Inside Art of Football’s mission to make the beautiful game a source of community, identity and celebration

Art and football are not necessarily seen as two things that go together, yet you have proven that there can be a real link between the two…
We clearly see a clear connection between football and art. They are both emotional. Football brings joy, despair, hope – different feelings that art can make you feel. We are huge football fans ourselves, immersed in football culture and trying to show all the ways fans connect with the sport. Football has become really commercial in recent years, but we want to see it not as a commodity, but as a community – and I think people like that at home.

Got an interesting range of artwork styles. What does the design process look like behind the scenes?
There really isn’t a set process. What we’ve tried to do is build teams from different creatives in their own fields. So we have graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and we stay in touch with them on what’s going on in football, or they bring in a moment or an idea and we go from there. It’s about trying everything and seeing what works. We want to be the most creative brand in football, so we try not to take ourselves too seriously.

Do you feel a sense of pride knowing that you’re capturing people’s memories and dreams into tangible collectibles?
Absolutely. When we started, our goal was to really serve and celebrate those moments that made you fall in love with football. It’s such a powerful thing. So I’m really proud when I see people wearing our clothes, knowing that we’ve done our small part to connect with a big moment in their lives.

There are amazing designs that the world will never see, just because the results went wrong. We had brilliant ideas because if England won the Euros, it wouldn’t happen.

You are still very good at posting artwork, coming up with cool designs almost immediately after Champions League finals and play-off results. How do you do this?
We plan all major events to make sure everyone is ready to go the day after the final whistle. Unfortunately, this means there are some amazing designs that the world will never see, simply because the results went wrong. We had brilliant ideas because if England won the Euro, it wouldn’t see the light of day, for example.

You recently launched a collaboration with Umbro and Helping Rhinos. How did it happen?
It was actually the result of a cease and desist from Umbro, because we had drawings of old kits that they thought had their logos on. From there we started talking to them and they liked our creativity and felt that we should actually work together. So we agreed to collaborate with them and we really wanted to use it for good – that’s why we decided to donate part of the profits to Helping Rhinos.

One of your highlights on the sartorial front is the bucket hat, which seems to have had a real resurgence. Why do you think these are such essential parts of football fan culture right now?
After everyone’s been locked down for two years due to COVID, a lot of people just want a fun festival vibe for their look. And many of our hats reference old kits, so there’s an element of nostalgia to them – people can think back to when they first started getting into football and supporting their team.

We started to grow – we now have a studio in London and are building a team there. But we still want to keep our base in Nottingham

Speaking of fan culture, what’s the landscape like at AoF’s office in terms of the people you support?
There is certainly a wide range. Since me and Gabe [Cuthbert, Luke’s brother and co-founder of Art of Football] are Forest supporters, we pretty much forced everyone to have Forest as a second team. But we have Arsenal, Wolves, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Gillingham fans. We used to have a Derby fan in the office, but I think he chose the right time to leave, after what’s happened this season!

As a company you seem very proud of your roots in Nottingham…
We started to grow – we now have a studio in London and are building a team there. But we still want to keep our base in Nottingham. Obviously, for Gabe and me, it’s the city that shaped us, we grew up here, and it’s really important for us to remember where we come from. We want to become a global brand, but we will always keep our roots in mind.

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Christopher S. Washington