Fashion brands are no strangers to appearing in the world of football.
Athleisure brands compete to sell official kits and fanwear of football teams, with the most popular player doubling as ambassadors for luxury fashion brands.
David Beckham was one of the first footballers to bridge the gap between fashion and football, appearing in ad campaigns for Belstaff, Calvin Klein, and Rolex. While the former England footballer went on to create a collection with H&M, Beckham isn’t alone as a footballer with one foot in the fashion industry.
Streetwear has found itself a spirit animal in football with brands like Aries, Off-White, and Moncler releasing collaborations with football teams. Gone are the days when only Italian footballers appeared as fashion ambassadors. The age of digital influencers means that footballers and fashion brands are working closer together than ever before. Football isn’t alone as sports like Formula One, tennis, and golf are becoming increasingly integrated into the fashion sphere.
We’re celebrating the start of the World Cup by deep diving into the world of football’s numerous collaborations with the fashion industry. It’s not just Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham bending the fashion and football lines, the two industries are becoming more integrated with every passing season.
Italy’s Two Greatest Loves – Fashion and Football
There’s one place in the world where fashion and football go hand in hand – Italy. They’re the country’s two greatest loves and two of its biggest exports. It’s no surprise that the early collaborations between fashion and football focused on Italian fashion brands and teams. Dolce & Gabbana and Armani led the way by collaborating alongside the biggest Italian teams, including Milan AC, Inter Milan, and Napoli.
While we’re familiar with seeing Italian footballers decked out in Armani and Dolce & Gabbana off the pitch, they’re becoming just as stylish on the pitch. Giorgio Armani has teamed up with SSC Napoli with the players wearing the brand’s first football shirt for the 21/22 season. The football shirts incorporate a more subtle ‘E47’ logo, giving the brand a more contemporary feel that is understated with Italian sophistication.
You don’t have to look too far for another collaboration. Inter Milan x Moncler announced a three-year collaboration in 2021 for formalwear and outerwear. The partnership brings together fashion and performance, two parts of the Moncler DNA. Its debut collection was developed around the evolution of Moncler’s classic styles.
While other fashion collaborations have been exclusive for the team, the Inter x Moncler capsule collection is available exclusively from Moncler. The collaboration’s most recent collection was released earlier this month to celebrate Moncler’s 70th birthday. It shows the importance the outerwear brand is putting on the partnership with designs that incorporate Inter’s latest club crest.
Italian brands are now looking beyond their domestic football stars. Jack Grealish, the Manchester City star, has signed with Gucci as their latest ambassador this summer. Gucci’s signing of Jack Grealish isn’t surprising when accounting for the fact that more than 50% of its sales come from customers under 35.
Footballers as Fashion Ambassadors
It’s not just in their downtime and at award ceremonies that you’ll see the crossover between fashion and footballers. Fashion brands are utilising the popularity of international footballers the same way they tap into celebrities and influencers. While David Beckham led the way as one of football’s first fashion influencers, he’s not alone in his high-profile brand deals.
Marcus Rashford has partnered with Burberry on a youth initiative, while Kylian Mbappe joined Dior as a new ambassador last December. Mbappe’s ambassadorship came as no surprise after Kim Jones, Dior’s Artistic Director, created a bespoke wardrobe for the Paris Saint-Germain team.
These collaborations are coming in thick and fast, especially with the 2022 World Cup right around the corner. Another recent footballer making their debut as a fashion ambassador is Karim Benzema. After winning the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award, Benzema is following up his partnership with Jean-Paul Gaultier by becoming Fendi’s newest global ambassador.
Balenciaga has reinvented itself as a streetwear brand, focusing on a younger demographic. It’s worked to align itself with footballers to create an affluent persona that bridges the gap between everyday streetwear and luxury fashion.
This summer Balenciaga took their football focus to the next level by having Eduardo Camavinga as the first footballer to walk in a Balenciaga runway show. The Real Madrid midfielder appeared alongside Kim Kardashian, suggesting footballers are now as valuable in the fashion industry as reality stars. Camavinga followed in the footsteps of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, who walked for Louis Vuitton in 2019.
Some Fashion brands take it further than just an ambassador role. Dsquared2 has launched two capsule collections in partnership with Swedish footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The designs incorporated Zlatan’s nickname ‘Ibra’ as a font logo.
The influence of these footballers is why luxury fashion brands are adopting them as ambassadors in the same way they relied on movie stars and entertainment celebrities for decades. Social media means footballers are more visible on and off the field than ever before.
We’ll be watching to see what these fashion brands do during the upcoming 2022 World Cup. Will we be getting any more football brand ambassador announcements?
Football x Fashion Collaborations
The new push of fashion brands and footballers working together can be traced back to the late Virgil Abloh. His work with Louis Vuitton and his brand, Off-White, paved the way for football and fashion culture to collide.
The Off-White x AC Milan collaboration is described by the brand as “a challenge for us to boldly and freely express personal ideals”. The off-pitch collaboration between Off-White and AC Milan shows the influence of footballers on fashion beyond the World Cup and sporting events.
The success of the collaboration has led to Off-White being named the ‘official style and cultural curator’ for AC Milan earlier this month. It’s been nicknamed a ‘disruptor’ collaboration as the first of its kind to give a fashion brand a curator role. Off-White now provides the clothing for the men’s and women’s AC Milan teams. The off-pitch uniforms capture the collaboration’s spirit of “wearing your heart on your sleeve”.
Other fashion/football collaborations include Drôle de Monsieur x AS Monaco, which you can shop at Unfolloworld. The collaboration has now seen four kits created by Drole de Monsieur. It’s widely hailed as the best football/fashion collab yet.
The new Drôle de Monsieur x AS Monaco collection is a reinterpretation of the team’s official game jersey with off-field apparel that captures the chic French Riviera aesthetic. This capsule collection includes two jerseys and shorts, along with a tracksuit, backpack, cap, and tees. It stays true to the football DNA with a distinctive streetwear feel for extra wearability.
Earlier this month Aries and New Balance collaborated with AS Roma for a unique collection. It features 3 custom jerseys, including 2 that will be worn for their upcoming games in Japan, along with a pre-game jersey. The most intriguing part of the collection is a special goalkeeper jersey that incorporates Aries’ dyed colours with illustration and outsider art that pays homage to Aries' founder, Sofia Prantera.
This collection shows how brands can create an intersection between fashion and football that incorporates the DNA on both sides. You can shop the Aries x New Balance x AS Roma collection from New Balance and Aries. The team’s match kit will go on sale later this month.
New Balance isn’t the only brand getting in on the football collections. Nike’s recent Jordan x PSG collaboration was one of the brand’s most successful, giving Paris Saint-Germain fans a way to show off their team pride with contemporary streetwear.
Daily Paper x Ajax team pre-match collection, it unites elements throughout the brand. A prominent East African beadwork print in Pan-African colors brings together a diverse population with inclusive personality to celebrate Amsterdam as one city that prizes diversity over any other trait!
While many fashion x football collaborations are with luxury brands, athleisure brands allow everyday fashion followers to get in on the action. It’s a step beyond the traditional team kit and integrates football apparel into everyday fashion.
Playing On Time – Footballers and. Watches
It’s no longer just sneakers that people are looking out for with footballers. GQ has already published an editorial roundup on the best luxury watches of England’s 2022 World Cup squad.
It described luxury watches “as an essential part of modern football”. The list is packed full of Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Hublots watches. It’s not just luxury watches that are earning comments on the pages of fashion editorials. GQ also ran a feature on Karim Benzema, Barcelona’s lead striker, and the vintage Casio watch he wore to the Ballon d’Or.
Fashion and football have a long history together. It’s a happy marriage that is experiencing a honeymoon period with collaborations between athleisure brands and luxury fashion houses. Other sports like Formula One are following the lead of football by bridging the gap between fashion and sports.