TEXT_ WILLIAM BARNES
What do you get when you cross a footballer with a cowboy? It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but this is exactly what Sophie Hird, a graduate from London College of Fashion, has done and the results belong as much to Wearside as they do to the Western.
Her shirts with their flamboyant flowing tassels, pop-stud button fastenings and stylised dipping yokes, are of the classic cowboy style, but look closer and you’ll see clues to their former life. Club crests, maker’s logos and flock-print sponsor’s names can be found displaced on the sleeve, chest or upside down on the shirt’s back. While these motifs might be central to the British game, it’s almost impossible to shake the feel of the rodeo, except this is a rodeo happening at a car boot sale on the outskirts of Scarborough instead of Texas. In a strange way, by subverting the cowboy image, Hird draws comparisons to the Nudie suits of old and it’s easy to imagine that if Gram Parsons grew up playing the working men’s clubs of northern England, this is exactly the sort of thing he’d have worn while standing over the bingo machine, calling out “two little ducks – twenty two” between sets of songs about factory-working women.
It’s unsurprising then that it’s bands that have been the front-runners championing the designer’s work, with artists such as Amyl & The Sniffers and Sports Team have donning her kits for shoots and gigs. But musicians have always been early adopters of style, so why has football been so reluctant to try more interesting kits?
Actually, there is an exception and it too was cowboy themed. In 1978 as the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and George Best joined the North American Soccer League, the Caribous of Colorado were formed. Rather than a star player, they had a marketing whiz. It was this man, Jim Guerico who decked-out the team in tiny shorts and white and tan western themed shirts with leather tassels. They even emerged from the dressing room in ten-gallon cowboy hats. Today, the kit is largely regarded as one of the worst ever created and only referenced in the small circle of football nerds. Is this the answer to why football is so reluctant to try something different?
To compare Hird’s work to this is both inaccurate and unfair. Colorado’s kits were a marketing stunt whereas Hird’s are a smart challenge to societal norms, asking questions of identity. By welding these two major tropes of masculinity together, Hird creates a cultural hybrid, but rather than an object of totemic machismo or toxic testosterone, her work is something ‘other’. This challenge is what sport and football in particular is in desperate need of. Far too often racism, bigotry and nationalism are hidden behind the mask of supporter’s tribalism and patriotism. Maybe we need to break down a few of the traditions associated with football and the classic masculine sports? A few less traditional kits would be a good start and the sportswear giants who make them could do worse than to look at the likes of Sophie Hird for a bit of inspiration.
BLAZING GLORY EVERYWHERE
Kimberly Klosterman’s collection of artist jewelry of the 60s and 70s goes on tour.
Katerina Jebb documents pieces from the archives of fashion’s most storied houses.
IF NOT, WINTER
As cold draws near, it’s time for chunky knits and duvet coats. But make it vintage.