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Words we love: what an absolute banger!

Miriam Chumbley

Senior Account Executive

Words We Love: what an absolute banger!

It’s a perfect summer evening. The sun is not yet set, hovering just above the horizon casting that peach-gold haze over everything. Maybe you’re on a beach in Ibiza, a rooftop in London, or your mate’s back garden. But a mediocre DJ or your sister's boyfriend's cousin who no one remembers inviting has been playing Bon Iver for 30 minutes straight and you’re slowly losing your mind (don’t come at me, Bon Iver stans).

Then someone passes the aux cable – or Bluetooth speaker because it’s not 2007 – to the person that never gets it wrong. Peggy Gou kicks mediocre DJ off the decks. The gut-punching first beats of New Order’s Blue Monday cut through the air and into your soul. And you know that everyone around you is thinking the same thought: ‘what an absolute banger’.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a banger as “a song with a loud, energetic beat that is good for dancing to”. Under this, Insomnia by Faithless; Donna Summer’s I Feel Love; and When Doves Cry by Prince all unarguably classify as certified bangers. Tracking the word’s etymology finds it appearing in music in the 1980s for ‘head-banger’ tunes of the decade’s rock surge, shortening over time to simply mean ‘a good song’. Of course, what’s classified as a banger is subjective, but surely no one can dispute a song's classification as such if you can’t help but move to it, reflexively pump your arms to its beat and find yourself unable to hear anything else for days on end.

This was my experience when Jonny Banger – founder of the Sports Banger brand – started the opening ceremony set of Glastonbury’s Shangri-La with the Hi-NRG sound of Passion by The Flirts, a Bobby Orlando-produced masterpiece.

Jonny describes Sports Banger as ‘a rag-tag bunch of people coming together through rave, fashion and art’, or a multidisciplinary collective of DJs, artists and creatives. The moniker encompasses a clothing brand – making politically charged t-shirts with unapologetically bootlegged graphics – the HERAS record label; self-published books; exhibitions; protests and more. Banger’s The People Deserve Beauty fashion collection ran in last year’s London Fashion Week with critical acclaim, complete with Lucozade-emblazoned maxi dress and a gown made entirely from silver whistles.

Probably the most iconic Sports Banger piece is the ‘NHS Nike’ t-shirt, brazenly stamped with the ubiquitous Nike swoosh and sold during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic with all profits helping to feed low-income families and healthcare workers.

Across fashion, publishing and music, all Sports Banger outputs – now housed under the Maison de Bang Bang studio in North London – are rooted in anti-establishment activism and a rebellious spirit. Sports Banger moves freely between mediums with an unwavering voice of social commentary, embodying the ‘loud, energetic’ characteristics of a banging tune. Its steadfast support of community initiatives connects as much with Gen Z ravers as pensioners and public health workers. As Jonny told Jarvis Cocker and Jeremy Deller in The Guardian, “if you can throw a rave, you can throw a food bank”.

Brands would do well to look to Sports Banger for how to go beyond words and commerce into meaningful action, rallying a cult following in the process. Today’s consumers expect more when it comes to ethics and values: brands can no longer sit comfortably back without taking a stance on social and political issues if they want to keep audiences bought-in.

Whether it's a 16-hour DJ set, t-shirt-based activism in the style of Calvin Klein, a cult record label, a food bank, or a tongue-in-cheek take on the omnipresent Barbie hype, Sports Banger is a brand loudly celebrating underground rave culture with art, fun, and community at its core. Crucially, it’s bringing people together through activism and cool fits, and banger after banger.

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