We know what you’re thinking. Aren’t the Balenciaga Football Boots the most VERSUS shit ever? When the VERSUS admin is deep in thought, with their feet kicked up, dreaming up the next caption, isn’t this the exact pair of shoes that you’d picture propped up on their WFH desk? Let's be real: they’re not, because the Balenciaga Football Boots are overpriced garbaggio – and I'm here to tell you why.
Contextually, it’s probably important to consider why Balenciaga decided it was cool to charge £595 for a pair of trainers (yes, they’re trainers) that look somewhere between the default FIFA Pro Clubs boots and the cult classic 'Camden' Lonsdale trainers, which you can still get from Sports Direct for just £24.99.
The release of the boots follows the first glimpse of ‘Balenciaga FC’ back in March, where the brand decided to follow up on the release of their £425 ‘Zen’ sneakers (which aptly sent plenty of people’s heads wobbling) by dropping off a host of new football-themed fits for the showcase.
Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia has forged a career of triggering the masses. His own label Vetements, as a brand, has thrived purely on this provocative basis since its conception. Often leaning into everyday, cultural touch points and collaborating with brands like Umbro – with the Balenciaga boots bearing a striking resemblance to the Umbro numbers
revered drip god Michael Owen used to don in the early 00s – Gvasalia has often dipped into everyday and working class culture for influence behind his pieces, before up-selling ordinary-looking items for an insane amount of money.
Speaking about his decision to create the new Balenciaga FC range, Gvasali told British Vogue: “Footballers and priests were what I grew up with in Georgia. Sport, religion, obsession, and seduction are stripped of their functions, leaving only the sensation of a fashion object.” The brand can try and spin it however they want, but the truth is they’ve produced an unjustifiably expensive pair of boots-cum-trainers that aren’t “subversive”, but just flat out shite.
Millennials account for 70% of Balenciaga’s current sales. Understanding that football is so strongly followed by that target market, Gvasalia’s move can, at best, be viewed as an easy route into making money for the brand.
As we know, the football jersey is now inherently a part of the fashion zeitgeist, with everyone from Supreme and Patta through to Versace and Martine Rose taking cues from shirt culture and its global explosion in recent years. People go to parties in jerseys, shopping in jerseys, fashion week in jerseys…they are inherently lifestyle pieces that are now seen and worn everywhere by a wide range of people, regardless of background.
But while ‘the jersey’ is set in stone as an effortless style item, football boots aren’t. Nor are the Balenciaga boots aren’t some homage to the beautiful game; they’ve been created purely to fuck with label-obsessed customers pockets with a totally weak attempt at passing off something as “designer”.
There’s a difference between paying homage and appropriating a popular trend for profit. While it might be fun to discover just how firmly Gvasali followed football growing up in Georgia (are there any photos of him watching Dinamo Tbilisi play on a cold, Tuesday night?), there appears to be a real disconnect to the game apparent with the production of these boots.
The flagrancy of the piss-taking on show is there for all to see. The Balenciaga Boots are modelled as functional products, but not actually built to function – making them flat out dysfunctional. While there is an argument to be made on how much this ethos runs throughout Balenciaga’s approach to clothing, the culture deserves better than to just be flogged a pair of boots that look like they cost the same price as those oft-mentioned Lonsdales to make.
It’s another clever marketing play that has been picked up by everyone from Grime Report to Sky Sports, with the latter’s post on the boots seeing former Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonglahor even tag Newcastle’s talismanic tag-popper Allan Saint-Maximin in the comments, asking what he thinks of the product. But the question is, in what context would someone as enthusiastic about Balenciaga as Saint-Maximin even wear these? They can’t be used on the pitch, so who are they actually for? What purpose do they serve other than being churn for the timeline?
There’s a clear comparison to be made with fellow fashion-meets-football enthusiast Virgil Abloh, and his recently-released Off-White Track shoes. These are perhaps the closest product to the Balenciaga Boots in terms of both the profile of the items, as an athletic product being sold as high-fashion item, and the way in which they were marketed in the space.
However, the difference for both these launches couldn’t be more pronounced; with the Balenciaga Boots purely parody, and Virgil’s actually steeped in performance. Abloh even set up a whole “TRACK & FIELD” event for the launch of the silhouette and “Athlete and Progress” initiative, with Dina Asher-Smith and Caster Semenya modelling the shoes, to elevate the purpose and context behind the design.
“There is no authentic tie to the world of sport with the Balenciaga boots, it’s all aesthetic.”
Now, if Balenciaga wanted to try their hand at an actual, fully-functional product, we’d be 100% all in on the idea. But by contrast, the brand have created a shoe purely in the ‘aesthetic’ of football, rather than an actual wearable product that we could see fashion-forward (and Balenciaga-loving) ballers like Neymar, Hector Bellerin or Fikayo Tomori don on pitch. There is no authentic tie to the world of sport with the Balenciaga boots – they are purely for an aesthetic – and that detachment is another reason why they make absolutely zero sense.
Regardless of the actual state of the items themselves – the overarching cheapness of the design and the inauthenticity in approach – it’s hard to deny it’s another genius marketing ploy from Balenciaga, which has got people everywhere talking. Football boots being donned in street style shots might not be too far way, with Vivienne Westwood helping add some credence to this trend forecasting herself.
The thought of T90s and bootcuts becoming a LFW staple next year isn’t entirely inconceivable. It only takes a few big cultural figure to start a trend; just look at how A$AP Rocky and Frank Ocean pretty much started the babushka wave last year (similar scarves are now donned by everyone from NSG to Poet). The virality of a moment like that being seen on the streets would undoubtedly be huge, and might actually cause a wave of other people, trend-hoppers or not, to do the same.
As you know, we’re all for celebrating fashion and football’s convergence rather than admonishing it – but these aren’t it. The product isn’t high fashion. It certainly isn’t haute couture – which Demna is pivoting towards in big way – either. It’s not even an elaborate pisstake, or creative urban peacocking, but that’s the whole reason why Balenciaga have created the boot – the sheer cheek, nonsensical nature and ridiculousness of the product has been crafted with an aim to sending heads (including mine) rolling across the globe.
Balenciaga will continue to sell well – it made over £1 billion in sales last year – and Lil Uzi Vert can continue to scream “Balenci Balenci Balenci Balenci” ad infinitum on songs, but nothing can gonna convince me that this product is good, or makes any more sense than Paul Merson in a post-match analysis segment. Football and fashion will continue to converge together for the forseeable future, but these ain’t it.