In just a few short days, the World Cup should be all that matters. The tournament has become a month long holiday of sorts in which all just seems right with our world. We obviously kid ourselves and I am glad to have come to grips with this reality thanks to the help of certain releases this past week which have reminded me that this is as much a time to look out into the world as it is an opportunity to also look into ourselves.

The first eye-opening release this past week came courtesy of Lack of Guidance. The Dutch brand should be familiar now to most of you. It began merely with the intent of delivering stellar design by reinterpreting some of soccer’s most recognizable logos, but has matured into a brand who wants its designs to now actually mean something. Their latest effort is one of their most significant to date as through it the brand is able to ask some real tough questions of its own homeland.

Reflective, evaluative, and self-critical, the project is premised on the simple fact that the World Cup is always a time where we see ourselves become cheerleaders of nations other than our own. While we usually have no affinity to these teams other than the players we admire, Lack of Guidance points to the irony that its own Dutch people do have ties to another nation which they will still not support. What is worse is that now they should have more reason to support this nation seeing that the Dutch themselves will not be taking part in the tournament.

The nation in question is none other than Morocco whose redesigned crest adorns the front of the brand’s retro style jersey. Interestingly, Morocco’s roster includes 7 Dutchmen of Moroccan descent whose names are inscribed on the shirt’s back. As a whole, the product functions as a call to action to show solidarity with a community often marginalized in Dutch society. For Lack of Guidance, there is obviously no better way to do this than through soccer.

 

While Lack of Guidance’s effort took a more subtle approach, Fokohaela’s offering is more provocative and in your face. Once again a discourse on a nation that will not be participating in this year’s World Cup, Fokohaela’s designs come on the heel’s of Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” a song which which mirrors some of the same issues seen here. The first design touches on the topic of police shootings of unarmed Black men. Its defining decorative feature is a recurring target image with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” interspersed throughout.

The second design on the other hand is a commentary on America’s mass shootings. It reinterprets the American flag into bullet holes and blood drips yet still lays out a clearer message for all to see. The “Slave 2 Guns” statement across the back lays bare the troubling question of how a nation can prioritize the right to own a gun over the personal safety of its citizens.

The two jerseys are set against the backdrop of the World Cup, a time in which every nation is so determined to demonstrate the best of themselves. Fokohaela’s jerseys force us to step away from this fantasy and instead confront some serious and uncomfortable truths. The experience of wearing or just seeing this jersey on someone else can therefore be cathartic in a way as it is through being truthful and critical of our own reality that we can be our nation’s strongest fans or patriots. So let us be accepting of the image we as Americans are projecting to the world, however, let us not resign ourselves to the danger that this image always has to be so.

Fokohaela’s jerseys are available here. 25% of their proceeds will benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. Lack of Guidance’s shirt, however, is already sold out.

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