It’s officially World Cup time! Sport has a way of bringing people together - across cultures, languages and even continents. I’m grateful that I’m living in New York while the World Cup is on, as the city - like the tournament - is a big melting pot of people and all kinds of football fans. While it’s disappointing that both the American team, and my home country of Canada didn’t qualify, at least football fever is still spreading through the city.
One of the most anticipated components of the World Cup is the product - the jerseys, shoes, the official (and not so official) gear, and all kinds of collaborations. Suddenly, soccer shirts are replacing t-shirts, and all sorts of brands jump on the trend. Nike’s Nigeria kits are some of the most hyped of the year, but that’s not all they’re doing. Outside of the official on-field gear, Nike collaborated with superstar designer Virgil Abloh on a limited soocer-inspired Nike Lab collection called “Football Mon Amour”. Abloh grew up playing the beautiful game, and mixing in sport into his streetwear, heavily graphic branded offerings - the collection makes sense. It’s interesting to note that the collection is positioned under the Nike Lab brand - not Nike Training or Nike Football (soccer) - meaning that it’s not being pushed as a technical, performance line but more for lifestyle wear.
The apparel, specifically the jerseys, are the strongest offerings along with the hoodies and tees - signatures of any Abloh collaboration. The collection is mostly black and white with splashes of orange and blue, making it high impact for high contrast instagram photos. The checkerboard touches are reminiscent not only of actual soccer balls, but also remain a signature of Abloh's designs. The accompanying sneakers, the Flyknit Zoom Fly, is a take on the Mercurial cleat, “I wanted to communicate where a player strikes the ball. So, I put dots on the boot; if you’re going to strike the ball, your foot/eye coordination is basically the only variance of chance. That's what the collection started with, these running shoes that mimic the same as your actual boot on the pitch so that you started subconsciously training all the time. Then I just applied that aesthetic from the bottom up.” The shoe feels a little off-balance compared to the regular Zoom Fly that does not have the same Flyknit upper - but it's also not being pitched as a performance shoe - it's inspired by sport by routed in aesthetics, not running.
This past Monday, I had a chance to try out the new kit while going through a football conditioning inspired workout, by a pier on the Hudson River in New York City. It was an intimate setting led by two Nike trainers - Joe Holder and Ariel Fox - both from S10 Training here in New York.There were two tented locker rooms set up for men and women, and our personalized lockers were filled with goodies.
We were laced up with the Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 Elite cleat. It’s an incredibly snug fitting cleat, given that it has a 360 Flyknit upper. I would size up if you’re picking up a pair - I wore a men’s 5/women’s 6.5 (I’m usually a men’s 4 or 4.5) and they were tight but not uncomfortable. Any smaller and I would have lost circulation in my toes! Next up were a pair of knee high soccer socks, shorts (some wore the Off-White dual layer shorts - I had a pair of Nike training shorts) and a jersey.
The actual workout was based on the conditioning that football athletes have to go through to be successful on the pitch. There was a dynamic warm up with plenty of running and exercises to open hips and emphasize quick feet. We also did partner drills that athletes and simple equipment like bands and ladders were brought in to focus on specific muscle groups and to build intensity.
Press and influencer workouts can sometimes leave me wanting a bit more in terms of intensity and variety, but I found the workout to be well balanced, decently timed (50 minutes total). While I probably should be more mindful of how sweaty I get when cameras are around (oops) - I didn't feel guilty for missing my earlier workout that day. The beautiful weather and location certainly helped too. As someone that practices yoga regularly, I was really intrigued by how Joe and Ariel brought in breathing exercises and techniques in a training environment and how certain alignment was different than what I usually practice. While there was no actual soccer played, I did get a sense that we trained as though we could sub into a rec league someday.
After the workout, we were treated to delicious juices and plant-based patties from Ghetto Gastro and gifted a pair of the Flyknit Zoom Fly from the collaboration. A great snack and reward for our efforts. I'm really curious to see what else Abloh and Nike will be doing with on-going football-based collaborations and how it will evolve. Check out more photos below and let me know what you think about the collection, which is available now.
Photo credit: Jason/NotAfraidtoFail/NikeNYC. Special thanks to Malitza Aguila for the invite.