As the brand introduces its first new label in 50 years, we chat off-pitch fashion choices, K-drama comparisons, and the value of oversized fits with football’s most likeable figure
Son Heung-Min – known to his fans as “Sonny” or “Sonshine” – is arguably everyone’s favourite person in football. Rarely seen without a smile, the Spurs forward’s infectious energy has fellow players and fans (regardless of team allegiances and deep rooted rivalries) beaming along with him and singing his praises. Recent accomplishments like receiving the 2022 Premier League Golden Boot or leading the South Korean team to its first World Cup round of 16 since 2010, attest to the truth in the title of his 2021 documentary Sonsational – but it is his unfaltering positivity, humility, and playfulness through it all that has cemented his position as not only talented, but one of the nicest players around. A national hero in his country and beyond, this “Sonshine” is now spotlighting a new chapter of his ongoing, 15-year-strong “best friend” relationship with adidas: the launch of the brand’s first new label in 50 years, adidas Sportswear.
Sitting somewhere between adidas Originals and the brand’s Performance line, Sportswear is made for people who value function as much as fashion. “Sporty in essence,” the label brings 3-stripe technology to stylish everyday staples of classic tracksuits, jerseys, jackets, and the new AVRYN shoe. Worn by a cast featuring Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega, basketballer Trae Young, Australian Manchester City forward Mary Fowler and gamer Carolina Voltan, adidas’ All That You Are campaign is a celebration of these key players in their field and their extracurricular passions. A kit designed for playing the “sport of life”, the collection – which is open to early access now before general worldwide release 9 February – is built to be remixed by the wearer to adapt to their lifestyle.
It’s an ideal fit for a player who studies fashion with the same diligence as he does football, poring over magazines (that he also covers) in search of new ways to look good. Supplementing his sporting achievements with a growing roster of credentials including Prada x adidas, Burberry, Calvin Klein, and his own brand, adidas Sportswear is the latest turn in Son’s personal style journey. To mark the occasion, we caught up with football’s most likeable figure to chat off-pitch fashion choices, fan edits, BTS, and preaching the value of oversized fits for dressing footballers’ calves.
How does it feel to know that you’re everybody’s favourite person in football?
Son Heung-Min: I don’t know if I see it that way! But I want to always show that I’m living the dream. I want to always share the positive energy, positive feeling, the smile. I think people are looking at that and thinking I’m really positive and that’s why…I don’t know that there is any reason, but I’m very happy that people seem happy when they see me. I’m very glad to hear that.
How would you describe your style in three words?
Son Heung-Min: My style… smart, definitely…Wow, this is difficult actually! When I describe myself in three words… A good example, and I will say positive.
What’s your priority when you get changed in the morning?
Son Heung-Min: It depends on where I’m going. If I’m going to training I grab what I see first but when I go out to see friends I have to think about it the day before, you know? Before I go to the bathroom, I’m thinking about what I’m wearing. I’m a more planning kind of guy, I think this is, for me, very important.
Do you ever plan and then wake up in the morning not really feeling that outfit?
Son Heung-Min: Yeah, sometimes, sometimes. Then I’m struggling and I need a half an hour to think about it again. So I need to see all my clothes and I need to make a decision – sometimes I’m struggling but sometimes I think I made a really good choice [this way]!
What do you like to wear off the pitch?
Son Heung-Min: When I go to the training ground most likely I would wear adidas Sportswear which is very comfortable and makes me very happy to wear them, and I think when I go to see friends, I want to always look smart. So like an oversized fit: a big coat with turtleneck, I think this is my favourite, to be honest.
Would you say it’s your go-to item?
Son Heung-Min: Yeah, it depends… If it’s winter, I like wearing coats. If it’s summer, I like to wear shorts, make it really simple.
What shoes do you like to wear when you’re not wearing football boots?
Son Heung-Min: Most likely, adidas Gazelles. It’s really comfortable because you can always dress it with a tracksuit as well but also you can dress it with jeans. So for me Gazelles are my favourite trainers at the moment.
What do you like about adidas?
Son Heung-Min: I think adidas has always been with me…almost 15 years together! I think it’s been almost my best friend, you know? adidas is special: when I was a kid, when I saw those three stripes anywhere – on the boots or the trousers, it made them really special.
“adidas has always been with me…almost 15 years together! I think it’s been almost my best friend, you know?” – Son Heung-Min
What’s your earliest memory of the brand?
Son Heung-Min: I have a really good memory because when I was a child I always played with adidas boots. So in school time, when my parents went to the adidas shop, they bought me boots. When they brought in the box I was so excited, I was wearing them in the house and jumping around. My parents were really angry because normally you should not be wearing boots in the house. So I think the floor was a little bit of a disaster, but I think I was that happy when I received the boots.
Asian households rule #1: never any shoes in the house!
Son Heung-Min: Never, never, never!
How does it feel to be one of the faces of the brand’s first new label in 50 years?
Son Heung-Min: It’s actually crazy when you think about it! When I was a child I never thought I would have a sponsorship with adidas…but now I’m here. So when I see it in the street or – especially in Korea, when I see my face on the board, I just can’t believe it. Is that actually me? Now, all the time my friends or my family are standing there like, “Look at how big you are!” when they see the big screens. I was like, “This is not me!” just kidding with them, making a joke with them. Yeah, it makes me very, very proud. What can I say? I’m very proud to be the face of the adidas brand.
Do you have any fashion regrets?
Son Heung-Min: Not really. I don’t have any regrets because I learned from it, you know? It’s old school so it was ten years ago that you had this regret, and the old school is even coming back now. At that time, I thought it was fashionable and when you see this ten years afterwards, you might say, “Oh, this fashion was really cool,” so you should not regret it!
Words to live by. What would your catwalk song be?
Son Heung-Min: One song? I think if I go to the training ground I like to listen to hip-hop and also some K-pop. Obviously, BTS – I think I’ve told this so many times – but it’s one of my favourite boy bands. I like every artist and I have, fully, so much respect for them. They make unbelievable music for the people.
“As a footballer, you have big thighs or big calves – wide pants are really comfortable” – Son Heung-Min
How would you describe the difference between South Korean style and UK style?
Son Heung-Min: Ah, that’s a tough one actually! I think in Korea I’m wearing wide pants, you know? But in the UK if you wear wide pants, the people, or even the players, friends, are looking at me like “What are you wearing?” I think they still like tight, a little bit tighter [rather] than wide. If you’re wearing an oversized look… I would say this is the gap or difference in style.
Do you dress differently when you’re in the UK or South Korea?
Son Heung-Min: I’m dressing almost the same, that’s why people are laughing! I think the players are laughing.
I mean, not every player can be fashionable!
Son Heung-Min: Maybe, but they think they are fashionable! [laughs]
Is there anything you’ve worn that your teammates have been confused by, or is there anything they’ve worn that you’ve been confused by?
Son Heung-Min: They had not really seen wide pants so they were saying like, “Oh Sonny, it suits you, but if I’m wearing it, it’s going to be terrible!” They’re not a fan of super wide pants but I would still recommend them. As a footballer, you have big thighs or big calves – wide pants are really comfortable. That’s why I started wearing them! I 100 per cent recommend them to the players. We have some not so good fashion people – some people dress nice, but some people are like, really a disaster. I’m not gonna name names because I’ll get in trouble! [laughs]
What are your fashion inspirations?
Son Heung-Min: I think that there’s not one that I’m looking at [in particular]. I’m always looking at magazines and stuff like that, seeing who is dressed nice. I see everything, I’m very interested, so it’s difficult to choose. There’s so many magazines so to pick one is just not fair, is it? So I try to enjoy everything.
It’s good to keep your options open.
Son Heung-Min: It’s very smart, isn’t it? [laughs]
Who would you love to do a shirt swap with?
Son Heung-Min: A current player, or any player? That’s tough actually… I would say Messi. I’ve played against him, but I never had the chance to swap with him.
That’s the holy grail isn’t it?
Son Heung-Min: Yeah, I think he’s just like such an amazing player and also an adidas player! So I think it’s right.
What’s your trend prediction for 2023?
Son Heung-Min: I want to see more of everything but especially I want to see a little bit more oversized… I don’t want to see that everyone is wearing – I’m not saying they’re bad things, but – really tight t-shirts, tight trousers or jeans or whatever. I just want to see people more comfortable with street or sportswear as well. More of them and, mainly, more colour! Not black or white. I like pink as well!
More bold choices. Some of your fans make fan edits of you looking like a K-drama star – have you seen them and do you think you dress like a K-drama star?
Son Heung-Min: No, no, no. I think they dress amazingly, so I’m trying to always dress nice [like them]. K-drama… I don’t know. I mean, I’m definitely not. The fan sites are always correct but this time they were a little bit wrong!
adidas Sportswear is available through early access now, with a global release 9 February.