Suiting Up

A trend in celebrity and sports licensing over the past several years has consisted of current and former pro athletes from the four major U.S. sports leagues individually introducing their personal brands into higher-end menswear and underwear programs.

Athletes from outside the four major leagues, some active and some retired, are following suit, both globally and in the U.S., with most (but not all) similarly focusing on men’s apparel. Sports sectors that have seen such activity include:

  • Cricket. Professional cricketers have represented a vibrant pocket of brand-extension activity of late in the clothing sector, especially in India. Virat Kohli and Artimas Fashions paired in late 2017 for youth innerwear and sleepwear under Kohli’s One8 brand, while Daren Ganga introduced his Dazza Menswear line, also in 2017. Similarly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni launched his Seven casual sportswear brand and Yuvraj Singh his YWC (YouWeCan) sports lifestyle label in recent years; both opened their first branded retail locations in 2017.
  • Mixed martial arts. Last year, Conor McGregor, a UFC fighter, introduced his menswear label, August McGregor, in collaboration with custom apparel brand David August. The assortment includes suits, sportswear, and accessories. Other mixed martial arts fighters that have launched clothing brands include Uriah Faber with his Form Athletics label (which was purchased by K-Swiss before going bankrupt) and Dan Henderson with his Clinch Gear performance apparel line.
  • Soccer/football. Neymar Jr. has designed special collections for Replay, a global denim label based in Italy, as part of a broader endorsement deal. And David Beckham has had high-profile and long-term partnerships (via licensing deals, joint ventures, and ownership stakes) with H&M, Kent & Curwen, and other fashion companies for some time.
  • Snowboarding. Shaun White paired with Macy’s in 2016 for a line of menswear under the Wht Space brand, after having a decade-plus run with the Shaun White for Target line. (Both relationships have ended.) Cherokee purchased Tony Hawk’s lifestyle brand from Quiksilver in 2014, and has done deals in Europe and the U.S.; the focus has been on fashion for young men and boys.

As with the U.S.-based stars of the major pro sports leagues, these athletes’ celebrity is maintained as much through television, print and digital publications, and social media off the field as by their on-field exploits. That means their fans have a strong sense of their personal style. While not all of these ventures end up being successful, a distinctive image coupled with an athlete’s fame can translate to a strong retail apparel program.

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