Kits Stories is a series in which we tell the uniques stories of individuals through the kits that have made an impact on their lives. This first installment of Kit Sotires features Ben Chi, the Manager of Brand and Community for LAFC, founder of the dope soccer lifestyle brand FC Dorsum and member of the KTTP family. Ben help KTTP get off the ground and was integral in the vision of KTTP coming to life. Through the story of his kits we got to know more about where his passion for kits started and how he turned his passion for the beautiful game into a career.
So the hype around the PSG x Jordan Brand collab was more than real. What we fail to realize though, or at least what I did initially, was that this is not the first time a brand totally foreign to the world of soccer has come in to stake its own claim. While numerous brands have come and gone before the Jumpman, the overwhelming success of this PSG x Jordan Brand collab has proven that there is obviously more than enough room for other brands besides adidas and Nike. There is clearly and more importantly real opportunity for brands out there right now, especially those with a streetwear heritage, to reinsert themselves back into the spotlight.
What follows is a list of brands I consider prime for a comeback or that I’d simply love to see back in soccer.
I start off with what is perhaps the biggest longshot, and that is FILA. Here in the United States, FILA has not been hot since the Grant Hill sneaker line. The same can be said about its stint in soccer as its heyday came at about the same time in the late ’90s and early 2000’s. Though the brand is not totally out of soccer as it sponsored some lower league teams in recent years, you start to wonder what sort of splash FILA could make in this new context we now find ourselves in, as well as with a much higher profile club to back it.
Reebok, as we all know, is a Crossfit brand nowadays, but who could forget the fire kits they put out in the not so distant past. This away number worn by Javier Zanetti in the late ’90s is one of the best put out by the brand. I know I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t mind wearing something similar to this with a fresh pair of Reebok DMX’s.
Starter is another brand with a streetwear past to make a foray into soccer. Only a few years ago, the brand kitted out Oxford United, a team from the lower tiers of English football. While its design for the club’s home kit is not something that immediately grabs my attention, Starter still has an unshakeable nostalgia tied to it. There is definitely much for the brand to capitalize on, which is why I’d love to see some soccer club partner with Starter on some sort of apparel line at the very least.
Rounding out the list is Champion, the brand I consider to have the most potential of all. Unlike all of the brands profiled just now, Champion is the only brand to still have considerable cultural relevance in the present day. Most of us might remember Champion in its time outfitting Parma. As those kits are still very sought after, I can’t help but wonder why the brand has yet to stage a comeback in soccer.
I hold out hope that some, if not all, of these brands will make their triumphant return. The timing just seems right as soccer now has the type of consumer that appreciates the allure of a brand with both a sport and streetwear past. Make sure to let me know your own thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
We as soccer fans will take anything that draws positive and unique attention to the game, especially attention from those who may connect with fashion but need another outlet to love soccer. Collaborations between brands can open doors for new and exciting products in the fashion world, and collaborations in soccer fashion have taken the game to new heights, and perhaps, more importantly, has expanded fanbases.
Here is a list of some highlights of projects that stood out in recent years. Though I was going to rank them, that became far too difficult. So instead we can just appreciate each for its unique contribution.
LEVI’S X LIVERPOOL FC:
Levi’s recently teamed up with Liverpool FC to add subtle twists on old Levi classics. At the heart of the collection is the 511 slim fit jeans with a twist. The iconic back patch got an upgrade to Liverpool red and this is probably the most noticeable change of all the pieces. My personal favorite is the Sherpa trucker jacket with a small “You’ll Never Walk Alone” hang tag at the base of the neck collar. The entire collection screams classic minimalist – something Levi Strauss Company has built a successful brand around.
SOPHNET. x NIKE:
SOPHNET, the Japanese Streetwear brand, partnered with Nike to create FC Real Bristol. Real Bristol is one of the first imaginary soccer clubs with its own clothing line. The line, since its first drop in 1999, has grown to be quite extensive with over 1,000 items for sale on their website. FC Real Bristol was one of the first of its kind and headlined the imaginary club with “fans” being buyers of the product. Being so new and innovative, it was easy to appreciate.
SUPREME x UMBRO:
Would any collaboration conversation be complete without headmaster Supreme? Before you groan, let’s check out the Umbro and Supreme mashup from 2005. You know… prior to the small logo on a Hanes white T-shirt days. An NYC skateboard label and one of the most prominent soccer brands of all time – two powerhouses to say the least. In 2005, soccer wasn’t exactly on America’s radar but Supreme confirmed (yet again) that they can work with anyone.
YOHJI YAMAMOTO X ADIDAS FOR REAL MADRID:
Probably the most badass idea of all, Yohji Yamamoto, a fashion icon of Japanese streetwear who spearheaded adidas’ Y3 line, designed jerseys for Real Madrid. Prior to this release, there were multiple fashion designers working for soccer clubs but their products stopped at the locker room with sweat suits and club shirts; Yohji’s made it on to the pitch. The kit features a slate grey half bird-half dragon over a black silhouette. Likely the easiest kit to transition from pitch to streetwear.
VIRGIL ABLOH’S OOFF WHITE x NIKE
Rounding out the list with arguably the most prominent fashion collaboration is Virgil Abloh’s “Off White” with Nike. Simply put, taking on a major brand like Nike and recreating over 10 classic silhouettes is a beast in itself. Bring that into the soccer realm and you’ve got streetwear-meets soccer-meets the mainstream audience. Pretty bold move if you ask me. Virgil ran with it and the “Off White” theme has exploded. From foams to Airmaxes and Jordans, to the Mercurial Vapor 360, the signature quotation marks have taken over their own piece of Nike’s dynasty. A collaboration list wouldn’t be complete without it.
In a bid to further the marriage between streetwear sensibilities and soccer aesthetics, Vancouver-based Frankie Collective, a female-focused platform that “take inspiration from ’90s staples and rework vintage garments to push the boundaries of contemporary style,” have teamed up with adidas Canada for a fire collection of customized soccer pieces. As mentioned, the unique pieces see an exploration of soccer and streetwear culture by way of some of our favorite adidas-sponsored clubs – namely Juventus, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Beyurn Munich – and were made as part of adidas Canada’s recent #TangoLeague held in Toronto. Have a look at Frankie Collective‘s official editorial shot by felice.c0m, featuring Ebhoni Ogarro, Emily Ferguson, and Mercedes Edison aka UNimerce.
This past weekend, Upper90 hosted the USA Finals of the Red Bull Street Style tournament. The stakes were high. Whoever was skilled enough to win would go on to represent the USA at the World Finals in Poland. Contestants came to the Queens location of Upper90 in Astoria from all over the country, from California to just a few blocks away. Talk about competition.
Aside from the competition, we had a chance to check out the entirety of the location, equipped with an indoor pitch, two rooftop pitches, the store itself, and a cafe. Before the tournament began, there was a viewing party set up for the Russia vs. Croatia World Cup quarterfinal, while contestants were warming up for what might be the biggest competition of their lives.
There were fan experiences set up as well, including a custom T-shirt station and a Messi virtual experience station by adidas. One of the co-owners, Zach, welcomed us and showed us around while we chatted about his experiences as a former commodities trader and what led him to create Upper90. “The city had nothing like it before this,” he said, as we watched the 5-a-side games on the rooftop pitches. Creds to Zach and his colleagues for taking a risk in one of the world’s most unforgiving cities. The risk paid off as they now have multiple locations and enjoy success while providing for local communities.
The Red Bull Street Style tournament hosted by UPPER90 was a culmination of their mission: encouraging expression, while bringing together communities. We wish Upper90 continued success in the future, of which we have no doubt as long as they keep up what they’re doing. Be sure to visit any of their locations if you’re ever in New York City.
You can visit the Queens location of Upper90 in Astoria at 34-23 38th St, Long Island City, NY 11101.
Art and soccer go hand-in-hand – that’s obvious. We see the marriage displayed on our favorite soccer jerseys, we see it on posters, campaigns, and art projects from a novice fan to a recognized artist… there’s art even found in how the beautiful game is even played – many argue that soccer itself is a form of artistic dance. Does it lie in the beauty of art though? Or in the beauty of the game? Perhaps both! Either way, it’s a marriage we always enjoy, no matter the genre, so when we heard OG graffiti legend Saber was involved in adidas Football’s recent Energy Mode X18 event here in Los Angeles, we jumped at the chance to speak with the man to get his thoughts on the relationship between art and soccer, as well as how and why he’s particularly involved, where he would like to see the shared cultures going in the future, and much more.
So, to start, what’s your relationship with soccer?
The first thing I can say is that I played soccer when I was about five… I don’t know shit. I know nothing. World Cup? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? I don’t know what it is. Football… Futbol? Okay… I’ve always appreciated the sport, but then I get sucked into this gig and I’m like okay cool, let’s go! So then I start researching – I didn’t really know much about ‘street league,’ I don’t know about a Tango League – I didn’t know anything about this… But I start seeing videos, I start seeing what these kids are doing and the energy, the technical aspects of how talented these kids are, and I thought it was really cool, man. There’s a lot of energy behind it and I thought that was really moving. When I saw the momentum and saw the energy, I thought that was really cool. It seems like something that’s very positive. I like that it’s aggressive. I also like that it can get aggressive, that it’s pretty hardcore. It can get pretty intense. With street soccer and graffiti, we’re all kind part of being born out of concrete to a certain degree, and I think the competitive spirit might be similar. I don’t do graffiti much anymore – I’m too old and have kids and shit like that, but back in the day we were always are unstoppable.
That’s how people are describing soccer players now: as being “unstoppable.”
Yeah, I was unstoppable back then!. Nothing could stop me, nothing!
So back then, did you see any sort of marriage between the street art/graffiti world and soccer? Do you see it happening now?
Well honestly, for me those worlds didn’t even combine. They didn’t even exist together. So I think adidas, with their efforts and the Tango league and street soccer aspect, it’s nice to see adidas sponsoring these things and making these things happen. It’s only going to grow, and these kids are very competitive! So yeah, clearly they’re going to grow the sport and grow it into something bigger and maybe America will embrace “football” as opposed to [American] “football.” I don’t even watch it. I like violence, so I like watching jujitsu and people killing each other. Other than that, I don’t follow sports and I don’t have time… I’m too caught up with other stuff. But still, I think the energy is very similar and I think what translates that energy is when you have the fashion, you have the momentum of it. You have that action, and I think there are similarities between soccer and art with that.
You can look at other countries where it’s easier to see both cultures of street soccer and graffiti side-by-side – both born from the streets. I mean, you go to a place like Brazil and you’ll have a pickup game on the streets amidst a whole bunch of graffiti, some kids partaking in both. Is that something you’d like to see more of in America?
Absolutely. I would love to see that. That seems to be a more healthy environment. We were born out of the gang mentality. So we didn’t really want to open up to anybody, you know? We kept to ourselves. I think this could be a good bridge – a cultural bridge – between the two worlds and more: music, skateboarding, streetwear… anything really!
The World Cup has turned us all into full-blown vampires. The majority of the KTTP fam lives in LA, so waking up at 5 am and stressing out over national teams we typically don’t support has become completely normal. As we clamor over things like how amazing it was to see Panama supporters celebrating a goal in a 6-1 loss and the VAR shit-show, soccer creators keep on keepin’ on. Our Korean brothers at Goodneck give us a wild summer drop, J Cole flexes with a vintage Germany kit and Hector Bellerin shows us his cross-over on an ad for Puma Hoops. Lets take that weekly dive into the soccer IG abyss…
Jonna 'GOODNECK' 2018 SUMMER 1ST COLLECTION❤️ _ G🇰🇷⚽️DNECK SHIRTS • WHITE, RED, BLACK • ₩ 89,000 • MEDIUM, LARGE _ NOW AVAILABLE❤️ _ • GOODNECK PUB & SHOWROOM (서울시 마포구 연남동 255-24 B1) _ • GOOD TIMES BAD TIMES @goodtimes_badtimes_cokr (www.goodtimesbadtimes.co.kr) _ • HENZ SHOP @henz_kr (서울시 마포구 서교동 333-39 1F) #GOODNECK #GREATKOREA
Create to conquer with #magista (Not selected) #stickers special designed for the #nikeftblstudio #🇦🇷@nikefootball thanks @wearedox for the invitation. . . . #nikefootball #designproject #nikeargentina #custom #soccerbible #soccer #jerseydesign #patches #design #artoffootball #visualgraphc #magista #nikemagista #stickers #nikeboots
🇸🇳 Senegal, 2018 – Away jersey 🌍 2018 : 🇯🇵 Japan vs 🇸🇳 Senegal, Group H @japanfootballassociation @footballsenegal @adidas @adidasfootball @romai_sportswear #Japan #SamuraiBlue #公益財団法人日本サッカー協会 #lions #senegal #LionsdeTeranga #LionsofTeranga #WorldCupMemories #soccerpattern #patterns #illustration #design #footballart #soccerjersey #ClassicFootballShirts
Bowery Football Club is keeping it classic this World Cup. The Manhattan-based group is hosting a pop-up exhibition in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the duration of the tournament, where you can feast your eyes on beautiful classic kits and watch any of the games on a massive projector screen. Club members Quinn and Carlos were happy to host us for the Switzerland-Serbia game and show us around the former firehouse that they rented out for the four weeks, which comes with a fully stocked bar and a patio out back.
Bowery FC teamed up with their partners Lagunitas Ale and Manchester-based Classic Football Shirts, who so graciously supplied the beer and kits, to bring this football idea to fruition. The attention to detail could not be ignored, as the jerseys were arranged by group order for this year’s edition of the World Cup.
Also on display are some of Bowery’s own apparel, my favorites being their Umbro kits and OnlyNY collabs. I have to say, there’s a unique flavor to BFC’s designs; one can tell just by looking at their custom stickers which ooze New York.
One can only feel right at home at the clubhouse thanks to the hospitality of the club members. I even managed to meet a DJ from London who lives in Dubai but was in town for the weekend, which just goes to show how the World Cup and soccer bring the world together, no matter your country of origin or if their team is in the tournament. Shout out again to Quinn and Carlos for having us, and keep up the good work. Bowery Football Club is a true representative of what New York can bring to the playing field.
We’re nearly through group stage folks! It’s been a bizarro World Cup and I love it. All chaos and sleep deprivation aside, the lead up to Russia 18 has people chirping about kits and soccer fashion like never before. Thanks in massive part to Nike’s brazen “Naija” collection, which saw the Nigerian National team’s general release jersey sell out worldwide. Soccer kit’s are clearly transcending you’re average Joe with World Cup fever. So what’s led to all this? The kids that were raised on the over-sized, over-the-top and brash soccer design of yesteryear —are all grown up and creating things. It’s with this in mind that I decided to create a list of our (my) all-time best World Cup kits. A couple of rules before we get started 1. One kit per nation. It was a struggle between France 98 home and France 14 away, but only one made the cut. 2. The kit had to actually feature in a World Cup match. Yes, that England 90 third kit was brilliant, alas they never wore it in a match. 3. Lets argue!!!
11. Zaire 74 Home (West Germany)
Worn by: Mwepu Ilunga, Kakoko Etepé, Mavuba Mafulia.
The Story: Worn by one of the most controversial national team’s in the history of world soccer. The 1974 Zaire squad never received payment for their World Cup run and were nearly banned from returning home by their maniacal president. Complete shitstorm aside, The Zaire ‘Leopards’ rocked one of the most provocative kits of their era. At time when most team shirts were basic and unimaginative, but adidas turned heads with this one. The green strip was given yellow accents on a massive collar, three-stripes along the sleeves and the team badge which was enlarged then boldly blasted across the chest. Something like this had never been seen before and it sparked a change we really wouldn’t see until years later.
10. Holland 14 Away (Brazil)
Worn by: Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder
The story: Of all the entries I’m expecting this one to get the most flack and that’s ok. Yes the ‘Oranje’ are known as such for their iconic orange strips worn throughout the decades, but this gorgeous away number set it off with clean subtlety. The vibrant royal-blue was given a gradient treatment along with a faint, arrow print. Those orange accents seamlessly popped, especially on that over-sized team badge. This was one that killed softly. There was also this dude named Robin van Persie who immortalized the kit when he scored a diving header en route to a 5-1 massacre of the defending World Champions. There was a Puskas nomination, a myriad of memes, and large-scale murals in Amsterdam. Need I say more…
9. Italy 94 Home (USA)
Worn By: Roberto Baggio, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi
The Story: Prior to 94 Italy’s kits were, much like their playing style, no-nonsense and simple. The World Cup in the States brought a new wave of panache to shirt design and Diadora was very much on it. This time, the legendary ‘azzurri’ top was given a jacquard treatment. The Italian crest was incorporated into the fabric in an all-over print. Red, white and green triangles graced the collar trim as well as the sleeve cuffs for a subtle touch of nationalism. Add a clean 3D block numbering and you have the makings of a masterpiece. Yes, Roberto Baggio missed one of the most important penalties in soccer history, but he looked damn good in doing so, even with that dodgy ponytail.
8. Japan 98 Home (France)
Worn By: Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono, Masashi Nakayama
The Story: France 98 was hands-down my favorite World Cup for quality kits and for good reason. Primarily because It was was the last World Cup prior to Nike and adidas dominating the landscape. It meant less templates and more eye-catching flavors. Case-in-point, the Japanese 98 home strip by Asics. Just like our previous entry we see jacquard employed, only with a more flamboyant stroke. Flames taken directly from Japanese-style tattooing were woven into the ‘Blue Samurai’ shirt. Those same flames where painted white and red then sublimated onto the sleeves to match that giant collar for accents that popped. I absolutely love when a national team kit incorporates an underlying piece of the country’s culture and this blue beauty is a shining example of that.
7. Jamaica 98 Home (France)
Worn by: Robbie Earl, Frank Sinclair, Theodore Whitmore
The Story: Kappa has always held a special place in the hearts of soccer purists. It is a staple brand forever associated with the beautiful game and it has never been afraid to be audacious. A prime example of the said audacity, is the shirt worn by the ‘Reggae Boyz’ at France 98. An over-sized, bright-yellow backdrop was divided by a green/black, half-moon, zebraish print. The giant, floppy black collar was classic 90s flair and it ran to the upper chest where it was met with that iconic Kappa logo. This jersey was controlled chaos, which very much epitomized the gun-slinging heart and playing style of Jamaica’s only World Cup side to date.
6. West Germany 90 Home (Italy)
Worn by: Jürgen Klinsman, Lothar Mathäus, Rudi Vöeller
The Story: Italia 90 was the very first World Cup that vaguely graces my memory. I was barley six years of age, but there were a few things I witnessed that profoundly impacted my tiny little brain. First, was my pops screaming like a complete psychopath at a television, second, was Tony Meola’s super mullet and third, was West Germany’s kit. I didn’t know it at the time but German’s had long been associated with beautifully efficient, technical soccer. Their plain white tops became regal and synonymous with soccer royalty. Prior to the 90s, nationalism was a bit complicated for many German’s. So for Italia 90 adidas created a shirt that was not only a sign of loud soccer fashion at the time, but it evoked a brilliant, seamless geometric design that echoed ‘Die Mannchaft’s” ethos. It was also the first time ever, that Germany proudly rocked the black, red and gold seen on their nations flag.
Worn by: Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas
The Story: World Cup 94 was pure magic for anyone living in the States at the time. The teams, the colors, the rabid fans that infested our streets and of course the kits. While adidas used templates for the likes of Sweden and Bulgaria, they went completely HAM with that red-blooded American ‘stars n’ stripes’ pride..literally. The home kit flaunted red and white stripes, while the away used stars as it’s focal point. Both were obviously taken from our nations flag. You can argue that adi pandered to a soccer fanbase still in its infancy, but American’s love us some in-your-face nationalism, plus the latter of the two strips is legendary. A faded denim blue was dressed up with a gorgeous, elongated star pattern. Red accents came by way of the old (better) USMNT team crest, numbering and adidas branding. Tying it all up was a classically bold, white v-neck collar and sleeve cuffs which served as a clean frame to this gem of a kit.
4. France 98 Home (France)
Worn by: Zinidine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly
The Story: Another 98 entry and Im sure another reason to argue with strangers on the internet. Yes, France always seems to be blessed with stunners but damn it, 98 was special. If it wasn’t the first, it was certainly one of the first national team kits to go back and draw design inspiration from a highly successful side within their history. With a new golden generation set to hit their peak, adidas dipped into its archives to the last and only time ‘Les Bleus’ had won a major trophy— the 1984 European Championship. That horizontal red line followed by three more white ones was taken directly from Michel Platini’s 84 jersey then placed on a more modern 90s fit. The legendary blue shirt was baggy as all hell, with the thickest three-stripes along the sleeves which led into even thicker cuffs and a gigantic collar Cantona would’ve salivated over. King Eric didn’t play in 98, but Zizou and co. didn’t need him.
3. Croatia 98
Worn by: Davor Šuker, Slaven Bilić, Igor Tudor
The Story: Lotto, much like Kappa, Umbro and Diadora is another brand that has lost it’s footing, but will forever be woven into the fabric of soccer shirt history. They are responsible for some of the most iconic kits in world football. My favorite of their remarkable catalog is the one worn by Davor Šuker and Co. when they stunned the world at France 98. Barely 7 years old as a nation, Croatia would somehow beat Germany and Holland en route to an unbelievable third place finish. This white, classically over-sized 90s kit somehow made a flowing, red-checkered print look fly as hell. The nationalistic design proved poignant as it was the first time a young nation had a team to root for—and damn was it a good one. It also ended up influencing every design to date, as every Croatia jersey since, has heavily employed those bold red checkers in some form.
2. Nigeria 18 Home (Russia)
Worn by: Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, Kalechi Iheanacho
The Story: Of course it made it. Of course it’s one of the best kits of all time, don’t @ me! Actually @ me, lets fight! All silliness aside Nike and the Nigerian Federation completely destroyed these kits and the entire ‘Naija’ collection. It’s not only that the jersey is vibrant and jaw-dropping at the core of it’s design, it obviously is. But the truth is it is much more than that. To paraphrase my man Justin Salhani ” It is the story. It’s because it ties back to their culture.” Nigerian players have always been adored for their flair, technical ability and genius on the ball. Legends like Ococha, Yekin and Kanu did it at the highest level, paving the way for ‘Naija’ —which stands for a future based optimism. Nike was very much aware of this as the jersey also draws subtle design from the first time Nigeria qualified for a World Cup in 94. The most hyped kit in history is a visual stunner that pays homage to Nigeria’s past, present and future. That is why it is one of the best ever.
1. Mexico 98 Home (France)
Sponsor: ABA Sport
Worn by: Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Alberto García Aspe
The Story: As an American born to Mexican and Salvadorian parents, my life-long support of the USMNT is quite complicated. The truth it is I grew up rooting against ‘El Tri’. In spite of this blasphemy, I still completely understood that Mexico’s 98 World Cup kit was the greatest national team shirt ever created. My list is rife with jersey’s that tell a story or incorporate a unique strand of cultural pride. Some subtle, some obvious — ABA Sport went the latter on this one. In many ways this kit was par for the 90s course. It was a big ol’ green shirt, that was accented by a massive collar which matched super-thick red and white sleeve cuffs. What elevated the strip was the Aztec calendar print which graced it’s entirety. It was an unprecedented nod to one of the most influential indigenous Mexican people ever. The Aztec were fierce warriors and even played a game similar to modern day soccer, which they called Tlachtli. Never has a kit more aptly represented the history, blood and ethos of its people. That is why it is the undisputed GOAT.
While the world is aware that brands like to put in money and effort into their campaign events, it’s safe to say that as of late adidas has risen the bar, especially with what they’ve done out here in Los Angeles – their 747 event for basketball back in February being a prime example. Last week the sportswear giant went at it again for its soccer division to celebrate its latest innovation for the sport, coinciding of course with the 2018 World Cup. If you’ve been following us – and any other soccer-orientated platform for that matter – you’ll already be well aware of adidas Soccer’s X18+ silhouette, a slim and sleek, laceless offering that focuses on the power of speed. It’s been dubbed “the fastest and lightest laceless boot available.”
Highlighting its release, the X18+ Energy Mode event brought in crowds to experience a live customization of adidas soccer kits, enjoy the open bars and food courtesy of Sweet Chick, and to witness a live Tango League with an MVP to be chosen to win a trip to Russia to compete in the global Tango League final. Rolling up to the event, which took place at adidas’ The Base location in Los Angeles – yup, the same as where we hold our The Association game nights – we were set loose to enjoy all the aforementioned happenings and then some.
While soccer was very much the main focus of the day, adidas managed to mix in music and art with the beautiful game by inviting OG Graffiti legend Saber, who conducted a live art installment that saw him spray painting over a wall of soccer balls, each being handed out to the public along with a Saber signature. The main event, however, was when adidas brought out Queens-native Rich the Kid who got the crowd into a frenzy. To cap the night off, a squad of motorbike riders tore up the cement outside – from wheelies to donuts – all in a bid to create some near-deafening noise to celebrate the Tango League MVP winner: Melvyn Owen Perez Cortez – congrats, kid!
While we managed to enjoy ourselves at the event, if there’s a work opportunity, you know we’ll take it, so we asked adidas if they could sit us down with its soccer division’s merchandising manager Joseph Sleven to talk all things X18+, as well as his thoughts on the current landscape of soccer culture. Check out the interview below, as well as our official visual recap of the event throughout.
To start, can you summarize adidas’ new X18 Energy Mode pack for those that are still unfamiliar with the innovation?
Put it frankly, the thought process behind the design of the shoe was to build something for the fastest player possible, down to the look, down to the field, down to the weight. Everything about it is supposed to enable our most explosive – our fastest players – to perform at their top level.
So there’s obviously a lot of aspects when it comes to playing soccer in terms of product design. Why focus on speed for this release?
When we create the range, and when we look at our footwear, there’s any number of players that take part or participate in the game. So for us, the predator is that person who controls the game, they dictate the tempo, their touch, their field or class… everything they do can kind of permeate throughout the team. X players are extremely explosive with getting to the end of the pitch and putting the ball in the back of the net. Nemesis is for those agility players who are really unpredictable – they don’t really fit into a box. Maybe they’re floating around the field but they have these moments of magic that you can’t recreate. And then the Copa is the boot. It’s the soccer player… It’s almost your favorite player’s favorite boot. So everything within that portfolio speaks to different players of the game recognizing that no two players are the same.
Can you speak about the thoughts behind the X18+’s colorway and the overall aesthetics of the shoe?
Well, first and foremost it needed to look fast and speak specifically to that speed player. So you look at its sleek minimalistic design and all these elements which are kind of pulling back and giving it that almost movement visual – even when it’s stagnant it looks like it’s moving. That’s what we want for the speed silo. When we talk about the flash you have these iridescent parts at the branding, as well as on the sole of the shoe. When we talk about colorway, again when you’re on the field you want it to pop. You want something that really jumps out. So this blue is really shocking, it kind of jumps out at you and it really speaks to this silo because it’s like nothing else within the footwear family right now. When we talk about being fashion-forward, with bringing it on to the street or into the cage, the fact that it’s laceless for us is our top technology. We wanted that to be something that also lent itself to being worn with shorts or as you can see in the cage. It doesn’t just necessarily have performance tooling only. There’s a lot of, I would say, fashionable detailing in there, whether it be raises where there would be lasing, or for that speed look, we’ve given it that see-through aesthetic on the upper, or even the flash on the bottom. So a lot of things come from just thinking through the 365 of what our players’ day looks like.
Moving on from the X18+, with you coming from adidas, how aware are you with the way that soccer is going on a cultural standpoint, or what it looks like when it comes to say fashion, music, or art? Is that something that adidas is very much up to date with?
Absolutely. I think that’s really what they look at when they’re putting everything together. So even beyond cleats, take for instance jerseys, we look at that and recognize that these aren’t just specific to playing on the pitch. We’re looking at the hem line, looking at shoulder drop lines, the technology, and those tech details, or even call outs for that country specifically, those are things that we feel lives on the pitch as well as off the pitch. So it’s recognizing that again, soccer is 365 for people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep the sport. And beyond that, when you look at what we’re offering, it’s not just cleats, it’s not just performance jerseys. We have seasonal specialty product that is bespoke to Argentina or Mexico, but it’s really for the street specifically. Maybe not for an avid consumer, but somebody who recognizes that they are a casual fan of this club and that they can wear that shirt, they can wear the pants or the woven shorts, creating a whole offering across every federation, across every club that allows you to rep no matter the circumstances – after, before, or during a game. We’re looking at product holistically now through that lens of the entire year and day.
Last question: speaking of repping, with the World Cup underway, do you have a country that you’re rooting for?
For me specifically, I mean I would love to see Messi get one, right! But honestly, as a fan of the sport, I just want good games. I want to see just incredible moments, the ones that give you chills and that keep you wanting more, and I think when you put the best countries in the world together, you’re going to get those moments inevitably. So I’m just really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.
Images by Ben Higginbotham.