Dan Sandison on the lesser-known relationship between sneakers and football, and the 3 silhouettes that, for him, define Football Terrace Culture.

LACED: Dan, great to meet you! Tell us about yourself.

DS: I’m Dan Sandison, the Editor and Head of Brand at Mundial Mag. I’m from – and this is an important distinction – Skelmersdale which is a small town just outside Liverpool. As far as football goes, I support Liverpool.

LACED: What is Terrace Culture, for those that don’t know?

DS: It’s essentially the community built around the football terraces. Fans would be at every match, home and away, and a by-product of that was the way they dressed, which became known later as ‘Casual Culture’ or ‘Terrace Culture’.

LACED: People forget that football terrace culture essentially birthed sneaker culture in the UK (as opposed to Basketball in the US) and legend has it that all started in Liverpool…

DS: It essentially came from the late 70s when Liverpool fans would go to Europe and come back with sneakers that you couldn’t find in the UK. There was a shop called Wade Smith and they used to drive vans to Germany, buy whole shops worth of adidas stock and come back to resell it in Liverpool. That eventually sunk into public consciousness – it became about having something that no one else has got and styling it in your own way. So it was very much a precursor to sneaker collecting. 

LACED: The adidas Samba and more recently the SPEZIAL collection have amassed cult followings due to their significance in early Football Culture, is that why you’re so fond of the SPEZIAL in particular?

DS: I grew up in a generation where Air Max 95s were becoming the big thing, but the appreciation for classic adidas was still there. We grew up watching our dad’s wear them, so it had become a conversation piece for everyone who was into football and sneakers. When I moved to London in my early 20s I was staying on people’s sofas and during that time I met Gary Aspden who is the creator of the adidas SPEZIAL collection. He kind of took me under his wing – he’s from Lancashire too, and we both had this connection to trainers – so he sort of introduced me to the industry. He was creating his first SPEZIAL collection at the time so I got a real insight into that process. The idea behind SPEZIAL, and why I like it, is that it brings back those authentic silhouettes that really inspired that first generation of football terrace culture, but it still speaks to the younger generations – that’s really important in sneakers.

LACED: There was mild outrage from Liverpool fans when Nike did their Air Max-inspired football tops and gave the Air Max 95 to Tottenham – why is the 95 so connected to Liverpool?

DS: It’s the 110, it’s part of the identity of Liverpool as a city. I don’t think there’s any other sneaker that is so connected to so many different pockets of culture, though. Everyone thinks it’s theirs, and it takes on new meaning wherever it goes. It’s got a huge following in Glasgow, London, Liverpool – even New York City and Paris. I actually had a group of friends who came over from Paris during the 2016 Euros, and they were wearing 95s (without realising the context they have in Liverpool) and they couldn’t believe they weren’t allowed into the bars and clubs with them on. Certain bars in Liverpool will be like, ‘No 110s’ because of their connection to crime. In Liverpool it’s the shoe of working class people, and it’s linked to that spirit of one-up-manship. It’s called the £110 because that was expensive, and you wanted people to know that.

As I said before, adidas was the brand that dominated Football and Casual Culture up until the mid-90s, but there was a change when the generations passed on – you didn’t want to dress like your Dad! So people started wearing Nike and the Air Max 95 became the new shoe that was seen at football matches. This generation have the same connection with the 95 that their dad’s had with the Samba or the Stan Smith. For Liverpool and Everton fans of that generation, this is their shoe and their signifier. 

LACED: Let’s talk about the New Balance 990 V5 – we’re surprised this pair made the list!

DS: I’m not sure the 990 has much of an authentic connection to football, but you’ll see a surprising amount on football terraces today. This is the best shoe in the world, it’s my everyday shoe, I wear them until they fall to bits then get a fresh pair.

I suppose if adidas was what I was born into as a kid, then Nike was the iconic shoe I loved as a teen – this is the antithesis of that. If you showed me this when I was younger I’d be like, ‘What the f**k are those Jerry Seinfeld monstrosities.’ That’s probably why I like them so much now – aside from the fact I’m a dad now and it’s the ultimate dad shoe. The thing I mentioned before about wanting to do something different, that’s what this shoe is for me now. It still has the same effect as the 95 or the Samba did, it’s different and a lot of people won’t get it, but that’s the spirit of casual culture in my opinion.

LACED: Terrace Culture is a huge inspiration for your football mag, Mundial… 

DS: The idea behind the mag is to talk about football culture from a fan’s perspective. What happens on the pitch is covered extensively elsewhere and no one needs another outlet telling you about players or scores. So we wanted to talk about the travel, the stadiums, the culture etc. The first edition was special – we decided to do a limited run and each copy was numbered and named after a player who had played in the World Cup – this is Johan Cruyff [points at copy of the mag].

It was supposed to be a one-off print run, but then someone asked when we were doing another one – that someone was Nike – so we couldn’t say no. We kept doing editions until we eventually decided to make it a full-time thing. Since the pandemic hit, the mag is paused…but watch this space!

LACED: We’ll be sure to. By the way, what’s your prediction for the Euros 2020?

DS: I think France are going to win – purely because they’ve got the best players, and people seem to overlook very simple facts like that!