BROTHERHOOD OF THE FEET: SANDY BODECKER

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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 October 2nd, 2018 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


 

 

 

 

EXPLORING THE WORK & IMPACT OF DESIGNER CHRISTIAN TRESSER

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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 adidas.

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 career there were not many options to pursue after college. So after a year of playing college soccer Christian decided to enroll at The Academy of Arts in San Francisco. His artistic talent would later be the vehicle for him to connect with football as a designer for performance soccer footwear. 

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 1994 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 Aztrek 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.”

BEHIND THE DESIGN OF PLAYR SMART COACH WITH CEO BENOIT SIMERAY

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At KTTP we are obsessed with design and the process of design. We are fascinated by the stories behind the products we use and the stories they communicate to the user. That is why we were drawn to PLAYR. 

PLAYR is a tech vest and pod that tracks speed, distance, sprints and heat maps. The focus of the product is solely on the pitch and performance-based and the potential of wearables to impact the game is enormous.  We will leave the analysis of how smart tech is changing football to those more qualified than ourselves. We did, however, get the opportunity to chat with Benoit Simeray the CEO Consumer at Catapult, about the design process of PLAYR. 

One of the first things you notice about the PLAYR vest is the sleek design—no buttons, no visible outlets or charging chords. That was no accident, a lot of thought went into the crafting of the vest. 

“We had to questions those things. Why do we have a button? What is the value of having a button?…what is the value of the vest? How do we approach the smart vest in a different way then we have been doing for the last 10 or 20 years…Why not wireless charging? Could we not use the vest to activate the pod, to turn it on? And to autodetect when you actually started to move? So there is a magnet in the pocket of the vest that signal(s) the pod to turn on.”

The result of asking those questions is a sleek and seamless piece of technology that looks great. The design of the product was shaped by four defining principles, Benoit explained. First, needed to be the highest quality. It needed to perform at a high level. It needed to be what Benoit calls, “frictionless.” 

“So it was [more than] just high quality and high performance it was [about being] frictionless in all aspects. That’s the third pillar. It’s got to be very easy to unbox, to set up, to upgrade, to use, and then to upload the session.

“And then the fourth thing—it’s got to be beautiful. It’s very simple, but for me, it is fundamental that anything that we are doing at Catapult has to be design led…Not just the way the product looks it’s the way our products interact with our customers.”

The simple and elegant design and packaging is a visual manifestation of the seamless and efficient product and user experience. “We massively enjoyed the creation of that beautiful project… The product is not just the vest. It’s the pod, it’s the vest, and it’s the software—where the user is spending 90 percent of their interaction time…frictionless and beautiful…”

Benoit and Catapult were very conscious in their design choices for the product, the packaging and the story they tell in their online messaging. 

“PLAYR is not for every soccer player. It’s for players who are really serious about…their game and who are willing to enhance their performances and get a competitive edge [over] the other team and the other players. And that’s fundamentally all we are after.”

Through the use of colors and selective imagery PLAYR is looking to hone in on their target audience: “the high working, high performer who has this passion [for the game] That is why we chose [certain] colors…electric blue…a strong pink. We also worked a lot around [the idea] of electricity—that electric, dynamic player. The [building] of a human machine. All of that [fed] the art direction.”

The idea of PLAYR being for the select few, those who are passionate about getting better is an idea that Simeray elaborated on. 

The [people] that are buying PLAYR are adapters, they are opinion shapers. opinion leaders. They have an edge on the rest of the population. They innovate and they…embrace new technology. 

“In sports today talent is important but it’s not everything. It’s the preparation, it’s the constant performance. Those players, that’s what they have…We are after those…leaders…who are showing the way to the rest of the team.”

Those individuals who are leaders and opinion shapers should be excited about PLAYR’s future plans to add more customizability and more design choices in the near future. 

“We are investing [significant amount] into research and development to make it the best performing…smart vest in terms of ability…but also the most appealing and distinctive because this is actually what you wear and this is how you express…your personality…from when you wear it on top of your team jersey during training but also when you wear it underneath your team [shirt] and remove it when you score a goal. This is an expression of who you are. We are looking into…limited editions…and not [just] colors, different fabrics, different shapes…it could be also on-demand printing…the ability to customize and tailor-make your own design so that this is an expression of who you are…we definitely have some things in the pipeline, making sure that each and every system can be tailor-made to your needs and your personality or the message that you’re willing to spread.”

PLAYR’s message is clear. They are serious about quality and performance and it is reflected in every detail. From the product itself to the packaging and even down to the Instagram pics. They are about high quality and performing at a high level all while looking good. 

CAN THESE OG BRANDS REEMERGE AFTER JORDAN?

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.


FILA

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

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

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.


CHAMPION

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.

THE INSPIRATION BEHIND BEKCHAM’S FLASHY NEW CLUB

Neon lights, banging beats, party people and little sleep; some of the many things that typify the legendary city of Miami. Despite the often care-free, show-up late attitude of this South Florida community (the 2013 NBA Finals… yeah we’re still laughing), Miami is also a major sports city. From the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and legendary quarterback Dan Marino to showcasing LeBron James in his back-to-back reign of terrorizing the league, Miami has given the nation timeless moments in the ether of sports history.

Enter David Beckham, a sportsman and cultural icon in himself. Having long sought his stamp on the managerial side of soccer, Becks has finally been granted Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, the newest expansion team to the MLS. Inter Miami C.F. for short, already has the internet trolling, but aside from the name, which yes, could be slightly more creative, the design and inspiration is on point.

Going back and forth over what truly embodies Miami, Beckham aimed to represent the great Southern American influence that has come to embody the city. Though minimal in its presentation, each element in the crest reflects a different but unifying aspect; for example, the herons who are both inhabitants of the city and animals that migrate from Alaska as far as the coasts of Brazil, represent the many migrant communities that have made Miami their own. The eclipse in the middle showcases the day-and-night attitude that is ever-present throughout the city along with the ring around the crest that brings together the city’s inclusive nature. To cap it off, the pink and black color palette reflects the pristine views of Miami’s iconic sunrises.

Designed by DoubleDay and Cartwright’s Kimou Meyer (aka Grotesk), the club badge
beautifully blends Miami’s cultural pastiche in a clean graphic direction that serves as a great step forward for the rest of the MLS to follow. No stranger to the world of sports, Grotesk operates the vastly popular Victory Journal and states that the design process for Inter Miami took a long three years to bring into fruition.

OP ED | PSG x JORDAN: MORE THAN PRODUCT

So it has been two days since the reveal and then subsequent release of the highly rumored and anticipated PSG x Jordan Brand collection. The day the collection was revealed, I wrote down my thoughts on how I felt the collection was the culmination of everything we have been speaking about at KTTP for the past few years.

This drop of products holds a bit more weight to me than I think most will realize. While I didn’t have any hand in the creation of it, I feel like I did. I have been grinding for the past almost 4 years with my KTTP family, pushing the conversation about sneaker culture colliding with the game of soccer, a conversation that not too many were having. Yes, at the end of the day it’s just product, but what you have to understand is that this collection is the realization and picture of what I have dedicated most of every waking moment of my life to for the last few years talking about, pushing and creating around.

To see the Jumpman logo OFFICIALLY paired with a major soccer team (not just a player) is the embodiment of Sneakers (kicks) meeting Soccer. To see the conversation we helped start come round to this point in such a short time is dope. This is what we have BEEN talking about, this is what we SAW coming… Make no mistake this collection is Kicks to the Pitch and I look forward to seeing what is next and where it goes from here.

Ok, so now that the dust has settled, you know how I feel about it, the collection has dropped (most of it), and our wallets/bank accounts are empty, let’s take a second to appreciate the depth of the range that was released and/or what’s to come. The pieces that really stand out to me are pretty much anything that has the oversized PSG x Jordan logo on the back. For example the Coaches Jacket, Black Tee shirt and Long Sleeve Crewneck Sweater. Of course, you can’t overlook the Jordan 5s, the Jordan 1s dropping in Oct, the mercurial 360s and Phantom VSNs donning the Jumpman on the heel and the special edition Champions league home and away third kits. When PSG steps on the field this coming week with Jumpman logo on their chest, it will definitely mark a moment in both soccer and sneaker culture history.

Be sure to head over to World Soccer Shop where you can still get your hands on some of the collection.

 

THE BEST LIFESTYLE X SOCCER FASHION COLLABS

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.

HERE FOR THE COMMENTS: UMBRO FOR JAMAICA

I think we can all agree that a great look for Jamaica had been a long time coming. Yes, the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings had a memorable look, but at least in the world of soccer, I believe most people would point back to the 1998 Kappa World Cup jersey as the last time the Caribbean island nation gave us a kit to talk about. This, however, is now a thing of the past as Umbro’s brand new home and away options for Jamaica left me dumbfounded when I first laid eyes on them. While I could talk about everything that’s great about these kits, as usual, I thought I should switch it up a bit and extend the dialogue we’re going to have about Jamaica’s new look by sharing some of the comments I have gathered throughout various Instagram pages.

It is obvious Umbro’s effort has received overwhelming approval. No comment can be more reflective of this support than the one below:

spencer_loop: “Usain bolt about to play”

I can’t disagree with this comment. The kits make me want to play for Jamaica and I am not even Jamaican. Additionally, I love these kits so much that I see myself outrunning the fastest man on Earth in order to get them.

Both kits are exceptional, but some people have already chosen their favorite.

guerrilla_fc: “that away kit is 🔥”

Guerrilla FC expressed a very common opinion on social media. By far, Jamaica’s away kit steals the show with its unique graphic print across the lower portion of the jersey. The home kit, however, is still a solid option as it too has some distinct features. What I love most about the home look is the taping on the sleeves which combines the Umbro diamonds with a prominent feature of the Jamaican flag. This is a perfect blend of both brand and country and you get something that is easily identifiable as both Umbro and Jamaica – something that’s pretty rare to see nowadays.

Some people though are more modest with their approval.

yungrichard:_ “kits lowkey heat 🔥🔥🔥”

@yungrichard_ writes the biggest understatement about these kits. There is nothing lowkey about them. If anything his comment should have read that these kits are highkey heat.

From this, you move on to the people who already have these kits among the best of the year.

brxxxck: “Way hotter than the Nigeria 🇳🇬 kits at the WC.”

Okay so this comment is certainly up for debate, but I do not think @brxxxck is wrong when saying this. If there is one thing that Jamaica’s kits have going for them that the Nigeria kit does not, it is that Umbro has devised truly original looks that are not inspired by previous designs.

Did I say people really love these kits?

alistairslack: “They are so peng”

Okay so this comment is one I was initially confused by but I assumed it just had to be good. One quick Google search later and I found out I was right.

Still, not everyone will be a fan.

liam_mclachlan113: Possibly one of the ugliest kits I’ve ever seen

Yes, this comment left me the most confused of all. It’s not a very popular opinion whatsoever either. I don’t agree with it, but I am sure @liam_mclachlan113 will see the error of his way eventually.

On that note, I welcome everyone that may either hate or appreciate these kits to share their own comments with us below!

ANOTHER NIKE CLASSIC WITH THE PREMIER II SALA

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

INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE IMPENDING PSG X JORDAN COLLAB

It is obviously no secret: PSG and Jordan Brand as we all know have linked up for an extensive soccer and lifestyle collection and the day to finally see all of it is only getting nearer. Before that day comes though, I thought it best to share my initial outlook on such a collaboration in order to spark conversation that perhaps reveals the same concerns I may have as well as all the possibilities others may see that I am overlooking.

To begin, I am not surprised that such a collaboration has come about. In recent years, Jordan Brand has made moves to distinguish itself as more than just a basketball brand. In college football here in the United States, Jordan brand now outfits some of the most recognized programs such as the University of Michigan, University of Florida, and Oklahoma. The heart of this partnership is recruitment. A relationship with Jordan brand allows a school to attract the best prospects in the country while at same time maintain the cultural relevance of the Jumpman.

If our memory serves us right, this will not be Jordan brand’s first foray into soccer. Just two years ago, Jordan brand linked up with Neymar for the NJR x Jordan Collection. The project featured a Bred Brazil jersey but was highlighted by Hypervenom boots inspired by the iconic Jordan 5. At the time, and still to this day, I saw this collection as a more logical collaboration. Numerous athletes both in the baseball and football world had already taken their love of J’s on to the field with unique cleats, and most recently we now even have Kyrie Irving bringing a new spark back to the Nike SB Dunks with his latest special edition Lobster Kyrie IV’s.

The concerns I have with this Jordan collaboration, therefore, lie more on the apparel side. On the lifestyle side, I am intrigued by the strong pieces already revealed by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Travis Scott. Both are items I would pick up in an instant, especially the basketball jersey worn by Scott which takes a clever spin to the Paris branding. It is only as we move to the pitch offerings that I become more apprehensive of this partnership. Initially, I fell in the same camp as the soccer purists who thought it absurd for a brand with a man holding a basketball to grace the likes of a soccer jersey. It seems awkward no doubt, but essentially it’s something I can get over because I do think that there can be a place for Jordan brand in the world of soccer.

What I hope took place in those meetings between PSG and Jordan execs is therefore a real discussion on what Jordan can offer to kit design. From what I have seen in the past, Jordan brand has made little effort to distinguish itself from its parent company, Nike. Both the Jumpman and swoosh seem interchangeable which leads to my next point. If this collection is simply about brand recognition or “corporate theater” as Paul Lukas has referred to past Jordan collabs, then this partnership will be somewhat of a disappointment as well as a missed opportunity to take this growing soccer culture past the hype and into new frontiers with real possibilities.