For this episode of Shirts and Skins, presented by World Soccer Shop, we feature Danny Williams. The German American midfielder has featrured for the US Men’s National team, played in the bundesliga and the Premiere league and is currently playing for Pafos in the Cypriot first division, the top divison in Cyprus. His journey is documented and commemorated in his tattoos. We get to know Danny through his ink, from what it was like growing up German American to his mom battling cancer to playing across Europe and the UK to overcomming injuries and setbacks to making a comback and achieving his dream of playing in the Premeire League.
Check out the full interview and photoset below and Be sure to follow Danny on instagram @chilliams23
We’ve all been there; The endless scrolling through those dull-as-brick kit templates for your Sunday League team. The same plain designs in about five colors with nothing adventurous about them. Ever wondered how you could fit your whole team with some custom threads instead? We did too. That’s how we wound up talking to Robby Smukler, the founder of Icarus Football, a custom kit design service based out of Philadelphia, USA.
Like many authentic artists, Robby gave up his 9-5 job to pursue his passion, namely kit design. He was always interested in football, geography, and history, spending much of his youth doodling imaginary logos of cities that fascinated him. Even the origin of the company name came from Robby’s love for Greek Mythology.
Robby gives this explanation for the name:
“I thought that this crazy idea of creating custom kits would get me flying so high that eventually I would singe my wings and drown in the sea, much like the namesake Greek counterpart. And that it just sounds badass!”
Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, Robby pursued a career in politics and a job opportunity brought him to Philadelphia. When he initially arrived, he noticed most teams only had kit templates of teams that already existed.
“There was no originality, no real identity with all these teams in a city that possesses such a vibrant football culture. It’s a tight-knit football community, and I saw and heard that there was a demand for better jerseys from other players, so I thought I’d do something about it.”
This league in question is CASA, which is the local amateur football league, is the biggest in the country featuring men’s, women’s, and co-ed teams with over 300 teams and over 10,000 players.
Robby started with a few mock-ups for some teams in the league, found a supplier with quality materials and started to make more kits for more teams. Eventually, he invested more time into Icarus opening up the business to teams near the end of 2016. Like many artistic-endeavors-turned-businesses, he never thought to turn this passion into a legitimate career until realizing there was a real market for it. The demand was prevalent, and around January 2019, he started to receive numerous orders, to the point where he quit his day job to run Icarus full time.
“About half of my work is for clients that already have a design in mind, and my role is to make that vision come to reality. The other half is clients that have a rough idea of what they want and ask for some design input. That’s when I produce mock-ups, ranging from the conservative to absolutely wild. I prefer the latter.”
Like all startups, there were initial speed bumps that had to be smoothed out.
“In the beginning, we sourced fabrics from different factories to see which would be best for playing. Most importantly for me, they needed to be comfortable. The first fabrics we used were comfortable but didn’t have enough ventilation, so players would sweat into the shirt and it would retain all the sweat. So I went back to the drawing board and ended on the fabric I have today, which is a 100% polyester that has micro ventilation holes for moisture release.”
Other features of the shirts include standard micro-ribbing at the sleeve cuffs and crewneck, V-Neck, Polo, and Henley collars as the standard collars for the shirts, with a drawstring or wide-spread Cuban collars coming at a premium cost. The only thing off-limits is possible trademark and copyright infringements, for example, a three-stripe design on a shirt, but everything else is fair game because he wants his clients to have exactly what they want on their kits.
“When designing for a team, I take into account the club’s colors, name, history and geography, and I aim to incorporate all of those aspects into the design of the kit. That way the kit tells the story of the club.”
The future is bright for Icarus Football, as they are the preferred uniform supplier for the aforementioned amateur league CASA, supplying kits to over twenty teams in the league. They’ve also set their sights on national dominance, aiming to make deals with teams countrywide, as well as breaking into women’s and youth teams.
The name Icarus may foreshadow an imminent doom with the melting of his wings, but at this rate it seems that Robby is destined to keep flying high as the sun allows him. Godspeed.
When asked this simple, unassuming question, many of us find ourselves lost in the plethora of selection we have today: Streaming services, impromptu gigs, radio (yes that still exists). We here at KTTP have two sources to curate our musical libraries: FIFA soundtracks and everything else.
To appreciate just how far the FIFA soundtracks have come, we go back to the game’s first ever tracklist from FIFA: Road to World Cup 98: Composed of six songs, four of them by The Crytsal Method. Compare that to the most recently launch ensemble featuring 41 artists from 17 different countries, spanning from indie gems to certified stars.
The musical roots of the original soundtracks were based in electronic and punk rock in the forms of Fatboy Slim and Blur. Over time, the progression of new and alternative genres in mainstream music has led to the soundtrack to include hip-hop, rock, house music, and Latin tunes. But it’s not just that the FIFA soundtrack seems to catch music trends at the most opportunistic times, it seems like they find musicians right as they are about to elevate their careers, like featuring Madeon in FIFA 13 right as he was starting to be invited to play at Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival.
The music’s importance to the game is unparalleled. It is public knowledge that any self-respecting FIFA player spends just as much time selecting a team, negotiating transfers, and tinkering formations as actually playing the game. The tunes that we hear while enjoying this clinical work are imperative to keep us sharp while chasing Champions League glory in Career Mode at 3AM in the morning. How many times have we woken up our roommates with cheers of delight when we complete the purchase of a U19 player with 90 rated potential?
Each song is carefully curated so that it puts you in an absolute mood when you’re sorting through menu interfaces and instructing wingers to cut inside in your lineups. Before long you’ll find yourself humming along to tunes you’ve never heard before and whip out your phone to Shazam the track.
So many artists both big and small have benefitted greatly from being included in this annual celebration of lyrical indulgence, and the legacy of the soundtrack will continue to grow. As long as FIFA players have menus to navigate and teams lineups to format, the soundtrack will enhance, nay, become the focal point, of the electronic football experience.
To celebrate the launch of FIFA 20, we have selected our top 20 tracks of all time from the game’s legendary melodies. May they ring loud and true during your Wednesday night FIFA tournaments:
For Kit Stories presented by World Soccer Shop, we catch up with the man that goes by one name, Poet. If he was suiting up to play for Brazil he would fit right in. Poet has made a name for himself in the Hip-hop scene in the UK and for over 10 years was one of the key players in ushering in this new era of Football/Soccer media. Even if you are not familiar with his music(he currently has a project with his group, Vibbar, on iTunes now), you probably know him as part of the dynamic youtube duo “Poet and Vuj.” In a way only Poet can, he takes us on his kit journey: from the first Arsenal top he can remember owning to a very unique customized kit that is sure to turn some heads. Check out his Kit Story below along with some snaps.
For this edition of Kit Stories presented by World Soccer Shop, we meet up with Mr. “Have a Nice” himself, David “Vuj” Vujanić. Vuj takes us through his kit journey, from falling in love with the sport during the 1998 World Cup when he was captivated by the OG Ronaldo. Vuj recaps a story of a very unique Steven Gerard Liverpool kit that he owns and we learn about how a series of kits in his closet represents the different iterations of his family’s national heritage. His kit journey comes full circle at the 2018 World Cup in Russia when Serbia played Brazil in the group stages. Watch as Vuj passionately expresses his love for the football kit. “I love kits man, they’re just iconic. They represent a time. They capture moments. They transcend the game itself.”
In this episode of Shirts and Skins, we catch up with Natasha (Tasha) Kai, former USWNT player and member of their gold medal-winning squad. Tasha takes us on her tattoo journey from her very first ink, which, she may or may not regret to the, to her getting tattooed in the traditional Hawaiian method of “bone tattooing”. Tasha is not shy about the way she expresses herself and her love for ink. Enjoy getting to know Tasha Kai. Check out the full conversation and photoset below.
On this episode of Kit stories we sit down with Shawna Gordon, former pro player and current personal trainer, mentor, personality, actor and model. Shawna takes us back to the days of playing youth soccer in authentic Arsenal kits and we find out the moment when she realized that she could pursue a professional career in soccer.
For the premiere of Shirts and Skins we sit down with Deandre Yedlin of the US Men’s National Team and the Premier League’s Newcastle United. DeAndre takes us through his tattoo journey from his first tattoo to the one he regrets the most and caps it off with giving us his three favorite pieces. We explore the inspiration and the stories behind the art. Check out the episode and photoset below.
The corporate box is typically reserved for an exclusive set of people and more often than not, retains a stuffy feel that never accurately captures the essence of the club or its fans. Arsenal, PUMA, and ad agency GBH London set out to flip what we have come to expect from a corporate suite and inject a fresh and modern outlook on what the corporate box experience is all about.
Set inside The Emirates, the Puma Non-Corporate Box takes elements from the club’s history and key details that have a deep connection to the club to bring more of a terrace feel to the space.
According to Mark Bonner from GBH London, “PUMA were given two executive boxes at The Emirates and Arsenal were open to disrupting the hospitality experience at the stadium. The whole Non-Corporate Box where fan culture and the terrace experience from both Highbury and The Emirates would be celebrated up there.”
A tremendous amount of thought went into making the PUMA Non-Corporate Box a once in a lifetime fan encounter. “We wanted to make sure that Arsenal fans got to experience the box as well. We had a contest called ‘The A-List’ that gave Arsenal fans the opportunity to win tickets to the Non-Corporate Box.”
The box is plush with details and historical context that celebrates the history and legacy of the North London club. There are steel and concrete seating that pay tribute to the old terraces. Famous chants adorn the walls. A lighting layout that takes inspiration from Herbert Chapman’s famous “WM” formation. There’s even a nod to the Highbury squirrel who made its debut against Villarreal in 2016. Probably my favorite element is a foosball table that features two Arsenal teams—a classic Arsenal XI decked out in yellow kits vs the current Arsenal XI that are sporting the classic red kits.
In talking to Mark about the idea and execution of this box, we spoke about the need for modern day football to have modern day ideas. To flip what has been done before and give it a contemporary refresh that better engages with fans, players, and the sport itself.
This season marks the end of the Arsenal/PUMA deal and with it the end of the PUMA Non-Corporate Box. As with anything good that must come to an end, there is a legacy that lives on with this. With the PUMA Non-Corporate Box, Arsenal, PUMA, and GBH London brought in a new perspective, heightened the experience of any fan that has been able to experience the box, and ultimately brought a fresh and genuine outlook to the sport itself. Hopefully, part of the legacy of the box and what was created inspires future ideas about how to reimagine and refresh our experiences with the game.
We had the enviable opportunity to peruse the colors and crests on the racks of the Classic Football Shirts warehouse. Nestled in the shadows of Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, the aisles upon aisles of shirts and gear worn on the hallowed football pitches all over the world spark vivid memories tied to these historic pieces.
Each strip from the classic patterns down to the blood stains bring to mind moments cherished by footy fanatics far and wide. Moments that evoke a simpler time before every football fan had virtually every match from every corner of the globe streaming in their hands.
For Gary Bierton, preserving the moments and history before cell phones filled the stands, has been the mission for the passion project that first began in 2006 with the inception of Classic Football Shirts, founded by his older brother, Doug and friend Matthew Dale.
“It takes you back instantly, you know,” recounts Bierton as he sits in a warehouse with over twenty thousand kits ranging from the most loved to the most loathed, from well-known to the most unknown clubs around the world. “I’m looking at that France ’98 shirt. I can remember where I was when I watched the World Cup final in ’98. It puts you back in the room instantly.”
With Classic Football Shirts, Gary has been instrumental in buying, documenting, and providing the biggest collection of football shirts online in the world for fans and teams alike.
Looking for the 1999 kit worn by the treble-winning Manchester United squad? Take your pick: David Beckham. Paul Scholes. Roy Keane. It’s all there on their website.
The digital gatekeeper of football relics began in student housing his brother Doug and his partner, Matt, finished university studies in Manchester. More so a clubhouse with a few rails carrying product for passers-by, with the first pop-up shop happening in 2018.
Not long after starting Doug and Matt got things started, Gary found himself working holidays cataloging shirts as he followed his own path at the Manchester Business School.
“I don’t think any of us expected to be here in 2019,” laughs Bierton as he recalls moments from the store’s infancy.
As the de-facto leader of marketing and brand growth, he has leveraged the collection into pop-up stores across the UK and exhibitions showcasing kits from brands such as Nike, adidas, Umbro and Kappa.
Classic Football Shirts created their first exhibits under the brand ‘Fabric of Football’. The cataloging the shirts online had already started years before and the catalog just kept growing.
Around the same time the team at Classic Football Shirts was expanding their online presence they got ready to dive into retail pop-ups.
Bierton’s mother raised concerns about the uncertainty of a career choice as a glorified second-hand merchant. Friends too wondered about the sustainability of the idea and where this side project would take them next.
Bierton continued to see the growth even those around him questioned the career choice. The doubters turned into believers when they saw the hundreds of people clamoring to get a chance to purchase a shirt at a London pop-up.
“A lot of my friends live in London and they come to see what you’re doing. Then they’re like, ‘Why are people queuing down the street to look at this stuff,’”
His friends might have been slow to catch his vision but it did not take long for them to realize the influence Classic Football Shirts has on the culture.
The impact of companies like Bierton’s has been far-reaching. Today tastemakers and fashion-centric individuals outside of the game and culture are choosing to rock classic football kits with growing frequency. Players have cross-pollinated their influence into different avenues. Seeing Drake or Kylie Jenner showoff their favorite football shirts on the ‘Gram is commonplace.
Brands like adidas and Nike have geared their campaigns and collections to fuse fashion with sports as a way to be more inclusive of the audience they are marketing to.
From the avid fan to the casual enthusiast of the game entrenched in everything fashion, leveraging the influence of designer juggernauts such as Virgil Abloh and Gosha Rubchinksiy has blurred the lines of ready-to-wear runway designs for the pitch.
That wasn’t always the case. Bierton recalls the moment that his type of inventory transcended the hardcore football fans. “Not until maybe 2013, 2014 did it become a fashionable thing,” he says. “The moment we realized it had gone a little beyond from what we thought, was a post with Kendall Jenner wearing a Juve ’98 Kappa jacket.”
Celebrity influence has turned shirts that might otherwise be forgettable into hype-fueled items. The aforementioned Italian club Juventus donned rose pink Adidas kits for the 2015-2016 campaign. As soon as Drake and Snoop Dogg were captured wearing the shirts across social media, fans pillaged retailers to ride the trend.
But for Bierton, the affinity and passion for shirts will never fade. Beyond the trends and influence driven by the who’s who of music and design, he knows there’s someone looking for that vintage kit from his beloved Manchester United or the local Macclesfield Town football club shirt.
Regardless of the buyer, he’s thankful to play a part in connecting with fans and new aficionados.“It’s bigger than football. And we’ve come from the perspective as football fans, but then it becomes more than that. You can keep it quite rigid or open up to anybody.”