The new muse of fashion: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
In the quiet corner of a corporate hotel lobby, Dominic Calvert-Lewin lets me experience the very literal agony of his teenage life. “I grew so fast in such a short time that I ended up with a stress fracture in my lower back,” he says, recalling the six months he went from a 5ft 8 compact inches to a long 6 feet and more. ‘I remember being in school and having back pain all the time [from] sitting on the plastic chairs. He leans forward and mimics a geriatric porch. “At 15, I basically felt like an old man.”
There was, thankfully, a gain to go along with the pain. Although he was sidelined from playing in the academy at his boyhood club Sheffield United for a time, it was this physical transformation that transformed him from a goalscoring midfielder into a heeled striker at springy and dominating in the aerial plane. Without the drastic change in stature, there probably wouldn’t have been a move to Everton at the age of 19; no goals on his senior England debut in autumn 2020; no climb to become one of the most talented (and coveted) young centre-forwards in the country.
And now, about a decade later, the 25-year-old has undergone another striking and, in her own way, life-changing makeover. First bursting onto the scene as a fresh-faced, puppy-boy boy in standard turtlenecks and luxe streetwear, Calvert-Lewin has become a game-changing sartorial force in recent years. Posing on Instagram in Tinted american gigolo sunglasses, a blue velvet suit and a Chanel handbag from her private collection; showing up at the Michael Kors show at New York Fashion Week in 2020 sporting another extravagant ’70s open-neck affair; fry the collective mind of the internet with a 2021 Arena Men+ clutch with schoolgirl tube socks, another model’s handbag (pink Prada this time) and flared culottes that many have mistaken for a skirt (we’ll come back to that, of course).
Here, in the face of the macho homogeneity of men’s football and the historic aversion to anything even loosely coded as feminine, was an elite young athlete who spoke fearlessly and challenged gender norms in the process. But while Calvert-Lewin’s fashion choices have been praised for their wider social ramifications, he’s keen to point out that was never his intention. “It’s no secret the kind of clothes I like to wear,” he says, in soft Yorkshire tones. “And I think the most important thing is to stay authentic to yourself. I’m not trying to do this in order to push the boundaries or anything. I’m just trying to be myself and that’s open to interpretation, depending on how people want to take it.
Those of us who took part in today’s shoot – featuring Calvert-Lewin in a variety of looks from the highly anticipated Adidas x Gucci collaboration, bravely clutching sunflowers, lying on drizzly wet grass in a nearby park and joking about the comfort of a pair of flared sweatpants – must see his palpable passion for clothing in action. It’s the day after the final game of the Premier League season and four days after Calvert-Lewin scored the goal that saved Everton from relegation and sparked two separate frenzied pitch invasions at Goodison Park (“It was an outburst of raw emotion,” he says. “And being the man who provided security, well, that’s what I had been visualizing for weeks”). There is noticeable fatigue, and perhaps some stiffness in the way he moves his lean, looming frame.
Even so, when he began to embark on a more considered fashion journey (particularly through his collaboration with Harry Lambert, stylist-provocateur like Josh O’Connor and Harry Styles and star of My London This Week), he works on illustrious collaborations like today’s one he had in mind. “It’s like the perfect marriage,” he says, referring to the association of the Italian fashion house and the German sportswear brand. He’s changed into plainclothes now, a faded blue Adidas cropped tracksuit with ripped off white Noah socks. He describes his style as “a bit retro, a bit retro”, but who inspires him?
“I always say people like Sammy Davis Jr and Jimi Hendrix,” he says, his doe-like hazel eyes peering through his signature spray of bouncy curls. “I feel like, in a way, men were more flamboyant back then. And it’s like we’ve moved backwards in a way. [People] act like it’s alien, but really and truly, it was done long before I wore these costumes. That’s a good point. But where the likes of, say, George Best offset plunging cashmere shirts with a demonstrably old-school attitude toward booze and women, Calvert-Lewin seems comfortable enough in his masculinity to push his boundaries. These world-shaking culottes are a good example. “I thought I had just put on some shorts,” he laughs. ‘So when the cover came out and it looked like a skirt, I didn’t even know what [had happened]. The irony was that it wasn’t a skirt. But even if it had been, if I had seen a skirt and put it on, that’s what it is.
There was, he concedes, some inevitable negativity on social media. But what he wasn’t prepared for was the upside; the dozens of parents thanking him “for being a positive role model just by being myself.” “It never occurred to me that I could positively influence people,” he adds. “It was far beyond any type of trolling I had.” He is full of praise for Jake Daniels, the 17-year-old Blackpool striker who last month became the first openly gay professional footballer of a generation. “Credit to the boy,” he said. “It took such bravery, even at such a young age, to tell the world who he is. Maybe in his self-confidence, it could inspire other people to do it. It shouldn’t be much when you look at the world we live in now, but football is weird.
Or maybe you could say football isn’t weird or inclusive enough. Calvert-Lewin — aside from naturally craving a vacation after an injury-ravaged and emotionally draining season he describes as “the most difficult time of my career” — is about to change that. He knows better than anyone, after those shackled days in the classroom, that change is not something to be feared.