There will be 32 teams competing at the FIFA world cup in Russia these upcoming weeks – yet if we look at the participants from a fashion perspective, it will be 33. Because clothing has entered the competition. And while garments may not be fighting for the World Cup trophy, which will be awarded on the 15th of July, they certainly are for attention. An instance that becomes evident as soon as you look to the court itself: More so than actually distinguishing the players from one another, we focus on two piles of colours, and ultimately uniforms, increasingly blending as the game goes on.
Which can be equally said of these players’ fans. Although they might not as easily mingle, they also can be best identified by the tricots and merch they sport in honour of their team. And this is precisely where fashion, as a concept, enters the game – because these products aren’t exclusive to the football court anymore. Rather, they have successfully made their way onto a whole nother playing field.
If football first and foremost is about being a fan, there probably couldn’t be a more fitting extension than fashion right now. After all, fans of fashion houses are devoted to their favourite brands much like football fanatics are. And these brands are increasingly embracing this fan-culture, or should we say cult, themselves. While being in the know about and dressed in a particular brand has long been about understatement – a garment from Maison Margiela could only be identified by four subtle stitches on the back, Rick Owens’ creations are best spotted focusing on its shapes and cuts – the age of Social Media and disposable-imagery quickly lead to an increasing emphasis on all things logo.
Which in itself isn’t a particularly new concept, but it becomes one once you take football’s community aspect into account. Someone wearing a football-inspired Versace AW18 piece or a Y/Project ‘Napoleon’ football scarf doesn’t just happen to own this particular piece or like this certain collection – they own these pieces because they want others to see, to know, to understand that they are on-trend, in the know – and, can afford these items in the first place.
Because much like fashion’s appropriation of other cultures, collections also often make use of certain social groups, turning the stylistic codes it has long frowned upon into luxury. Football jerseys once were products for a mass audience, produced to be worn by as many fans as possible. Official tricots of the German national team are available from 90 € upwards online. The football-inspired fashion house merch, on the other hand, only starts way into a couple of hundreds. Yet when Nike recently released its World Cup kits, the shirts of the Nigerian team were sold out in mere minutes.
“There is a real feeling in the air of having to belong to something, support a cause or be part of a movement and I think the football scarf trend is a representation of this,” designer Henry Holland told The Guardian on the subject in March. While fashion’s football scarfs rarely are of revolutionary nature, they couldn’t be a better signifier for wanting to belong to a community. Even if this community simply is the line in front of the checkout.