Demand for bespoke football shirts set to eclipse trainers as desire for “custom culture” takes hold, say industry experts.
Customised football shirts and apparel will eventually match and overtake the global demand for personalised and rare sneakers.
The market for one-off trainer styles from major manufacturers such as Nike or Adidas has grown exponentially in recent years, with thousands of enthusiasts across the world queuing and bidding online to get their hands on limited editions.
This growing “custom culture” is now being seen in the demand for football shirts, as social media platforms give supporters a new voice and an opportunity to influence their clubs, national associations and kit manufacturers.
It has also led to growing numbers of men and women wearing football shirts as fashion accessories, regardless of whether they follow the club or country it represents. Celebrities are even being used to raise the profile of particular items, as seen recently by Paris St Germain’s collaboration with a well-known basketball legend.
Industry experts gathered this week at the World Football Summit in Madrid, with many attending a Football, Fashion and Culture event held by global sportswear branding and labelling firm Avery Dennison to discuss the continuous fusion of football and fashion.
Speaking at the Avery Dennison event, respected brand consultant and author Neal Heard said these trends could eventually see football mirror the success of sports brands such as NBA basketball and a LA Lakers jacket, leading in turn to higher demand for off field apparel across a broader audience.
Heard said: “I believe this is year zero for football shirts and apparel as it becomes increasingly cross-cultural and fashion-led.”
“Back in 2000, the market for bespoke, limited edition trainer concepts was in its infancy, but now thousands of people will think nothing of watching Offspring on Instagram to wait for just 200 new trainers to drop. Football already has a huge profile, so it’s easy to believe it will ultimately match or eclipse the trainers market.
“The growth of social media has given supporters a voice and a platform to say exactly what they want. More and more, people want an individual jersey and mass customisation is everywhere now. This is the path football shirts are taking.
“This summer’s Nigeria kit was something of a game-changer. It was vibrant, reflecting culture of the nation and its overall look was constructed with streetwear influences, accompanied by bucket hats and tracksuits. It sold out in some British sports stores before the England kit.
“The trend for customisation gives clubs and countries a unique opportunity to be braver with their future designs, rather than simply replicating the same kit year after year. As their consumers become more fashion-led, brands must update or wither on the vine. The traditional design of a shirt is sacrosanct – it’s not about destroying that or upsetting older supporters, but about being experimental and creative.”
Nikita Jayasuriya, head of team sports at Avery Dennison, added: “Buying football shirts is clearly becoming more of a lifestyle choice – if people like the shirt, they’ll buy it, regardless of loyalty to their team. We saw lots of homage paid to kits of the past at this year’s FIFA World Cup™, for example the Nigeria Super Eagles influence of the 1994 -95 kit. It will be interesting to watch how brands move forward taking into consideration this fashion-led consumer.”
“People now have more freedom to appreciate other kits, from anywhere in the world, regardless of which team it represents. It is a similar principle to the New York Yankees caps we see worn in cities all over the world; football can certainly look to emulate that, a good example here is the recent rebrand from Juventus and LAFC.
“Celebrity culture helps people to relate even more and we are at the apex of a new movement that is reaching non-football fans around the world.
“We worked on a project with Atletico Madrid where supporters could choose to have their own neighbourhood badge from across the city of Madrid added to the shirt, bringing the city together and making each fan a part of the shirt. This shows that customisation can be an opportunity for clubs and countries to get even closer to their fanbase as well as acquire new customers.”