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For this edition of Kit Stories presented by World Soccer Shop, we meet up with Mr. “Have a Nice” himself, David “Vuj” Vujanić. Vuj takes us through his kit journey, from falling in love with the sport during the 1998 World Cup when he was captivated by the OG Ronaldo. Vuj recaps a story of a very unique Steven Gerard Liverpool kit that he owns and we learn about how a series of kits in his closet represents the different iterations of his family’s national heritage. His kit journey comes full circle at the 2018 World Cup in Russia when Serbia played Brazil in the group stages. Watch as Vuj passionately expresses his love for the football kit. “I love kits man, they’re just iconic. They represent a time. They capture moments. They transcend the game itself.”
Although this year’s World Cup is far behind us, that doesn’t mean we need to forget and move on from the one-in-every-four year event. In fact, all the better to remember its impact to help spur on more culture surrounding the sport. Especially out here in the States, given that we, along with our neighbors Mexico and Canada, will be hosting the global tournament in 2026 following Qatar for 2022 (the first Arab state to host the World Cup). To help keep our soccer spirits up, up and away, we have Billionaire Boys Club: the fashion brand/retailer and brainchild of both Pharrell Williams and BAPE founder NIGO.
For its Summer 2018 NYC-exclusive capsule collection, the premium streetwear label has delivered a vibrant and whimsical array of athletic pieces inspired by the recently passed World Cup. The drop includes a range of silhouettes, from player jerseys to goalie long-sleeves, warm-up suits, short and more. The main attraction for the collection as a whole, however, is it’s diverse and fun designs that features tie-dye, camo, and classic soccer stripes patterning, as well as BBC’s classic space-centric motifs. Details include “7 Mercer” and “212” notes that nods to the brand’s NYC flagship.
To showcase the pieces in use, courtesy of the kind people at Billionaire Boys Club, we decided to explore our own urban landscape for the setting of our original fashion editorial, which you can see throughout. The pieces are currently available at BBC’s NYC flagship store, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area:
BBC Flagship Store
7 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012
If you’re familiar with what we do at Kicks to the Pitch, you’ll know of our feature series titled Chicks in Kits, a channel where we highlight female enthusiasts of the beautiful game, from ex-pro soccer players to creatives to fitness trainers, all of which share the same passion for the sport. As of today, we’ve decided to get with the times and rename the series to Football is Female in a bid to open our platform up to a more gender-balanced approach. Kicking off the revised series is a look at some of the stand out female fans that have trekked the globe to support our favorite global sporting event: the World Cup.
Taken while we were out there in Russia covering the games for our own purposes, we’ve managed to grab the emotion, intensity, highs, lows, and everything in-between from some of the many faces captured within the crowds. Stay tuned for more from our #footballisfemale series to come.
This past weekend, Upper90 hosted the USA Finals of the Red Bull Street Style tournament. The stakes were high. Whoever was skilled enough to win would go on to represent the USA at the World Finals in Poland. Contestants came to the Queens location of Upper90 in Astoria from all over the country, from California to just a few blocks away. Talk about competition.
Aside from the competition, we had a chance to check out the entirety of the location, equipped with an indoor pitch, two rooftop pitches, the store itself, and a cafe. Before the tournament began, there was a viewing party set up for the Russia vs. Croatia World Cup quarterfinal, while contestants were warming up for what might be the biggest competition of their lives.
There were fan experiences set up as well, including a custom T-shirt station and a Messi virtual experience station by adidas. One of the co-owners, Zach, welcomed us and showed us around while we chatted about his experiences as a former commodities trader and what led him to create Upper90. “The city had nothing like it before this,” he said, as we watched the 5-a-side games on the rooftop pitches. Creds to Zach and his colleagues for taking a risk in one of the world’s most unforgiving cities. The risk paid off as they now have multiple locations and enjoy success while providing for local communities.
The Red Bull Street Style tournament hosted by UPPER90 was a culmination of their mission: encouraging expression, while bringing together communities. We wish Upper90 continued success in the future, of which we have no doubt as long as they keep up what they’re doing. Be sure to visit any of their locations if you’re ever in New York City.
You can visit the Queens location of Upper90 in Astoria at 34-23 38th St, Long Island City, NY 11101.
Three lions, four birds, and a cross of the knights templar walk into a World Cup… The origins of global soccer crests is a tangled mess of lions, tigers, eagles and rosaries — as complex and intertwined as the beautiful game itself. Now that we’ve passed the knockout stages, here are a few of the best origin stories behind the sigils of our World Cup favorites.
JAPAN (The three-legged crow)
Japanese design culture has always a boasted a beauty rooted in being painstakingly well-considered. The nation’s soccer kits for their beloved “Samurai Blue” are no different. The JFA crest prominently depicts the Yatagarasu – the three-legged crow – who in Asian myth serves as a kind of avatar for divine intervention or a messenger from the gods. Under the crow’s front-most talon is, of course, the rising sun, emblematic of modern Japan. To this day, the winners of the “Emperor’s cup,” Japan’s oldest domestic trophy, are awarded a Yatagarasu emblem on their kit as a reward, further conflating Japanese monarchy with the divine.
MEXICO (El Tri)
El Tri’s current crest has been in rotation since ‘94 and shares the same eagle as the Mexican flag. But instead of the eagle perched on a cactus, it is instead rocking atop The Aztec calendar. That nod to the ancient Aztecs weaves a rich tapestry of Mexico’s indigenous iconography into the Passion and Orgullo (pride) of their soccer history.
Sometimes a simple pun, perhaps even a homonym, can stir up a symbol to last over 100 years. For many scholars, the fact that the Latin root for the region of Gaul (Gallus) was identical to the Latin word for the rooster (Gallus) served as a genuine LOL moment for the people of the Middle Ages. Oh, how these people would laugh at the pleasant coincidence while associating the Gauls with the attributes of a rooster: stubbornness and brazenness. Joke’s on them, the French would run with it and since 1909 Fédération Française de Football would march out onto the field of play with the proud rooster emblazoned over their heart. From Zizou and Thuram to Pogba and Griezmann, Les Bleus unleash the rooster’s crow of French culture and sport in 90-minute intervals.
The iconic yellow and green adorned with its five World Cup victory stars are as iconic a brand as any in sporting culture. Yet, because of how vibrant and decadent the crest is, the cross anchoring it all often hides in plain sight. A second look will begin to avail the similarities of the crest shape and cross to that of Portugal, as the cross in the middle is a nod to the Portuguese Templar Knights in the Order of Christ’s Cross who uncovered a large portion of South America for Europe. The crest as a whole serves as a reminder that while the language of the nation may be rooted in Europe, the flair and joy is something uniquely made up of Brazil.
ENGLAND (Three Lions)
Ahhh, the originators of heraldry. Masters of lore and Knighthood, the English FA and the three lions have receipts going back as far as anyone when it comes to the genesis of the crest in culture. While the Three Lions are a living homage to the different iterations of King Richard the 1st’s coat of arms, the 10 Tudor roses scattered symmetrically across the shield represent the 10 regional branches of the FA. On a stage crowded by large felines, the English may just have the most iconic rendition.
RUSSIA (Double-headed Eagle)
From our lovely tournament host comes some of the most brazenly gangster symbols in World Cup history. Taken straight from the Russian coat of arms. the two (well, three when counting the two heads of the eagles) are the double-headed eagle of Ivan III and a sigil of St. George trampling a dragon. With both Byzantine and Hittite origins (that one’s for you AP Euro nerds) the hosts showcase an equally rich tradition of heraldry as that of Western footballing nations. Their bold crest serves as a reminder that no two eagles are alike.
We are weeks into the tournament and somehow we are still talking about Nigeria’s World Cup Collection. No need to roll your eyes though as this is not another discussion on style and fashion. Instead, we’re here to highlight the greater significance of Nike’s project through the newfound interest and awareness it has generated for a nation and continent that stems well beyond the world of soccer.
It was only right for Nike to link up with OkayAfrica, a news and media platform that celebrates all facets of African culture for a North American audience. A few weeks ago, the two threw a Nigeria pre-World Cup watch party in Brooklyn as an opportunity to leverage the hype around this collection with all the work that OkayAfrica has done and continues to do.
The whole project is enlightening to anyone. For me specifically, who has grown so used to hearing and seeing all the negative and unfortunate things about Africa, it is refreshing to finally be exposed to a new image that celebrates the vibrancy of a culture in spite of all this adversity. I am thankful that soccer now serves as a conduit to Africa’s art, music, food, and culture, however, I realize that the beauty of this continent was always there for me if I had only looked for it.
OkayAfrica remains committed to this work, and we were lucky to have spent time with them where they spoke at length on how the World Cup has reinvigorated this effort to showcase Africa not just to a diaspora community, but to the world. Read our full interview with OkayAfrica’s Director of Events/Activations Sinat Giwa, with Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hislop chiming in below.
Can you tell us about how you/OkayAfrica and Nike connected for the project?
We’d been planning events for World Cup 2018 for a while now, knowing that it was a key moment for our community of Africans globally. Once we knew the five African countries that would be making it to the World Cup – Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia – we began to plan around ways to reach the parts of our community that represent each country respectively. Nike approached us about activating around the Nigeria team kits because of our strong connection to the Nigerian Diaspora community, especially in New York. We knew that this event would not only be a pivotal moment for our core sports audience globally but that this collaboration would underscore how big of a moment these kits would be for Nigerian culture.
Why did Nike’s Naija campaign resonate with you specifically and why is it important to OkayAfrica?
The campaign resonated because of its focus on the culture of soccer and how that extends outside of the game. The campaign was about our culture (a portion of our team that worked on the project is Nigerian). The game is central, but the players, the community rallying, the music, the art, and the fashion surrounding the games have always been just as exciting for OkayAfrica to highlight. It’s what we do.
Can you give us a brief on the creative concept behind the event – bringing in the IG photographers, including music in the mix, etc?
We had the idea to bring a Nigerian party 3.0 to life with a series of wonderful partnerships with dope creatives, movers, and shakers in our community. This was an opportunity to once again leverage our incredible relationships to underscore a pivotal moment. We wanted to create a proper Naija shindig with food, roaming photography and of course JAMS, as music is the framework on which OkayAfrica was built. As for musical talent, Moniki came through with the Afro-Brazilian vibes to remind us that Africans are worldwide and of the connections between Brazil and Nigeria. Moma is one of the best to ever do it, so we had to have him there, and Tunez is the top Nigerian DJ Worldwide – no question. Getting Burna Boy in the mix was incepted way back when we heard his latest project “Outside,” so when the opportunity to add him as a surprise performer came, we knew this was the perfect moment. Having Izzy Odigie solo dancing on the stage, the guys with fresh “Naija” and OkayAfrica logo haircuts as a nod to being in Brooklyn, it all came together wonderfully. Overall we kept it simple with a couple of great photo moments, good vibes, food, and really great music. If you’ve ever been to an OkayAfrica party you know it’s always just a moment to have our people gather and have fun.
The visuals captured are also a major part to the event. How did you fall upon the three photographers chosen to capture the spirit of Naija Worldwide Bash?
We work with Travis Matthews fairly often, since he shot our Fall 2017 campaign for Okayplayer clothing. He’s so talented and amazing at shooting on the fly. His event photography highlights that skill. I’ve been following Bukunmi Grace for a while now and knew she needed to be a part of capturing this event when we first started ideating, and Shako Oteka is the man! He came up from North Carolina on the fly, shot on his own accord and shared these amazing images with me and the team after. I had to include them. It was really special to get these varying perspectives of the event.
What do events like the Naija Worldwide Bash mean to American culture?
It means we (Africans) are here – and we’ve been here! So much so that the spirit of our content and when we gather resonates heavily with the diaspora and those who are searching for ways to connect more intimately with African culture.
What about on a global standpoint?
Same thing. Africa to the World! Our goal as a brand and an editorial platform is to connect people globally to the greatness and diversity of the culture that is cultivated on the continent, and this event was an extension of that work.
What are your comments on the turnout and how the event went?
It was a special one. To look out on the crowd and see not only people from all parts of the continent and the diaspora, but also attendees who may have been discovering our brand for the first time via Nike was really a warming feeling. For those who have been to an OkayAfrica party before, this was a culmination of all of the things we like to provide, good food, vibes, and music. And for those that were experiencing this for the first time, it was the perfect introduction to how we celebrate.
What’s the future for OkayAfrica and soccer?
Rachel: On the website for the World Cup, we’ve tapped several experts in the field to focus on the African countries in the competition—Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia.
We’ll have articles spanning everything from in-depth looks at the African teams in the competition, profiles on rising stars like Egypt’s Mohamed Salah to the afrobeat music being played in locker rooms before the games, and well pieces about how players are standing up to racism from fans.
We thank OkayAfrica for the opportunity they have provided to us to showcase their own work. We are confident their efforts will keep more eyes on Africa well beyond this summer.
Today marked a monumental win for South Korea within the world of soccer, as they beat Germany in today’s match for the World Cup 2018 with a two-nil win! Out here in Los Angeles, a city with the country’s largest Korean population, let me just say, the high energy, pride, and spirit felt throughout simply cannot be put into words. For those of you who are – or were – rooting for Germany, the Korea win comes as an immense blow given that the country is now out of the World Cup…
While we as a media outlet strive to stay as unbiased as we can, we can’t help but share in the joy our Korean brothers and sisters are feeling right now. In a bid to continue Korean pride, we’ve got a special Street Style fashion editorial that highlights Nike Soccer’s official Korea collection, modeled in Downtown Los Angeles by our very own writer Raymond An who is currently out there in Russia doing his own bit of Korea-support – if you haven’t heard about his #followtheflag initiative yet, click here to find out all about it. Donning South Korea’s official Nike 2018 away kit in white, as well as their travel top in black, the editorial also brings out a retro World Cup piece in blue complete with the Korean flag emblem, as well as an official Korea Football Association cap, all styled in street-ready looks. Check out the special South Korea street style editorial throughout.
“As an African kid, you don’t learn to play football on the synthetic turf or learn football with well-planned grass, you learn it the hard way… on the street corners.”
The night is alit — the roaring of trumpets, the banging of drums, the cheering of thousands, hopeful — as the Nigerian National Football team prepares for the biggest moments of their lives. For a country of 186 million, 60 percent of which is under the age of 20, this is a new Nigeria. One to which represents a new direction, a new spirit, channeled across a country of over 500 different tribes in what is known collectively as Naija.
In conjunction with Nike, Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu captures this vibrant optimism in a new short-film titled, This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story. At the forefront is the new Nigeria home kit, a devilishly beautiful shirt highlighted with neon green accents and an iconic zig-zag pattern which shattered the kit record, by selling out three million units in mere minutes. However, this is a story that runs far deeper than a flashy kit; this is the tale of a country, who’s relatively recent independence, is now revealing its deeply rooted creative history. A history of song and dance, of food and culture, of mythology and folklore — all of which permeates with every pulsating kick of the ball.
“When I think of Naija swag — swag is edgy, edgy is rugged, it’s authentic. Its the way we dress, its the way we carry ourselves, its the way we speak. its the way we move,” says Nigerian musician Nneka. This movement is ever-present in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and captain John Obi Mikel, but also in rising musical and creative talents such as photographer Yagazie Emezi, filmmaker Grace Ladoja and Wizkid, to name a few.
As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria oozes this creativity, as it ranks second worldwide in terms of films produced and one that has birthed musical giants such as Fela Kuti and the Afrobeat movement. Footballing wise, Nigeria continues to grace the world with maestros — from the legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha of the Olympic Gold winning team of 1996 to Premier League stars Alexander Iwobi and Victor Moses.
“Hosting the World Cup in Nigeria would take Nigeria from where it is now amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, to where it can be, one of the most advanced civilizations in the world”, says Nigerian Football legend, Segun Odegbami. The resources are there, the talents is there, the passion and energy is there… it is now up to this new Naija to use football as a catalyst in spearheading both Nigeria and the continent of Africa in what could be a domino effect of infrastructural development for the years to come. Enjoy the full This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story below.
Although the on pitch play of the Korean National Football team has been lackluster at best, the team came correct off pitch for this years World Cup in Russia. Partnering up with design firm H9PITCH STUDIO, the KFA created a special collection of items that appeal to the world that lives outside of the game. From limited edition patches, skate decks, rings, air fresheners, bluetooth speakers, and bracelets the collection has something for everyone. Not until recent has repping your national team crest been looked at as stylish, but with the younger generation of fans emerging, the clubs and countries must keep up with the popular sense of style. The best part of this entire collection is the federation did it all private label. Avoiding the headache and red tape of the “big brand” the KFA was able to lean on a design group directly connected to the streets of Korea, in turn creating a collection that sends a message to the streets.
The inspiration behind the product stems from an ever growing need for “cool” in the soccer space. With so many small pop up brands entering the market, it seems only fitting that the big clubs and countries start to grasp the new wave of soccer. No longer is soccer tiro pants with the track jacket, or the mom in the mini van, as the key teams begin to take notice of the off pitch style, the growth of the sport will accelerate beyond anything can imagine. Tapping into the movement of the urban community will allow so many more people to be aware of how beautiful the game genuinely is. A gate way to the gam through the world of style.
When it comes to being first, Korea was not the first ones to do this, back in 2014 the USMNT teamed up with the likes of legendary artist Futura, Kayo skate, and Nike to create a players only collection and PSG created a full collection of product for its US Tours in both LA 2016 and Miami 2017, but what Korea did do was break the mold for a federation and open this open to the masses. Allowing the fans of the national team to rep the country with pride and style is one thing, but when the fans of other countries are supporting, you know you have done something correct.
In my opinion, the collection is well rounded, creative and a step in the right direction. Hopefully sooner then later the powers that be inside the clubs and federations will take note. Until then you get one option. You can pick up the full KFA collection now at H9Pitch.
While the world is aware that brands like to put in money and effort into their campaign events, it’s safe to say that as of late adidas has risen the bar, especially with what they’ve done out here in Los Angeles – their 747 event for basketball back in February being a prime example. Last week the sportswear giant went at it again for its soccer division to celebrate its latest innovation for the sport, coinciding of course with the 2018 World Cup. If you’ve been following us – and any other soccer-orientated platform for that matter – you’ll already be well aware of adidas Soccer’s X18+ silhouette, a slim and sleek, laceless offering that focuses on the power of speed. It’s been dubbed “the fastest and lightest laceless boot available.”
Highlighting its release, the X18+ Energy Mode event brought in crowds to experience a live customization of adidas soccer kits, enjoy the open bars and food courtesy of Sweet Chick, and to witness a live Tango League with an MVP to be chosen to win a trip to Russia to compete in the global Tango League final. Rolling up to the event, which took place at adidas’ The Base location in Los Angeles – yup, the same as where we hold our The Association game nights – we were set loose to enjoy all the aforementioned happenings and then some.
While soccer was very much the main focus of the day, adidas managed to mix in music and art with the beautiful game by inviting OG Graffiti legend Saber, who conducted a live art installment that saw him spray painting over a wall of soccer balls, each being handed out to the public along with a Saber signature. The main event, however, was when adidas brought out Queens-native Rich the Kid who got the crowd into a frenzy. To cap the night off, a squad of motorbike riders tore up the cement outside – from wheelies to donuts – all in a bid to create some near-deafening noise to celebrate the Tango League MVP winner: Melvyn Owen Perez Cortez – congrats, kid!
While we managed to enjoy ourselves at the event, if there’s a work opportunity, you know we’ll take it, so we asked adidas if they could sit us down with its soccer division’s merchandising manager Joseph Sleven to talk all things X18+, as well as his thoughts on the current landscape of soccer culture. Check out the interview below, as well as our official visual recap of the event throughout.
To start, can you summarize adidas’ new X18 Energy Mode pack for those that are still unfamiliar with the innovation?
Put it frankly, the thought process behind the design of the shoe was to build something for the fastest player possible, down to the look, down to the field, down to the weight. Everything about it is supposed to enable our most explosive – our fastest players – to perform at their top level.
So there’s obviously a lot of aspects when it comes to playing soccer in terms of product design. Why focus on speed for this release?
When we create the range, and when we look at our footwear, there’s any number of players that take part or participate in the game. So for us, the predator is that person who controls the game, they dictate the tempo, their touch, their field or class… everything they do can kind of permeate throughout the team. X players are extremely explosive with getting to the end of the pitch and putting the ball in the back of the net. Nemesis is for those agility players who are really unpredictable – they don’t really fit into a box. Maybe they’re floating around the field but they have these moments of magic that you can’t recreate. And then the Copa is the boot. It’s the soccer player… It’s almost your favorite player’s favorite boot. So everything within that portfolio speaks to different players of the game recognizing that no two players are the same.
Can you speak about the thoughts behind the X18+’s colorway and the overall aesthetics of the shoe?
Well, first and foremost it needed to look fast and speak specifically to that speed player. So you look at its sleek minimalistic design and all these elements which are kind of pulling back and giving it that almost movement visual – even when it’s stagnant it looks like it’s moving. That’s what we want for the speed silo. When we talk about the flash you have these iridescent parts at the branding, as well as on the sole of the shoe. When we talk about colorway, again when you’re on the field you want it to pop. You want something that really jumps out. So this blue is really shocking, it kind of jumps out at you and it really speaks to this silo because it’s like nothing else within the footwear family right now. When we talk about being fashion-forward, with bringing it on to the street or into the cage, the fact that it’s laceless for us is our top technology. We wanted that to be something that also lent itself to being worn with shorts or as you can see in the cage. It doesn’t just necessarily have performance tooling only. There’s a lot of, I would say, fashionable detailing in there, whether it be raises where there would be lasing, or for that speed look, we’ve given it that see-through aesthetic on the upper, or even the flash on the bottom. So a lot of things come from just thinking through the 365 of what our players’ day looks like.
Moving on from the X18+, with you coming from adidas, how aware are you with the way that soccer is going on a cultural standpoint, or what it looks like when it comes to say fashion, music, or art? Is that something that adidas is very much up to date with?
Absolutely. I think that’s really what they look at when they’re putting everything together. So even beyond cleats, take for instance jerseys, we look at that and recognize that these aren’t just specific to playing on the pitch. We’re looking at the hem line, looking at shoulder drop lines, the technology, and those tech details, or even call outs for that country specifically, those are things that we feel lives on the pitch as well as off the pitch. So it’s recognizing that again, soccer is 365 for people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep the sport. And beyond that, when you look at what we’re offering, it’s not just cleats, it’s not just performance jerseys. We have seasonal specialty product that is bespoke to Argentina or Mexico, but it’s really for the street specifically. Maybe not for an avid consumer, but somebody who recognizes that they are a casual fan of this club and that they can wear that shirt, they can wear the pants or the woven shorts, creating a whole offering across every federation, across every club that allows you to rep no matter the circumstances – after, before, or during a game. We’re looking at product holistically now through that lens of the entire year and day.
Last question: speaking of repping, with the World Cup underway, do you have a country that you’re rooting for?
For me specifically, I mean I would love to see Messi get one, right! But honestly, as a fan of the sport, I just want good games. I want to see just incredible moments, the ones that give you chills and that keep you wanting more, and I think when you put the best countries in the world together, you’re going to get those moments inevitably. So I’m just really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.