalgia for rigorous design thinking. It is best embodied by the iconic aircraft named after the newsletter. “It’s a mean looking plane,” Wylie said. “And it was only used for surveillance purposes.” With most of the fashion and culture writing merging into pre-cast content molded for social media shares, the duo’s effort reads like a sartorial samizdat. Each send evokes the handcrafted feel of the zine era, or the start of the 2000 blogging era after that – from horribly Photoshopped newsletter collages, stuffed with clip art, to a spastic writing voice that goes down the page in a flow of flowers, doggerel hypebeast.

Namely, from an article on “God-Tier Weird Heat” (“heat” being one of the many thermological terms that “Blackbird Spyplane” deploys as a superlative): “When looking for the elusive energy known as the name of ‘dope, ‘you know that perceiving the TRUE DOPE shit requires a hybrid, tree-like state of rooting and flexibility, where you KNOW WHO YOU ARE but are also ready to QUESTION CORNY “ESTABLISHED TRUTHS”. . . in pursuit of RADICAL PROTEIN PHATESIS !! Weiner is responsible for the kinetic prose of “Blackbird Spyplane”. Gentle and wary in a telephone interview, he described the tone of the newsletter as striving for an “inviting strangeness.” One writer has likened the literary style of “Blackbird Spyplane” to “the psychic equivalent of sniffing glue.”

It’s the kind of weirdness that can, for example, lead readers to consume high-level semiotic analysis of how certain tastes and styles are culturally constructed. (A recent thesis: “jaws” once considered “ugly” and “REPULSIVE,” like the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers, can, after a journey through the “smelly sublime,” become “deeply dope.”) Weiner and Wylie are skilled vintage diggers, regularly searching for unusual finds on Craigslist and in Goodwill stores. During our interview, for which the couple shared a set of AirPods, they threw in their most recent eBay bindings. Wylie: Rainbow Missoni cardigans. Weiner: Wu-Tang Clan merch to “8 diagrams”. But they are clear that nostalgia is not the main fixation fueling “Blackbird Spyplane”. What the newsletter hopes to express is a desire for thoughtful things, things Weiner describes as having high levels of ingenuity and aesthetic detail. As Wylie puts it, “While we both have a nostalgia for things, like the internet in the early 2000s, and although in all aspects of culture there is a lot of nostalgia, we are not completely. fascinated by it. We also focus on things with advanced technical properties. This is also what is happening now.

The newsletter has become close to a full-time project for Weiner, while Wylie serves as a sounding board, editorial safeguard, and artistic director after hours. “We sit together at night, do the headlines and watch Photoshop. I always want to change the colors, ”said Wylie. “At first there were a number of times I was very disappointed,” Weiner said. “Like, why am I still working on this thing?” But this attention to detail and the satisfied pursuit of their own interests made “Blackbird Spyplane” one of the best cultural newsletters on the Substack platform. Although they are reluctant to share monetization details, “Blackbird Spyplane” has thousands of subscribers, who typically pay five dollars a month to be admitted to the “CLA $$ IFIED RECON” level, which offers paid access to unique clothes and gifts. of design curiosities, such as a 1956 reissue George Nelson Coconut Chair, by Herman Miller. The numbers suggest an annual revenue from subscribers in the low six figures. (“We’re always on stuff that preserves the mystique when it comes to sharing specific numbers,” Weiner wrote in an email.)

Earlier this year, Weiner checked in from his backyard while packing orders for the first limited edition “Blackbird Spyplane” t-shirt, featuring an illustration of Apple’s first iMac and a mycorrhizal root system. That the entire run of two hundred sold out shirts was “proof of a strange community” that had formed around the newsletter, Weiner said, adding a thirteen-letter curse. Previously, the attitude behind this kind of style writing was related to a fixation on wearing outfits the “right” way, or cajoling readers into buying products. “Blackbird Spyplane”, on the other hand, is an effervescent hyped man, articulating a fashion moment defined by selfless enthusiasm and experimentation with personal style.

“There is such a forbidden way of thinking about clothes, and no one has reinvented it in a long time,” Rachel Tashjian, fashion critic for GQ, noted. “Before, it was a faux pas for men to discuss their personal style. Previously, it was uncomfortable for men to experiment with their style. Tashjian, who publishes his own fashion newsletter, “Opulent Tips” (“the Internet’s first invitation-only, natural-style email newsletter”), sees “Blackbird Spyplane” as a disturbing voice. a dated paradigm. It’s the latest addition to a coterie of talkative style enthusiasts that includes Tashjian, the “Throwing Fits” podcast, Instagram outdoor gear, and the now defunct Four Pins blog, among others.


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