Every issue, STILES talks to fans creating their own football clothing brands. From the smart and sleek to the weird and wonderful. Our Issue 2 chat with Josh Steeples, bootleg designer of A Store Like 94, definitely falls in the second category. Read all about it below.
First off, what’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Josh and I run an online football store called A Store Like 94 which is dedicated to producing and selling products from the weirder side of the beautiful game. I am currently based in Deal, a small seaside town on the South East coast near Margate.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
90s bootleg designer.
Where does your name come from?
I wanted a name that described the era I would be curating. USA 94 was the first World Cup I have any vague memories of, and that combined with everything nineties, graphics, fashion, toys, music, football, and it being the era in which I grew up, it just felt right. Plus it’s always nice when a name rolls off the tongue.
How long have you been doing this for?
Since 2017. I used to have a physical vintage shop but after that didn't work out I realised that I was being too broad and it would be better to roll all my passions into one smaller business and focus my efforts more online.
What is it about bootlegged products that are so appealing?
So, I should clear something up. There is a thin line between replicas and bootlegs. The modern day replica market seems to be growing yearly with the increased rise in prices for vintage shirts, and it is also becoming increasingly hard to get hold of your favourite classic shirt, so people make fake replicas dedicated to replicating the original product. This is a scene which we don't support.
We believe that a knock off or bootleg should be proud to be a bootleg. Think a dodgy AC Milan logo or one of your nineties hero's faces blown up so much that the pixelation forms its own pattern on the shirt. Basically, that shirt you bought home from Majorca when you were on holiday in 1997. These are bootlegs, and my main love for them is just how hilarious they are.
How do you go about making your products?
I have hundreds of weird football ideas every month, but Instagram has been an incredible tool for me. It’s like a little family on there with lots of other artists trying to carve out their space in the vast world of football creative social media. I love working with other artists so lots of my projects involve ideas where I can reach out and form a new friendship or learn a new skill. Then hopefully after knocking our heads together we can create more of a solid idea and then go from there. Anything is possible.
What’s your connection to football in your personal life?
I am an only child and was born into a small South London based family who are all mad Crystal Palace fans, so I have never been able to escape football from the moment I arrived. Apparently goal was my first word.
When did you first start using football in your art?
I started collecting classic football shirts around 2001, back when it was incredibly easy to regularly pick up shirts on Ebay for under a tenner. Originally it started with England, Ireland & Palace shirts, but soon I moved onto the ones with geometric designs, so most of my collection are the shirts that make up those "The Worst Football Kits Ever" articles. Basically the craziest patterns to ever be worn between 1990 and 1998. Over the last few years, football shirt prices have sky-rocketed and I have found the online scene to be extremely saturated, so this is why I decided to create a stranger style of bootleg shirts.
What do you think is important about the connection between art and football?
Football connects everybody. But modern mainstream football culture doesn't appeal to everyone; you can get a bit lost in the vast world of football, especially on social media. I think art in football plays an important part in creating subgenres not only so that people can find a niche that they like, but also to make connections with like-minded artists. Also, it plays an important role in encapsulating some of the great players and moments in the game’s history and raising them to a new legendary level in iconography.
The artistic side of football is also a friendlier and more personal side of the footballing world. Apart from maybe those YouTube video highlights with awful EDM music over the top and thousands of trolling comments bellow. But generally, it’s a happy place.
Why do you think football has become such a rich medium for creativity?
Football is forever expanding; it’s basically a tapestry of battles, legends, villains, and goals.
What’s your favourite product you’ve ever made?
It’s hard to pick one but I always get a lot of pleasure out of the bootleg toys I create with the help of my other half. The England shirt sponsors project also holds a warm place in my heart. Having lived in Leicester for eleven years, it was brilliant to be able to celebrate the diversity and multiculturalism in Britain with pride, especially whilst supporting England in the football.
Do you think there is a level of cultural falsity to big brand fashion and football collaborations?
There is definitely a few examples of this. The first one that comes to mind is the recent monstrosity that PSG unveiled last season when they teamed up with Nike and Michael Jordan. I know the reviews about this collaboration were very split, and this is just my personal view, but since their takeover in 2011, PSG as a whole have lost their identity, and this is just another example of that. Part of supporting a football club is respecting its heritage and its journey, and even though a club might get financial help, I still think there is a way of managing it in the right way to show what your club represents. By updating the shirt, the badge, and teaming up with another brand that has nothing to do with football, it felt like a false money-making scheme that alienates true football fans who go and support their club week in, week out.
Who are your biggest inspirations, both in art and football?
Before my art and football inspirations, it’s got to be my girlfriend, Hetty. I don't think I would be doing this without her support behind the scenes. It’s hard starting a new business and even harder when this involves selling stuff that you have created yourself at your own expense. There is always going to be highs and lows, but she always keeps me going and believing in myself.
In the footballing world, Drake Ramberg, the legendary 90s Nike Futura shirt designer is high up there, and German Bundesliga fan fashion plays a big part in my jacket design.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully curating a bootleg football shirt exhibition, taking part in a few more collaborations, and a trip to Europe to hunt down more crazy shirts to share with the world.
The photos are a collection of handmade shirts from bedsheets, some jackets inspired by German fan fashion, some toys and mascots we have bootlegged, and some of Josh's favourite 90s knocks we have unearthed over the last two years.
Visit the website here to grab some for yourself.