Fat Bandit - The Sneaker Thief

Some brands are synonymous with a cult, others manage to cross the divides, Adidas has been brilliant at doing both.

By Rik Bardsley

Mods and Scooterboys grew up wearing Kick, Samba, Campus and Gazelle. Then the era of the casual took wearing ‘sports-wear’ to a whole different level. Even Soulies like me had a piece of Adidas that we’d troll our necessities about in. From all-nighter to all-nighter our badge festooned bag would be by our side… Ahh… Happy days!

For some, trainers were just practical footwear, with a sense of style… For others, they became an all-consuming passion. One bloke we know has dedicated his life to it. The man in question being Antony Jackson AKA The Fat Bandit.

The Fat Bandit is a cult figure – an underground cult who has a worldwide following. His designs and clothing shamelessly appeal to those who indulge in the same passion for all things Adidas. His Bandit character has been accepted and used in promoting the Adidas brand, not only at home, but even in the flagship store of Adidas in Germany as well as exhibitions with Size and the Russell Howard event.

I’ve known Antony for a few years and when asked me if I had any thoughts about cult brands and movements which surround our scene, Antony and Adidas were a pair of thoughts that came into my mind.

We met up in the swanky location of a Costa Coffee (other outlets are available, but this was the most convenient at the time). Now, let me get this straight from the outset, Antony is big character, but he is not the ego-maniac that many people turn into when cult celebrity comes a knocking at their door. His first concern when I pitched up with a camera was – ‘You’re not taking pictures in here are you? Christ people will think you’re a paparazzi trying to get pics of someone important.’

Who is Fat Bandit and what’s his connection?

Antony Jackson is one of the unofficial faces of Adidas and G Shock, just a couple of brands he’s been an ambassador for, He’s also the man behind the ‘Fat Bandit’ range of clothing. How did this come about for a lad that started out on the terraces at Old Trafford?

Bandit’s beginnings…

Anthony was born in ’66 – Same year as Eric Cantona and also a good year for England, for obvious reasons.

He started the Bandit thing about 5 years ago when he put up the first image on instagram, from there it just mushroomed, it’s now got a massive following right around the planet. He’s got over 34,000 followers – the designs he’s put out always reflect a cheeky twist on life as his followers see it.

Has it always been Adidas?

Antony told me that people now talk about the ‘casual scene’ and how it all came about, but as far as he remembers, it was just a natural progression, it’s only now that it has a name, a label. As Antony said. ‘Back in the early 80’s there wasn’t that much casual gear about, you’d have to go out and find it. Now, you can go on-line, click, click, click and it’s boxed and on it’s way to your door. It wasn’t like that at all back then. There were only a few places you could get hold of anything I remember Hurley’s menswear in the Manchester city centre – that’s where all the Scooterboys got their Adidas ‘Kick’ from. There were big divisions in youth fashion then, the top boys were getting their hands on Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse, Fila, The Fila BJ Match-day jacket was a classic, it came in 4 colourways and the Terrinoa velour tracksuits stick in the memory too. The gear coming from the continent, from France and Italy, all heavily influenced us. But for me, Adidas was always THE footwear mark. You can wear Adidas with anything – Nike never really caught on with the scene – it comes from a totally different cultural background. The big casual scenes were and are in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Russia. Casual clothing has gone mad at the moment, far from being hard to find, there’s more of it than ever – and more coming out all the time, so much so, that most ‘sports-wear’ isn’t for any sporting activity at all.’

What made you become a collector?

I became a collector by accident… Like everyone, we all started with one pair, didn’t we? I shake my head to think of the amount of collectables I’ve binned without thought in the past. I must have binned a fortune. Nowadays it’s just as tough to get anything decent from back in the day – you need to pay top dollar from another collector. The most common pairs are those of Topanga or Hamburg – thousands of colourways available of them – even pineapple yellow.

The most I’ve ever paid for a pair is £450 for a pair of Palermo. I’ve even had a range I designed put out by Adidas – The bandito trainers are made on miadidas in 11 tonal colourways, these were all very ‘different’ on one of the favourite silhouettes the ‘gazelle og’ personalized on the heel with ‘Bandito’. Adidas still has many links with Scootering and the mod-rival type thing. For instance, Noel Gallagher has out an ‘NG Garwen’ special trainer out, it’s got a pic of Noel and NG on the tongue of the shoe.

Ian Brown, the Stone Roses front man, he wears Adidas – has done so ever since he was a Scooterboys back in the early 80’s. Ian and I swapped comments in a café the other week about our choices. What I have noticed though, and I do think that this stems a lot from the original mod scene is the overlap between fashion and music, take me… I love stuff like Oasis – there’s another Scooter mad link – the Courteeners, as well as local bands like Cleargreen music, Offset, Stolen Haven, Frankofraize and the Winachi tribe. You can see scoots at most of their gigs too. It’s strange, I’ve always been around the Scootering scene, from my days on the terraces, ‘til now where the fashions have gone full circle, but I’ve never owned one. Having said that, my associations with the scene have come ever closer and closer through ‘Fat Bandit’.

Some guys in Chorley have been buying gear from Bandit for ages, it turns out that they are all scooterist’s. One of them even has an ‘Adidas’ based custom Vespa – His name’s Sam Thurston. It gets weirder than that, over Instagram it came out that a Scooter-Club in Indonesia were also fans of the Bandit and they’ve even got some of the Bandit’s designs are on the scoots, I’ve been invited over to meet them, we’ll see how that pans out.

You’ve got a pretty big collection. Any advice if someone finds themselves thinking of starting a collection?

If you’re thinking of starting collecting – then KEEP THE ORIGINAL BOX. The best course of action is to buy them, open the box, carefully take them out, and admire them, then put them back in their box. Season Spring/Summer 17 has been out a bit now and Autumn / Winter is out soon.  In September / October – watch out for the SE ranges- these are going to be special. If you want to start collecting, start with something really personal, or something that’s fresh now.

Can you get me some pics of the trainers that are special to you?

They are ALL special to me. They all hold an important place in my heart. Seriously though, If I had to pick a favourite – then it would have to be Jeans – I’ve got a re-issue – but if anyone out there has a pair of originals that want to donate, I’ve got a good home for them, I’ll look after them… honest.

If you are serious about getting into collecting, then these days you don’t have to move far from your beanbag to get decent stuff. You can get the goods from places on the high street like Scott’s or for the more selective, go to the smaller independents, Aphrodite in Sunderland are on the money for that kind of gear.

Bandit has always had a great range of tongue in cheek and provocative designs… what’s next?

What… Now? Today? Well I’m due in the Ollie Lawrence gym in half an hour with me personal trainer Andy Hughes. As for Bandit, he’s currently going through a makeover and a number of re-thinks. Everything’s been taken down ready for the re-launch next year. I’m also working on a project of the 1000 best trainers from the year 2000 ‘til now. There’s talk of a documentary film to be made of it. I’ve even been collared into contributing to the Lover’s Guide To Football Shirts by Neil Heard. Getting back to Bandit, Gary Carter, the guy who did the illustrations for the original Bandit series working on a new batch of Bandit wear for release at the same time as the new website and the re-launch. We’ve even chatted about doing some overlap Scooter based Bandit designs, We’ll see how it develops. When the new site is up, Bandit will be available again all over the world, Cinzano like… You know, any time any place, anywhere, from Stockholm to Scunthorpe.

Words Rik Bardsley

Pics Rik and supplied by Bandit

Credit Steve Barker for Ian Brown Picture

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