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More Than - Danny Williams

Pursuit of Happiness

More Than - Danny Williams Pursuit of Happiness


Pursuit of Happiness

More Than - Danny Williams Pursuit of Happiness | Image 434016
More Than - Danny Williams Pursuit of Happiness | Image 434015

From a distance, footballers' careers may all look the same: compact training sessions, playing uniforms, locker room tales, and racing behind the ball. However, getting closer to each individual story reveals how much each path that led to professional football differs from one another, telling not only different personal stories, dreams, and ambitions but also challenges and difficulties that accompany life on a football field. And it was from this that Danny Williams, captain of the U.S. national team yet born in Karlsruhe, Germany to an African American father and a German mother, drew inspiration in creating his own fashion brand Beautiful Struggles. It illustrates his journey through life as an athlete and as an individual with constant curiosity, ready to challenge the rules of a sport so bound to its traditions, as he told us during this seventh episode of More Than. “The crazy thing is that had started when I was a child, because I was born in Germany by a german mom and an afro-american dad from New York, and when I was young I was very much exposed to that american culture of my dad because he was always loved jazz music and of course basketball so he would show me all kinds of american culture stuff in which I was always more drawn into than german culture because even that I was born and raised in Germany I was always look as an outsider because I’m mixed-race you now and not the typical german person if you look at me and that’s why I always felt ok I’m different in a normal way” he told me while we were in Naples for an event related to his fashion brand. I’ve always been curious about all things in life, whether is me now in Naples exploring Italian culture, or when I was playing in the UK or USA where I discovered these upcoming brands like Rhude, Fear of God, Amiri that later became household names”. Fashion became a channel for Danny Williams through which he can express himself by showing his passions and references.

“During my adolescence I was always drawn into those types of characters like Dennis Rodman or Allen Iverson, that’s why I bleached my hair blonde, the rings and stuff, the tattoos, the cornrows, the braids. I was always trying to experience my afro american side a little more, and 25 years back I looked like people thought I was crazy, like very very crazy because I was not a normal person.” What turned out to be young Williams' desire for rebellion has since found a happy dimension in the creativity of fashion, which went from being an outlet to a new occupation once he ended his professional career. “My love has always been fashion, it was always my second occupation beside football and when I started doing this nobody had the same ambitions as me for my brand. Because it was my story and nobody could tell my story as I wanted, nobody could know what influenced me during my childhood or during my professional football career. Nobody could say it for me because I lived through it, you know.”

Hence was born Beautiful Struggle, an intimate and honest journey inside the life of Danny Williams. “Unfortunately my career changed because of this big injury, and I ended up in Cyprus by myself and then Covid hits. Then I received a call and I was out of my contract, and I thought to myself one day I was playing in the Premier League, I’m the captain of the USA National Team and all the people called me to congratulate me. I had one injury, changed my whole life, ended up in Cyprus, I’m not hot anymore, people are leaving, agencies are leaving and I’m alone in my terrace thinking It’s a beautiful struggle. Yes, it is a struggle right now but I have to find the beauty in it, so this is the way I came up with the name of the brand”. Choosing the grounds on which to take the fight is very important to Danny Williams, finding himself constantly looking for the context that allows him to best express his creativity. Thus, when the football pitch became too narrow, he had no problem leaving it to focus on his brand.

A clear separation, contrasting what has been happening in recent years with the boundaries between the world of sports and fashion are blurring, with athletes and football players becoming brand ambassadors or models and fashion collections incorporating styles and items inspired directly from the football pitch. For Danny Williams, on the other hand, it would not have been possible to handle the duties of a fashion brand while still engaged in the daily grind that defines a professional football player.“ That’s why in my opinion it wasn’t right to open a fashion brand while I was playing, because football it’s still a success driven, result based business, where you have to put all your energy onto the pitch, so it’s difficult to make something serious on the side. And I realized having this brand for two years, I could have never done this brand how I’m doing it now while playing football. Look now where I am, I’m Naples for an event, during the season. All this, traveling, creating connections with the fashion world I couldn’t do if I was still playing”.

“There are still a lot of taboos and football players are not open to speak about it, because they live in the bubble, they are still paid by the club.”
More Than - Danny Williams Pursuit of Happiness | Image 434013
“There are still a lot of taboos and football players are not open to speak about it, because they live in the bubble, they are still paid by the club.”
More Than - Danny Williams Pursuit of Happiness | Image 434205

Moreover, although football players have gained more freedom to show their more personal side through social media, such behavior is not always accepted within a sport that lives by very strict rules of conduct. “The problem is, taking the Hector Bellerin example, he was also a pioneer in dressing differently but if they lost a game he was slammed down. “Focus on football, Focus on football”. While football players are now public figures beyond the field, the latter remains the metric by which their success is judged, states Williams. “There are still a lot of taboos and football players are not open to speak about it, because they live in the bubble, they are still paid by the club.” This is another reason why Beautiful Struggles was born; to start a conversation about football beyond football, beyond the usual clichés and stereotypes that plague this world and by valuing human connections.

"In two years I’ve done so many things already, going through different collaborations inside and outside the football world, the thing we did with the US League - United against racism - obviously sponsored by Beautiful Struggles and designed by us. PUMA decided to work with us. I've already done a lot in terms of shifting culture and opening up new conversations, but that’s just the beginning. There's still a lot to learn, I have to teach myself or other people have to teach me. I’m ready for it, I love the process.” explained Williams. Over the past few months he has been anything but idle, flying to Paris to meet with designers, visit ateliers, and gain the respect of insiders from a world that still speaks another language. “I don’t love the word prejudice, I prefer perception. And football is still perceived in a certain way”. But through hard work and dedication Williams is confident he can shift the paradigm. “I think the most important thing is you have to be consistent, persistent, you still have to believe in yourself and you really work hard for it.” The elements of a journey that begins on a soccer field and continues in search of meaning beyond sports. “People asked me why fashion, why you didn’t stay in football, but like I said I like to be curious, I like to learn new things. I am more than an athlete , always been but I couldn’t express myself completely in that world.”

Talent: Danny Williams
Photographer: Luca Scavone
Stylist: Giorgia Toscani
MUA: Natsumi Ebiko
Interview: Lorenzo Bottini
Production: nss factory