American sportswear has been a part of the streetwear wardrobe since day one — Jordan sneakers, basketball jerseys, baseball caps and varsity jackets are as classic as it gets — but recently the culture has started to embrace sporty pieces from further afield.
The football — sorry, “soccer” — shirt is a beloved sportswear gem in the beautiful game’s European, British and Latin American heartlands, and it was also popular among globe-trotting fashionistas during the SS18 men’s fashion weeks back in June.
Outside of fashion week, Palace has been flirting with football since its glorious Umbro collab back in 2012 and regularly includes pieces inspired by the beautiful game in its ongoing adidas collabs. Amsterdam veterans Patta are big into the football vibes, too.
What’s behind the football top’s trendy resurgence? We hit up Neal Heard, football shirt connoisseur and pop culture historian, to find out. Heard wrote a book on the topic, appropriately dubbed A Lover’s Guide to Football Shirts, and hosted an exhibition dubbed The Art of the Football Shirt in tandem with London menswear show Jacket Required. It’s safe to say that he knows better than anyone how iconic the soccer jersey is in pop culture.
Did you miss out on the soccer-inspired Gosha Rubchinskiy x adidas collab? Here’s some alternative Russian football tops you can cop right now.
Why is the football jersey such an emblem of popular culture?
Football is truly the peoples’ game, and the game is adored and followed around the world. The kits are tribal colors — it’s a basic human pull. Tribal colors are imbued with emotion, and have the ability to take us back to a time and place almost instantaneously. They are emblems of us and where we are from, that’s why they are so important.
It’s hard to ignore that the vintage football jersey is a bonafide trend right now. What do you see for its future and how do you feel about it personally?
Football has always been huge, but now it’s like basketball, as in it’s not just people who follow the team or the game who are into the shirts. Players are no longer just that, they’re celebrities and fashion icons. For better or for worse, this is how football is now and it’s just the beginning.
Why do you think streetwear brands are flirting with football at the minute?
Personally this is the biggest and most interesting thing happening with the football shirt right now. Seriously, imagine even a few years ago, seeing a skater wearing a football shirt? It just didn’t happen, then like all good tribal movements, the skate kids appropriated the item and made it their own — just like the football casuals did with sportswear in the ’80s. Kids and tribes always reinvent.
Can you tell us what some of your favorite team kits are?
I love the simple and understated clean line aesthetics of the late ’60s and early ’70s jerseys, with no manufacturers branding or sponsor — think Brazil ’70 or pure white ’50s Real Madrid.
I love the crazy late ’80s and ’90s when the designers, especially at adidas and Umbro, were taking hallucinogenic drugs, and went mental with patterns — think Holland ’88, Germany ’90.
I really dig the oversized sponsors and quintessentially French-style shirts, like St Etienne’s Le Coq Sportif “Super Tele” shirt from 1981. It goes on and on…some now defunct brands like NR of Italy or Topper and Penalty of Brazil.