The idea of trying to forge your own lane, to claim genuine status, is not so easy to achieve in the era of here today, gone tomorrow. But, if anyone can inspire the next cultural wave through football then you feel it will be someone like Tim Weah.
Because Tim is different. He’s fluent in the patter drawn straight from popular culture but speaks with a cadence that is softer, more considered, and far more engaging than any twenty-second TikTok video may denote. He allows this tempo to dictate the shoot day in downtown Lille as he skims between the rails of clothes and the photographers’ setup on the other side of the studio. He requests a retake when the poses don’t look right or he feels that he can offer more. He’s totally relaxed and yet he makes those around him up their game. The perfect balance of tranquility and anticipation that defines some of the greatest ever wingers to play the game.
“I feel like I have always been a trendsetter,” Tim explains as his words begin to snap through a widening side smile. “I was never a child who followed after people so I guess this sense of freedom, the belief to try things, has always been in my nature. My parents [current Liberian president and former footballer George Weah & his mother Clar] are exactly the same, it’s something that burns inside us. Growing up, I was always the first to do that, or try that, or wear that. I’ve always been focussed on staying in my own lane and creating my own vibe.”
photography: nda Paris
styling: carlotta constant
interview & words: tom everest
It’s perhaps unsurprising to many that the son of a former Ballon d’Or winner would not only make it as a professional footballer but be considered as one of the most precocious young talents in the game. Still, Tim Weah is more than just the name he carries on his back. He’s a record-breaking USMNT international; a four-time league title winner; a current Ligue One Champion; a model; an artist and an influencer who is constantly rewriting, reworking, reframing, reimagining the way a modern day footballer looks, thinks and plays like.
Tim Weah is an avatar of the future of the game – free, expressive, fearless and now, as New Balance Football’s latest signing, ready to fly.
“I was never a child who followed after people so I guess this sense of freedom, the belief to try things, has always been in my nature…I’ve always been focused on staying in my own lane and creating my own vibe.”
The idea of the flight is accepting the freedom that your life brings. It’s being comfortable in not entirely knowing where you are going but trusting, feeling, navigating the world through the steps, directions that feel most natural to you. It feels like Tim has learned to love that feeling. “I think, right now, the USMNT generation coming through, the guys we have in general in the squad, are all just inspired,” he says. “We have that hunger; we have all the fire and the fight that sparks and ignites everything we try to do on and off the pitch.”
The latest venture Tim is embarking on alongside New Balance will see him enter new territories and new conversations that are likely to surprise everyone but him. Because he knows exactly what he wants. “Man, I want to take it around the world,” he exclaims, the first time in our conversation that his self-confessed ‘internal fire’ has puffed some smoke. “I want to take it to the moon and back. Honestly, I am blessed for the opportunity and thankful to New Balance for giving me the chance to express myself and be part of the brand going forward. But I don’t just want to be a footballer. I want to become a model, I want to become one of the biggest guys around. It will take time but with making the right steps, doing the right things consistently, we’ll get there,” he adds.
A few years on from that moment Tim was faced with the decision of either signing homegrown forms with the Red Bulls or heading to Europe. He opted for the latter and first arrived in London for a trial at Chelsea where he scored a hat-trick in his first game before moving onto play for Toulouse on a further trial period. There, he caught the attention of Paris Saint Germain after playing against the club and eventually headed to the French capital for his third trial. Another debut hat-trick followed and so did his first professional contract. On July 3, 2017, Tim signed a three-year professional deal with Paris Saint-Germain, joining the club that his father had played for in the 1990s.
Living in Paris allowed Tim to explore his two main loves outside of football and he properly entered into the slipstream of music and fashion that now floods his life. In 2017 – following his breakout year playing a pivotal role in the U-17 USMNT’s success at the CONCACAF Championship and becoming the first US male at any level to score a hat trick in the knockout round of a FIFA competition – he also produced and recorded his own slice of trap soul. Writing, recording and crafting his own beats and lyrics. More recently, he’s found the time to explore his own style further with the venture into his own fashion brand, ARKYVS, which first appeared late last year.
Everything Tim does is spiked by a spirit of curiosity. It’s what made him fall in love with the game properly, on his own terms, when he would kick ball on a small pool of concrete in his backyard in New York City. “When I was younger I used to just play a lot in the yard so much that I would always mess up all my J’s so bad. I used to glue them back together so carefully that they would still look so fresh no one could tell! I honestly think that’s why I love sneakers so much today, they’ve always been such a big part of my journey as I was constantly trying to fix every pair after playing football.”
During this time, where his mother continued to coach him from an early age, Tim dropped the Js to take to the stateside pitches of New York whilst playing for a small team called Rosedale Soccer Club in Queens, before eventually moving to the academy of MLS side New York Red Bulls in 2013. It was in the shadows of NYC that he first idealised the dream of becoming the Tim that sits before us today. “2010 was the moment for me,” he explains. “I had the chance to go watch the World Cup and it was the first time I got to see top class professionals live. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to play football. Everything changed for me at that time, to be honest. Growing up in New York, the whole entire lifestyle evolved, seeing people like Jay Z and all them guys made me see and believe people like me can make it out of the place that I’m from. It showed me that there is a route to success in whatever you want to achieve.”
“The perception of football has changed so much in just the last few years,” Tim says. “It’s crazy to say but I feel football in general has become an even bigger sport. I think we can all openly talk about the fashion side of things now and that’s an obvious shift and progression. You see the likes of Paul Pogba and the way he is so driven and free in the clothes he wears and then you look at the NBA and that’s what that entire world is built on. The sport as the focus and then the fashion side grows with that. I think that’s what football had been missing until now. We have it now. That’s what’s making the sport so much bigger and so much more engaging to a new audience. The characters are standing out as characters of the now.”
For the past ten to fifteen years, streetwear has infiltrated all facets of the fashion industry. Sportswear, in its more understated appearance, has followed suit, enjoying a greater scope of influence felt than ever before. As a result, today, many of those street-and-sports inspired creators are revered as some of culture’s most influential and pivotal thinkers. Upon spending time with Tim, you again feel like he can be the one to carry the baton forward for footballers to be greater tastemakers in their own right; valued for their contribution to the culture rather than only being considered because of their following. That haziness which has hovered over footballers is fading. Players are now trusted, valued and given the freedom to explore, succeed and achieve in any way they see fit.
“2010 was the moment for me…I had the chance to go watch the World Cup and it was the first time I got to see top class professionals live. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to play football. Everything changed for me at that time, to be honest.”
“There’s so many guys out here who go underrated with what they wear,” Tim interjects. “One of my homeboys, Ike Ugbo is up there [as one of the game’s best-dressed]. So is Trevoh Chalobah, Angel Gomes. There’s so many guys out here now that do their own thing. DeAndre Yedlin, that’s one of my best friends and he dresses amazingly. So does his girlfriend, Crystal too, they’re both crazy.”
That doesn’t mean Tim always gets it right himself, though. To see if we can cause a ripple of commotion in Tim’s tranquil tone we approached with a curveball. What is the one fit that he looks back on and acknowledges that he got wrong? The response came as a surprise. Not so much for the fact that Tim clapped back instantly but the broad smile and the echoes of laughter that followed. “Every single day, every single day. I get it wrong all the time,” he chimes. “Every single day when I wake up to go to training I have zero energy to get going and to get dressed. So, it’s always like sweats, socks, slippers. That’s got to be my worst outfit but also the best.”
Tim has been famous and leading the way across all worlds since at least the age of 16, when his name first flashed up on the radar whilst playing for Paris-Saint-Germain. Five years on and following two league titles at Paris Saint Germain and another after a successful loan spell at Celtic in 2019, the 21-year-old now represents the current crop of young talents at LOSC Lille. Alongside fellow north American Jonathan David, former Golden Boy Renato Sanches and now Angel Gomes, Tim helped the club claim its first league title in ten years last season. However, as he knows himself, the hardest part of a footballers’ career, or a rapper, an artist or creative, is for those who have had true success to get back at it immediately. So, how does the mentality shift as he returns to the pitch this year following a serious injury and as a champion?
“It comes down to that mental strength, that vision that you harbour in your mind to be constantly working towards whether you’ve had a good spell or a bad one to find a new strength.”
“In everyday life, you know, whether you’re a football player or you work in any kind of job, everyone faces adversity and faces moments of joy,” he begins to explain. “It comes down to that mental strength, that vision that you harbour in your mind to be constantly working towards whether you’ve had a good spell or a bad one to find a new strength. I was very blessed to have a great base from my parents. From young they told me to always be strong. It’s those simple words that I always keep playing in my mind now. It helped me come back from the big injury and then have a great year where I won titles. But, success doesn’t come without being strong. You have to keep that fire burning.”
Tim behaviour matches his charmed life. He flickers with the type of flair that only a football prodigy would enjoy. But his most powerful and most archetypal Tim fit and feel-good moment is when everything is black. “I have this picture on Instagram where I’m standing outside the front of my house, in front of my door and I’m wearing all-black,” he explains. “I think that’s one of my favourite outfits because it really explains me. I love dark stuff, I love all black outfits. I love wearing all-black because I think people overlook it so much. Black has so much depth, I just love black. Everyone should wear all-black. Even more than they already do!”
There are few things in life we do without an objective in mind, activities that we enjoy just for what they bring regardless of potential profit or clout. But, it seems that Tim has learned through observation and experimentation, that the happiest of people are almost always those who are trying, using, developing. Who are putting things into practice, acting on their instincts, creating things and calling upon all of the different levels of talent and capability that they have been blessed with. Not working towards an end goal but being content, inspired even, by being a work in progress. Consistently looking to feel, believe and achieve more. It’s this energy that allows Tim to float above. To move in any direction that his intuition cares to take him. It’s also why his expressions, his speech, feels methodical, planned and punctual. Because it is. It’s all perfectly in time.
“I feel like I am a dreamer. 100%. In my life I have always had this dream of doing what I am and what I do today and I feel blessed that I’m living it,” he adds. “On the outside I’m really a soft, sweet person. But on the inside I still have the rage, the fire and all that stuff that gives me the fire and the freedom to explore things, to push things.
“My plans in life are to do everything I set my mind to. Obviously I wanna become someone great. I want to become someone that the younger generations can look at and say, you know, I was inspired by Tim Weah.
Whether it’s in sports, fashion, business or whatever. Truthfully, I just want to be happy. I want to live my life and know at the end of it all I did everything and anything I possibly wanted to.”
When you talk to Tim Weah you leave with the feeling that anything is possible. Beyond the excitement of modern football that still enchants him, you feel like his real epiphany surrounds the protection of his originality, freedom and spirit. He acknowledges that it is his greatest strength. That his individuality can really spark new meaningful pursuits. And that’s something that his ground-breaking, shape-shifting life at New Balance will inevitably look like. Welcome to the dawn of a new Weah era.