How Football Became My Unexpected Portal Into Fashion

Let me get this out of the way now: I don’t really like football shirts. Even if I consider myself to be a diehard football fan and have founded a female-focused fashion and football platform called Season Zine. I’d much rather throw my Chelsea FC scarf over my shoulders (an eagle-eyed find at a Berlin thrift store) or slip my club beanie over my braids on my way to Stamford Bridge or Sziget. Shirts just fit me awkwardly, as I’m almost six feet tall with small boobs, a well-defined waist and hips. They’re also much trickier to style and are more technical overall—especially for someone who hasn’t worn jeans in almost 10 years. In lieu of a football shirt, I’ve been known to put Chelsea blue in my hair and wardrobe instead. In fact, one of my greatest vintage finds was a 1990s CFC shirtdress. God forbid anyone else marks my Mansur Gavriel bucket bag with a blue interior.

So this year’s World Cup has been a fluky anomaly for me—on and off the pitch. With England’s men’s team getting to their first semifinal since 1990 (the year before I was born) and the fact that I can honestly say I’ve never worn so many football shirts in my life. I reckon I’m smiling extra wide in the Nike England campaign because the training top design is unexpectedly so great.

“It’s been so nice to pull out my collection of England shirts, sporting a different look for each game,” says Trisha Lewis, Romance FC manager and freelance stylist whilst reflecting on a memorable, meme-filled month of football. And I agree—although, my own collection of jerseys has only expanded from the grand total of one: a French shirt that I feel I can never wear, as marvellously navy and minimal as it is. (I’m not French.) I’ll display it in my future home instead.

On Felicia Pennant: England Shirt; ASOS leopard-print midi dress

On Felicia Pennant: England shirt

My fascination with football goes way back to the UEFA European Championship in 2004 when I witnessed young Cristiano Ronaldo’s disappointed tears after Portugal (the host country) lost the final to Greece (the opponent and underdogs). Years before, I’d discovered fashion and went to Central Saint Martins to study fashion history and theory. I decided to support Chelsea because my dad always had, and I’m a southwest Londoner like him. José Mourinho’s cocky opening smile at his infamous “I’m the special one” press conference only lured me in further. However, I’m rubbish at sports, so playing myself has never been part of my engagement with the beautiful game.

But I didn’t actually get my first official replica Chelsea shirt until they won the Champions League in 2012. I wanted to taste European success and associate the jersey with pride and passion before committing to matching father-daughter outfits. Had Chelsea not been so successful since then (they’ve won five Premier League titles, five Football Association Challenge Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League title and one Europa League title), I don’t know if I’d be so hooked or wear football apparel at all.

On Felicia Pennant: Nigeria Shirt; ASOS gold hoops; Forever 21 skirt; Dr Martens boots

On Felicia Pennant: England Shirt; ASOS leopard-printed dress

A bookworm who evolved into a fashion-magazine fanatic, I was always on the lookout for my new source of style inspiration, and, perhaps surprisingly, football became my chosen portal into menswear. I was interested in the players' remarkable sartorial influence as models, designers and tastemakers—particularly David Beckham and the rise of creative football magazines. While researching my final year thesis at Central Saint Martins in 2012, I came across a brilliant book called The Fashion of Football by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter, which chronicled the connection between fashion and men’s football from the 1960s until the early ’00s. However, they were no women in the book, so I wanted to address that and highlight contemporary crossovers somehow.

“To be quite fair, the revolution of women in football has come to life with Season Zine. Before, everything was extremely male-centric. There are only a few platforms for women like us to express our football interest,” says freelance creative consultant Naomi Accardi, daughter of retired (and respected) footballer Giuseppe Accardi. She’s right. Even though there’s no shortage of creative women who are interested in expressing their love for football via style or beauty, the industry is centred on men’s leagues and male players.


Fashion football: Azadi MP3 in Iran shirt


Lauren Maccabee; STYLING: Daisy Deane

Azadi MP3 wearing an Iran shirt in Season Zine.

That’s where Season Zine comes in. We aim to counter the male, pale and sometimes stale state of modern football culture by telling stories that showcase, celebrate and empower female fans authentically. Football fashion is another area where women had previously been underrepresented beyond the WAG (wives and girlfriends of athletes) stereotype and cheesy, sexist photo shoots objectifying female fans. Adding a style element to Season Zine—the distinction being how you wear and put things together as opposed to cyclical fashion trends—sets us apart from other female fan initiatives and happens to be a combination of my two favourite topics. There’s also usually at least one show per fashion month that references football. Think Stella Jean S/S 17, Louis Vuttion Resort 17, Fenty x Puma A/W 17. Also, Koché’s S/S 18 and Pre-Fall 18 shows displayed the brand’s impressive collaboration with Paris Saint-Germain.

Our “Cover Me” feature spotlights the most desirable football and apparel products and collaborations (Gosha Rubchinskiy x Adidas in Issue 04 and Umbro x Christopher Raeburn in the current Issue 05) while our editorials deliver imaginative and inspirational ways to style them.

Fashion football:  Maria Pizzeria in Sweden shirt


Lauren Maccabee; STYLING: Daisy Deane

Maria Pizzeria wearing the Sweden shirt in Season Zine.

In our latest issue, we put together a timely master class in styling football shirts (courtesy of stylist Daisy Deane) that I’ve certainly heeded in recent weeks. For one game, I took a step outside my sartorial comfort zone by wearing a cropped red vintage England away jersey over a leopard-printed midi dress. Normally, I’d wear my bright white England home shirt by Nike or my chevron-printed Nigeria shirt with a high-waisted black midi skirt and statement earrings.

Speaking of the Nigeria kit, the sellout shirts sparked a bigger furore than Gareth Southgate’s now iconic Marks and Spencer waistcoat, with the lines of hopeful shoppers you’d typically only see with Supreme apparel. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the home shirt and model the away one. As I’m half Nigerian, the jerseys show my identity and my style. They also represent the recent developments in fashion and football—mainly how the football shirt can be considered the new It item. Jerseys are somewhat of a status symbol that has crossed over from the pitch to the street. They’ve been mixed with street style fodder, progressive design and customisation—with brands jumping on the bandwagon along the way.

Fashion football: Felicia Pennant in Nike shirt


Wendy Huynh

Felicia Pennant in the ASOS x Nike campaign.

Versace, Palace, Urban Outfitters and more have all commandeered the football shirt—sentimental symbols of fandom—and created versions for the masses. Independent fans and designers like Settpace and Jason Lee of Fokohaela are also releasing Insta-famous concept kits they’ve created themselves.

“There seems to be a lot more purchase in the game than participation. It’s great that football is once again getting bigged up in the fashion world, but it’s starting to feel like an ego game—who can do it bigger and better,” Lewis observes. “I have learned to roll my eyes and keep going. Next season, [fashion editors and non-fans] will be wearing the next trend, so it’s not going to be forever. Sometimes I laugh because they look ridiculous,” Accardi adds.

So where does all this leave me and my newfound affinity for football shirts? I’m now willing to overlook the fit to show my pride for my team and appreciation for great design and innovations. You’ll see me on Instagram in Chelsea’s excellent 2018/2019 shirt (complete with horizontal flashes of red and white) soon enough.

Shop Football Shirts

Fashion football: Season Zine cover


Jane Stockdale

Tapping into and transcending the World Cup (essentially a football pilgrimage every four years) with an enlightening conversation between ITV World Cup pundit and former Lioness, Eni Aluko, and her friend and broadcaster, Jeanette Kwakye, can be found in Season Zine Issue 05: Religion, which is out now and available on its website.

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