When Bayern Munich and Austria superstar David Alaba enters the room of our Munich hotel suite, I almost miss him entirely, too focused on making my next shot at the pool table. You’d expect a grander entrance from an eight-time Bundesliga champion and Champions League winner but, following introductions, it quickly becomes apparent that Alaba isn’t your stereotypical professional footballer.
The six-time Austrian player of the year might be a larger-than-life celebrity on the pitch and billboards, but off it, he’s down-to-earth, polite, and laser-focused. “Shall we get started? Interview or photoshoot first?” he asks within moments of sitting down, wanting to make the most of our limited time.
Sport, particularly football, and fashion have always enjoyed a close relationship. One only has to consider the days of ’60s Manchester United legend George Best, known to many as the “fifth Beatle” for his glamorous lifestyle, or look at David Beckham’s ascent to style icon during the early ’00s. Alaba represents a new generation of professional athlete who is in tune with street culture as a whole; the type who takes time out from their busy schedule to attend Paris Fashion Week and rub shoulders with the likes of Virgil Abloh and Gigi Hadid.
For Alaba, style and the way he dresses is undoubtedly a big part of his day-to-day life, but one that he approaches spontaneously. “There’s definitely a difference between mornings where I have training and off days,” he says, when asked how he decides what to wear. “I look out to see what the weather is like, then I check my phone to see how it will be later and dress accordingly.
“Of course, it also depends on what I do after training. If I’m just coming back home I’ll wear something comfortable like a tracksuit. Whereas I’ll wear something smarter if I’ve got appointments or am going into the city.”
Alaba’s reasoning is surprisingly logical and uncomplicated, as is his explanation when it comes to deciding between comfort and style.
“There’s definitely a middle ground! Who says you can’t look good in a comfortable tracksuit?” he probes. “And if I wear jeans and a shirt, it should also be comfortable.” This uncomplicated approach also makes it hard for him to describe his own style. “It really depends on what I’m doing or have planned,” he admits. When it comes to naming his favorite brands and designers, Alaba also remains coy, claiming there are just too many to choose from.
The left-back tends to subscribe to the “if you like it, rock it” mentality that a lot of sneakerheads preach. “I don’t wear stuff based on the brand name only. Like today, I’m wearing a pair of Amiri denim shorts with a pink hoodie,” he says. “I don’t even know who [the hoodie] is by, it’s just a blank pink hoodie. I came from training so I wanted to be comfortable but still presentable.”
This past June, Alaba was in Paris during Fashion Week and attended the Berluti and Dries Van Noten shows, among others. When I ask him how it was, his eyes light up and he shifts to the edge of his seat. “It’s super interesting! That was my second time in Paris and it’s such a different world [to the one I’m used to],” he raves. “You discover a lot of new cultures and different kinds of people at Fashion Week. The mentality there is also so different; it’s so open. For example, at a show, you’ll see someone draped head to toe in black. But two seats over you’ll see someone dressed completely colorful and it’s really cool to see that exist side by side.”
As for what else he was up to in Paris, Alaba shrugs, “I was at Virgil’s after-party. It was cool.” Just as opposing attackers don’t phase him on the pitch, Fashion Week and all its craziness doesn’t either.
The same practical approach translates to Alaba’s shopping habits — somewhat surprisingly, the Bayern star does most of his buying online. “Although we travel a lot to play matches, there’s no time to go shopping in those cities as we travel to the games and then back again directly afterwards,” he explains.
“During the season you’re playing every three days and training basically every day.” Of course, being a professional athlete at one of the top football clubs in the world comes with perks. In the rare cases that Alaba does have time to go into town and hit some of his favorite shops, he has his plugs. “[The retailers] always send me pictures of the new collections when they come in, [so I can choose and reserve pieces in advance],” he says.
Another big part of Alaba’s life is his faith and religion (so much so that he invites his Pastor, who has become a close friend, to hang out during our photoshoot). Alaba has his own brand, DA27, which sells headwear and accessories that feature religious symbols and phrases. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I am religious and that it’s an important part of who I am. And of course, you’ve seen my collection. With that I want to show people a part of who I am,” he explains when pressed on how he mixes faith and style.
When I ask if he has heard of @preachersnsneakers, an Instagram account that analyzes the outfits of celebrity preachers — sometimes putting the preachers on blast for how expensive their Off-White™ x Nike sneakers are — Alaba seems unfazed. “To be honest, I don’t understand why preachers can’t wear cool clothes or sneakers too? What they’re wearing has no bearing on their faith or what kind of person they are,” he says.
Like me, Alaba considers himself a sneakerhead, so when I enquire about how many pairs he has — a requisite question — he laughs. “Oh man, I have no idea. I had an extra closet made specially for my sneakers. The thing is, adidas is my partner and they’re really, really good to me,” he says, adding, “[My collection] is pretty varied but I really enjoy adidas’ Originals line. I also have a few ALYX shoes.”
Seeded adidas sneakers aside, I ask how he stays up to date with current trends, both in fashion and footwear. “I think the biggest influence on me is my environment and the people I surround myself with on a daily basis. Of course, you also see a lot on social media,” he tells me. “And then, of course, just inspiration from what you see on the streets, on travels, and on vacation.”
Before the interview is up, I task Alaba with telling me the best and worst-dressed players at Bayern Munich, a question he finds surprisingly difficult. “There are a few players that speak to my style and tastes. I think, personally, I’d say Serge [Gnabry] and Jerome [Boateng] are some of the best dressed, but of course that is subjective,” he says, before picking his words more carefully. “Then, of course, there are players that don’t really speak to my tastes. Thomas Müller has been mentioned before for this sort of thing, but I have to say that he’s got some good pieces and definitely doesn’t deserve that reputation!”
This interview was conducted in German and translated to English by the author.
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