Soccer pro preps for fashionable future

It’s the thing every pro athlete thinks about: What will I do when my career is over?

Whether it’s a career-ending injury, losing one’s game or just simply getting older, what to do when the glory days of athletics are over weighs heavy on an athlete’s mind.

And former Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers is no different. The 24-year-old California native has been lending his creative side to the world of fashion over the last couple of years in hopes of diversifying himself for life post-footie. And this month, his work will land in the Short North boutique clothing shop, Brigade.

“Of course I want to set myself up; in something other than just be being an athlete. I have a lot of different levels,” said Rogers, who signed as a first team striker with Leeds United Football Club in January. The club is located in England, about 45 minutes from Manchester and two hours from London. “You set yourself up so you can support yourself when you’re done at your sport.”

Rogers, a 2008 U.S. Olympian in the Beijing games and five-year roster favorite of the Crew, got a taste of what being away from his sport might feel like in early February, after a head-to-head collision in his Leeds debut game left him concussed.

“I was knocked out for some two minutes,” he said of colliding with Doncaster Rovers’ Tommy Spurr in the English League Championship game. Rogers, who entered the game in the 79th minute, was taken out on a stretcher in the 90th minute.

“ I’ve never had a concussion before; it’s one of the weirdest things,” he said. “I had headaches. I couldn’t write proper messages (on text or social media). My vision was messed up; I had the chills, I was dizzy. It was awful.”

Rogers said he couldn’t work out for several days after the diagnosis, but now he’s finally running again, and at a quick clip.

“I’m running really hard and it’s actually been great; it’s been getting me ready,” said Rogers. “I’m going to start training and get back into the swing of things.”

Rogers has used his time wisely, focusing on his clothing line and his future.

“I’m an investor. I’m involved in social media,” said Rogers of his role in the L.A.-based clothing shop Halsey44.  The menswear line has been around since 1944. “When I was back home in California, I went to meetings with sales reps. I’ll go and talk with buyers. I’m very involved. It’s been a great way for me to learn about business and how to network with people outside of my sport.”

It also helps that the founder of Halsey44, William “Bill”  H. Johnson lll, is a long-time family friend of Rogers’ father. Rogers grew up with Johnson’s son, Will; he recalls they used to talk about how cool it would be to have their own clothing line.

“I’ve been friends with (Will) since I was four,” said Rogers. “His Dad has always been involved with textiles and garments, so I grew up around that stuff. We would go to the Halsey stores. It’s cool when people want to wear your clothing.”

While Rogers isn’t a schooled designer, he does have input on colors, styles and fabrics, which are primarily cotton, linen and bamboo. Rogers relies on his personal style to guide the way.

“I think people express themselves with the way they dress. I like to be comfortable and casual. I like to buy plain shirts that aren’t too tight in the neck. I wear Halsey pants all the time because they’re comfortable. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an investor,” he quipped of the bottoms that run in sizes 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38 and 40. “I like more fitted pants. I won’t buy pants that are a relaxed fit because I think they’re sloppy. I like pants that are tapered and more comfortable.”

Rogers swears that “tapered and comfortable” does not mean skinny jeans—“my legs are too big,” he laughed. He tries to bring that simple, fun attitude to the clothing line of Halsey44. And when he sees something cool while out and about shopping, he quickly texts a pic over to the Johnson family in California with the message, “We need to make something like this.”

“We all come up with ideas on styles and colors and it goes from there,” said Rogers of the clothing company that is, for now, strictly focusing on men’s ware for the bottom half. Just pants and shorts; no tops in the 100-plus stores located primarily in California (Fred Segal is a buyer), Texas, southern states and some places on the East Coast. “Everyone involved in the company is contributing to the styles and the colors.”

Rogers said he’s never uttered the words “I want to be a designer,”  but now that he’s doing it, he said he appreciates the creativity of the process.

“It’s a cool side of your brain you get to use. It’s different from being an athlete, running around kicking people and working out,” said Rogers. “Now that I’m in the industry, it’s exciting and it’s a lot of work. It’s something I’m really interested in now.”

The goal now, he said, in addition to being the best soccer player he can be, is to be the best in making men’s clothing.

“I think as an athlete, you always want to be the best at what you’re doing. You’re very competitive. I’m very competitive. It doesn’t matter what it is,” he said. “Being an athlete, you kind of have that competitive edge. You just want to be the best at everything.”

Columbus men interested in checking out the goods can head to Brigade in the Short North, as well as Jeffrey Thomas in Grandview, at the end of March.