Trend Report: Football x Fashion
Trend Report: Football x Fashion

Trend Report: Football x Fashion


Two of our favourite things are in the throes of a wonderful new relationship. Football kits are being turned into fashion fits, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Here’s how the beautiful game is inspiring the next wave of sportswear – and some of the pieces we want to cop…
Words Tobias Gourlay


What’s The Story?

Football’s all about the collective. Fashion tends towards the individual. But it’s still identity that’s at the heart of them both. Perhaps as a result, they share a rich history. As early as the 1970s, swaggy fans of the Manchester clubs were known as ‘Perry boys’ for the Fred Perry polos they liked to wear with Adidas Stan Smiths.

In that same decade, English teams (especially Liverpool) started to dominate Europe: between 1975 and 1985, clubs from these shores made it to 9/11 European Cup finals, winning seven. Their fans would follow them around the continent. To prove they’d been with their team all the way, supporters would bring home brands you could only get abroad. Fila, Lacoste, Sergio Tacchini and Ellesse were all sacred. 

In the early 90s, with English teams banned from playing in Europe after the Heysel disaster, replica shirts arrived. Subtle signifiers like Fred Perry’s laurel wreath or Lacoste’s crocodile were replaced by full-scale imitation of the players on the pitch, but there was still room for a couple of Italian labels.

Both founded by Massimo Osti, Stone Island and CP Company stood out not just because they were hard to get, but because their gear stood up to cold afternoons on the terraces. Inspired by his own archive of military and workwear, Osti created new technical fabrics and processes like garment dyeing that he applied to classic pieces with a rarefied Italian eye for design.

Today, the desire for identity still fuels football’s close relationship with fashion. While he was manager of Notts Forest, Steve Cooper liked to wear Paul Smith on the touchline – a brand that was born in the city. In a rootless digital age of atomised IRL communities, he recognised the power of a homegrown connection. Or maybe he just liked the label.

But he wouldn’t be alone in appreciating that connection. Social media movements like blokecore speak to a new generation’s yearning for old-school analogue pleasures – lads, dads and mates going to a game, beers before and after. At matches we’ve seen recently, especially in lower leagues, Stone Island is back, and so are other old terrace staples like the check Aquascutum scarf. 

In a new twist, it’s not just the fans taking an interest in their appearance. Players and clubs are too. Where once there were only outliers like David Beckham, you can now find whole squads getting involved. At a time when collaboration culture is rife in fashion, football is a perfect partner, and its hyper-fit stars make great clothes horses.

Paul Smith X Manchester United
Paul Smith X Manchester United

What’s Happening Now?

Among the footballers making moves in fashion, there’s the bones of a decent England XI: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s modelled for Bottega Veneta and been front row at Dolce & Gabbana shows; Declan Rice has stepped up for Aimé Leon Dore’s new campaign; Jack Grealish is signed with Gucci; Bukayo Saka turns out for Burberry; Raheem Sterling’s got his own label; Eberechi Eze’s been snapped at London Fashion Week; and Dominic Calvert-Lewin shares a stylist with Harry Styles. The England boys aren’t alone. Staying in the Prem, Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk’s just had a 10-page spread in Vogue Scandinavia, while Spurs star Son Heung-Min is a Calvin Klein model.

Players aren’t the only ones getting excited. For the 2002 World Cup, Paul Smith worked with Umbro on a collection built around England’s kit for that tournament. It was a rare treat for style-conscious sports fans. That same year, Yohji Yamamoto joined forces with Adidas for the first time and Y-3 was born. 

Y-3 continues to innovate today, while Umbro is turning 100 this year – and its hot streak continues. In 2012, there was a landmark collab with the finest knitwear manufacturer in the land, John Smedley, and since then the famous double-diamond logo has gained a street edge. This year’s centenary collabs have been with cult London skate label Palace and the Italian subculture vultures at Slam Jam.

None of this has gone unnoticed by Europe’s biggest clubs. Inter x MonclerAC Milan x Off-WhiteReal Madrid x Y-3 (add Jude Bellingham to the list of snappily dressed England stars) and Barcelona x Patta – high fashion houses are being tied up like bootlaces. Some of the results are eye-catching: earlier this year, Milan unveiled a fourth kit designed with LA label Pleasures that became an all-time bestseller; PSG made a splash with an Esteban Cortazar collab last summer; and Juventus have attracted new fans in the US with a kit tricked out by Berlin’s 032c. Closer to home, Arsenal fans have been treated to a camo-inspired Maharishi hook-up, while Chelsea have nailed their colours to Nicholas Daley, and Man U have teamed up with Paul Smith.


What’s Next?

Some of the coolest stuff is starting to happen outside football’s boardrooms. Sweden’s Acne Studios quickly sold out its first £360 take on a polyester footie shirt, and has dropped an older-style polo shirt for this season. British independents like Percival and YMC have been inspired by the beautiful game in recent years – the latter getting in early with the retro drip specialists at Lover’s Football Club. Right now, London’s House of Errors is doing heavy-knit takes on classic jerseys from Zidane’s France ’98 top to Ian Wright’s old Arsenal away shirts (Wrighty himself has recently been doing god’s work for Labrum), while The Football Gal banishes the stink of hooliganism by customising team strips with floral embroidery. Reebok has just let Botter loose in its archive; the result is football boot-inspired sneakers and even knee-length socks.

Just announced, after eight seasons with DSquared2, Man City have inked a deal with CP Company for the Italian urban sportswear legend to kit the team out on Champions League away days. Once upon a time, British supporters went to Europe to source exclusive swag. Now, British teams head to the continent already dressed to impress. And it’s never been easier for fans of the game to look good in their wake. 



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