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As football shirts collide with mainstream fashion, CPL’s inaugural kits are a must-have

When Lionel Messi scored a last-gasp winner against bitter rivals Real Madrid last year, the diminutive Argentine stripped off his iconic blue-and-red jersey and pointed it toward the groaning, white-clad masses in the stands at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The photo of Messi gingerly holding the infamous, instantly-recognizable shirt of FC Barcelona – one that has come to define the club, arguably more so than the Catalan outfit’s own crest – was published all over the world, inspiring many a player to replicate the goal celebration by hoisting their own shirts, embroidered with their own names, toward crowds and cameras.

The resulting yellow card? Well worth it, for in football, as in life, the symbol of the moment is remembered even when the details of the day fade.

Very few will recall, in the years and decades to come, that Messi’s 92nd-minute goal gave his team a 3-2 victory, or that he struck that goal with his left foot from the edge of the box, or perhaps even that it was his 500th goal for Barcelona.

But the image of his shirt, lifted above his head, will linger in the memory.

There is no greater icon in football than the jerseys that define each club.

Whether it is the white-and-black stripes of Juventus, or the red of Manchester United, or the all-white of Real Madrid, or the yellow of Brazil, fans and footballers alike are joined in their passion for the beautiful game in the simple tradition of donning their team jersey.

For the trailblazing supporters of the Canadian Premier League, that same passion, manifested in iconic jerseys, will be provided by the CPL’s kit partner Macron, who will prepare bespoke uniforms for each of the league’s seven founding clubs. It makes the CPL one of the few leagues in world football to have custom-made kits league-wide.

Making those uniforms stand out is important, not just because of the significance of this debut year, but because football jerseys have transcended the sport in 2018. In circles of fashion, art, and music – now, so often intertwined – football is very much en vogue, and, much like skate brands, are helping define streetwear as an aesthetic.

Hip-hop icons like Drake have donned football shirts from around the world, whether Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona or Mexico; rap group Migos often sport Arsenal kits; Pusha T hasn’t shied away from football culture, telling COPA90: “Football jerseys are a hybrid of leisure and luxury. The colourful material gives off a little bit of a pop. You can wear it with your jeans, and the silhouette really works over jeans and shorts, whatever look you’re going for.”

Streetwear brands like Off-White and Supreme have mixed football with their own designs, such as with the “Football Mon Amour” line, and Supreme’s soccer jersey offerings. OVO has also released football-inspired clothing, while high-fashion brands like Versace and designers like Gosha Rubchinskiy have also turned to the beautiful game for inspiration in their own seasonal wears

It’s not just in the men’s space, either. While all fashion related “soccer” and “football” searches were up 340%, according to fashion search engine Lyst, women’s fashion searches for those key terms was up by a resounding 540%. And even non-sports related media outlets have noticed the trend, with GQ magazine including a Houston Dynamo jersey in their must-buys for the month of March.

As music and fashion narrate the global conversation, the cultural divide between Europe and the United States has practically vanished, too, with the help of players like Paul Pogba and Neymar. Football culture has never been “cooler” in North America, even outside of the usual circles of dedicated supporters. The beautiful game has taken over.

To that end, the Canadian Premier League will reveal its inaugural jerseys in early 2019, by providing bespoke uniforms to each of the teams – jerseys that are custom-tailored and designed specifically for the needs of athletes and the comfort of fans. Having partnered with European clubs like Crystal Palace, Bologna and Lazio, Macron has quickly emerged as a major player in world football.

“We’re thrilled to be entering into a market so receptive to football, and also because the deal with the CPL allows our team to work on a long-term basis on the development of new collections that we hope the players and fans will wear with pride,” said Macron CEO Gianluca Pavanello.

Forge FC is offering an authentic home jersey – the same as the ones worn by the players – to each of its season ticket members, so the team’s jerseys won’t be hard to spot in the streets of Hamilton … and you can be assured that this trend will be seen in some of the other league’s cities, as teams will be announcing their own membership packages in the coming weeks.

Through the CPL’s partnership with Macron, Canadian football fans will become a part of this global cultural conversation.

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