When PSG unveiled their latest collaboration with Japanese streetwear giants BAPE, it signified a new direction for professional football clubs.
While Paris St Germain has been connecting with various brands for some time the BAPE x PSG collab is the biggest signal of intent yet. We’re in a new era where super clubs are emerging alongside talk of a European Super League, and PSG, despite their historical lack of continental success, is among those clubs with Barcelona, Real Madrid Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester United.
The BAPE x PSG collaboration shows the progressive nature of the Parisian club. A lot of other clubs wouldn’t see such an audacious collaboration. The traditional nature of those clubs and their fan base has seen such attempts fail in the past. But these are new days. Nothing signifies that more than the recent release of a series of kits for EA Sports – including a cheetah-patterned Manchester United kit. These kits are clearly aimed at a different client than the traditional red iteration jogged out every summer.
Above: The adidas x EA Sports Manchester United top shows how the streetwear relationship is now becoming as big as the gaming connection to the sport.
The traditionalists at clubs like Real Madrid and Liverpool may prevent them from such forward looking collabs like the one with BAPE. But that being said, New Balance has released blackout Liverpool kits in successive years. They’ve also done a subtle collaboration on a denim, fur-lined jacket with Levis. But a black on black kit and a jacket where the only nod to LFC is on a tag is very different than collaborating with one of the most notable brands in streetwear. The brands clubs decide to collab with must be inline with their club’s identity. The BAPE hoodie that zips up all the way and the camo patterns are featured in the PSG collab and apart from another new money club in Manchester City, it’s hard to see which other club would take such a risk.
And it’s a marker of the global power of clubs like PSG that they can pull it off. Other clubs have tried similarly audacious collabs that bring a progressive tilt to their club’s traditional look. But they’ve been met either by fans revolt or indecision by club executives worried about upsetting their local die hard fans. When Inter Milan got a local New York crew to add their signature tie-dye effect to Inter’s Nike kits, the club later decided they didn’t want to associate the club with such a contemporary move. They ended up destroying the full inventory, not even giving them away to friends or family of the club.
That was only a year ago. But hype culture and sneaker culture has infiltrated football. And on the other end, football is finally cool. A lot of this emanates from the Millennial generation’s relationship to FIFA – a video game that incorporates music and special kits. Furthermore, football has finally taken hold in the US – a move that was predicted and had a few faulty starts over the years. Football culture is exotic for many in the US, where it’s still seen as a subculture. That status has had the Wall Street Journal query whether football is the new skateboarding – a rebellious subculture that has infiltrated fashion and streetwear.
Above: The BAPE x PSG collab marks the next generation of the football and streetwear relationship.
And while kit collectors and football savants may have rolled their eyes, the Wall Street Journal may have been onto something. PSG is just a sign of things to come. Expect more from major super clubs. They’re less worried about isolating the fans of decades and more concerned with the huge untapped markets in Asia and the US where football has not only found the masses but brought with it a level of ‘cool’ that it never had in Europe.
These are new frontiers. Streetwear and football has been making inroads and this is the biggest marker it’s passed. It’s certainly exciting. But if the core tenants of a football club – a representation of a city and a community – and streetwear brands – subverting the mainstream – maintain their purity or not remains to be seen.