The Adidas x Bape Collaboration That's Bringing Style Onto the Field

Camo print and shark motif on cleats, gloves, and sleeves.

The crossover of fashion and sports has had a long, illustrious career. Basketball sneakers, baseball caps, track jackets—all of them have become street-style staples. And now, thanks to loosening up league-dictated restrictions, street style is making its way right onto the football field. Basketball might be the star player in this particular game, but it's not the only one. And no partnership is a better illustration of that than Adidas and Bape. 

This month, the sportswear and street-style fiends partnered up to launch a collection together in tandem with Super Bowl LIII. The collaboration puts Bape's signature camo print and shark motif on Adidas items meant to actually be played in: cleats, gloves, sleeves, and more. Plus, some more casual picks like the Ultra Boost. It's a move that highlights the fluidity of not just sports' influence on streetwear, but vice versa.


"Traditional barriers of team colors used to keep kids in a certain color palate," says Jeff McGillis, vice president of U.S. sports for Adidas. "Then you started to see kids step out of that zone, and the professional players they look up to were stepping out even further with their on-field style. Now, these athletes are able to dress on the field the way they dress off the field." 


That blending of interests—like sports and fashion—is a signifier of a larger shift in how athletes, kids and professionals alike, are defining themselves. They no longer exist as a player in a vacuum of pure sports.

Patrick Mahomes stops by the Adidas x Bape pop-up before Super Bowl LIII. IMAGE: Courtesy

"There used to be the jock who lived in one world, the fashionista that lived in this world, the skater that lived in this one," says Todd Rolak, senior design director at Adidas. "Now, they're all living in the same space. I think this kind of product range shows up for all aspects, whether on the field or in the hallway." 

No one is more familiar with that crossover than Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. The 23-year-old is part of the generation that joined professional sports when it already had a well-established relationship with fashion. Even just being in the environment has influenced his personal sense of style. 

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"It’s been huge for me, especially being around other athletes and seeing what they wear, what their fashion is like," he says. "I can pick and choose details I like, and bring them into my own style. I mean, NFL dudes love to dress up. I might not be as bold as them, but I do like to have some swag myself." 

Von Miller of the Denver Broncos is one player who many others look to when they want to learn how to balance great style with sport. But he doesn't quite see it that way. 

"I don't really try to be fashion-forward or anything like that," he says. "I just try to be the best possible Von that I can be." Of course, his longstanding partnership with Adidas has certainly played a role in his own style evolution and served as a creative outlet. "Something like Adidas and Bape really shows you the flexibility that Adidas has. To be able to move easily from Bape to Pusha-T to Pharrell—it’s insane. You have to have two sides that are willing to create. You have to surround yourself with partners like that." 

Von Miller in Atlanta, G.A. for Super Bowl LIII. IMAGE: Courtesy

While the NBA might reign supreme in dominating the fashion/sports crossover, and while the Adidas and Bape partnership might be focused on football, they're not the only sports trying to weave fashion and street style into the game. Baseball is right there, too, ready to stake a claim in the movement. The Yankees' Aaron Judge is particularly excited to do so. 

"In the NBA, they can rock whatever they want," Judge says. "It’s a way to show personality. A lot of people are only seeing players on the field and in their uniform and that’s it; that’s all they really see. I think if MLB can show the more personal side to the players, that’ll be just another connection that the fans can have."

The New York Yankee's Aaron Judge hits a Knicks game. IMAGE: Courtesy

That's really what the movement is about, too. It's not just about clothes or sports, but about acknowledging, blending, and expressing different interests at the same time. In today's game—whatever game that might be—players don't exist just on the field.  "Today’s football player, for example, also skateboards or DJs or has his own clothing line," says Adidas's Rolak. "But you still have to be really good at football."


This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Christine Flammia
Christine Flammia writes about style, grooming, and more; she is the former associate style editor of Esquire and is currently pursuing a PhD in communications at Columbia.
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