Inter Miami fashion: Players strut pregame outfits on pink runway, vote for Best Dressed

·6 min read

Far away from the glare of TV cameras, out of view of fans streaming into DRV PNK Stadium, a strip of sidewalk along the Inter Miami players’ parking lot has been converted to a makeshift fashion runway on game days, complete with a pink carpet.

One by one, the most fashion-conscious players show off their latest outfits and express their individuality before heading to the locker room to put on matching uniforms. Team photographers capture the scene as players mug for the cameras. The images are then posted on social media.

The ritual, which began before the June 25 game against Minnesota United, has resulted in good-natured team banter and even a weekly “Best Dressed” and “Worst Dressed” competition.

Popularized by NBA stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and James Harden, the arena walk-in has become an anticipated part of every game and has spread to other sports. The best outfits (“fits” as young, cool people call them) wind up on social media and fans debate which players have the most “drip” (a newer word for swag).

Inter Miami right back DeAndre Yedlin had been itching to bust the team dress code since he joined the team this season after seven years in Europe. He is passionate about fashion, starting his own clothing line, and figured a Miami team owned by fashion icon David Beckham would be open to the idea.

“When I was in England and Turkey, it’s old school, so you have to wear your team track suit or a suit; and I would watch NBA games, MLS games, MLB games, and see guys with their walk-ins, being able to wear whatever,” Yedlin said. “I’d see all their clothes on social media, and I’d be like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get back to be able to do that,’ and then I come here, and it was the same thing.”

Yedlin took the temperature of the locker room and found there were many players who preferred wearing their own clothes on game days, so he decided to see if coach Phil Neville would be OK with it.

Knowing Neville is from England and came up through the traditions of Manchester United, Yedlin wasn’t sure what his reaction would be. Neville gave players the green light and even incorporated a Best Dressed contest.

“Every Friday before games we have an X Factor-like competition where we say, ‘Who’s the best dressed? Who’s the worst dressed?,’ “ Neville said, smiling. “It’s becoming part of our team values, and every week there’s an extra bit of jewelry or an extra designer shirt. DeAndre has played a massive part in that.”

Last Saturday, before the win over New York City FC, 6-6 defender Aime Mabika showed up in a cowboy print shirt, a pair of stylish Martine Rose blue jeans and brown Doc Marten’s shoes. He bought the shirt for $10 at a vintage store in Lexington, Kentucky two years ago when he was a student at the University of Kentucky but had never worn it. He got huge props from his teammates.

Inter Miami CF defender Aimé Mabika (12) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Inter Miami CF defender Aimé Mabika (12) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“The pregame fits are a trending thing across American sports, the NBA, NWSL, WNBA,” Mabika said. “Last year I was jealous because fashion has always been a big part of me, being creative and able to express myself. That’s how I see fashion, like an art form and the best place is pregame because all eyes are on you. This year, with DeAndre coming in, being a little older, he had more pull.”

Mabika has been into fashion since he was a little boy in Zambia and his mother sold clothes from a kiosk. “She had stuff from the United States and Europe that nobody else had, so I remember a photo of me around 6 years old wearing a Sean John outfit,” Mabika said.

While at the University of Kentucky, he dressed up for class on Fridays.

“I enjoy looking at big designers and the story behind their brands, doing research on new trends, it’s something I’m passionate about,” he said. His fashion influences are Martine Rose, Virgil Abloh and Kanye West. Athletes whose style he likes are NBA players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PJ Tucker, Nick Young and Serge Ibaka.

Mabika said getting dressed up gives him confidence, makes him feel he is going somewhere important, and that carries over to the field.

“The first game we did it, seven or eight guys dressed up, everyone seemed to be a little extra excited for the game, and we won,” he said. “You get to see everyone’s style, judge each other’s outfits. It’s like a friendly competition, who can be Best Dressed, kind of like in a high school yearbook. It’s evolved to where everyone is excited to see, ‘What’s DeAndre wearing today?’ ’’

Yedlin’s outfits are typically the most eclectic. He shies away from name brands and designers, choosing instead to scour through thrift shops and vintage stores with his fiancée. Last week he wore a turquoise paisley shirt, cream-colored pants, a pink knitted beanie, stylish sneakers, and a pearl and silver choker.

Inter Miami CF defender DeAndre Yedlin (2) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Inter Miami CF defender DeAndre Yedlin (2) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Yedlin attended an all-boys high school in Seattle, was required to wear khaki pants and polo shirts, so he showed his individuality with changing hairstyles and accessories. He also expresses himself through his many tattoos.

“Some guys still wear their team gear, but for me, it’s almost like a pre-pre activation to the game, getting my mind in a creative space,” Yedlin said. “I’m a very individualistic person, so I like to not look the same as everybody else. I know we’re a team, so I know we’re supposed to look the same, but in this case, just for showing up, it allows me to get my creative side out.

“Especially having a kid, there’s not that many places I can get dressed up for anymore. It’s normally wearing shorts around the house, so this has been fun.”

Among Yedlin’s style influences: entertainers Chris Brown, Lenny Kravitz and A$AP Rocky and former NBA star Dennis Rodman. As for his Inter Miami’s Best Dressed, Yedlin said himself, Mabika, Robert Taylor, Emerson, Damion Lowe, Ari Lassiter and “Drake (Callender) is getting there.”

Mabika’s Top 4, in addition to himself: “Brek Shea is one of my favorites. His energy, the blond hair, whatever he puts on looks good. DeAndre, of course. Victor Ulloa’s outfits are great Dad fits. Recently, with help of my influence and DeAndre’s, Drake is stepping into his own. Eventually we have to take the training wheels off.”

Ulloa agreed that getting dressed up for games has been a welcome change. He shops online and likes to wear lightweight matching sets, calling his style “Miami tropical.”

Inter Miami CF midfielder Victor Ulloa (13) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Inter Miami CF midfielder Victor Ulloa (13) is photographed before the start of his MLS soccer match against New York City FC at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The goal now, said Ulloa and Mabika, is to get Gonzalo Higuain to dress up. The Argentine forward is old-school, shows up in team gear.

“I think Gonzalo has some things in his closet, he did live in Italy, one of the fashion capitals of the world,” Mabika said.

Added Ulloa: “We’re pushing Gonzalo hard. Everybody’s curious to know what he has in his closet. We have a couple of home games left, there’s still hope.”