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What Does The Future Hold For Football & Streetwear?

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As the embers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup cool with the tournament’s conclusion, there are hopes that certain fashion trends will follow suit.

The month-long tournament grabs the world’s attention like no other event. With many fans, not even three matches being played a day will satisfy their hunger for the game. And few sectors have capitalized on the football trend like fashion.

Streetwear giants like Virgil Abloh, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Kim Jones, Ronnie Fieg, and Alexander Wang, just to name a few, have all released football-inspired collaborations with Nike or adidas. The collections have gained widespread attention, with France’s World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe even wearing Abloh’s Off-White x Nike Air VaporMax cleats in a match for his club team, Paris St. Germain, earlier this year.

kylian mbappe off-white x Nike Air VaporMax

Above: Kylian Mbappe wearing the highly sough after Off-White x Nike Air VaporMax sneakers.

While Abloh professes to be a football fan, it’s clear that not all designers share his long-standing relationship with the sport. Fieg, as one example, delivered a strange interview with Soccerbible – where he said the world’s most popular game is “becoming more of an international sport”.

While Fieg and co’s design and fashion credentials may be undeniable, people working in the grassroots of football culture have been left with conflicting feelings over an encroachment on the field they devote their lives too.

“My main concern is whether those labels care about the game, the culture around it, and the people who care about it. Or, do they just see a trend that they can cash in on?” Keith Foggan, head of Golaso Studio, told Real Clobber Magazine. “What credibility does Gosha have in the game? And why aren’t sports labels from years back doing more to own the movement?”

Above: RC’s Justin Salhani on the panel of the Golaso talks at the recently held London exhibition.

Golaso recently hosted a two day exhibition in London on fashion and football and invited a wide range of creatives to take part in two panels (disclosure – this author was on one of the panels). In it, a debate ensued over whether Abloh’s proclaimed status as an aficionado of the game added any credibility to his collections.

Football fans often hold certain norms as holy tenants. Any affront to those tenants can bring about a wrath. While a burgeoning movement of collecting and donning classic or vintage kits has found a mainstream market in recent years, there are still many who feel the only shirt they’ll ever wear belongs to their club or country.

A football shirt is tribal, one panelist who works as a designer said at Golaso’s panel event. While another, with a design background at places like adidas and Puma, said that these taboos around a football shirt should be broken. “Many ask why but I say why not?”

This gray space has left many unanswered questions. There is clearly a level of cultural appropriation occurring but is this something that should be resisted or grasped and ran with? The recent releases were likely more for the hype beasts of the world than devoted football fans, and if brands want to make headway with die hards they’ll have to follow certain guidelines.

Nigeria football shirt oxford street

Above: Queues outside the Nike store on Oxford Street, London for the Nigeria 2018 football shirt which sold out within minutes.

“Football fans are unlike any other sports fan in the world and their passion extends beyond the pitch. It’s important for designers and makers who delve into the world of football to have a connection to the game that isn’t superficial because real fans will see through that,” said Jester, creative director of Red Ribbon Recon, a sneaker re-constructor with a deep background in football culture. “While it’s interesting to see football crossover into fashion, I fear it is merely a matter of convenience than genuine love.”

For Jester, the most blame for this lies on the major sporting brands. Brands like Nike and adidas are often the gatekeepers of this sector because their budgets and pervasiveness in the scene control much of what gets seen.

“Brand’s are responsible for this trend because they value influence over authenticity, and until that changes, we’ll continue to see much of the same,” Jester said. “And those that value authenticity will wane away.”

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Justin Olivier Salhani
Justin Olivier Salhani

Justin Olivier Salhani is a writer, journalist, creative and amateur footballer based in Milan, Italy. He's the founder of Guerrilla FC; a creative collective/streetwear brand inspired by football and the creative director at lowsocks creative, and managing editor of Latterly Magazine. He's particularly into the intersection of where streetwear and football meet and how the two cultures inspire one another. He was previously based in Washington, DC and Beirut, Lebanon.

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