Football and fashion may have sounded like an unlikely pair until recently, but players around the world are increasingly being noticed by fashion brands and, for their part, are embracing the fashion game more openly.
To be sure, football has long been associated with strong masculinity and an interest in fashion, beyond uniforms and tracksuits, has not been deemed appropriate.
In the late 90s and early Aughts, players including David Beckham helped cement the “football look” that was glitzy and often arrogant too – think creative hairstyles and logo clothing. But conservatism soon took over, blocking early fashion experiments, which were mistaken for effortless sportswear.
How things change. Social media and constant player exposure, closely linked to profitable business on and off the pitch, now seem to be as important as the wonder they perform on the pitch.
Although marketing savvy fashion companies with a profitable menswear business – from Paul Smith and Thom Browne to Diesel, Boss and Armani – have long known the benefits of wearing sports stars, fashion folks have recently started collaborations. which tend to distort more personal and focused than in the past.
They reflect both players’ openness to express themselves creatively and affirm their attitudes towards social and cultural issues, as well as the fashion need for value-oriented ambassadors.
For some observers, in fact, fashion’s renewed interest in football is based on the values embodied by the new generations of players rather than on the popularity of the sport itself.
“Sports have become vehicles of promotion and individual players are currently more in demand than full teams, and niche disciplines are gaining momentum over sports that would typically attract a huge following,” says Alessandro Maria Ferreri, luxury consultant and owner. of the consulting company The Style Cancello.
According to him, fashion brands are trying to highlight the personality behind the athlete and are looking for values that are in line with those promoted by the brands.
The conformist mentality of the past that led players to distort their fashion choices to align with the then hyper-masculine environment of sport, would pose a risk to brands now looking to celebrate inclusiveness and open-mindedness.
However, this is no longer a problem.
“I feel the next wave of representation in the football community will shed light on the voice of a more inclusive generation in sport,” says Rachael Gentner, director of sportswear at trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops.
“We used to see athletes through a lens of unattainable perfection – and now that focus is softer, giving us the ability to connect with our heroes in a more recognizable way,” he adds.
Indeed, the dynamics of sport have changed for the better and soccer players seem to enjoy playing with fashion, as have athletes from other disciplines for much longer.
“Marketing strategies in sports, once reserved for football, have extended to all disciplines, it is more about the athlete as a model than the sport itself,” says Ferreri.
Examples can be found in Gucci drawing on a diverse roster of sports to choose its athletic ambassadors, including tennis stars Jannik Sinner and Serena Williams.
These ambassadors across all disciplines – think Lewis Hamilton at the helm of Valentino’s latest Pink PP campaign – have a huge following and football is the only sport that accumulates the most. According to FIFA, it has 5 billion fans worldwide.
“When luxury brands and high fashion designers approach these players to model for their collection, they recognize that they are not only receiving an athletic spokesperson, but also their huge fan base,” says Gentner.
Case in point: Footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi regularly top the list of most followed celebrities on Instagram, and both have ventured into fashion with lines geared towards lounge and activewear.
“These football communities are truly global, offering a unique opportunity to connect between thousands of teams and clubs, while allowing people to identify themselves as fans in a more community and inclusive way,” he notes.
At the same time, football has increasingly descended into fashion collections and not just because the brands linked to football teams offer themed capsule collections. Wales Bonner’s spring 2023 runway at Pitti Uomo last June offered a fashionable reinterpretation of the Adidas Samba, a classic indoor football sneaker, while Aimé Leon Dore and New Balance used Arsenal champion Bukayo Saka to lead the campaign. “Made in the UK” by highlighting the football gear inflected spotlight.
Here, WWD Weekend highlights the latest fashion moments happening off the football pitch.
The Real Madrid player Karim Benzemaan avid eyewear collector, he has recently formed ties with Jean Paul Gaultier to unveil a re-edition of the unmistakable oval-shaped metal sunglasses known with the code 56-6160. Popularized in the 1990s by personalities like Tupac, they are now available in three colourways. Benzema presents images of the countryside and a video in which he is seen strolling through the Parisian monuments in the midst of a golden sunset.
Adidas’ house friends Paul Pogba, Jude Bellingham, David AlabaSerge Gnabry, Trinity Rodman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all presented the images as part of a content creation activity with the Adidas X Gucci collection. According to data processing company Launchmetrics, the entire Adidas x Gucci campaign generated $ 75.8 million worth of media impact, or MIV, with its online component amassing $ 167,000 in MIV. In particular, Real Madrid’s Alaba played freely with fashion, showing a penchant for disguise and gravitating towards brands such as Dior, Maison Margiela, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta. He appeared on the covers of GQ Hype and wrote a fashion curator for Matchesfashion.
Dior tapping Kylian Mbappé Late last year as a global ambassador for the French fashion house’s men’s division and its men’s fragrance Sauvage generated $ 2.8 million in MIV, according to Launchmetrics. Mbappé’s appointment came after Dior kicked off a two-season collaboration with Paris Saint-Germain club, of which the French footballer has been the top striker since 2017. In addition to boasting 72.4 million of followers only on Instagram, Mbappé embodies the values of modern gamers. He is involved in numerous charitable initiatives, sponsoring the “Premiers de Cordée” association, which provides sports initiatives for hospitalized children and founding “Inspired by KM”, an association that aims to inspire children to achieve their goals. . Among his other fashion concerts, the soccer champion is a Hublot ambassador.
Football athletes now aspire to couture as well. Last July, at the age of 19, Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga walked the Balenciaga high fashion show, the 51st of the house and the second since the creative director Demna restarted it after 53 years of absence. She shared the runway with famous models including Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, Dua Lipa and “Selling Sunset” star Christine Quinn. Launchmetrics estimated that her appearance generated $ 585,000 in MIV. She followed in the footsteps of current FC Barcelona full-back Héctor Bellerín, who took a surprise stroll at Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton show in Paris for the men’s spring 2020 show.
While it maintains strong links with the sporting community at large, Gucci enlisted Manchester City Jack Grealish as its ambassador this year. The British football prodigy, often referred to as a modern Beckham, is often seen sporting off-duty Gucci items and for special magazine features and cover stories, such as a cover of The Face magazine last May. Launchmetrics estimates the announcement has generated $ 2.3 million in MIV to date.
At the end of 2021, Burberry paired with an international footballer Marco Rashford, a frontman of his campaigns in the past, to support children’s literacy programs, by connecting with organizations that work with disadvantaged children and helping them develop their skills. As part of the partnership, the brand also donates books and has funded the creation of libraries in the UK, US and Asia.