Sophie Hird & Sports Team on Football, Fashion & Britishness

Photography: Jack Orton / Interview & Words Amelia Christian

Sprawled across a couple of vintage sofas in a cottage like-studio in North London, Sports Team huddles together over a pot of tea. The band have just reached the end of an action-packed summer showcasing their many talents at Glastonbury, Truck Festival, and Reading & Leeds. Before setting off again for two upcoming UK tours, we were able to track down lead singer, Alex Rice, guitarist and songwriter Rob Knaggs, drummer Al Greenwood, bassist Oli Dewdney, guitarist Henry Young and keyboardist Ben Mac. Recent London College of Fashion (LCF) graduate and Sports Team collaborator and friend, Sophie Hird, was also able to join us too. 

After finally perfecting the latest garments of her graduate collection this past June, Sophie was eager to find suitable candidates to wear and sport her Baroque-inspired designs. When Sports Team rolled up for her undergraduate fashion show and eagerly expressed an interest to wear her clothes in upcoming performances, Hird was confident that the eclectic 6-piece would be just the right match for her vision.

Both Sports Team and Sophie possess the unique ability in combining a variety of paradoxes to form a lasting synergistic resonance. Sports Team effortlessly merge everyday mundane British narratives with the electrifying energy of an American rock band, while, through her designs, Sophie tactfully marries the functionality of sportswear with the flamboyant showmanship that Sports Team is able to carry so well. 

GAFFER sat down with both Sophie and Sports Team to discuss everything from early years, football, history as a tool of inspiration and brilliant, mundane Britishness…

Sophie, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Darlington in the northeast of England. It’s a small working class town where everyone is really into football – it’s a big part of the culture.

Did this football driven culture influence your designs?

Well, even though my family was never really interested in football, I think just being in that kind of environment had an inevitable influence on me. 

How would you describe your designs?

Camp, flamboyant, fluid, genderless. I always say they are menswear, but they are for everyone. I just style them on men.

What inspired these LCF jerseys for your graduate collection?

I interned at a sports brand in Germany where they gave a lot away, and so I ended up with a lot of the extra samples that they couldn’t sell… I was really captured by the football ones, because they were bright and kind of camp.

Your latest collection contains reworked football jerseys – were you always interested in sustainable design? 

I think I wasn’t as aware of integrating sustainability until I started working at the sports brand and seeing all of these excess garments going to waste. I thought,  ‘I could do something with this’. That definitely evoked a more sustainable way of thinking for me, and I feel that once you get in that headspace, it’s hard to go back –you can’t unsee it. Now every time I look at the fashion industry, I think, ‘Oh god it needs help’.

Will you continue to incorporate this in future work?

That’s what I really want to do in the future – create my own brand that keeps a focus on sustainability and upcycling clothes. There’s so much you can do with what’s already out there. With my designs, I like the idea of turning something that isn’t initially classed as “camp”, and then taking it out of its original context to make it something else.

What inspires you most about dressing musicians in particular? 

Well I think music and fashion go hand in hand. I like to look at musicians and what they wore in the past like Prince, or David Bowie… the outfits were just insane. I would love to do stage performance wear. You can make more of a statement with them than you can with everyday, ‘normal’ designs.

If you could live in one decade, which would it be and why?

Well, this particular collection was inspired by the 1760s, so I’d say around then, I love that era of flamboyant menswear, but it wasn’t meant to be ironic, it was just genuinely what they wore. It was the fashion. I’d love to live in that time – not forever, but just to taste it.

Sports Team  

Where did you all grow up? How have these places influenced your music?

Alex: The 6 of us grew up in completely different places. Al in Leeds, Henry in Cornwall, Rob and I grew up in Africa – but we all met at university in Cambridge. When we first formed the band, it was always exciting playing for people who didn’t necessarily want to hear guitar music. So having to try to make something that felt visceral and felt like something beyond the actual gig itself.

How would you describe your sound?

Alex: I think what we try to do is to sort of romanticise things –romanticise the very mundane. The majority of us had a dull suburban upbringing and I think we wouldn’t be particularly true to ourselves if we didn’t talk about these very aspects of life. So that’s the content, it’s very English-centric.

What do you love most about British culture? 

Alex: I don’t think that we necessarily love it – a lot of it is very uneventful. But we think this is why you get a lot of amazing bands out of England suburbia. It’s quite boring. You don’t have much else to do, and this is where the creativity comes in. It’s interesting for us to look at a surrounding that is, on the surface, very prosaic. Say, the M5. It’s part of people’s everyday. And then when you put it into a song, you’ve lifted it and you’ve valourised it to some extent. That’s hopefully what we’re doing here – lifting things up.

“I suppose living together really makes it feel like a bit of a gang. That’s why I think our name sums things up quite well: that we are a 6 piece, we’re all mates, and just having a laugh with it.”

What is the story behind the name, Sports Team?

Rob: There were a few names. I think we had to figure out a name that was essentially one that we didn’t all hate passionately. There were some pretty bad ones. I think at that point we were trying to pick something that felt vague enough while, at the same time, not needing any explanation. 

Quite literally sporting the name, ‘Sports Team’… Any football fans?

Rob: I support England exclusively… but Al is an amazing footballer!

Al: I used to play quite a lot. Sadly had to hang up the boots once I took up the drumming role full time. Before the band took off, I was doing football far more than I was drumming….playing around 6-7 times a week. I’m a Manchester United fan, my dad has a season ticket – all of his family grew up around the stadium.

What drew you to Sophie and her designs? Is fashion something that inspires you?

Alex: Yes definitely. Our label took us down to see the LCF graduate show, because we are always more interested in fashion than we are informed about it. Sophie’s designs stood out to us because we are always looking out for things we can wear on stage and perform in. There’s a lot of movement, jumping around, posturing and getting into the crowd. All the clothes Sophie makes flow very well and looks like they’re made to perform in, which I think is brilliant. I don’t think many people are doing that. For example, when we performed at electric ballroom, I wore a matador suit. It’s very hard to find items of clothing that are specifically designed for actually performing and moving in, which I think Sophie does amazingly.

Rob: Her designs have an immediate visual impact. It’s not like you’re wearing inner tubing, but it’s just enough to make you look powerful from a distance. And I think Sophie understands that we all have quite different styles and try to maintain that as much as we can. You see some bands all dressed up in the same coloured suits and shoes and it just looks so uncomfortable – like a bad wedding.

If you could live in any decade which would it be and why?

Alex: Fashion wise, I think 80’s boat wear was great. I liked it when they made clothes for men that were colourful – now it’s so drab. Women’s clothes are always so much better than the men’s. For me I think the 80s, white jacket, Duran Duran rock-style stuff.

Will you always live together?

Rob: I hope we do. I feel like when you don’t do that as a band, you lose quite a lot of what makes you interesting. If you can’t be around the people you’re playing with, you probably shouldn’t try and make music and be on stage with them. It looks unconvincing when bands hate each other and go off their separate ways.

Alex: And I suppose living together really makes it feel like a bit of a gang. That’s why I think our Name sums things up quite well: that we are a 6 piece, we’re all mates, and just having a laugh with it. 

And with all things said and done, we slowly begin to pack away Sophie’s colourful designs and bring the warm summer day to a close. Just when I think it’s time for us each to head our separate ways, the band piles into a large black van and say they’re off to the pub for more laughs and pints. I ask whether the van is used just around tour dates. They laugh and casually explain that it’s actually their everyday ride. Not quite your typical form of luxury transportation, but I guess that makes perfect sense when you’re a close knit team of six.

Catch Sports Team on a UK tour with Two Door Cinema Club from October 3rd, 2019 and be sure to follow Sophie Hird on Instagram @sophiehird.

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