I wrote the following story for The Original Winger and figured it would be a good fit to share on here as well.
Soccer cleats, football boots or whatever you want to call them are entering (or rather have entered) an entirely new era. I’ve chatted with people over the last few years about the rise of the soccer boot. The conversation has centered around how boots are so much more now than they have ever been. Historically soccer cleats have been very utilitarian. They served a purpose. They were designed and manufactured to play soccer in. Sure, some looked cooler than others. But at the end of the day there was only one thing in mind with soccer boots. Performance.
How that has changed in recent years. Obviously soccer boots are still designed and manufactured to help soccer players. Recent technology advancements have seen boots become lighter. Materials have changed considerably from the leather boots that were prevalent not so long ago. Non essential items have been stripped off. Stud confirations have changed. Ankle collars have been added. Laces have been eliminated. And the colors that are being offered up are endless. And that’s just what we see on the surface!
About five years ago I started collecting soccer boots. I would get some boots sent out for us to test out and once that was done they would go on a shelf in the office to be displayed as art pieces. As someone who has been into sneakers for a long time, this made complete sense to me. I don’t need to wear that pair of Jordan 1’s very often, they can sit happily in their box while I go on collecting more sneakers. And this is the same thing that I have been doing with soccer boots for awhile. There are some boots in the collection that will never get worn. They are strictly collectible boots.
Recently I’ve been seeing much more of this going on in the soccer world. Boots are being consumed in greater volumes than ever before, but for more than just the purpose of kicking a ball. I see countless people on Instagram showing off their boot collections. And some of these collections are incredible. There is a vibrant group of boot collectors out there and my guess is that this will be a trend that only becomes a bigger thing.
It also seems that boots are being designed with this in mind. Many boots we are seeing released are works of art. They are being released in limited quantities, just like we have seen happen in the sneaker world for years. We’re seeing the uppers of boots being designed by artists. There are boots that have all over camo prints or designs that celebrate a moment in time. This has been happening in the sneaker world for a long time and now it is officially a part of the soccer world.
What does all of this mean? Will we see a resale market with soccer boots at some point? Will a pair of limited edition Mercurial Vapors or an old school pair of Predators appreciate in terms of value? We are already seeing certain limited edition boots sell out very quickly and at times are only made available to very select retailers or though apps run by the big brands.
How is all of this changing what we have come to expect from a soccer boot? Has the sport reached a place, or is close to reaching a place, where we can really look at it as more than just performance? We’ve been preaching to anyone that will listen that there is a tremendous lifestyle that surrounds the sport. That there is much more to this sport than just the perforce aspect.
What does it mean when the most performance product that soccer has to offer – the boot – starts to take on a life that goes above and beyond the performance aspect?
What does it mean (if the rumors are true) when a global soccer icon like Neymar starts releasing product with Brand Jordan?
Soccer is evolving like never before. Technology has a lot to do with that but so does the overall outlook on the sport as being about more than just performance. The beautiful sport has never looked more beautiful on and off the pitch and I can’t see any reason why that doesn’t continue to happen. Whether collecting boots continues it’s popularity I think it is safe to say that soccer boots will never go back to the utilitarian product that they once were. I think it’s safe to believe that brands will continue to push the design of boots through not only technological advancements but also through exploring art and design and the nexus of performance and lifestyle. Soccer has never looked so good.