A love letter to my favourite football boot, the Nike Total 90


From the elegant Mercurial to the conceptual designs of modern football, I write a love letter to my favourite football boot, the Nike Total 90.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t pick an all-time favourite football boot by sheer design or craftsmanship. Today, working within the world of football, they seem to fly past me in my email inbox quicker than I’d even have the chance to kick a ball in them. Sometimes I sit here and wonder how many sales the major sporting goods companies generate since, in my somewhat naive mind, football boots should endure until the day they rip apart at the seams, or at least that's how it was when I was younger.

There have been many boots that have been at the forefront of the game and since then become classics in the eyes of football fanatics. Some people enjoy the more simplistic designs like the adidas Mercurial, whilst others prefer the more out-there designs like the most recent Raheem Sterling and adidas collaboration which draws inspiration from the seats of the bus he used to catch for training as a schoolboy. There’s no right or wrong, it’s all personal preference, but in today’s world and different to mine, it’s all about who’s got the best conceptual idea and the smartest social media team. 

It’s writing this piece that my appreciation for football boots has come into effect. I don’t play football religiously, and I have never played enough since becoming an adult to warrant owning a nice pair of boots. Looking through a long list of boots to try and find a photograph of my all-time favourites brings back memories of a child that only ever dreamt of playing football. Watching my favourite ever player, David Vaughan, taring down the left wing in his Champagne-coloured predators, with his nimble feet exposing the opposition's defence. Mesmerising.

The kid who had the nicest boots in school was either from a family of wealth or played football seriously. Going to school in Crewe meant some kids were good enough to play in the academy and therefore meant that they were basically professional and had the best boots imaginable. After all, it was their whole life. Anyone who wasn’t playing academy level and had a new pair of boots was praised and anyone with more than one pair in a school year was deemed transcendent.

It was during my early teens that astroturfs were a thing and at the time that seemed normal – being ready for a game of football at every moment of the day. Five years ago, I would have thought back on this “trend” and cringed somewhat, but now I sit here at the round age of 30, wearing my On running shoes as if I could go for a jog at any moment. The lesson I’ve learned is that practicality should never be disdained. 

It was 2001 when I got a pair of football boots that to this day are the only ones I ever remember owning. They were the Nike Total 90’s in a grey and navy colourway. I sit here writing this piece, looking at a pair on eBay, admiring them for all the times I wore them and felt happy. They take me back to a time when everything was carefree, a time when I couldn’t wait to show everyone in school. 

Coming from a family who didn’t have much money growing up, I remember the trip to JJB Sports one Saturday afternoon, which resulted in my parents kindly buying me the boots I dreamt of. The pillow-like stitching that made these boots unique, with the folded white tongue that read ‘TOTAL 90’ in the space-age, millennial style font. They were everything. 

On looking out of the library window, watching Sainsbury’s car park in Whitechapel being torn down by a demolition team, I try my hardest to think back to why I remember these shoes more than any others I’ve had in my 30-year existence. I don’t know the answer. I look at everyone around me and the trainers that they are wearing and I remember that when I was young, Nike was considered expensive. I remember the day I retired the boots. Will I ever appreciate shoes as much as I did those? 

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