The marriage between soccer and fashion is a long standing union. You can attribute endless reasons for this cultural convergence. Some are painfully obvious, some, more non-linear. You have to use a few different brushes to paint culture, they say. Soccer was always the “fashionable sport”- it’s biggest teams and players are in close proximity to the heralded traditional luxury houses in Europe. Proximity is just a first step in a rich relationship that has only been given even longer legs by the style icons that have played the sport. From Bechkam to Neymar to the countless streetwear icons that grace the pitches every week- soccer and fashion is (and always has, and will be) a love affair.
In the beginning, Holy God gave the world Terrace & lad fashion in the UK, synonymous with the rise of English clubs (and English hooliganism) in the European Cup in the 70’s. Away games outside of England across the continent expedited football fashion's trajectory. Supporters of balls-and-thunder clubs like Liverpool, Aston Villa, Leeds and Manchester United suddenly started leaving their domestic grounds to play even bigger matches against Europe’s elite from Italy, France and Spain.
With those match day travels came a first hand exposure to high fashion meccas like Milan and Paris. The British hooligans robbed stores and came back with luxury items. They bootlegged that shit outside back alley pubs. They made vandalized opulence a whole lifestyle.
The subculture developed its own uniform and a selection of core brands. “Farah, Lois, Diadora, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Sergio Tacchini, Fila, Ellesse, Cerutti 1881, Australian, Lacoste, Lyle and Scott, Pringle, Kappa,” says Neil Primett, owner of 80s Casual Classics, a dedicated boutique for the subculture out of England.
It took 35 years but a similar scene across the pond, which also stemmed from the vandalization of opulence in many ways (in first and second wave LA and NYC born streetwear) started to merge with global soccer culture. Was it the popularity of the EA Sports franchise FIFA with rappers? Every rapper you’ve ever heard so much as an ad lib out of plays FIFA religiously on tour busses. 21 Savage called out other rappers to play his FIFA squad from a G5. It’s a ting.
Chicago rapper-turnt-punk-signer Vic Mensa dropped SaveMoney FC merch, a fake soccer club from the Chi that could probably beat the MLS club from the Chi that really exists.
In 2014, the coming out ; or together party- as it were, was complete, as Drake shut down Times Square to host a FIFA Tournament. The amount of kit wearing maniacs in the middle of NYC was a moment that felt bigger than the sum of its parts.
The 6-God himself, in the 2015 Italian club Juventus rosé kit. With matching rosé bifocals. The 6-God plays no games.
In 2018, Nike changed the game for kits prior to the World Cup in Russia. Their vision was to marry the youth, street and art cultures and evolve the concept of what a kit can be. What came out of it was the uniform design that broke all the rules, and the internet - Nigeria.
The cap on what a uniform could even be was removed. Adidas, Puma, Umbro and Under Armor joined the re-imagination party, using kits as canvases to tell the story of club, city or nation, and more importantly, accurately reflected the narrative of those who believe in the badge on it.
The Nike Nigeria 2018 Kit was launched as an entire fashion collection, selling out online in a little over a mere hour. This prompted the other design giants adidas and Puma to re-imagine the kit as a canvas for art.
If 2018 was the year Nike changed the game, 2020 is the year where all designers and manufacturers have decided the old “just make a jersey in the right colors” was sent to pasture.
“We’re never going back to basic. This year, a corner was turned, a full on statement, made.” Said Chris Walker of Nike Football UK.
Soccer kits are now heralded fashion statement pieces.
Here are the Top 10 Best Kits for 2020-21 Season from the world’s biggest clubs. No particular order, they're all top class.
Borussia Dortmund (Home) - Dortmund, Germany
The Killer Bees kits are always a hypebeast must cop. Black and yellow, according to Wiz Khalifa, is just a very good color way choice generally as a whole. Momma told me to always listen to Wiz Khalifa when I was a kid and I still do. Real talk, the kit suits the team perfectly. BVB play striking, aggressive, nads out attacking football. They're electric to watch when they're on it. These new kits from German designer Puma are true works of art, and match the energy of this youthful side. The back is a study in Germany's history of minimalism; juxtaposing a modern, energetic front with a nod to iconic Bavarian Art Deco fonts and numbers of yesteryear.
Everton (Away) - Liverpool, UK
For a club that went from one old school kit maker (Umbro) to an even older one (lesser know footy heritage brand Hummel) they sure nailed that Gen Z Mustard shit perfectly. It also helps that Everton have started the season much better than they usually do, but that bar is hella low. Even still, OG US goalie Tim Howard, an Everton legend, should be proud of both the kit, and the lads in it. Pints up, blue half of Meyerside.
Inter-Milan (Home) - Milano, Italy
Nike, inspired by Milan's post modern art scene from the early 80’s, decided to go full on, all-over-print galleria. Silk scarves and unfiltered cigarettes not included. Gossip over espresso however, is. Look how sexy the back of this Milanese gem is, just look at it. Bravo, Nike.
Liverpool FC (Away) - Liverpool. UK
Nike again. The American sport design leader was masterful in their roll out and range for the reigning Premier League Champs. LFC ditched Boston based manufacturer New Balance for a monster deal with Nike, driven by LeBron, Drake and Serena Williams. LFC is surely having a moment culturally. With one of the most exciting attacking teams in the world on the field, Nike knew their kits needed to reflect that energy and swagger. This away jawn takes the teal trim from the crest, multiples it by a gazillion, and claims its a beautiful nod to the Irish Sea and the Irish-Catholic immigrants that built the city into a global port in the 1800s. Also, it's a different shade of blue to noisy neighbors Everton- see above.
Barcelona (Third) - Barcelona, Spain
Inspired by the classic Nike Air Max sneaker, Barcelona‘s third strip celebrates the city and its vibrant beaches with a “Pink/Sea Green” colorway. As well as referencing the city — and some of the club’s previous kits — the colors also pay tribute to previous Air Max releases and a new FC Barcelona-inspired Air Max 90. “The Air Max, coupled with football jersey culture is the ultimate hybrid of streetwear and sport.” Said Scott Munson, Nike’s VP of Football Apparel. Also, this may or may not be a Inter Miami bootleg. Nike 'bout to get a cease and desist from Mr. Beckham.
Paris St. Germain (Away) - Paris, France
Happy 50th anniversary PSG, although most people outside of say, generally France would not know that the number-one-hypebeast-of-all-time club has been around prior to Mbappe, Neymar and like, the Nike Jordan drop. Their away strip — inspired by their 1995/96 title winning season — features a Hechter stripe lined with royal blue on a white background. Finished with a blue polo collar and two-buttoned fastening, if the away kit didn’t make this list, the home kit certainly would’ve. Allez, Nike.
Olympique Marseille (Away) - Marseille, France
Drawing on inspiration from the unique neighborhoods and multicultural DNA of the city, Marseille‘s PUMA away strip for 2020/21 features sublimated design features throughout. Arriving in a “Electric Peacoat” navy blue with accented “Azur” blue detailing that pops through the collar and cuffed sleeves. This shit is super hard, Puma. Well played.
Ajax (Away) -Amsterdam, Netherlands
Taking notes from the eye-catching designs from the eighties and early nineties, Ajax‘s 2020/21 adidas away kit is arguably the stand-out strip of the season. A mix of blue washed tones, with pops of red and white accents all-over, the colorway is a subtle nod to the Dutch national flag. The crest has been given a red fill, to match the name and number prints on the reverse of each shirt. It is as “retro meets street” as possible, while looking like the cover of a Windows 95 SIM game.
Arsenal (Away) - London, UK
Taking influence from the patterns, colors and motifs that used to be found in the East Stand of its former home of Highbury, Arsenal‘s eye-catching 2020/21 adidas Away jersey pays homage to the marble halls found within the iconic stadium, one that saw them lift the Premier League title thirteen times. Bonus points for the “Olde Gates Of London” font on the back names and numbers. Gooners everywhere can be proud of this one.
Manchester United (Third) - Manchester, UK
The machine that is United are not what they once were, but who gives a shit if adidas keeps the kits dripped out and global sales are through the roof. This pattern slashed zebra Frankenstein kit ticks all the current fashion trend boxes. To be fair, Pogba seems so confident in it one would assume it was a French kit. That was a shot fired. Real soccer heads in the back, that was a bar for y'all.