‘Football Hypebeasts’. I’m coining this term. The term explains the merging of two subcultures, football and streetwear, and how the two have interlinked to share some similar characteristics. One of those characteristics being ‘The Hypebeast’.
The typical definition of a Hypebeast is someone who follows hype around. They will only wear those items that are being hyped at the time. Think Supreme. Think Travis Scott. Think OFF-White and Virgil Abloh. An insane amount of cash is thrown about in this scene, with a lot of the sought-after items costing three figure or four figure amounts and sometimes even five figures. It’s a culture of streetwear where we see an eclectic mix of fashion pieces gain traction within Hypebeast circles, thus being in high demand and a sample of people capitalising on this demand from Hypebeasts to make some very good profit.
I once heard a story from a friend who registered for a raffle to have the chance to buy Travis Scott x Jordan trainers. He won it, bought the trainers for retail price and as leaving the shop was bombarded, quite similarly to when TMZ sees a rogue celebrity, and offered high sums of money. In cash. It’s intriguing to me because, whilst some of these items are nice pieces, it raises questions about would anyone be offering the amounts of money some people are if the pieces weren’t ‘hyped’? My answer is; probably not. Are they buying the item because they want to feel the social acceptance within their circle or are they buying it because they actually like the item? Maybe it’s a mixture of the two.
Football is heading in a similar way. We are seeing a strong emergence of this sort of characteristic, where the price of shirts has risen due to hype and the demand.
There is no need for statistical data here because it’s just plain obvious; the demand for football shirts has rocketed in the past couple years. I’ve witnessed this journey personally. From my time focusing on Gear for InBedWithMaradona, being submerged in the culture through founding The Culture Division and from (trying to) collecting shirts myself, it is crystal clear the jump in demand and thus, the big rise in prices of shirts and other gear. But are people buying the hype or buying what the shirt for the meaning or aesthetic? Before Russia 2018 and the brisk increase in popularity of football shirts, I was trying to cop a 94/95 England shirt. They were priced at around £30 and I didn’t get one, opting for a different kit that I held closer to my heart. I recently checked back if any of these shirts were on the market and I observed a rise in the price to £70-£100. And nowadays, 90s Nigeria kits are selling for £200+ and retro PSG shirts are massively in demand within fashion circles. This is solid evidence of an emergence of Hypebeast culture in football.
To me, football shirts tell stories. It can be a story about the design, the players who wore it, a quintessential moment or just because you used to wear it kicking about in the back garden with your dad. These emotional links we make with football shirts are important to the culture. I’m a Newcastle fan so I have a lot of stories and links about Newcastle shirts. For example, I know my first kit my dad bought for me. The kit was the 1999/2000 home shirt, the last of the iconic Newcastle Brown Ale sponsorships. I love this kit because of that emotional link to it, with it being the first I had and one I wore playing football or going to St James Park with my dad.
In the past year or so, we have witnessed a rapid rise in the collecting of kits purely based on aesthetic reasons. Now, this is fine. A lot of people collect kits based on the aesthetic, but it then shines a light on a very fine line between football fans collecting kits they like and people hopping on a trend to gain clout/money. An example of this would be Virgil Abloh’s Nike collection back in 2018.
The involvement of Virgil Abloh and OFF-White in the World Cup in 2018 is a key indication of the emergence of Hypebeast culture within football. I wrote on my personal blog about the appropriation of a culture football fans have spent long devoted to by people like Abloh, who has no interest in the game apart from juicing it for personal and financial gain. The deal OFF-White had with Nike provided us with below average products but ones that sold out in minutes and continue to resell at a high price. Why? Because they were OFF-White. And this Hypebeast outlook on football gear was at large with the shirt and Nike Mercurial Vapors selling out rapidly, then reselling for a larger price online. As the scene grows, with more and more people investing both psychologically and financially into it, the more we see people take advantage. Rare retro football shirts are now growing in price due to an exponential increase in the hype around them. As celebrities pull on shirts such as Drake, Jonah Hill and further, the more hype they gain. And as these mainstream celebrities’ wear football gear (or design it), the more people are going to look to cash in on the culture just like Virgil did. We’re at the very beginning of this transition into Football Hypebeast culture but we are seeing significant cracks in the legitimacy of the scene.
I feel there is a fine line between collectors and Hypebeasts, however. Collectors have been in the game forever, buying rare shirts and adding them to their backlog but as football infiltrates other subcultures such as music, fashion and skate, the characteristics of Hypebeast culture also infiltrates football. To stress the point further; this is a time in football where Hypebeasts are looking at it and dipping their toes. We’re seeing a growth in the shared characteristics between Hypebeast culture and football culture. It’s early signs but who knows where this might head? Hopefully not with another Virgil Abloh World Cup release, that’s for sure.
To conclude, I would like to pose you all a question to think about: when you are next buying a football shirt, are you forking out the cash because you like the aesthetic or are you blinded by the hype situated around it?