Despite having been spotted in February at London Fashion Week, mingling with designers and having his photo taken with supermodel Jourdan Dunn, today will be Liverpool and England footballer Daniel Sturridge’s first proper fashion shoot. He’s arriving straight from his team’s Melwood training ground, where the squad has been trying to put things right following a demoralising 3–1 defeat at the hands of title rivals Manchester City. He’ll be exhausted. It’s getting late. We worry how he’ll take to the sitting around, the make-up, the being pushed and prodded to get the perfect shot.
Within seconds of arriving, the striker rubs his hands together. “Right, where’s the clothes then?” he asks, in his mild Birmingham accent. Soon he’s admiring the bomber jackets (“I like them all, to be fair”), chatting amiably and, despite his tired legs, posing patiently wherever he’s needed. We really needn’t have worried.
It’s not the first time the 25-year-old has surprised people. When he arrived at Liverpool FC in 2013 from Chelsea, many doubted he was the right man to partner Luis Suarez. Fast-forward a year and Suarez and Sturridge (“SAS” as the media dubbed them) bagged 52 Premier League goals between them, leaving Liverpool just three points off their first title since 1990.
Then the World Cup happened. “Obviously, it was disappointing,” Sturridge says of Roy Hodgson’s ill-fated campaign in Brazil. “But I lived one of my dreams: I scored a goal at a World Cup. I feel that I gave a good account of myself.”
In fact, Sturridge was one of the few England players to finish that tournament with his reputation enhanced. It capped a year in which, finally trusted to play in his favoured striker role, Sturridge emerged as the first choice for club and country, and one of the most coveted players in his position in the world. All of which marks a remarkable turnaround in his fortunes.
Off the pitch, he’s also been full of surprises. Vice magazine hailed him as “the only hipster in football”. It’s true: whether hanging out with über-cool musicians like Banks or at fashion shows, Sturridge moves comfortably in circles where most in his profession would look hopelessly out of position. Not many players, after all, would cite Joe Casely-Hayford and Rick Owens as favourite designers, nor have the wit to reveal his own monochrome colour blocking is “inspired by [US wrestler] The Undertaker.”
“I think the stereotype about footballers being badly dressed is unfair,” he says, before generously appraising his teammates’ style credentials. “Hendo [Jordan Henderson] dresses quite well. [Mamadou] Sakho is very dressy, he’ll show up to training in a smart shirt and shoes, though I think that’s a Parisian thing. Brad Jones has a go, loves a blazer, Brad Jones…”
Sturridge is open-minded about the role of a modern footballer, citing American NFL and NBA superstars, many of whom don’t see the worlds of art and culture as mutually exclusive from their own. “There is an expectation that if you do sport, any sport, you should never have a life outside that. People expect you to just train, play, train. But that’s not me,” he says.
Aside from fashion – Sturridge says he might like to design trainers some day – he is currently building a music studio in his apartment (“just to kill time in, I’ll probably never release anything”). He’s also learning Spanish and Portuguese to better communicate with his fellow players and, most surprisingly of all, claims if he wasn’t a footballer he’d be an actor.
“I loved drama class at school,” he says with a wide smile. “I never took it seriously as I was playing football. But maybe when I retire, I’ll have a dabble.”
Then he’s out the door, having proved as adept at modelling as he is at scoring goals.