Creative Soccer Culture

How adidas and Nike are in a Battle to Own Football Sneakers

Roll back a decade and football sneakers were worn mainly by teenagers whose parents still had full control of their clothing purchases. Probably worn with flair washed jeans, probably a shiny takedown of an existing football boot, probably in a size 12, exclusively in astro turf soles and reserved for non-uniform days. Football inspired trainers were a straight up crime that should have only been worn on a playground.

Anyone above the age of twenty wearing astro turf trainers and jeans was a terrorist in our eyes, a fashion terrorist destroying the relationship between football and lifestyle. Normally worn by the guy that wore too much Lynx Africa and carried around all his belongings in a tacky drawstring bag, probably with JD on it. You know the guy. The one with a school lost property box as a wardrobe. If you don’t, it was you.

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Football inspired trainers were the ultimate poisoned chalice for football brands. Tough to nail down and near impossible to make cool. Football was for on the pitch and fashion was for off it, the worlds could not and would not mix. They couldn’t be further apart. Of course, the brands weren’t helping either with their performance tunnel vision, but now they’re making up for lost time. Nike and adidas are in a battle to own football sneakers in a refreshed market that has boomed in the past couple of years.

Nike must be credited for initially merging the worlds of football and lifestyle footwear. Carefully redefining what a soccer-inspired silhouette should look like, the Swoosh dipped into their running archives to combine fresh ideas with the hi-collared movement of the Magista and Superfly. The rise of the casual running shoe eased the breakthrough and the ever-growing crowd of retro football shirt appreciators played their part in making football inspired fashion acceptable away from the terraces.

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Now though, it’s more than just acceptable. Nike and adidas have carved football into the circles of fashion, opened the minds of non-footballing folk by dropping key products, including collaborations with leading fashion names, that can be seamlessly paired with a diverse range of lifestyle pieces. NikeLab’s collection with Olivier Rousteing being the obvious example, a range that transformed the Tiempo, Magista, Superfly & Hypervenom into stand alone fashion pieces. 

A new generation of highly marketable fashion-savvy footballers such as Paul Pogba and Neymar to name just a couple, have helped accelerated the football sneaker movement. Nike flew out of the blocks with Tiempo ’94 and have since progressed into renditions of the Free Superfly & Hypervenom, Magista Footscape, Tiempo Vetta, Air Max Mercurial R9 and Zoom Mercurial. Each release pulling the worlds of football and lifestyle closer together.

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Ensuring that they were fully prepared to nail the concept correctly, adidas have waited until more recently to drop their first serious football sneaker in the shape of the ACE 16+ UltraBoost. A beautiful street take on the ACE PURECONTROL football boot, but one that has its own identity, once again influenced by the versatility and popularity of running shoes in smart to casual wear.

It’s a long term plan for adidas, with the Three Stripes already stating that they intend to modify future football boot releases and equip them for causal streetwear. Swords drawn by Nike and adidas respectively, the first weaponry is on show in the battle to own football sneakers. The competitive nature between both brands will no doubt see them claiming first blood, but for the consumer it’s a win/win. Football is cool again, a lifestyle leader rather than performance parasite.

Take your pick of football inspired sneakers here.


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