I was sitting in my lonely bedroom a few weeks ago, when my flatmate, and a good friend of mine bounced in proudly displaying the latest ridiculous garments they had paid over the odds for, from a so called ‘fashionable’ East London boutique. Clocking my audible tutting sound, he turned to me and said “what would you know about getting excited about clothes, all you care about is sport.”
I was interested by this, because I remember when I was younger, my sister was madly into fashion and was tottering about in my mums high heels as she dipped a toddler toe into the fashion world. This was similar to me at a young age, crunching through the Autumnal leaves with my mini Doc Martens on, the Essex chill swirling around as I peered intensely into a sport’s shop wishing that the hallowed pair of Adidas Predators sitting subtly and let’s be honest, sexily, belonged to me, and that I was exactly like my hero at the time, the ex West Ham United legend Marco Boogers. From that young age, I was already beginning to notice that my interest in sport, and my sisters love of fashion were quite similar.
After my trip down memory lane, my mind began to think more about what my friend had said to me. His cutting comments about my love of sport hindering me from taking an interest in fashion perplexed me somewhat. He then confided to me that he saw most sports fans as uncultured, idiotic sloths who wasted their lives watching something that was essentially pointless. This magically correlated with my own opinions that folk who slave over the latest fashion are mostly self important dullards who impart the opinions of magazine writers as their own opinions to make up for the lack of anything relevant in their lives. The talk made me feel better, although after being kicked out of the flat and being in the position where I am now – writing this in-between a moody South London rudeboy telling his girlfriend how much he hates her, and a genteel Welsh woman snoring loudly, I have to wonder whether it was all worth it.
Then I began to examine the links between fashion – his passion, and football – my own, in a touch more detail. I started by examining the way models and footballers relate in terms of careers. One of the benefits of being at a fashion university is that I’ve met a lot of people, some warranted, and some not, who have wanted to get into the modelling business, so I have had a good insight into how difficult it is. This is very similar to the plight a footballer finds themselves in when they attempt to carve out a career for themselves, with the harsh face of stardom staring straight at them.
Both groups start out very young, in difficult situations, having to appeal to a wide range of people, be it agents, or managers, or even their fellow performers. Both face massive competition from their peers, and most are thrown out into the wayside like last seasons t-shirt. It’s an extremely tough world to get into for both parties, and even when you’re at the top it rarely lasts for more than a fleeting moment.
The temperamental nature of both football and fashion also interests me hugely. When I wore a younger mans clothes, the shop ‘Topshop’ to me was a place where two groups of people went: shoplifters, and idiots who wore pedal pushers. These days, the shoplifters remain, but along with a different kind of idiot, the fashion conscious idiot. The rise of Topshop has been greatly aided by multi-billionaire owner Sir Phillip Green who has pushed the company forward amidst an uncertain economical world via slick advertisement, clever business ideals and inspired signings, for example the acquisition of Kate Moss as a designer which gave the brand relevance and integrity.
The same could be said of Chelsea football club, who in the last five years have gone from being a financially struggling team with their backs to the wall, to an established world-wide brand, aided by billionaire owner, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. After Abramovich obtained the team, he quickly moved them forwards, using the same techniques that Green used for Topshop – the same tricks, and the same inspired signings. For Kate Moss, see Didier Drogba – perhaps the first time a stick thin model from Croydon has been compared to a burly crybaby from the Ivory Coast.
I spoke to two University of the Arts students in relation to my thoughts. Alex O’Brien, a fashion student at St. Martins told me his opinions. “My interest in fashion grew as my interest in sports waned”, he mused, clad in black boots and women’s skinny jeans. He added that he naively thought that women would be a lot easier to come by if he took an interest in what they were wearing. “Guess how that turned out” he grinned, a gleam in his eye as he showed me his latest text message containing the latest twists of his love life. I asked if his focus on jumpers as opposed to goalposts made him feel less masculine. “Perhaps,” he replied, “but I feel much more comfortable at a fashion shoot than I do at a football match these days.” Sure, the fact he used to be a Portsmouth supporter may cloud his judgement somewhat, but maybe he does have a point about the stereotypical football fan.
It was an opinion shared by Karl Askill, a graphic designer at LCC. A keen sports fan, as well as being well dressed, he told me that he too felt that the typical sports fan was someone he was unsure about being associated with. “I’d be more wary about talking about fashion to a football fan than I would talking about football to someone with an interest in fashion”, he said, before adding that “people who like sports are more closed minded because it’s in their culture.” An interesting point, and a salient one for me considering my experience in Peckham when I complimented a shapely market worker on his Inter Milan jersey as I purchased some winter essentials. His curt reply sadly can’t be repeated in a family paper, but it certainly left me down in the dumps. Still, the gloves were lovely – who says that pink and fluffy don’t work well with a football fan?
Ultimately, without wishing to sound like a bizarre mixture of Mr Motivator and a slightly better dressed Dalai Lama, why can’t we all just get along? Leggings and football socks, football boots and brogues, ill fitting football shirts, and ruffled blouses on boys – we all have our quirks, and we all have our interests. Let’s all learn to love each other, and if we can’t do that let us all just agree that football is the most cultured and beautiful religion on earth, whereas fashion is the equivalent of dropping gorgeous toast on the floor butter side down. And then being told that your t-shirt is so last season.