“I dress on feel,” Declan Rice tells me when I ask what personal style means to him. “I’m not a follower of trends, I like to have my own style.”
I’m speaking to Rice on a rainy August afternoon in South London, some two weeks into the new Premier League season.
The Arsenal and England midfielder — who is wearing a navy adidas Originals two piece and a pair of Wales Bonner adidas Sambas — is chilled, which is quite the feat considering that he’s one of most expensive English footballers in history following a $125 million move from West Ham to Arsenal earlier this year.
Despite his hefty price tag, 24-year-old Rice maintains the laid back, happy-go-lucky demeanor he’s become renowned for since breaking into West Ham’s first team in 2017. In fact, I can attest he comes on stronger than ever, based on the way I saw him nonchalantly do no-look keepy-ups while being photographed for the latest adidas Originals campaign prior to our chat.
If you aren’t au fait with Declan Rice, let me fill you in. After beginning his career as a part of the prestigious Chelsea academy aged 7, Rice moved to West Ham in 2013. Following the signing of his first professional contract at East London two years later, the midfielder has clocked up over 200 appearances for the Hammers and almost fifty England caps to date, leaving him barely any time to breathe, let alone keep up his impressive off-pitch attire.
Still, numbers aside, Rice’s approach to the beautiful game is arguably what’s most impressive. He’s relaxed, and clearly doesn’t take life too seriously; three traits you could also use to accurately describe his outlook on style.
“I tend to try two or three outfits every day,” he tells me. “Not because I don’t like something, but because I like to experiment. My personal style has changed a lot over the years. When I was younger it was all about designer labels, but I’m now a lot more streetwear-focused. More chilled.”
“I like to keep the colors monochromatic too,” he adds. “I like my looks to be minimal, but still well-made. What I was wearing a few years back wasn’t necessarily bad stuff, it’s just that as I’ve matured, so has my style.”
While designer labels might well have taken center stage during Rice’s formative years as a professional footballer, growing up in London throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s saw Rice focus more on heritage labels.
“Back in the day it was all about Ralphy [Ralph Lauren]. In the UK about ten years ago, Ralphy was huge,” he recalls. “Whether that meant tracksuits, polos, caps. It was huge. I was also big into Tommy Hilfiger and GAP. They played a big part in my style growing up. It’s all very nostalgic.”
One quick scroll back through Rice’s Instagram account and you can immediately see how his look has evolved in recent years. Only two years ago he can be seen wearing skinny jeans and more hyped sneakers (more specifically a pair of Dior pumps), but now things are a little more subtle.
“I used to be really into designer jeans, but now I’m into more relaxed clothing,” he says. “I’m always looking for a pair of trousers that sit above my shoes well. Not too low, not too high. That’s a key thing for me, how a pair of trousers sit on shoes. It’s me maturing stylistically.”
Rice cites household labels like Supreme, Carhartt WIP, and Cole Buxton as some of his favorites. Although his biggest inspiration, it appears, can be found a little closer to home.
“To be honest, my mum has always told me how to dress,” he admits. “She’d always tell me what did and didn’t look good, which I think was the way with a lot of kids growing up in the UK. Mum’s always an influence…Not any more though,” he quickly adds, “although she still tries to.”
Of course, a crossover between fashion and football isn’t anything new. Anyone with even an inkling of the world of modern sport will be well aware of the influence footballers now have on fashion trends. For Rice, this comes down to footballers being role models to younger generations, thanks to social media.
“The lines between football and fashion are blurred more than ever,” he says. “Kids want to buy what we’re wearing. It makes you want to dress well and it makes you want to feel good.”
Rice has taken to life at Arsenal with ease. Just two months into his time in North London, he’s already a fan favorite in an exciting team, while a decisive last-minute winning goal against Manchester United in early September only elevated his stature.
Where his style on the pitch is nothing short of high-impact, off it he’s a little more soft launch. Because in a sport a rife with footballers following trends and often dressing almost identically, Rice is an anomaly.
He doesn’t follow trends, he isn’t fussed by designers, but instead is obsessed with comfort. He’s also no longer styled by his mum. Or so he says anyway.