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Le Coq Sportif has been doing the dirty with sportswear for longer than most, their signature rooster first emblazoned a piece of sports apparel in the 1940s but the name has been around since the late 19th century. Through that history there’s been plenty a bump in the road, none more significant than it almost doing a SAAB and disappearing for good. Much to our fortune (much like SAAB) someone decided that it would be best if such a quirky brand that has long been the staple of European sportsmen should not be left to the vultures.  So when it was in dire straights the irony wasn’t lost as the Germans came to the rescue French in the form of adidas kicking a bit of life into the old bird.

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Injecting a good dose of technology at a time where the three streifen was in it’s a-game (think Torsion laden ZX, EQT and plenty of thermoplastics) the brand put out what is arguably some of the most underrated footwear out there. Whilst the output of the big brands gets it’s much deserved attention LCS continues to be overlooked (much akin to Asics up until about 2 years ago). As the brand begins to slowly roll out some of it’s models after a second push of their retro range there’s hope for a select few that some of these incredibly hard to obtain shoes will again be there ripe for the picking. Given their efforts with the mainstay Eclat, Flash and most recently the painfully replicated R-1000 they’re definitely on the right track for 2014. They do need to step up their contemporary colourway game though with 95% of the in-house colourways falling incredibly short of what the models are capable of.

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With weirdly labeled technology that are pretty hard to understand there’s something charming about how little many think of the brand. Most can’t pronounce the name this side of the pond and due to it’s fairly low standings within the social structure of Australia you’re probably going to be jocked by your mates for wearing some weird ass shoes that say cock on the tongue. That’s all good though, everyone laughed at the foreign exchange student when they were rocking something outrageously rude at school whilst everyone else was running around in whatever was ‘cool’ at the time. Fast forward and now you’re hunting down those same things you were putting shit on 15 years ago. Special shouts to my man Marcel aka Prince Jamal for hunting down some of the rarest and mostly unknown Le Coq models the last few years, he’s pretty decent behind the camera as well.

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Crooked Tongues channeled the same vibes with their latest crossover with the Rooster, injecting a bit of cross-atlantic theme which apparently started off with some Ghostface/Raekwon “Snow Beach” Polo jacket vibes, if all of these references aren’t getting you nodding you’d better check your head. The outcome itself is interesting from a shoe perspective as it’s the first time I can think that the Flash has ditched the sheen of nylon for an actual mesh, real leather panels as well as a welcome addition of carbon fibre-look accents in the heel section.

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There’s something about the French and sports footwear, they have a knack for it like no other. It seems that even the English can’t keep up with their delft touch for making the most unassuming and sometimes downright horrendous (the first Colette/La MJC 1500s) concepts somehow seem more palettable. The early New Balance collaborations with French names should serve as a measuring stick alongside with the fantastic Courir Nikes and pretty much everything that comes out of France that involves a runner. I’m sure it’s to do with the cultural relevance of running shoes in Europe, combined with that innate French swagger and a bit to do with the climate but if anyone can take a simple all-black leather runner and elevate it into a piece greater than the sum of it’s parts with little more than a single detail it’s the French. The three 576s from Novoid Plus and the Colette/Kitsuné project had long evaded me but with time and patience (some 8 years for the Zorro version) it all came together. I still need the French flag ones from a few years back as well as the rather disgusting but necessary to “complete the set” Shinzo 576. Funnily enough I came across them years and years ago and reviled at them not thinking I’d be chasing them down now.

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On a final note, for some reason I seemed to completely miss the capsule collection created by Soulland featuring artwork of Jean de Brunhoff’s Babar. The books I’m not as familiar with but the Cartoon TV series rings out through my childhood memory stronger than just about any other. Sure there was ninja-everything and all sorts of characters vying for my toy-buying purchases in my later childhood but the family of civilised Elephants dressed in various forms of dapper attire lay closer to my heart than others. Babar was rocking the green suit and red bowtie before any of this childish ivy-league reappropriation and Pompadour had that Teddy Boy swagger down pat. Whilst most of the collection has long gone Soulland have taken pity on latecomers like myself and reissued the Big Babar sweater for Christmas. Soulland know it, I know it; the French know what’s up.

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