“I’m such a novice when it comes to the sport,” he tells Complex. “When I was growing up, we were into skateboarding [and in it] there’s the good, the bad, there’s the intense things, the rivalries, the camaraderie—this is why people love sport so much and why it brings people together. Some of my friends I’d skate with would call it ‘soccer’ back in the day; they were into Umbro shorts and jerseys from some of the local teams.”
That early fixation with jerseys has now manifested into something a whole lot bigger. After travelling the world and being gripped by the “enthusiasm, excitement and energy” of the sport, Pharrell’s latest creative project has seen him channel his penchant for design into a reimagining of some of the best kits ever produced from the hallowed archives of adidas’ elite clubs. Pharrell has put his creative Midas touch on classic shirts out of the Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid’s archives, and the results are nothing short of a masterstroke.
It’s only right for a collection of jerseys titled ‘Human Race’ to offer a personal touch, aesthetically. Featuring unique hand-painted graphics on some of the most iconic kits in the clubs’ legacies, this was something Pharrell was keen to channel in the design. “Being a human means spirit and flesh,” he says. “The jerseys were made by fingers; they were created with the human touch. Even when adidas presented this idea to me, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t feel qualified.’ But even though I know I may not be as educated in the sport itself, I know energy— and I know creating a connection from the energy that I see around the players and the sport.”
It actually makes a lot of sense that Pharrell has chosen his latest—and literal—creative brush stroke to be the canvas of the beautiful game. Despite huge political unrest, social uncertainty and lack of inter-connectivity, 2020 has continued to be a year where collaboration is king and cultural convergence between the worlds of music, football and fashion are at an all-time high.
“This is the first time these five clubs have united together in a shared design. We need associations to do more kinds of these types of things together. This collaboration is a hamster wheel of kinetic energy. We’re better stronger, dude. We’re better stronger.”
Unifying people and fans as well as the respective clubs and their players was part of the main appeal of the project for Pharrell: “This is the first time where these five clubs have come together to unite over a shared kit design. We live in a world where our phones have made us all a lot more self-centred. When you bring a lot of people together, it’s a big portal of energy. It’s like anything—a big choir, or anything like that. We need associations to do more kinds of these types of things together. This collaboration is a hamster wheel of kinetic energy. We’re better stronger, dude. We’re better stronger.”
France winning the World Cup in 2018 (and the resulting visuals of the celebratory parade at the Parc Des Princes, where Vegedream joined the 23-man squad on the pitch) symbolised this synergy perfectly. For Pharrell, the energy on the display that day is something he’ll never forget. “The excitement watching those players celebrate, many of whom came from African descent, winning the World Cup with France, it was a beautiful thing, man. People love to see that—and to see the government get behind it too, that showed the spirit and the togetherness that the football industry has. It was beautiful to watch and to see them become the champions. It was empowering.”
The World Cup Final’s standout leader on the field that day was Paul Pogba. Though Hugo Lloris captained Les Bleus, it was Pogba who grew into the role as a leader, inspiring his teammates to victory with his rousing speeches before kick-off. Pharrell and Pogba have collaborated on a set of Human Race Predator Mutator boots for the project, something that’s been long in the works. “When we had dinner last year, we were just talking with each other and had this total, mutual admiration for what we each do,” he explains. “We have a shared attitude to what we bring to our work—gratitude. Gratitude is the best attitude. For me, I just thought: ‘Man, this guy is so good at what he does! I’d love to do something with him.’ It’s kind of crazy how it happened, but we just spoke things into existence and partnered on something he can actively create in, which is a pair of boots.”