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Freddie Ljungberg is still a fashion icon

Almost two decades after the shocking pink mohawk and the shots for Calvin Klein, the former Arsenal has changed the relationship between soccer and fashion

Freddie Ljungberg is still a fashion icon Almost two decades after the shocking pink mohawk and the shots for Calvin Klein, the former Arsenal has changed the relationship between soccer and fashion

The advertising campaign for the launch of the second collection of Puma MMQ has brought back in front of the camera lens one of the players that like few has influenced the aesthetic that we usually associate with the Premier League of the mid-zero years. With the crest discolored pink, large jerseys with sleeves that reached the elbows and a style off the field that began to open up to high fashion with all the slips of the case, Freddie Ljungberg has been an alien and a precursor. 

He arrived quietly at Arsenal at the precise request of Arsene Wenger and became one of the pillars of those mythological Gunners, capable of winning the Premier League in 2003/04 without losing a single game, earning the enviable title of Invincibles. His continuous movement with and without the ball, an unquenchable engine that was the perfect counterpoint to the regal class of the French backbone of that team formed by Henry, Pires and Vieira, made him a darling of the Gunners crowd, who came to Highbury with their hair dyed pink ready to cheer at every strike of the Swedish number 8, so much so that he was voted 11th among the 50 most important players in the history of Arsenal. 

But Ljungberg was not only recognizable on the green field of play, he also fed his legend off the field, becoming according to the tabloids the Scandinavian answer to the glamorous power of David Beckham, the then star of English soccer. Compared to Manchester United's number 7, Ljungberg was less attentive to building his own image, less interested in following the long wave of his fame. On the contrary, like all the Gunners of that generation, he was fashionable as a non-conformist, fascinating as only a revolutionary can be. 

His introduction to the general public, the one that didn't belong to Fever Pitch's fans, took place with the advertising campaign for Calvin Klein underwear - at that time a real generational brand - that, according to the legend, decided to choose Ljungberg as its testimonial after Beckham quit. A choice that turned out to be a good one and that turned the player into a real sex symbol, thanks to the posters that portrayed him in black and white wearing only CK underwear. His square jaw like an Ikea piece of furniture, his penetrating ice eyes and sculpted abs on display marked a key moment in the relationship between soccer and fashion, opening doors to footballers that had previously seemed barred. 

They also opened new horizons for Ljungberg, who went from being the sexiest man in Sweden (after a regular vote) to becoming a regular presence in the English tabloids. The charming and at the same time elusive face of one of the most successful teams of the period, exotic and eccentric enough to be constantly misinterpreted by newspapers that needed to sell as many copies as possible, had to give several interviews to explain his sexuality. Given his passion for fashion, fusion cuisine and musicals in the theater, the rumor spread that he was homosexual, so much so that one of his interviews in the Daily Mail is titled precisely "I like clothes but I'm not gay". Let's just say that the world has changed quite a bit in twenty years, fortunately. 

On the other hand, Ljungberg was quite popular with women, even declaring that during the period of the campaign for Calvin Klein could no longer go around without them jumping on him, and at the same time has always been extremely private about his private life. So much so that after hanging up his boots following experiences in Major League Soccer, J-League and Indian Super League, he soon moved away from the spotlight to devote himself to a coaching career that took him up to take over the Arsenal bench for a brief interim in 2019. For him, being cool and unconventional was something innate, an expression of himself and not a personal brand to exploit since he never wanted to overly embroider his figure off the field. But his pink mohawk, the Roberto Cavalli suits and the shots in boxers with Natalia Vodianova on top have changed the way we define the aesthetics of a footballer today.