KTTP “GETS SMOKED”: THE STORY OF SMOKEY BARBERS

More than a decade ago, before he was the masked barber to the England’s most illustrious footballers, Smokey was doing time for some poor choices he made in his youth. Looking for a way to break up the monotony and get out of his cell he talked his way into getting a job as a prison barber.

 

There he honed his skills as a tonsorial artist and his listening ear as a much-needed therapist. After getting out Smokey looked to earn an honest living with his newly acquired skills. Although he admits that at the time he was not that great of a barber, after all, he had only been cutting heads for a year on the inside. His is not an overnight success story, though. He found his fair share of disappointment and adversity as he looked to make it in London as a barber.

 

 

After he was posted up in the right location, the ethnically diverse Surry, Smokey got on his grind. His status as the premier barber to London’s elite did not happen by accident. Smokey hustled to find the clientele to build his brand and name. He would go to the training grounds of local clubs offering to cut hair and pass out flyers.

Redding manager, Steve Clarke, also helped Smokey cement his influence in the world of English football. Clarke asked Smokey to come every week and cut his players’ hair. Not only did he help the Redding footballers look fresh but he brought the team together by creating the barbershop atmosphere in the changing room.

 

 

Among his many skills, Smokey and his crew are master marketers. Starting with the name Smokey. After starting his trade as an honest and upright entrepreneur Smokey tried to get away from the nickname that was associated with his troubled past. Originally he called his shop D.O.’s using his government initials. But patrons who knew the barber as Smokey would refer to the shop as Smokey’s. Instead of correcting them he used the familiar epithet to his advantage, adopting a memorable catchphrase to describe getting fresh cut, “you just got smoked.” The term stuck and before long kids were spreading the word and letting their peers know, “hey yo, I just got smoked.”

Another stroke of genius that helped spread the word about the barbershop was a sitcom Smokey and his friends made for YouTube. The show Smokey Barbers went viral and got millions of views which helped the brand gain even more traction.

 

 

Even though the Smokey Barbers brand has gained an impressive following and status, he has not let that fame cloud his perspective. He says being able to advise youth—steering them onto the right path and helping them through their problems is one of his important roles. He also told us how good it feels to give a youngster a confidence boost by hooking them up with a proper cut.

 

 

Smokey is a testament to what a good mindset and hard work can achieve. He has not let prejudice, adversity, or mistakes turn him bitter. Instead of letting the difficult things in his life be obstacles he has seen them as opportunities and let them be the building blocks of his success. Smokey, in turn, has tried to instill that mindset into the youth that sit in his chair. 

 

 

And instead of looking to become a celebrity himself he has chosen to wear a mask letting his work speak for itself and his many happy customers get the shine. When he told his friends that he was going to be anonymous and wear a mask while barbering they scoffed at the idea but as Smokey’s dad told him, “If someone laughs at your idea, mate it’s such a good idea.”

 

 

Turns out it was a great idea as Smokey and his brand have gained a loyal following that includes some of the biggest names in London. The barber isn’t just after a high profile clientele however, he welcomes all, seeing his shop as a place where everyone, no matter their ethnic background or social status can come together.

Besides his amazing story, which, seems tailor-made for Hollywood treatment, we were impressed by how genuine and open Smokey was with us. He was generous with his time and skills as he fixed my hair situation up proper. Make sure to  show Smokey some love and follow Smokey Barbers @SMOKEY_BARBERS on Instagram. 

 

CAN I KICK IT?: MAURICE EDU

If you have followed US soccer in the last decade, you definitely have heard Maurice Edu’s name. Early on in his career he solidified himself in the defensive part of the park and remained there for some time for the red white and blue. After being drafted #1 overall by Toronto in 2007, Mo went on to play for storied Scottish club Rangers, winning 3 league titles. Later he made stops at Stoke and the Philadelphia Union. And who can forget that infamous no-goal call on a Mo’s volley in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

We understand most people know that side of Mo, Mo on the pitch, but we wanted to dig deeper and get to know the man off the field. So we bounced over to his house in the Inland Empire of California and sat down to chat about making the transition from playing to commentating, what it is like being an example for kids like him, his love for the artist KAWS, and of course, kicks. Check out each part of our conversation below and make sure to follow Mo on Instagram @MauriceEdu.

Mo on going from playing to commentating

One thing is clear when you sit down and talk to Mo Edu. He loves soccer. That passion led to a successful professional career. It led him to the World Cup. That same love for the game as led Mo into broadcasting and analyzing the sport on TV. Part of his aim with his new position in the sport is not all that different from what meant a lot to him when he was a player: provide a unique voice and connect with audiences and demos that may not have always connected to the game. Mo wants to help grow the sport by bringing in new fans that look like him and connect with him in an authentic way.

Being an example to  kids like him.

Part of Mo Edu’s ethos as a player and as a broadcaster is exposing the sport to young black kids. It is important for him that he is an outlet for this community, that they can look to him and see what is possible, and hopefully see themselves taking a path similar to his. Mo mentioned a few times that when he was growing up there were not very many people like himself that he could look up to and relate to. He has been fully aware of this throughout his career. This has given him the opportunity to be someone that young black soccer players can look up to and aspire to be.

Mo and his sneaker journey.

Like many of us Mo loves sneakers. Mo caught the sneaker bug early. But, as most of us can relate to, his parents weren’t copping sneakers for him when he was young. By high school, Mo’s love of sneakers, especially Jordans was in full swing, and in order to satiate his love for sneakers, he got his first job at a pizza joint. The money he earned from the pizza spot went directly into Mo beginning to get more involved with the sneaker game and it was then that he started building his impressive sneaker collection.

Memory Lane

Mo takes us back to that night in South Africa, a goal that should have stood.

WSS x KTTP PRESENTS | KIT STORIES: POET

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.

Be sure to follow Poet on Instagram at: @POETSCORNERUK

 

FAMILY BUSINESS: NIKY’S SPORTS WITH LUIS ORELLANA

Ask any soccer player in Los Angeles, and there is a good chance that they have had some sort of experience with the soccer retailer Niky’s Sports. Whether that is buying boots or products at one of their stores, attending one of the many events that they put on, or seeing their presence at countless soccer events around the city. Niky’s is an institution in the Los Angeles soccer scene and the people behind it are equally passionate about the beautiful game as they are their brand.

Thirty three years after Niky’s opened their first location, the company now counts eight locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area. The store locations are as diverse as the City of Angels itself and further prove that Niky’s understands not only its customers, but the city they call home.

We sat down with Luis Orellano to talk about all things Niky’s: where they have been and where they are going, what it’s like to grow up in and around soccer stores, and why a genuine love for the game is at the heart of what Niky’s does.

 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Niky’s and how it started?

Luis: October 30th, 1986 is the day my dad opened the doors of our first store. The first store is about two blocks west of the store we are currently are sitting in. We’re a family owned business. The majority of the stores are owned jointly by my dad and my uncle. The other two stores are owned by other brothers. Everybody in our family works at one of the stores. The entire family in involved with the business.

Q: So six stores are owned by your dad and brother, and the other two stores are owned by other family members. But the entire Niky’s organization is run under the same umbrella?

Luis: Correct.

Q: What is your role or title within Niky’s sports?

Luis: I guess you can label me the CEO. I don’t like labels, but I am the one that is in charge of putting the plan together for the businesses. Where we want to grow. How we want to go about it. Where our biggest opportunities are and what are the biggest threats to the business.

Q: You have eight stores. Has it been steady growth or has expansion been in more recent years?

Luis: We had two stores for I think eight or ten years. When I graduated from college and I really started diving into our business, I felt like we had a huge opportunity to expand. LA is huge and there are so many people that play soccer and I always felt there was room to grow. We couldn’t reach everybody at that point as we only had two stores.

In my opinion, to reach more people you have to have a physical footprint to really affect those communities. Online is a great tool that we utilize, but there is nothing like going into a store and trying on new boots. That is such a unique experience that you can’t have online. The things that we specialize in, we feel we have to have a brick and mortar experience for that.

Q: You went to school at Cal Poly Pomona, but what were the early years like for Luis? Did you play soccer? Spend lots of times at the stores? What was that like?

Luis: All I wanted to do was play soccer. I started playing when I was four. I played high school. I played a little bit of club soccer. But when I was younger my dad started this organization that was meant to give kids from El Salvador an opportunity to show their talent to not only professional teams from El Salvador but also to the federation. Unfortunately because of the civil war, a lot of people left El Salvador and came here to LA. So there is a massive Salvadorian community here and my dad saw that as an opportunity, so he and a couple friends created an organization where if you were a kid of El Salvadorian descent, you could play. And we became really, really good. We would play professional teams from El Salvador. Our first team was like a little academy. Unfortunately that doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a great opportunity for a lot of kids.

Q: What was it like growing up loving soccer and being able to go into a soccer store everyday and see all the latest products?

Luis: It was awesome, dude. I would see all the new boots before everybody else. I remember being on the phone at like 14 or 15 years old and calling people in places like Spain and Argentina. Trying to get Atletico Madrid jerseys. Trying to get Boca Juniors and River Plate jerseys. Products like that didn’t exist here. There wasn’t a licensed jersey business here. But we had people asking for them so we would try and get them.

Every aspect of my life revolved around the store. I would come here after high school. Every day after school I would come here. In the summers I was here everyday. When I would have a game on a Saturday, I would play my game and then come back to the store. And it never bothered me. I always wanted to do it. It was awesome.

Early on my dad bought one of those massive satellite dishes. Not the small ones they have now. But the giant ones that were around back in the day. That was the only way back then that we could get all the European games. We would watch them all at my dad’s store.

At that time Serie A was the league. My dad and I would get up super early to come and watch games at the store. There would already be like six or eight of his friends outside waiting to watch the games with us.

Q: Your dad sounds like a staple of the community. He had his stores. People would come in to the store to hang, watch games and be a part of what was going on there. He helped start an organization that helped young Salvadorian kids to play soccer. How important is that sort of community role been to the success of Niky’s over the years?

Luis: I think it’s been vital because our communities understand that we are invested in them. Sure we are here to service you when you need cleats and balls and shinguards. But we’re also trying to inspire some kids or give some kids a chance. The object of that program that my dad helped start was to give kids a chance.

We want the communities that we are involved in to understand that we are more than just a soccer shop. We do events and we try to give back to local schools and community organizations because we’re not just here to sell you products, but we’re also here to help grow the sport that we love.

Q: It seems like this is an example of the better that Niky’s does as a positive member of the community, the better the business does overall.

Luis: I also think you have to be authentic when doing it. This sport means so much to so many people and you have to try and do things the right way. The soccer community here in LA is so knowledgeable and so diverse and they have been around a long time. Futbol in LA isn’t new here. What is happening here with the local MLS teams is incredible but the sport has been a huge part of the community for a very long time here.

Q: In the years since you have worked at Niky’s full-time, the sport has grown quite a bit here in LA. What are some of the ways in which you have seen that are maybe more specific to LA?

Luis: There’s more attention to it now. There’s more national and global eyes on LA from a soccer perspective. But if you look at what futbol means to this city, it’s a super important part of this city, it’s been vital. It’s instrumental. Because of the large immigrant community. It’s a diverse community. The Central and South American influence is huge. That’s always been here. Now, there’s just a lot more eyeballs on the sport and a lot more investment as well. From the league perspective. The brands are making bigger investments  and making it a focus globally. That’s all helped grow the game to new heights. Thats the only difference. The passion and love for it hasn’t changed.

Q: As the game has grown here, have you seen an overall rise of awareness from people who maybe aren’t core soccer fans?

Luis: I think the biggest difference we have seen is from a more casual fan. A large part of that has to do with LAFC. There are a lot more fans that are casual fans. They might not know as much about the sport. They might not have really played the sport as a kid. But something about the experience is helping them gravitate to soccer. We started working with LAFC pretty much as soon as they were announced. That investment for us and working with them has really paid off for us.

Interesting though, we have also seen a rise in Galaxy jerseys as well. That’s awesome to see too. LAFC really galvanized the Galaxy fanbase and they have come out and supported their teams and made sure people know that they have been Galaxy fans for a long time.

Q: You spoke about the diversity of LA and the local immigrant community. LA is a very diverse place and soccer is sort of an extension of that notion. The way that you guys have grown kind of seems to follow that. You’re downtown, you’re in the inner cities, but you’re also on the westside and in the valley that may be more suburban. As a brand, you guys seem to be a representation of what soccer culture looks like in LA. Is that something you find to be true and is this something that you guys plan and strategize around?

Luis: Thats exactly what we do. Soccer doesn’t discriminate. It is inclusive for all types of people and social status and class. If we want to service every soccer playing person of this huge community then we have to be in all these places. So we have a store in West LA where it might be a more affluent customer and it may be a different customer than a customer here in downtown. It doesn’t matter where you live or your social class, the soccer community needs to be serviced the right way. We’re very proud and very confident that we have the knowledge and the experience to service the soccer community in a very unique way.

Our biggest objective is that everyone that walks in our store walks out with the right items that they need to enjoy this game.

Q: I imagine that is based on a fundamental love that you all have for the game.

It’s about futbol. That’s all. If we don’t care about the game we’re not going to be successful in this thing. But everyone that works for us has a love for the game. It’s instrumental. If you want to do what we do you have to love this. If we’re not true to the game then we’re done. If we don’t display that every time someone comes in our stores, that this is about futbol/soccer, then we are done. That’s our biggest opportunity—show everyone that we are authentic to the game and the city and that we know what we are talking about. I think that’s really, really important.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you went from two stores to eight in a relatively short period of time. And its seems that you guys did that in a time when other retailers are closing doors. What makes Niky’s successful in a time when other retailers are struggling?

Luis: First of all, let me say that nobody here at our business takes any joy from seeing a competitor go out of business. That genuinely bothers me. I know how much blood, sweat and tears people put into something like this. It’s not easy, man. I feel for them. I really, really do.

I think we’re successful because we’re authentic and through our hard work and persistence in the market place, we’ve been able to get people’s vote of confidence. They know that when they come into our store they are going to get treated right and that they will find what they need. I think our service and knowledge sets us apart. It’s not easy. But I think our experience, knowledge and the shopping experience make a huge difference for us. We’re proud of the stores and how we have created a new shopping experience for kids. Why can’t kids in the inner-city have a great shopping experience? Every consumer deserves that and our goal is to provide that for everyone.

I remember being a kid and trying on new boots and what that felt like and what that experience was like. We want to create that for every customer that comes in the door.

Q: When I look at Niky’s it seems that you guys connect with the city and the cultural aspect beyond just the sport. Is that true and does that make you guys even more unique as a soccer retailer in Los Angeles?

Luis: You are 100% correct. Futbol in this city cuts deep and there are so many creatives in this city and that gives us an opportunity to work on special projects that might have nothing to do with a cleat or a jersey. I’ve been a big proponent of soccer culture for years. I’m all about taking risks with local brands and with local artists to create special items and deliver them to the community. I believe there is an appetite here for that kind of stuff.

We’ve worked with LAFC, we’ve done popups with local brand FC Dorsum. We’ve done collaborations with local artists like Nevermade, he’s a graffiti artist that did a great collection with us for LAFC. We’ve done stuff with Guillermo Andrade from 424. All these things have a huge cultural impact. Not only to the game but quite frankly to the city. These are real LA stories—and if we can tell these stories and reach some kids. That’s the best, man.

Q: Speaking of LA stories, you did a project with PUMA that explored LA neighborhoods through footwear. Tell us about that.

Luis: That project was 18 months ago now. About three years ago PUMA came to us and said they wanted to do a project with key specialty soccer partners around the globe. For the US part of this, they wanted to partner with Niky’s and they wanted us to do it around LA. I think there were only four accounts across the world that were a part of this project. I told them from the beginning that this has to be about LA and they were super supportive of that.

We worked with another local artist, Qudo. The idea of the pack was that our first store was in downtown LA. In downtown LA there are a lot of different districts. We chose three to focus on: the flower district, the jewelry district and the garment district. We made three shoes inspired by those districts. We were really proud of that collaboration. It was promoted globally by PUMA. Antoine Griezmann wore one of the cleats. He was supposed to wear them for one game but he ended up liking them so much he wore them for like four or five games. That was a great project and we’re actually working on the second version of that now.

Q: How did it feel when you saw Griezmann wear something that you guys created?

Luis: CRAZY!! I couldn’t believe it. It gave us a great sense of pride. All the work that we have put in as a family was recognized globally. That was really special.

Q: You seem to have a great vision of where you see Niky’s going in the future. Can you talk a little about that?

Luis: I think we have a huge potential as a company. We have ambitious plans leading up to the Olympics and World Cup coming here. We’re hoping that the Women’s World Cup will be here soon. We’re bullish on our brick and mortar presence. We understand that we need to invest in digital, but we want to invest in digital to help it grow our brick and mortar and for both to compliment one another. We want to open more physical stores in cities that have asked us for a store. Continue working on collaborations with the local teams. Bring energy and differentiation to the soccer experience. And continue to show our love for the sport and our love for LA.

Letter from the Founder | Issue 6

The Summer of Soccer comes to a close and I am sitting at my computer reflecting on how many times we look forward to the summer here in the USA for the chance to able to gets a glimpse of what the rest of the world has access to year during the football season.

The best of the best show up for a month or two and showcase the skills that made them the global stars they are. As an American looking from the sidelines, I get excited about what could be. I believe in due time, America will be a force to reckon with, but right now we still continue to look for ways to make “soccer” better.

From my vantage, we must make an effort as a nation to keep the voice of the sport open 24/7. Making sure the sport is always ahead of the curve and always at the forefront. The culture around the game will be, in my opinion, the key factor of growth in the USA. We as a whole, must stop speaking to the same audience and must expand our sights to a new horizon. If we take the steps necessary to open up the never-ending circle of repetition, I believe we will create a new fan base and a set of players that will begin to emerge within our broken system.

The grind to the top will never end, but one thing is for sure, tapping into a market that is untouched can open up a massive can of optimism for soccer in America.

Sights set into this “outside” world, we are excited to share a glimpse into our perspective of the new horizon. We are excited to share with you Issue No.6 of KTTP Magazine.


Curtis Brown
Founder

MESUT OZIL AND THE “BRUISED BANANA” ADIDAS ARSENAL KIT

This year Arsenal came to Los Angeles for the first leg of their North American Pre-season Tour. Here in LA adidas and Arsenal unveiled the highly anticipated 2019/20 away kit inspired by the kit worn in the 92-93 season, affectionately dubbed the “Bruised Banana.” We caught up with Arsenal superstar Mesut Özil to get his thoughts on the kit and also pick his brain about 90s culture and fashion.

 

FOOTBALL CONNECTS DOTS: A WOMEN’S WORLD CUP STORY

This summer I was getting prepared to shoot the Women’s World Cup in France and a very unexpected thing happened. The type of thing that can only happen when you have a Grandmother that has lived through three generations. A few weeks before I was set to get on the plane to France, I was having a conversation with my mom and she tells me that my grandmother mentioned that she thinks we have cousins that play on the Jamaican Women’s National Team. I have to be honest, I took the news that we may have family that plays on the team with a grain of salt. Not saying I didn’t believe my grandmother, but I needed more proof. 

A week or so goes by, and then I come across an article that ESPN put out that sparked my curiosity about this potential family that I have that may play for the team. The article shared the story of how Cedella Marley helped save the Jamaican women’s program and helped them get to the World Cup. After reading the article I immediately text my mom to find out the last name of the girls that my Grandmother was talking about. After a few texts back and forth, a conversation with my Grandmother and a few google searches it turns out she was right, well at least she was right about the last name of these sister’s that played on the team. 

The family connection was still yet to be locked in, but just a few days before I left for France, I get a call from a distant cousin, who now, thanks to my grandmother connecting us became not so distant a cousin. We talk for about an hour, I learned that she was born in the UK, and moved to the Northeast United States and built a life with her husband (who is from Jamaica) and raised two daughters who grew up loving and playing the sport of soccer. I learned that her oldest daughter just finished playing at Boston College and recently signed with Roma women’s club. I learned that her younger daughter is going into her senior year at Rutgers.

Allyson Swaby

Chantelle Swaby

I learned a little about the struggles the team had leading up to the cup. I learned from first-hand sources about the shortcomings of the Jamaican federation and their allocation of resources to the women’s program that was written about in the ESPN article about Cedella Marley helping the team. After the conversation, we were not sure of the exact connection between my Grandmother and her parents but what was important is that we knew we were family. We set a plan to try and meet somewhere in France. 

Fast forward to the second group stage match, Jamaica against Italy in Reims, France. The most random place for almost 4 generations of a family line that started on the tiny Island of Jamaica to finally connect. I met my cousin Diane Swaby at the train station in Reims and we had lunch before heading to the match. We both learned more about each other and our families who, although somewhat strangers, were connected by parents and grandparents that have been blessed with so many years on this earth. 

That evening I was there on the sideline and shot the match between Jamaica and Italy. I felt like it was an opportunity to give something to the family that even then I had yet to meet. I made it a point to find the Swaby family in the stands along with their friends who made the trip from the Northeast to France and get pictures of the whole group. From the warmups to the walk out of the tunnel to the National anthem to the final kick to greeting friends and family after the match, I was on a mission to capture every moment so that I could share not only with family but with the team as a whole. Their journey to the cup was not all glitz and glam like other countries. Despite a lack of support, marketing, sponsorship, and planning the women on that team made it to play at the biggest stage. I wanted to make sure I did that justice. 

I actually didn’t get to meet my cousin’s till about 3 days later, in Grenoble, a day before they played their last group match versus Australia. We met in a small pizza shop in the city center. It was funny because I felt like I was the old relative that your parents would force you to say, “hi” to at the family gatherings when you were little. I’d like to think I am a bit cooler than one of those creepy uncles, hopefully. Either way, Chantelle and Allyson Swaby have a fan for life. Chantelle is back with the National Team right now at the Pan American games and Allyson is back in Italy getting ready for the Roma women’s season. Football has been in my life since I can remember and to this day it never ceases to amaze me. It has the power to bring joy, pain, cross borders, end wars, or maybe start them. It is universal. It has a language that is understood all over the world and it connects dots, even dots that you never knew existed. 

Check out the rest of my favorite photos from the match vs Italy below and be sure to follow both Chantelle and Allyson Swaby @chantelleswaby and @allysonswaby10 as they continue to do their thing on the pitch for both club/school and country and the rest of the “Reggea Girlz.” 

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: ANEESHA DEWSHI

Aneesha “Neesh” Dewshi is a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. A creative based in London she has been working in the fashion PR industry for more than 8 years. Born and raised in the UK, football and sneakers have been a part of her life since primary school. Neesh also is a co-founder of the creative football collective called Romance FC. The collective located in Hackney, East London is a female football club created out of the love of the beautiful game and a desire to find like-minded womxn.

Follow Neesh: @crayfish8

Photos: @richimpossible

Tell us a little about where you are from and you and your family’s background. 

I grew up in a city called Nottingham, which is located in the heart of the East Midlands in the UK. Although my parents are Indian, they like many others were born and raised in East Africa and came to the UK in the late 1970s when my grandparents decided to make the move.

Where, when, and how did your connection with the game of football begin?

I was first introduced to football through my dad, as he’d always have it on the TV. Whether it was MOTD (Match Of the Day) or the Champions League, it would always be on in the house. We were quite a sporty family growing up, so football was always a game we’d be playing at family gatherings.

When I went to primary school, my parents used to have a car share system in place with a couple of other families. Which meant that each parent took it, in turn, to drop and collect the kids from school. So I’d play with the boys during school breaks and then after school on the street in between parked cars, whilst we were waiting to be picked up.

Talk to us a little about what you do for work.

I’ve been working as a Fashion & Lifestyle PR for the past 8 years across a number of global clients. It can be quite demanding at times but every day is different. I always say to work in the PR, you must be a jack of all trades because you never know where certain projects will take you.

When did your love for sneakers and streetwear begin? 

I would say my earliest memories of my love story with sneakers started at primary school. We had to wear a school uniform but there was no rule for footwear, which meant we could wear sneakers. So from my early years, I was stunting on the playground in the freshest kicks – the other kids didn’t know what hit them!

The first pair of kicks that I recall I had were a pair of Fila basketball high tops, they were all white with the iconic navy and red branding. After that I had a pair of adidas Galaxy with pops of orange and navy, I think this is where my love for running silhouettes came from. Then came the most memorable sneaker of my younger years, mainly because I had to really work the charm on my parents for them. It was my first pair of Nikes, so it was a big moment and also a big shock to my parents when they had to part ways with their hard earned cash. As soon as I saw the Nike Air More Uptempo in the store, I knew I had to have them. They were the OG black/white colourway with the big “AIR” across each side panel side, they were big, brash and bold—and I wanted them more than anything. I have so many fond memories stomping around the playground and attempting to run around in those chunky basketball sneakers. So much so, that when the retro came out a few years ago, I had to cop.

Working with clothing, footwear and fashion how do you see those three things merging with the game of football on or off the pitch?

I think fashion, footwear, and football have always gone hand in hand from the early days of terrace culture with people consciously seeking premium Italian fashion brands such as Stone Island and CP Company to team up with their Adidas to now, where you see many fashion brands adopting football culture and style such as the last Off White x Nike football collaboration, which saw a range of shirts and even boots adorned with the unmistakeable Off White branding. 

Another example of this is when Nike launched the Nigeria kit last Summer ahead of the World cup, there was so much hype built around the launch, similar to that of a sneaker release and of course the kit was straight up fire, so unsurprisingly it sold out within seconds.

So, I have to ask, what professional team do you support in the UK? If that team is not your hometown team, then why?

My team has always been and always will be the Red Devils aka Manchester United. Now, I know what you may be thinking.. but she’s not from Manchester! Well, my love for United started when I was a young girl watching United play in the early/mid-’90s. It was Eric Cantona who really drew me to the team, I loved his energy on the pitch, always creating chances, scoring goals with such flair and creativity, it had me in awe. I always thought that there was certain arrogance to the way he played, obviously, he did get into a bit of trouble but I liked that bad boy streak in him.

We had a good run when Cantona joined and had other young top class players on board like; David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, and Andy Cole who all made watching United play so mesmerizing.

I want to talk about Romance FC. For those that don’t know, give us a little background.

Romance FC is a creative football collective that we built in Hackney, East London out of the love and frustration of the beautiful game and the lack of spaces where you find like-minded womxn. When we started the team in 2012 we were originally called Boiler Room Ladies FC where we met at the early Boiler Room nights, shared a love of music and trained alongside the guy’s team. When we first started playing, we noticed that there weren’t many other casual womxn’s grassroots football teams around London and we struggled for a few years to even find any that we could play friendlies against. Then over the years, we started to see more womxn’s teams cropping up in London and were playing against them in tournaments, which was fantastic. However, we were left consistently frustrated in the way these tournaments were executed as we always came across misogyny and tokenism, which left us feeling pretty deflated.

So in 2016, we decided that enough was enough and we hosted our own womxn’s football tournament called—Playing For Kicks. We created a safe space for womxn and non-binary folk to come to play and enjoy a day of great football and music all designed and executed by ourselves.

Now coming into its fourth year, we’ve seen the tournament grow from strength to strength, with teams participating from key cities in the UK and even France. Each year we take on more teams, splitting them into groups based on their ability levels to ensure that all teams feel confident and encouraged in their groups. We want to lead by example and encourage young womxn and girls to take up spaces and continue to play sport, therefore we always include a junior football match within the programming of the tournament where they can experience all the elements surrounding the game. Football is there for everyone.

In the lead up to the World Cup, we will be hosting a very special Spring Kicks womxn’s tournament on 11th May in London—this will be our biggest tournament to date as we will have a total of 28 teams participating. Expect some amazing football, DJ sets from some of the best womxn in London and strictly good energy only. Head over HERE for more details.

What was the process like working with Nike to create the capsule collection?

Nike has followed our journey from the early days of Romance FC. At the end of 2017, we were contacted and asked if we wanted to design a kit for the team. This had been a dream of ours since the beginning of Romance FC’s journey. Before getting overly keen on the idea, we asked how much creative freedom we would have—we think big and create with the heart so it was key to know where we stood. 

Luckily we were given complete freedom to design what we wanted, excluding the cut of the top. Founding Manager Trisha Lewis and Design Artist Aimee Capstick designed the kit and typography, which took inspiration from classic geometric print football shirts of the 80s/90s and a gradient colour fade to recreate the evening sunset over our favourite park to play in during the summer evenings in Hackney.

Following the submission of our design, we were approached with an opportunity to then work on a global project with Nike Football for the Nike By You program. This would be the only womxn’s jersey included in the launch, which would then be sold on their site.

From the get-go, we expressed that in order for this to work and be authentic, we would have to have creative control to tell our own story. This was a lengthy process, communicating with multiple teams within the company but finally, we got the sign-off and the rest is history.

We then honed all our skills and fields of expertise together to create our own shoot photographed by Striker Stephanie Sian Smith. This imagery was then used by Nike to accompany the product being sold online.It was a great opportunity to work collaboratively with a global brand in this way, whilst still retaining autonomy. As I am sure you can see, we are really happy with the outcome and proud to wear our kit on and off the pitch.

From your perspective, is the perception of women’s football changing in the UK and Europe and do you think projects like the one with Romance FC and Nike are helping?

Football is the most watched sport in the UK, with the Premier League being the most prestigious league in Europe. Growing up all I would see on TV and hear would be men playing football. I had played football at primary school with my friends and briefly picked it back up again in Secondary school when we had a women’s team, which lasted all of three games. Unfortunately, that’s where my experience playing football stopped until I picked it back up again in 2012.

I believe that the perception is changing, slowly but it is changing. We see more coverage in the media of the women’s games, the level of the professional women’s teams has propelled due to financial backing enabling these players to solely focus on football like their male counterparts.

I feel that projects like the Romance FC collaboration with Nike Football helped to generate awareness but it is the hands-on approach of local communities, grassroots projects and local initiatives like Hackney Laces #lacesfamily and East London Ladies that are really making a difference.

What are 3 go to sneakers for you right now?

Converse x Brain Dead (can’t take these off!)

Mizuno Wave Rider OG

Nike Air Max 95 x Atmos

What are you listening music wise at the moment? 

I listen to a wide cross-section of music across a number of genres, but it if I look through my most recently played we have; Noname—who I recently saw on her Room 25 tour, Slowthai—one of the best sounds coming out of the UK right now, Koffee—because the Rapture EP is sensational and Rosalia—whose voice is so unusual and captivating that I forget that I actually can’t understand Spanish!

Who are you rooting for in the world cup this summer?

England of course, the Lionesses are on really good form!

For someone visiting London for the first time and that wants a more “lifestyle” tourist experience, give us your must dos/visits for: 

Too many to list but below are some of my all time favs:

Sneaker Shop: Sneakers n Stuff and Pam Pam (great selection of women’s kicks in both)

Clothing: Goodhood

Food: Troy Bar (Shoreditch) for some of the best Jamaican food in East London, BBQ Dreamz(various locations). incredible Filipino inspired street food in London and The Shoreditch Stop, which is an unassuming off license that sells delicious homemade curries to take away and is always mad busy.

 

THE JUMPMAN ON THE PITCH

About six months ago I wrote a piece on the website where I stated that lifestyle and soccer had come to a peak with the collaboration of PSG and the Jordan Brand. When I first learned about the range, I was just a fanboy searching through all the press releases and images of the collection online and getting my wallet ready to buy the entire collection. The collection that represented, so perfectly, everything that we’ve been talking about at KTTP for the past four years. 

At that time it was a far-fetched notion of mine to shoot the iconic collection in action on the pitch. But just like a lot of my great notions in recent years, far-fetched isn’t always so far off. On the back of 2 and a half weeks of bouncing around cities in the UK and Europe fate would have it that PSG and Man U were meeting in the Champions League at the same time we were in Paris. 

The football gods smiled on me and the far-fetched idea became reality. I was blessed with the opportunity to shoot the second leg of PSG’s Champions League quarterfinal with Manchester United in Paris. The stage was set, and thanks to the homies at PSG, my photographer credential was set as well. 

The day before the match, I visited the PSG training facility to shoot the first 15 minutes of training. I got an up-close look at the training outfits. Bold red mixed with black pants spoke to that iconic “BRED” colorway that Jordan Brand has made infamous. Mbappe broke out the special edition Jordan Vapors. In the corner of the trainging ground stood two basketball hoops next to a soccer goal, painting a quite literal picture of the combination of two worlds. 

On match day the energy was buzzing from the streets to the metro, this was no ordinary day. One thing that was different for me, was waiting until the evening for the match to start. In the US I’m accustomed to watching Champions League matches at lunchtime. That wait intensified my anticipation. The combination of it being my first Champions League match (as a photographer and/or spectator), my first match at Parc des Princes, the significance of the match, and the thought that this far-fetched drea, was actually happening made for a few nerves. And then it rained and continued to rain pretty much the entire match. 

The rain set a unique frame for a match that held such significance. And while the result didn’t have PSG shining in the end, the Jumpman on the pitch definitely did. It wasn’t just the kits during the match. From the aforementioned “BRED” warmup/training fits to the all black coaching gear to bright white Flyknit pregame track tops to seeing fans rock both the home and the away kits in the stands (I didn’t see anyone with my coaches jacket though)–it was evident Jordan Brand and PSG came correct on all levels with this one. I even got a bonus snap of a fellow photographers fire on feet with his Jordan 1s. 

Of course, the black “home” kits did not disappoint visually on the pitch. Whether it was the whole team huddled together in moments like the team photo and celebrating the first goal or an individual player coming over to the corner flag to take a corner, the black kits with white the Jumpman showed out. No lie, every time I put my camera to my eye I said to myself, “man those kits look good.” Down to the Jumpman over “Paris” on the socks, all the little details of this kit just work.

One thing I did notice was missing, was the Jumpman on the feet of Mbappe. Now, I know this was probably due to some contractual obligations and what not, but still, a match of this level and a player of Mbappe’s level, you want the potential man of the night rocking the Jumpman on feet. Regardless of that omission (and of course the outcome of the match),  photographing the Jumpman on the pitch was well worth it. Jordan Brand set the bar high for themselves with this one, we are all waiting for next season. Too soon, too soon, I know.

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: JESSICA VINCENT

For this installment of Female is Football, we link up with Jessica Vincent. A recent grad of Long Beach State. Jessica played 4 years at CSULB and was an integral part of the team each of those years. We spent time with Jessica on the campus of CSULB, hit the streets of downtown Long Beach, and also caught the sunset at the beach. Jessica definitely brought the heat on her feet with Nike x Off-White Vapor Maxes and Prestos to accent the looks that include everything from a BALR crop-top and hoodie to a customized PSG 2019 home kit. Check out the shoot and learn more about Jessica below.

Photos: @bybrando

Tell us your story. Where are you from? How’d you get into soccer? Where did you play?

I’m actually from Redondo Beach California. I have lived by the beach my entire life and that has definitely been my favorite part about where I live. I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old. It was just something I thought I would try out and my father decided to be the coach of the team. It was actually a coed team. I don’t really remember my first game but my parents never stop telling the story because they say I actually scored 5 goals, but the plot twist was that I scored 2 goals for the other team and 3 for my own team. I think I just dribbled the ball to the nearest net. I started to fall in love with the sport when it became more competitive and I was challenged and forced to make sacrifices for it. I play central midfield, and at times I play out wide as a forward/winger. Center mid has always resonated with me because I like to be in the middle of the field and involved with a lot of the action. I love play-making more than anything.

 

I just finished playing for Long Beach State and I just recently graduated actually a few weeks ago. Now I am looking to play overseas within the next few months. My favorite professional team of all time is Barcelona. And my favorite professional player of all time is Lionel Messi, but my favorite team [at] the moment is PSG.

How would you describe your style?

My style is urban industrial and when I’m not wearing street clothes, I’m wearing athletic clothing(LuLu lemon, Nike, Off-White). And if I’m not doing either of those styles, then I’m dressed up(fashionova, top shop, Eden sky, IamGia, Kith, etc).

What are your current favorite boots?

My favorite boots right now are the Nike Phantoms.

What are your favorite sneakers?

My go-to sneakers are probably the Vapor Max. 

Give us your top three guilty pleasure foods.

Top three guilty pleasure foods have to be: Canes, any kind of Mexican food, and chocolate ice cream.

How about for music?

Guilty pleasures for music [are] 90’s R&B tracks (except R-Kelly), Jhené Aiko, and Drake.

What are you listening to right now? 

Sativa by Jhené Aiko. 

What are your pet peeves?

Some of my biggest pet peeves are people who talk a lot but [can’t] back it up, loud obnoxious people, [and] people with bad hygiene.

What do you admire most in others?

Personality traits I admire most are people who are passionate, inspired, [and] motivating.

And now for the rapid fire section:

Shake Shack or In-N-Out?

In-N-Out.

Netflix of Hulu?

Netflix.

Red or Blue?

Red.

Scoring a goal or assisting a goal?

Scoring.

Iced Coffee or Hot?

Iced coffee.

How do you think style affects your confidence on and off the pitch?

I think style definitely plays a huge role in my confidence on and off the field. I’ve always lived by the motto “look good, play good”. I feel more myself when I am wearing the things that I like and I feel better about myself. I used to think the cleats I was rocking were the reason I had a good game. Definitely style adds to your confidence.