Balenciaga's football shirt "homage" shows a widening gap between rich and poor

Yesterday, Hypebeast published an article about Balenciaga’s $780 football jersey calling it an “homage”.

Balenciaga‘s Fall/Winter 2020 runway show presented lots of sportswear inspiration, and now the Demna Gvasalia-helmed house has dropped its divisive football jersey.

In Balenciaga’s high-end, luxurious interpretation of the beautiful game and its kits, you’ll find all of the typical design elements of a soccer jersey — only elevated. It’s made from mid-weight premium cotton that’s cut wide and boxy, featuring drop shoulders and a stand collar to help it further blur the line between sportswear and streetwear-indebted luxury.

There’s so much to unpack here. But before I do, let me state that sporting apparel as fashion isn’t a new concept and not something I’d criticise. The sale of replica shirts is for the purpose of revenue—sporting franchises add things like spirit and culture on top to make the capitalist process look pretty.

But aside from that, this is atrocious. $780 is a wild amount for a football shirt you’d turn your nose up at if you saw it hanging from a holiday stall. There’s nothing distinctive or even sartorially appealing to it. In fact, you could find this design on FIFA 2000 and not bat an eyelid (the copy of which costs less than £2 in the affiliate link I just posted—perhaps ironic but I don’t have Balenciaga’s millions so sue me.)

But aside from that, the shirt demonstrates the growing gulf between rich and poor. The true football pyramid system has the richest owners and adjacent rich White men at the top and millions of fans, most of them Black and Brown, at the bottom. How many of those fans can afford a shirt like this? If it’s a homage to anything, it’s a pastiche of the gross capitalisation of football that shows no signs of slowing.

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