Home >opinion >online-views >How football’s influence on fashion transcends borders

Football and fashion. To some, uttering these two words in the same breath may feel strange. For some, the connection is unmissable, almost synonymous.

From Pelé to George Best to David Beckham, footballers have always been fashion icons. In the 1960s, Best—dubbed the Fifth Beatle by the Portuguese press for his long hair and sudden stardom—opened a fashion boutique in Manchester along with fellow footballer Mike Summerbee.

As for Beckham, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he is as well known for his fashion sense as he was for his footballing skills. Take, for instance, the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle where he wore a custom made suit by artistic director Kim Jones of luxury fashion house Dior Homme.

Jones, who took over the creative reins of Dior Home in March this year, will present his first collection later this month at the Paris Fashion Week. Or take his appointment as the first ever ambassadorial president of the British Fashion Council (BFC) in May.

In this newly created role, Beckham will help the BFC boost support for the British fashion industry on a global scale. Beckham is also a partner in British heritage brand Kent & Curwen.

Sportsluxe or athleisure was one of the hottest trends in menswear runways in Spring Summer 2018 across Paris, Milan and Florence. Track pants and sneakers were seen everywhere. Trainers were a part of Gucci and Dior Homme shows. Louis Vuitton’s artistic director for menswear Virgil Abloh debuted his new all-white Air Jordan. Commes des Garcons Homme Plus showcased its collaboration with Nike with a line of sneakers like the Air Max 180 and the Air VaporMax.

Sneakers have been a part of the millennial uniform for a while now. Increasingly, wearing track pants is also acceptable as party wear.

In contrast, cricket has traditionally been seen as a gentleman’s game—think test matches where everyone is in pristine whites. Or think Sunil Gavaskar and Mohammad Azharuddin, known for their understated style.

Football and its players’ influence on fashion transcends geographical boundaries. Even in our cricket-loving country, current favourites like Brazil’s Neymar, Argentinean captain Lionel Messi and the Portugese captain Cristiano Ronaldo are huge style influencers. Whether it is the manbags, manbuns, beards, tattoos or the brands they wear, footballers and their styles are dissected and analyzed in almost the same detail as their games. They influence everything from luxury to mass markets to male grooming.

While India still has no representation at the FIFA World Cup being held in Russia, the game is a big revenue driver for the sports business in India. It’s driving the sports contribution for e-tailers like Myntra who expect it to be up by over 40% in the June quarter over a year ago.

According to Puspen Maity, vice president and head, Sports, Footwear and Accessories, Myntra, the football consumer is predominantly male between the ages of 13-30. He lives in the tier 1 metros and in the traditional football powerhouse places like Goa, Kochi, Shillong and Chandigarh among tier II and tier III cities.

It is only in recent years with a younger cricket team we are seeing players exhibit unapologetic flamboyance. Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and players like K.L. Rahul are youth fashion icons now with their tattooed bodies and beards. But when Kohli first emerged on the cricket field his aggressive body language and style rattled the more conservative audience.

Today, like the footballers, Kohli is one of the first Indian cricketers to use his personality and good looks to package and sell fashion. In 2014 Kohli, along with Anjana Reddy’s Universal Sportsbiz Pvt Ltd (USPL) launched Wrogn, a youth fashion brand.

In fact, this year’s spring 2019 menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence pays homage to football’s association with fashion with a curated feature—Fanatic Feelings, fashion plays football. Put together by Markus Ebner, founder of German fashion magazines Achtung Mode and Sepp Football Fashion, alongside art critic Francesco Bonami, the exhibition explores the coupling of football and fashion.

According to Ebner, it is our obsession with the lives of players, both on and off the field, that has had a pioneering impact on men’s fashion. “Men’s fashion is going through crazy times where the worlds of tailoring, sports, active and streetwear are one big melting pot," he said. We will be seeing more and more of it. It is a new dimension of modern living.

Shop Talk will take a weekly look at consumer trends, behaviour and insights.

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