they are something so much more important than just fashion.
To those completely alien to the concept of football boots, at their absolute core, they are just sports shoes with studs on their sole to prevent players from falling over on the grass. That is all. Despite 60 years of technological advancements and clever marketing, that is still all they are. And get this… players still end up falling over.
Does that mean the significance of football boots is merely cosmetic? No. While style is very important to a great football boot, they are something so much more important than just fashion. Something special. They’re toys. Now don’t get me wrong, I like clothes. When you buy a new outfit, you try it on, get ready for a night out and are happy with how you look, that’s a nice feeling. In the present, you feel relaxed, you feel confident. What’s different about football boots, and toys in general, is that they transport the owner away from the present and into their imagination.
When a young child receives their dream pair of football boots on Christmas Day, it’s a unique experience. They visually admire their gift, but their true excitement is for the future. They are dying to put their boots on, go outside and imitate their idols.
what the best football boots actually do is just make you want to play.
Football boots are marketed based on specific characteristics that fans can identify in their heroes. Kylian Mbappe is very fast, he wears the Nike Mercurial that is advertised for fast footballers. In the mind of the consumer, if they want to be fast like Mbappe they need to wear the Nike Mercurial. It’s genius. While this is manipulative marketing, all football boot lovers know there is a placebo effect at play.
When me and my friends were boys, we would buy the Nike Total 90s or the Adidas Predators and instantly want to go to the park and play with them. They were advertised as power boots, which were meant to help us kick the ball harder. For hours we would be smashing the ball wanting to be like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney and in the process the practice time would improve our technique.
All football boot lovers know that the boots themselves contribute a very small amount to real improvement. Therefore, what the best football boots actually do is just make you want to play.
every player I know can instantly tell you the best boots they ever had.
In many ways, I think the affection I have for football boots is very similar to that of someone and their car. There is an initial admiration period, you look at them, you admire them, and you evaluate their features. Do you like the design, the colour, do they look fun? There is the initial buzz of the purchase and the excitement of the first uses. Then there is a period of adjustment. In cars, it’s learning how to get the best out of the engine, how to use the satnav or the new technology. In football boots, there is a breaking period where the boots and your feet influence each other.
In this phase, the shape of your feet and the shape of the boots are physically in a battle. It hurts. There are blisters, there are grooves on the material, and there’s legitimate change. In the best case, usually in leather boots, the boot loses the battle and completely adjusts to your foot. It has left a factory brand new as a football boot, and now it has become YOUR football boot.
By this stage, they are a dream to wear and they can really support you through some important days. The good and the bad. The cup finals and great goals. The hard training sessions and the muddy battles. They may look beat up or not as nice as a new pair, but they still feel fantastic. They continue to create more memories until eventually the wear and tear becomes too much. They break down and then the cycle repeats itself. There is an end but every player I know can instantly tell you the best boots they ever had.
joy in the purest form.
What I think is also quite noteworthy. There is a societal element to the importance of play and toys as a grown man. I feel the significance of football boots, golf clubs, cars and power tools is that they all represent elements of childhood innocence that are still within the realms of acceptability for adult males.
When I see a friend arrive at Five a-Sides or training with their new boots, it’s still pleasant. The boots are admired by the group in the same light as new trainers or a nice jacket. They’re proud. But what’s also apparent is that no matter their age, their appearance, their nationality, and even their economic status, they are giddy and excited to play just like they were as a child. It’s lovely in my opinion.
I think that is a type of emotion that makes football such a universally loved sport. That joy is open to all genders, races, religions, and ethnicities. Football boots, and the game itself, are a vessel for creativity, imagination, and joy in the purest form.
With thanks to The Showpony Club