Often times, fashion has a tendency to derive inspiration from obscure places that challenge us to find the link between a piece of clothing and an abstract concept.

Other times, the relation is much more straight forward, and sports continue to constitute both a practical and functional source from which designers can draw ideas. We’ve seen beloved sneakers like the Common Projects Achilles and the adidas Stan Smith reinterpret tennis cues, and in the same way, a number of brands today are channeling running heritage to bring us lifestyle-oriented trainers that we love to wear, even when we’re not at the gym.

Lately, football-inspired lifestyle sneakers are on our radar more than ever – which is way weirder than skateboarding apparel being adopted by fashionistas –  and Nike is pushing this football trend forward in particular with off-pitch Magista and Mercurial executions in recent years, among other sneakers inspired by the world’s most popular sport.

2016’s“Football Nouveau” collaboration with Olivier Rousteing was strongly based within an overarching football motif that manifested in black and gold, fashion-tilted versions of four storied Nike football boots: the Magista, Mercurial, Hypervenom and Tiempo. Supplementing Rousteing’s four footwear options, the collection also included a reinvention of Nike’s N98 football jacket, while professional footballers Kevin-Prince Boateng and Blaise Matuidi were called in to underpin the story. The full Nike x Olivier Rousteing lineup was a smart carry-over from previous basketball-inspired releases alongside Riccardo Tisci.

In the sneaker world, Nike has been pushing football silhouettes into the lifestyle segment for some time; the brand with the Swoosh even created a mashup between the Jordan 1 and the Nike Tiempo in 2014. Jumpman also linked up with Barcelona attacker Neymar for a Jordan V Low, which was a bit of an oddity, but a memorable project. More from recent memory, NikeLab flipped the Tiempo again for a luxe Tiempo Vetta, and the original Mercurial football boot was imagined as an Air Max 98. In this way, football technology is continuing to sway the sneakers we wear, and NikeLab has proven itself as a key proponent of this trend. Let’s not forget Nike’s ongoing SOPHNET. collaboration F.C.R.B., a fashion line that has been cleverly masquerading as a Bristol-based football team for several seasons now.

But the inspiration seems to be flowing both ways, and just as Nike’s lifestyle catalog is being influenced by football, football is taking trends from lifestyle too, and Nike’s “What The” Mercurial is perhaps the best example of this two-way exchange. Speaking on the “What The” Mercurial at Nike’s Mercurial Science of Speed Hub in Milan for the 2016 Champions League Final, the VP of Nike Football Footwear, Max Blau, noted, “We connected the dots, and said “why not?” The design team loved the idea, because we’re still talking about a performance boot, so we had to find that balance between innovation and style. The design team pulled it off, I think it came off really well.”

Ronaldinho at Nike's Mercurial Science of Speed Hub in Milan

For superstars like Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, it’s interesting to imagine what they must think about the boots they played in at the peak of their respective careers being worn at Fashion Week by sneakerheads. “The design of the Mercurial appeals to young and old, athletes and non-athletes; the design is clean and cool, so it depends who wants to adopt it,” explained Ronaldinho to us recently, also in Milan.

It’s clear that Nike’s football silhouettes are no longer being restricted to the pitch, while sport-inspired sneakers in general have resonated nicely in the streetwear community, aided by a framework of strong colorways plus the exclusivity of limited production runs.

Joining Nike in pushing football to the masses is adidas who, after a very strong 2017, have really blurred the lines between football and fashion. The German sportswear giant has achieved this through a multi-pronged approach, which consists of several high-profile collaborations with the likes of KITH and Gosha Rubchinskiy, nostalgia-inducing retro re-releases, and stylish street alternatives to its on-pitch line.

Nostalgia and retro-inspired designs always seem to do well, and the crossover between football and footwear is no different. While adidas made a big splash by announcing a limited run of old-school Predator football boots that would return with a true-to-tradition design mixed with modern materials, the company also managed to slide in some stylish off-pitch choices.

Pairing a Predator upper featuring its iconic fold-over tongue with a full-length BOOST midsole made the Predator Precision UltraBoost a popular choice among the more fashion conscious football fans.

Add to that the extensive footwear collection that KITH and adidas worked on together, all of which sold out thanks to the hype that comes attached to anything KITH works on, and adidas football almost made more of a splash off the pitch.

The collection included a range of silhouettes, including the Flamingo ACE 16 PureControl, various colorways of the NEMEZIZ UltraBoost 17, and several updated Copa Mundial silhouettes. It marked adidas football’s first official foray into streetwear by way of collaborating with an established force and it worked, giving adidas a catalogue of “street cool” styles that could be worn comfortably off the pitch without looking like a super fan.

Gosha Rubchinskiy was also given a run at updating several football-centric pieces and, while his tracksuits were all the rage, the footwear from that collection was seen on several influencers’ feet at many a fashion week street style photoshoots. Gosha kept it simple and showed that football sneakers don’t really have to look much like football boots at all. His ACE 16+ SUPER sneaker could have easily been influenced by a skate shoe with its chunky sole.

Nike hasn’t rested on its laurels either, introducing a slew of new lifestyle colorways of its Magista, Mercurial and Hypervenom silhouettes and recently unveiling a Nike Football collaboration with OFF–WHITE’s Virgil Abloh.

“???” ?: @virgilabloh / @off____white

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The Abloh-designed collection, of which very little information exists right now, will allegedly include both footwear and apparel. A bright orange Nike Mercurial VaporMax hybrid, which fuses the new Mercurial upper with the popular VaporMax Air unit sole, was seen on the designer’s feet at an even in London.

If anything is proven to create hype for products and push a certain style or subculture into the spotlight it’s star power, which Abloh has in abundance.

It’s clear now more than ever that football is continuing its crossover into the world of fashion, and that football technology in footwear is on the come up, thanks to great strategic positioning by brands like adidas and Nike, aligning with tastemakers like OFF–WHITE and KITH.

To stay updated, follow @Highsnobietysneakers on Instagram.

  • Main & Featured Image Left: Isaac Cambridge / Highsnobiety
  • Main & Featured Image Right: @virgilabloh / Instagram

Vancouver-born, Berlin-based writer, photographer and editor with a steady hand on the keyboard.

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