Even if Pharrell never ended up as a diehard footballer himself, it’s not lost on him how much these teams and their jerseys mean to the fans. “When they see jerseys and the design of those jerseys from back then, that harkens them back to a moment,” he says. “It’s just like music does for me and for you. When you hear a song, it takes you back to that moment where you were when you first heard it, or how the song makes you feel.”
Achieving that gut-punch quality, in this case, means all the jerseys featured a unique hand-painted look not commonly seen on athletic uniforms. It’s bold and gives a feeling of imperfection while recalling the sport’s earlier era. In fact, Pharrell and his Human Race team looked back to each club’s histories to get a better sense of the design legacy, and took that inspiration forward. From the club crest to the partner logo, all of the jersey details are reimagined in brush strokes. But don’t let the rough-around-the-edge look fool you: the wares still feature the top-of-the-line materials and technology from Adidas, and will debut on the pitch across Europe this weekend.
“The hand-painted look was just all about reminding us that this is the human touch,” says Pharrell. “If you think about the earliest artwork up on the caves, or the monoliths and sculptures, all these things were made with our hands. It’s like we got to remind ourselves that we have the machines and still have hands. And, that one of the greatest connections ever is to shake someone’s hand.” Even if, of course, he’s designing jerseys for the one sport where use of the hands is discouraged.
His line of thinking takes on newfound significance in a year when soccer games are being played to empty stadiums. Going to a soccer match is a maximalist experience: the top-of-the-lungs fight songs, the cheers and roars, the creaking of the bleaches, and the groans of disappointment. Now, the game is played in near silence, and fans watch from home. Pharrell and Adidas have managed to give fans’ favorite jerseys a sense of the human spirit in a year when the sport needs it more than ever. And to Pharrell, that was the heart of this project, beyond the bold colors and slick design: “This was about reminding people that we each can have a personal touch between each other.”