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.
There is perhaps no one man greater at understanding the passion and intricacies of both soccer and skateboarding culture and their impact on the masses than Sandy Bodecker. When we started this feature, Bodecker was alive. You can imagine our shock when we learned–in the middle of writing this piece–that the legend passed away on Tuesday, October 8th from a battle against throat cancer. Not only does this affect the tone of the piece, inevitably turning it into a homage to his legacy, but more importantly it affects the world of both soccer and skateboarding as a whole.
For those unfamiliar with the Nike veteran, Bodecker was the architect responsible for instigating both the Nike Football and Nike Skateboarding divisions. Through his own passion and deep-rooted understanding of just how important these two sports are within their respective worlds, Bodecker put it best, “if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer…It was sort of a cultural imperative.” Knowing his impact on both these worlds, because let’s be honest, Nike dominates when it comes to sports–yes even skateboarding ripe with vital-to-the-culture DIY brands–it becomes our duty to share our interview with the man conducted only weeks prior to his passing.
Going through his answers, it becomes blatantly apparent that Bodecker was the perfect vessel for channeling the importance of spreading both soccer and skateboarding culture to an audience the size of Nike’s. While it is safe to say that both sports ran strong the world over prior to Nike’s involvement, it is equally as notable just how much the brand has influenced and educated the general public since. And while this intro now seems to sound a little like its sponsored by Nike, I’m only emphasizing the scale of Nike’s influence on the two sports to help emphasize just how important Sandy Bodecker was as the man behind the scenes.
But before we delve into what made Bodecker so integral to soccer and skateboarding, it’s worth looking at how he got there. Bodecker’s last position at Nike was its VP of Special Projects, his first was footwear test coordinator when he joined the then running orientated brand back in 1982. Since then, Bodecker has held titles such as VP of Sports Culture, VP of Design, VP of Action Sports and more. Having moved internally throughout the company, Bodecker was able to fully understand, perhaps more than most, what Nike’s ethos stood for. While it’s easier to bring that ethos to the masses, the challenge is bringing what the masses has to say back to the brand. Bodecker was an expert at this. “Sandy aimed to visit a series of local skateshops to listen, learn and hopefully get a chance to inspire the skate industry with a newly reinvented Nike SB Dunk,” Nike states in an article on Nike News last year.
This is what made Bodecker so important to not just Nike, but to the people who followed and appreciated what Nike offered. You’ll be hard pressed to find a true SB Dunk head who doesn’t at least recognize his name. “With its focus on artistic individuality, creative collaboration, and epic limited edition product drops, Nike SB ruled and defined the sneaker game for close to a decade. None of it would have been possible without Sandy’s genuine passion and appreciation for both skateboarding and what would later become known as sneaker culture,” writes Woody from Sneaker Freaker mag in his own homage article.
And then there’s Nike Football, a now world-leading sponsor for the sport with many of its top players under its roster, and a major part of what soccer is within America, with Nike being the sponsor for half of the MLS in its inception. Soccer has been a part of Bodeckers life since even before his formative years, having “played soccer since I was old enough to walk,” he tells us. Bodecker saw just how important soccer was to the world, and if Nike wanted to be the biggest sports brand in the world, it had to get involved with soccer. Bodecker made that happen, and we thank him everyday for it. But not only is he passionate about soccer and skateboarding and having the rare ability to professionally connect the dots within their culture, he’s also a comedable human being. When asked what he would like to see more of in soccer culture, his answer couldn’t have been more dignified, “it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges.”
With the below interview being perhaps one of his last, we urge you to read through what Sandy Bodecker has to say about the current state of soccer and skateboarding, his thoughts on where both worlds are heading towards, how his time at Nike really looked like, and much more. In addition to our exclusive interview, we also had the privilege of documenting Sandy’s own archive of footwear which you can enjoy below. Sandy, here’s to you, and may you Rest in Power.
Having been with Nike for so many years, you must have seen a lot of development within the brand outside of just running. Talking specifically about soccer, how would you word Nike’s approach towards the beautiful game? What is its ethos behind soccer?
I think the first word I would choose is “committed”… in the same way that we have been committed to running and the entire running community, we do the same with soccer. It starts with being connected to and fully understanding the game at all levels, and continually exploring innovative ways to enable players and teams as the game continues to evolve. Having personally experienced the game on every continent with the exception of Antarctica, you see and feel the passion the world has for the game and we use that passion to help fuel our innovation.
You’ve been integral in pushing soccer culture within Nike. Why was/is this important to you?
I’ve played soccer since I was old enough to walk. My father was Danish and I had as much a European upbringing as American, and being from the east coast (NYC/New England) I played from middle school on in both organized as well as pick-up games. Being aware of the importance of this as the biggest global team sport, if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer… It was sort of a cultural imperative.
What do you look to for inspiration when it comes to soccer at Nike?
The inspiration comes from the athletes, the teams, the coaches and of course the fans. They all provide many nuanced layers of inspiration for Nike and me personally. We value their insights to the game and how we can help them perform at the highest level and to meet or exceed their individual or collective potential.
Can you highlight some of the main challenges you’ve found within soccer culture from a global standpoint?
I don’t really view the cultural differences as challenges but more as opportunities to deepen and broaden our understanding and connection to the game. The rich and diverse cultural views and approaches are what make it the “Beautiful Game.”
Being a soccer-orientated media platform, we see a lot of marriage between soccer and other forms of creativity, be it art, music, other sports, etc. What’s been the most obvious marriage for you and why?
I think social media has provided a platform and given a shared voice to athletes and fans. Due to the global nature of the game and the size of the global fan base soccer stars have a bigger social media base than any other sport. This combined with much higher level of outside interests by many of the biggest players and the money they’re making, make it a natural melting pot of the different cultures of art, music, design, entertainment…it’s analogous to basketball in the US but on a global scale. If I had to pick one for soccer, I would pick music as that is the true universal language that has no boarders.
Seeing as we’re enjoying the World Cup right now, is there a country that you’re rooting for? (while we’re passed this period now, we decided to leave this in to keep the interview in its original form)
Well, with the US out, I’m “doubling up.” One side of me is barracking for Denmark (obvious reason) and the other side is for Australia, my adopted home. Not much chance here but I value loyalty.
While the future is hard to predict, where do you see the sport of soccer going in the far future in terms of product innovation?
Soccer like any sport has a unique set of demands and in general players want to do more with less, you couple that with how the game itself continues to evolve and future environmental factors, there are lots of areas to explore from an innovation standpoint. As technology and material science improve, these will also provide new paths to explore and apply.
What would you like to see more of within soccer culture?
If I had one thing I would personally love soccer culture do more of, it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges…basically to rally globally and collectively to enable positive change.
What’s your personal favorite soccer shoe?
Ahhh this will show my age but I’m partial to the original Ronaldo Mercurial
Given your involvement and influence on Nike SB, what were your thoughts on the Skateboarding division before you got involved, and where did you want to take it to – and why?
There were certainly some parallels that I considered when I accepted the Nike SB challenge. The main ones were, in both cases we were outsiders looking in and neither the skate or the soccer community were asking or looking for us to join in. It was really the opposite to that. The second, what we needed to do to gain a foothold was not going to happen overnight and we needed to be willing to commit 100% over an extended period of time before we could judge if we were going to be successful or not. With SB we wanted to be considered over time as a real and committed part of the core skate community but do it in a way the was unapologetically Nike. Essentially we wanted and needed to earn the respect, not buy it, as many expected us to do.
There are a lot of connection between soccer and skateboarding in terms of their cultures, such as borrowing designs when it comes to fashion and shoes. Being involved in both, how would you describe the connection in your own words?
There are definitely parallels from a cultural perspective and you see that where ever you travel to. I think the connection to the art community is a little stronger in skate due to board and T-shirt graphics playing such an important role and probably is pretty equal when it comes to music. But it does depend on where you are in the world. As an example, if you go to Brasil the top 2 sports for boys are skate and soccer and the girls are catching up… the creative community in general is deeply immersed with both so there it’s pretty equal. While is the US, skate is definitively ahead on the creative connectivity due how the sports have developed. From a footwear perspective both sports have their sort “ah ha” moments that sort of launched them into the collab mode. For soccer it was the 98 World Cup and the original Ronaldo Mercurial in silver/blue/yellow. Prior to that it’s was primarily black/White and that opened the flood gates to where we’ve evolved to today. For skate it was the SB Dunk collab’s we did with our original skaters Gino, Reece, Richie and Danny, along with early work on the AF1 that helped launch what is now the sneaker collector culture. Today you see those connections evolve with collab’s like the Neymar/Jordan collab on and off pitch.
What are some of your favorite soccer silhouette’s that you’ve pulled inspiration from specifically for Nike SB?
The two that stand out are the early Tiempo indoor and the first Mercurial Flyknit Hi both were leveraged into skate shoes that core skaters would use every day. The Tiempo SB has had 3 different iterations over the years.
Where do you see the connection between soccer and skateboarding going in the future?
I think as the popularity of soccer grows in the US and skateboarding grows outside the US, you’ll see more and more connectivity both sports rely on and are built around what you can do with your feet, are very democratic in nature and physical size doesn’t become an inhibitor to achievement at the highest level. Also in many parts of the world where access and cost become factors, there is a broader level of access for more kids so again back to the democratic nature of both sports. With skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport and the continued excitement around big tournaments like the World Cup or Champions League the future is bright and exciting for both.
SANDY BODECKER’S FOOTWEAR ARCHIVE
Christian Tresser has quite the resumé. A very abbreviated work history reads like this: he started designing footwear with an independent footwear design company that did work for Reebok. He later was hired by Reebok in their heyday when they were seriously threatening Nike; vying to become the top dog in the sneaker game. After a few years at Reebok which included him designing some classic runners and helping to launch Reebok’s football category, he got a job with Nike where he designed a number of iconic silos in both the running and soccer categories. Later he worked as the head of soccer innovation at
Before he ever picked up a pencil to doodle sneaker designs, Christian was immersed in his first passion, soccer. He can remember wanting to play ever since he was little and as a young man was on the California State Select team. Eventually he played at Foothill College in Northern California for legendary American Soccer figure, George Avakian. In the days of Christian’s soccer
Christian Tresser has always been ahead of time. As a young designer working at a shoe design consultancy in the Bay Area of California, Christian was designing athleisure shoes, with the Reebok sublabel Boks, before they even had a name for that category of footwear. Later as the lead designer of Reebok’s football product he was incorporating cutting edge technology like Instapump, Graphlite, and carbon fiber foot plates into performance soccer shoes when the entire industry was pushing out virtually the same boots—stitched K leather uppers on rigid plastic sole plates—that they had been producing for decades. Tresser even designed laceless Reebok boots that were worn by players in the 1998 World Cup.
The innovation and groundbreaking designs didn’t stop with his work at Reebok. After taking a job with Nike, Christian was tasked with designing the first high end synthetic football boot, the game changing Nike Mercurial. The synthetic upper provided a level of freedom for a designer not possible with traditional kangaroo leather which is only available in small hides that had to be stitched together.
“Things changed when it came to the Mercurial. That was the big moment where…soccer footwear changed. Because [of] the synthetic materials you could do a lot more with treatments on those materials than you can with…natural leathers. So it opened the door for design possibilities. Most of the soccer shoes leading up to that point were cut and sew…Weirdly enough the low end shoes were all synthetic. They were all synthetic and they had way more [options]. You could mold onto it, you could HF(high frequency) weld onto it, you could add color, you could print on it.
“It was sort of a weird moment because when we did the Mercurial I was conflicted with it, in that we always did soccer shoes out of K leather or leathers and those are high end shoes. And the low [price point] shoes were all synthetic—it was a low end thing…When the Mercurial came along and they wanted to do this synthetic shoe at a [high end price point] I was conflicted as a player. I was like, ‘O, God, I’m not sure if that’s gonna work,’ because synthetics didn’t really have…the fit and feel that K leather would and I didn’t know if the players would accept it. But as a designer I was really open to the idea because it allowed me to more expressive.”
Taking a departure from traditional football boots Tresser designed the Mercurial from a single piece of material.
“When I realized…I could do that then I could think about adding more design element to it. And one of my ideas—and this [goes back to when] I worked at my dad’s [auto] body shop—I wanted to put a little bit of a light textural grip on the upper. And I had this idea that I could spray on, and I did, the material that you would spray on the under side of cars…So I took this upper and I taped…off the areas, and the pattern didn’t even change from [the] sample that I [made] to what came out in the market that…literally…didn’t change. So where you see the silver…3M reflective…on the Mercurial…originally I sprayed that with the [textured] spray material…And then I took a silver pen. I needed to highlight it because I wanted to show it off and I wanted it reflective because I wanted the cameras to see it…[when] there was a moment that light would hit it and it would show it off…in a very…clean and subtle way.”
At the same time Christian was experimenting with his high end synthetic boot Nike was setting up there now legendary facility in Montebelluna, Italy where they to this day craft all of their high performance soccer footwear. He hand carried his sample to the Italian factory and shared his vision for the Mercurial.
“These guys were amazing. They said, ‘okay we know what to do.’ And ultimately what we did is we took that upper…to the Aprilia factory somewhere in and around Montebelluna…to go look at this spraying process…We went over there and they showed us some of the motorcycle parts in the factory line and the showed me this spraying stuff and ultimately [we used] this clear spray…a very thin, light…material that was sprayed on to the synthetic. And when the shoes came back they were just beautiful, man. It was a new thing. It was totally new…I couldn’t even believe it myself…how great it came out.”
Even though Christian is complicit in changing the landscape of soccer footwear forever it wasn’t something he did intentionally.
“I don’t think too much ahead of myself at all. I do have a strange vision, that somehow…works for me. I start to create, and I go on a creative journey and I don’t think too much about what the future is and what it is going to be. I only get in the moment, what is inspiring me. The first Mercurial is that moment that changed it. I didn’t know it would do that, but it did…and that’s pretty cool. Where it goes from here, I don’t know, I just don’t. I don’t have that answer, I do know that I can do it.”
With all of the incredible work Christian has done up until this point there is no reason to doubt that he will continue to shape the future of footwear. Besides almost single handedly designing the entire Reebok football range, including signature boots for Ryan Giggs, and creating the some of the most iconic boots in Nike’s catalogue; Christian has also left an indelible mark on the sneaker game. In his time at Reebok Tresser was responsible for the Aztreck and DMX Daytona runners which have both been revisited with retro editions recently.
In his five to six months working as a designer in the runner space at Nike he produced nothing but classic. To name a few he designed the Footscape, the Spiridon, and what is perhaps his most widely known and beloved silhouette, the Air Max 97. His work is still as impactful today as it has ever been. You can always find a Tresser silo, that he designed in the 90s, on a shelf at any sneaker shop today.
The former youth standout soccer player and designer responsible for some of the most iconic sneakers ever, has now seen the worlds of football and sneakers blend. Two worlds where he made such an enormous impact are now more intertwined than ever. From the custom Air Max 97s designed for Cristiano Ronaldo to the Air Max 97 Mercurials released on Air Max day in 2017 Christian continues to be relevant to the culture in new and unexpected ways.
“I saw that and I was pretty blown away. The two worlds, the parallel paths are really starting to blend into each other…My nephew, who’s a soccer player, got a pair of those and was so excited to share those with me.”
Kicks to the Pitch, an outlet dedicated to the entanglement of sneakers and football, would probably not even exist if not for the work of Christian Tresser. His design DNA is in everything we talk about. His work and elements of his designs continually pop up both in the football space and the lifestyle space.
“I stay humble in it…I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t think it was cool. I don’t know, it’s flattering I guess, to have something I did so long ago still [be] relevant. And I get people saying that certain things I’ve done have been impactful in their lives. And I didn’t really think [of] it back then and it’s cool but it’s also scary at the same time…it’s like, wow, I guess I did do a little damage in the industry.”
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.
Unlike any other major sport, Soccer and by extension futsal, share a symbiotic relationship with street fashion. Shirt, shorts, shoes…simple really. It only makes sense then; that what we often see on the pitch and court is what we continue to rock off it. To focus on the latter, Nike has hit yet again with another indoor classic, the Premier II Sala collection.
Continuing a tradition of timelessly clean boots, Nike keeps it classy yet functionally forward with this latest release. Starting with color: the shoe comes in a clean “Desert Sand” and “Midnight Navy”, to which would virtually complement any fit. As for comfort, the shoes upper is rugged and sturdy, built for the countless courts it will be played on worldwide, and features lightweight mesh alongside supple suede accents. To bring it together, Nike has instilled its Lunarlon technology, a soft and durable foam core base that’s both lightweight and resilient.
The Nike Premier II Sala Collection arrives at an interesting time, as fashion is hearkening back to the many styles seen throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s. Baggy pants, eccentric shades, flashy color palettes, and oversized tops are but a few of the trends currently dominating the street landscape to where we’ve seen other sportswear giants, such as adidas, dropping its own set of historical and modern kicks with the recent release of the Predator Accelerator TR Ultraboost and forward thinking Sobakov.
Like its German counterpart, Nike also pays its homage to its past by blending the right amount of history with just the right amount of modern technology, where the shoes just feel right and will feel right for a very long time.
Images from soccerbible.com
I never wore the Magista as a cleat, but I did regularly wear the Footscape sneaker version. I probably can’t give you a good look into what it is like to wear the Magista from a performance point of view, but from an aesthetic and whatever Nike told us about technology view? I gotcha.
The Magista came about in 2014 and they revolutionized the game. Launched by Iniesta, the first-gen Magista featured the sock-like collar alongside a FlyKnit upper that we see on so many boots today. It wasn’t just the technology that I loved about the Magista; it was mainly the look of it. A beautiful design with so many colorways being released over the years since its inception.
A whole 26 colorways of the first-gen Magista were released and there wasn’t many I disliked. The whole look was intriguing, with the upper and base colors supporting an underlying color in a net-like design. This offered a delightful look, with the chance to combine some wonderful additional colors. We’ve seen turquoise combined with orange, which surprisingly worked and became one of my favorite releases of the silhouette. The Magista seemed to be a representation of the expression of creativity, both on and off the pitch. This is why all the magicians of the game wore it, from Andres Iniesta to Kevin De Bruyne, to Mario Götze (who scored the 2014 World Cup-winning goal in a pair of these).
Where it became cooler, was the Magista Obra II. An interesting development from Nike in terms of tech and aesthetic. The first release of the second-gen was a delightful but weird release. The colorway was a direct replication from a heat map which highlighted where a player would make contact with the ball the most. Not only did the colorway feature this design, the boot’s shape, and texture were also designed with what the player’s foot would be like if its sole purpose was to be playing soccer. As a boot aficionado, a release like this had me hooked on the Magista Obra II, and to be honest, I loved many of the Obra II colorways.
Now, all that being said, with the recent release of the Phantom by Nike, the Magista dies. A sad time indeed, as the now legendary-in-my-books Magista was built for intelligence and creativity – by intelligence and creativity. It was – and still is – an intriguing boot, especially the second-gen. it’s a wonderful addition to soccer’s footwear market, and despite never wearing it during a game, I loved it. Happy retirement.
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.
Before we all inevitably move on from the still-relevant, design-orientated Nike soccer collabs with Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones, we wanted to present our own effort at showcasing the two well-crafted collections. We come to you with a two-part fashion editorial where we took both collections onto the streets of two different U.S. cities. For Virgil’s Off White pieces, we decided to hit the hometown of the designer himself, Chicago, for a shoot featuring yours truly (they twisted my arm until I agreed to model for this…) as I gallivant about Wicker Park/Bucktown in an attempt to score myself a much-deserved donut, all captured by Turfmapp founder and photographer Trisikh Sanguanbun.
Our Kim Jones shoot, taken by long-standing HYPEBEAST photographer Aaron Miller, takes place in our own city of Los Angeles, where we bring on ex-pro soccer athlete and personal trainer Shawna Gordon, who joins me on the roofs of DownTown LA chasing after that city-synonymous sunset. Both editorials utilize the soccer-focused pieces under a more casual style sensibility, showing how one can wear – or even pair – the pieces off the pitch. Check out both shoots below.
OFF WHITE X NKE IN CHICAGO | THE DONUT HUNT IN WICKER PARK
KIM JONES X NIKE IN LOS ANGELES | WE COULD NEVER REACH THE MOON ANYWAY
“As an African kid, you don’t learn to play football on the synthetic turf or learn football with well-planned grass, you learn it the hard way… on the street corners.”
The night is alit — the roaring of trumpets, the banging of drums, the cheering of thousands, hopeful — as the Nigerian National Football team prepares for the biggest moments of their lives. For a country of 186 million, 60 percent of which is under the age of 20, this is a new Nigeria. One to which represents a new direction, a new spirit, channeled across a country of over 500 different tribes in what is known collectively as Naija.
In conjunction with Nike, Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu captures this vibrant optimism in a new short-film titled, This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story. At the forefront is the new Nigeria home kit, a devilishly beautiful shirt highlighted with neon green accents and an iconic zig-zag pattern which shattered the kit record, by selling out three million units in mere minutes. However, this is a story that runs far deeper than a flashy kit; this is the tale of a country, who’s relatively recent independence, is now revealing its deeply rooted creative history. A history of song and dance, of food and culture, of mythology and folklore — all of which permeates with every pulsating kick of the ball.
“When I think of Naija swag — swag is edgy, edgy is rugged, it’s authentic. Its the way we dress, its the way we carry ourselves, its the way we speak. its the way we move,” says Nigerian musician Nneka. This movement is ever-present in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and captain John Obi Mikel, but also in rising musical and creative talents such as photographer Yagazie Emezi, filmmaker Grace Ladoja and Wizkid, to name a few.
As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria oozes this creativity, as it ranks second worldwide in terms of films produced and one that has birthed musical giants such as Fela Kuti and the Afrobeat movement. Footballing wise, Nigeria continues to grace the world with maestros — from the legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha of the Olympic Gold winning team of 1996 to Premier League stars Alexander Iwobi and Victor Moses.
“Hosting the World Cup in Nigeria would take Nigeria from where it is now amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, to where it can be, one of the most advanced civilizations in the world”, says Nigerian Football legend, Segun Odegbami. The resources are there, the talents is there, the passion and energy is there… it is now up to this new Naija to use football as a catalyst in spearheading both Nigeria and the continent of Africa in what could be a domino effect of infrastructural development for the years to come. Enjoy the full This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story below.