23 November 2022

Here are the designers rewriting the offside rules of what football actually means

What with the Qatar World Cup controversies, HUNGER looks to designers scrapping the rules of football and red carding the silence, so they can tell their stories through fashion. Bags made from footballs; reimagined jerseys and collab drip kits have you covered this winter. Fashion’s knack for storytelling and football’s stories make this the perfect duo, and we head to the brands of both industries to listen.

Footie has been adopting and refreshing style way before brand collabs like Palace X Gucci were reselling their £1,900 jersey on Ebay and TikTok obsessions meant Bellerin was Gen Z’s answer to Becks. In the 60s for example, two of the era’s best players (Mike Summerbee and George Best) owned a fashion boutique in Manchester called Edwardia. It gave Best the nickname of the ‘Fifth Beatle’, and ensured that despite its closing in the 70s, a solid foundation was laid for the perfect relationship of two opposing teams. No, not City’s Summerbee and United’s Best: football and fashion. 

It is in these odd little stories that the sport and style seem to find a home, and the glory days of vintage kits and casuals subculture hold a plethora of influence on modern designers. Whatever it means to you — be that joining your dad at the pub with a pack of crisps and a fresh football jersey, or getting behind your local club on a cold Saturday morning with a knitted scarf: footie fashion is sure to tell a thousand stories, louder than a stadium-filled cheer. So, take note of some of the industry’s best designers, who are on a mission to harness the Beautiful Game in all its glory, and find inspo in their version of the sports narrative.

TOMME’s balls

Up first is the innovative streetwear brand TOMME, which has just released a new series of reworked football bags. We don’t mean to carry your kit either; we mean football bags. The likes of Stussy, Adidas and Murakami balls are decorated with TOMME’s signature metal hardware and a cotton lining, with a handle to swing it over your shoulder on your way to slay practice.

The brand is on a mission to transform the male-dominated sport and items that follow into unisex pieces. Their name derives from FEMME X HOMME X TOMBOY, and finds its home in a new take on the football.

Keeping an eye on the ball is founder Kelly Gunner, who says in a press release that “the product is inspired by the intersection between female and male sport and contemporary streetwear aesthetic, creating a range that is gender diverse and inclusive”. Their yellow, green and red Stussy bags are giving all things Blokecore, just throw over a zip-up knit and some baggy jeans for a bit of 90s dad realness. The Murakami ball brings high and low to the game, whilst the Palace X Adidas neon green with black strap is a hypewear lover’s dream. But for the brave, we handpick a furry leopard print Adidas number with gold haberdashery for that extra flair, finished with leather pentagons and a monochrome Adidas logo.

Martine Rose says ‘All the Best’

Ahead of Euro 2020, Nike and Martine Rose teamed together to create a collab inspired by ‘The Lost Lionesses’. We throw back to a prime example of storytelling in fashion, and creation that grew in the face of silencing women in the sport.

The name of the project was for the unofficial England women’s team of 14 girls aged between 18 and 21 who travelled to Mexico and played in the ‘71 World Cup.

The group of teens ran out to 90,000 opposing Mexican fans and played a cracking game. The women were forgotten, with BBC News reporting that striker Janice Emms had said “You’d get so much abuse from them [fans]. They just regarded it as a joke, girls playing football. Nobody took it seriously. We did.”

The story is often brushed over in history, held down by the archaic view of a ‘men’s sport’, and a look back at the collection shows how poignant football and fashion are in societal change. The reversible jerseys and raw-edge caps feature the original 1971 crest for the team of three lions and a Tudor rose, all genderless and oversized with an “all the best” message stiched in from Martine Rose. 

In an interactive online project, the Rose X Nike collab states “That’s the thing about football – it’s yours. If you turn up every Sunday morning – it’s yours. If you cover your house in flags – it’s yours. Whoever you are and whatever you do – it’s yours.” 

Lovers FC go shirts up

Lovers FC are marrying streetwear and sportswear in a bid to reinvent the jersey. Creative Consultant/ Director and Pop Culture Historian Neal Heard created the brand to venture into unchartered waters of stadium-wear meets premium fashion.

With a Selfridges collab already under its belt, the brand has also worked with YMC, Jameson Whiskey and H&M for its collections. “I wrote a book about football shirts,” says Heard for H&M. “It was like a universal language, that’s the way I saw it. I thought, well you know what, I’d like to make the football shirts myself and take this story on. It straightaway gave birth to Lovers FC.” 

In some form, the shirts draw a line under rivalry, and introduce playing for whatever team your heart desires. They currently have a house print mashup number, and an audacious leopard print one so you and friends can clash prints for the match. 

Although nearly sold out in the Jameson Whiskey collab (be quick!), we raise a toast to what’s to come for Lovers FC, and tell our own story of this World Cup through Heard’s funky designs in the meantime.

Poppy says ‘It’s not soccer you prick’

For her Central Saint Martins graduate collection, designer Poppy Pierce explores her own relationship with the culture that surrounds the game, basing the creative designs on her lifelong support of Arsenal.

“I was as obsessed with the beautiful game as I was with the kits, the fashion and the merchandise that come along with it. I have reimagined the classic football kit and football fan attire by repurposing shoe laces, badges and studs. Knitwear has always been an important process in football fashion culture,” says Pierce. 

In an authentic approach to footie fashion, Pierce takes sustainability and texture into account, repurposing boot laces and knitting bags that aptly, after the USA game, read ‘It’s not soccer you pricks’. Unconventional and experimentative, the knits of the young designer are perfect for the winter World Cup, and promise the culture surrounding football to be reimagined through her own take on the game. 

Sludge Mag X Art of Football on the game’s politics

For the women’s Euros, Sludge Mag collaborated with Art of Football to create a brand new jersey that celebrates the growth for women in the game. The mag, which makes politics accessible to young people, noticed a lack of attention being directed towards local football teams.

Designed by Ayesha Brown who is the founder of Offside Outlet, the shirt encompasses a retro style as a look back to the time women were banned from playing in the UK between 1951 and 1961. The collection featured the mantra “Say less, listen more” in reference to the untold stories of female players. 

The wider campaign aims to bring together women from all backgrounds, with those modelling including Britain’s youngest MP who is fighting for LGBTQ+ and trans rights and a young female football editor challenging misogyny on her platform.

Umbro unites with the ‘Nation’s Collection’

With many unsatisfied with this World Cup, perhaps sportswear brand Umbro’s creation of the upcoming ‘Nation’s Collection’ can bring us back to what the game really means. A fusion of football, fans and fabric, the collection takes classics from England 1990 to Brazil 1994 in this shirty extravaganze.

Mexico, France, Spain, USA, Poland and Germany are amongst the nations inspiring the brand to take another look at passion and pride, resulting in an ode to all the iconic moments that make it one of the most favoured sports.

Helen Hope, Head of Brand Marketing at the brand, said to Soccerbible that: “These shirts may be designed by us, but they have been inspired by plenty of players, many moments, and every fan around the world. A fitting tribute to the legends of past glories and the dreams of trophies to come.”

Though not available yet, we are on the edge of our stadium seats for a chance to grab a piece from this brainchild of archival football fashion. They have even created a bespoke country crest for each nation, showing through their design that football is, and always has been, for everyone.  

  • Writer Ella Chadwick
  • Banner Image Credit Lover's FC

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