In the fashion world, there are a few brands that have become, by definition, synonymous within football. The top brands move within their formal ranks of clubs from time to time, but overall sponsorship deals don’t change hands all too often. More often than not, new sponsorship deals mean new kits and with most brands championing a modern-day aesthetic that is minimal to the eye, kits are often shrouded in their former selves.
Fashion is all about evolution and there are only a few brands that transcend fashion within football. Pushing forward with innovation in mind whilst keeping your brand's rich tapestry of interwoven fashion and footballing history is key in this industry and something consumers endorse.
Founded in 1940 by José Mestre and Joaquín Ballbé, Meyba has a rich legacy of creating sportswear. Deeply rooted in both football and fashion across the UK and Europe, the brand is formally recognised by football fans all over the world for its appearance during a 10-year-long stint as Barcelona’s sponsor. In the early 80s they signed a deal with Barcelona which would see Meyba sponsor them through the years of winning every prize and honour you can possibly think of. The brand became quickly popular within Barcelona and mainland Europe, with legends such as Maradona and Cruyff rocking the kit on a weekly basis. In the UK, the brand was first acknowledged when Terry Venables became Barca's manager and brought over Lineker, Hughes and Archibald in the mid to late 80s. It was into the early 90s when star players such as Koeman, Bakero and the young Pep Guardiola were playing and made history as the ‘Dream team V1’.
The early 80s and their formative period at the club coincided with the years of Maradona playing out his career. Later into their period at Barcelona, it was the likes of a young Pep Guardiola, who was wearing Meyba at Wembley in the final against Sampdoria in 1992. A glorious extra-time free-kick by Ronald Koeman was the kick that secured them the victory – and one that’s celebrated 30 years later in the launch of their latest collection.
This was the last time Barcelona were seen in Meyba.
Fast forward 30 years and Meyba is back and more eager than ever. The team's success and involvement of Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff, who played himself during 1973-78 and returned in ‘88 to take up his new role as first-team coach has forever been instilled within Meyba, with the fact he was invested in the brand from a personal level.
To build a football brand from scratch is one thing, but to resurrect one of the more well-known football brands from such a specific era and bring it into the modern-day footballing world is something that only one person could be in charge of. Known for his books such as Trainers and The Football Shirts Book and his impressive rare football shirt collection, Neal Heard was brought on as Creative Director. An exciting move for both brand and Neal himself.
Heard’s love for football and fashion started in the 80s, starting out as a football casual and watching the footballing fashion journey of sportswear being appropriated and used in mainstream fashion. The whole casual movement was the first adopters of that – wearing all the brands that we firmly associate with football now. Going from adidas trainers to Burberry scarfs. “Before we related these items to football, adidas trainers were being worn to play sport and Burberry was being worn by your nan.” says Heard.
A postman in the 90s – the only formal job he’s ever had – his love for football fashion became more than just a hobby and during the late 90s he was collecting and selling the rarest trainers with Fraser Moss [the founder of fashion brand YMC]. The passion he held for rare trainers was like no other and In 2003 he wrote his first book Trainers, which was the first-ever known book about trainers.
Working within the fashion industry and very closely linked with football, it was 13 years later when Neal saw the opportunity to write a book about football shirts. “I started writing the book and it just spilt out of me. Writing articles surrounding this topic for a while meant that I was gaining knowledge all the time. It felt really important to me and the book was successful enough that Penguin Books came and bought it off me”.
Studying footballing trends closely from the 80s and witnessing how football has lent itself to fashion over the years, we’re now in a time where footballing-based clothing is making a comeback on a huge scale. “Football within fashion is still hugely in its infancy” explains Neal, “If we think how prominent shirts have become within the game, they have grown considerably important. In the 90s the reveal of a new seasons shirt would be a static picture of your team in their new kit, but now there are whole huge reveal campaigns surrounding the shirts and it’s only going to grow from there.”
It’s highly important for Neal that Meyba looks into the future on their quest to make it as one of the most well-known football brands once again. Neal is an avid believer that fashion moves forwards more than it moves backwards and tells me that football fashion needs to move in the same direction. “It would bore me if we only ever looked back into the past. Football is continuously changing, it’s not the game that it was in the 80s and it’s not the same fans that are dressing in football clothing now. Although we’re really fortunate that Meyba has a legacy and we can always revisit our vintage wear, we want to be looking into the future and we want our brand to be cool.”