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The fold over tongue between maximalism, nostalgia, and performance

The most divisive detail in the history of football

The fold over tongue between maximalism, nostalgia, and performance The most divisive detail in the history of football

Today it is impossible to imagine a Fashion Week without football, but never as now, jerseys are no longer the true protagonists of runways turned into soccer fields. In an era of confusion for sneakers that have lost the aura that distinguished them until recently, there has been a reversal regarding the new silhouettes seen on the feet of cool kids and beyond. Many brands have recently created soccer-inspired sneakers, and the adopted formula is always the same: low-top silhouette, low midsole, and lace cover. It all began with Bikkembergs and the famous Tirosegno, the first introduction of fashion on a soccer field, with a shoe also worn by Giorgio Chiellini. It was the Euro 2008, and the structure defined by concentric circles associated two worlds that were extremely distant at that time. And hidden by the optical effect, the lace cover tongue appeared, which became from that moment the bridge between performance efficiency and fashion personalization. And now that soccer aesthetics have become mainstream, sometimes even surpassing the fame of the sport itself, both technical and fashion brands have rediscovered this connection, playing in the liminal space between the two sensibilities.

Reebok, adidas, PUMA, Acne Studios, Asics are some of the brands that have interpreted the shape of soccer shoes, each through their own codes and philosophies, creating a new trend of tongues. There's the one pulled up directly from the '70s created by Wales Bonner for adidas, the square one from the '90s by Reebok and BOTTER, who collaborated again during the last Paris Fashion Week. But let's not forget the sneakers by Acne Studios last season when the Scandinavian brand presented two models with rubberized studs: one inspired by Nike's Total 90, while the other featured a flashy metallic lace cover. At the same time, sports brands have also returned to this path, with adidas, of course, bringing back one of its most famous shapes from its archive, the Predators, which also made history for the way they concealed the laces. Even the Avanti model by Fenty x PUMA plays with this detail in an extra-large version, perhaps to soften a model dedicated to the female audience.

And if PUMA and Coperni have created a shoe that tries to synthesize blokecore and balletcore, other brands have also intersected different styles using the soccer shoe as a base and the tongue as a distinctive sign. For example, Asics, in its first collaboration with the OTTO 958 brand, offered a reinterpretation of the ASICS GEL-FLEXKEE, a mix between skateboarding and futsal. The combinations seem practically infinite, with the tongue always at the center of them.

Lace covers, why they disappeared

A decisive return to the past, both on and off the field, after at least a decade of heading in the opposite direction in pursuit of the slightest competitive advantage. The reasons behind the increasingly minimal look of soccer shoes are essentially two. The first concerns the fact that eliminating some components from the soccer shoe is a clever move to reduce its weight, improving the performance of athletes. The first victim of this process that would make game footwear more performant was, in fact, the lace cover tongue, which remained etched, also for this reason, in the hearts of nostalgics. The purpose of the lace cover tongue, since its inception, has been to prevent the presence of the bow from affecting the sensitivity of the players but also to offer greater support to the foot. Today, the solution to this need is offered - in a wide selection of soccer shoes - by a thin knit collar that guarantees stability, especially to the ankle. In both cases, technology triumphed over tradition in an evolutionary process that we have seen in much sports equipment.

And yet, there are exceptions: some models have managed to resist technological innovations, such as the famous Copa Mundial by adidas and various models by La Pantofola D'Oro, demonstrating that tradition often manages to survive the onset of progress. Perhaps we should have taken a closer look at the iconic shots depicting Bob Marley playing on the dirt fields of Jamaica in the '70s. His style foreshadowed the disappearance of the tongue, as he used to play matches by lacing his adidas Copa Mundial and keeping the tongue locked upward.

The return of lace cover tongues and the victory of nostalgia

Over the last decade, in soccer, there are cases that testify how the lace cover tongue has timidly tried to resist. Nike and adidas - with the launch of the Nike Premier 3 and Copa Gloro models respectively - thought of an intelligent way to satisfy both detractors and fans of the tongue. These models actually had a dotted line on the shoe collar area, allowing those who wanted to remove it using scissors. In addition to being a smart choice at a time when cutout sneakers were very popular, it also turned out to be a memorable marketing operation that managed not to definitively close the doors to the future for lace cover tongues.

By exploiting their return, demonstrating that the feeling of nostalgia that has invaded, especially in recent years, apparel, soccer shoes, and the entire soccer aesthetic is something that brands care about particularly, perhaps more than anything else. The most glaring example concerns the return of adidas' Predator Archive, now worn by Jude Bellingham and Trent Alexander Arnold, who have taken up the legacy left by players like David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, and Alessandro Del Piero. Therefore, it's curious about adidas' decision regarding the Predator model in lifestyle version, called Freestyle, which does not include the presence of a lace cover tongue, probably to avoid overshadowing the detail of the three stripes.

Just as it happened at the beginning of the blokecore phenomenon, when the most improbable jerseys were pulled out of the drawers where they had been buried for years to be worn again, and the collar became the element to personalize, in the same way, the tongue has become the detail through which to explore possibilities and creativity. With all due respect to Toni Kroos, the collar immediately makes the jersey comfortable to wear even away from the field, and so the tongue seems to be there to say that it's sporty without losing the commercial appeal of everyday sneakers. In the end, the dream of all these brands, intertwining soccer, nostalgia, and archive, is to find a new Samba.