The ongoing pandemic has led to folks binging a lot of television. Hulu, Netflix, and Peacock subscriptions all boomed throughout the last 18 months, shows got more creative with how and when they were pushing their content, and older shows found their way into a younger generation. But for Apple TV+, one show reigned supreme: Ted Lasso.
Ted Lasso is an entire TV show on loosely the same premise as the NBC Sports commercials from almost a decade ago. At the time, NBC Sports was adding the English Premier League to their lineup and used Jason Sudeikis’s sketch comedy character to help promote the partnership. Now, Sudeikis’s lovable buffoon is the centerpiece of one of the streaming era’s most captivating comedies.
In the show, Lasso is an American football coach stuck in England coaching soccer. Over the course of the show, the audience learns that the world’s most positive personality has demons driving him across the pond. The show, and Sudeikis, perfectly balance the crass nature of an adult comedy about a professional sports team with the wholesome warmth of feel-good stories with the perfect amount of disturbing reality sprinkled in.
Spoiler Alert: a loose outline of the show, as well as a handful of important moments, follow below.
Soccer, or British Football, is a game played entirely with your feet. With the exception of the two goalies, the other 20 players on the field pass, defend, deflect, and touch the ball almost exclusively with their feet. Simply: in soccer, feet are important.
In Ted Lasso? What’s on Ted’s feet are important.
Throughout the first two seasons of Ted Lasso, Coach Ted Lasso wears more or less the same outfit each day. He wears khaki pants, a sweater with rolled-up sleeves, and a collared shirt beneath it. On the “pitch?” He’ll throw on joggers, flip the sweater to a sweatshirt. Out on the town? He’ll wear a plain navy sweater, not one with the Soccer club’s patch on it. Simply put, he has a uniform of sorts. And that makes sense: Lasso moved across the Atlantic Ocean for initially one soccer season. That he doesn’t have a wide range of clothes just means he packed light.
But on his feet? Lasso’s footwear tells the story in each and every episode, regularly shedding light on what direction he and the show are headed. Lasso’s fancy footwear is a key symbol in one of America’s most-watched television shows.
Season One: Ted Lasso in Runners
In the first season of Ted Lasso, coach Lasso is on his feet a lot. He’s bringing biscuits to the boss, he’s running around on the pitch trying to learn drills, and he’s walking from his flat to work. Thus, Lasso is always in some form of running shoes. The brand varies from Nikes to Jordans, and Daybreaks to Vapors, but Lasso consistently wears something made for movement.
In some scenes, Coach Lasso is on the field in the Jordan React Havoc Paris-St. Germain. Likely intentional given his newfound career, the Jumpman trainer specifically a soccer colorway. In his first steps on the pitch to examine the grass, Lasso is in Nike Air Skylon 2’s. These bright kicks are also old-school running sneakers commonplace in the 1990s. The 1992 release is reminiscent of the Disney Movie PE teacher, but they were the premier running technology of the times too.
Regardless of the specific pair, there’s one consistent theme with Lasso’s footwear in the first season: they’re all runners. And that makes total sense: Ted Lasso is an active, vibrant coach who is running and moving. In soccer, he is on the field and constantly moving about, even if he’s wearing khakis.
It also makes total sense because, in Season One, Ted Lasso is running in his personal life, too. We find out at the end of the Pilot Episode Lasso took the English football coaching job, even though he was a successful American football coach, because he and his wife “needed space.” The over the top positivity he exudes is him putting on his best running face. Lasso isn’t just in runners because he’s coaching soccer; he’s wearing them because being in England is him running from the problems at home.
To Ted’s credit, he is prepared. As the first season goes on, it becomes evident that Lasso was instructed to move away by a couples counselor. This wasn’t hasty running, like when you go for a walk and realize you are a mile and a half from home and need to be back in 10 minutes. This was planned. Thus Ted planned his trip: an overnight bag worth of clothes and a footlocker worth of running shoes.
Season Two: The Retro
In the second season, Lasso is in a different place in life. The first season wraps up with AFC Richmond being relegated from the Premier League. Thus the second season is the struggle to earn their way back. On the pitch, the team struggles to break old habits, navigates the return of controversial star Jamie Tartt, and brings back club legend Roy Kent to assistant coach. Off the pitch multiple characters fall into love-related drama, assistant coach Nate Shelley struggles with a newfound ego, and Ted Lasso grapples with internal struggles and opening up to a therapist about them.
And this season: Ted wears retros. Specifically, Ted Lasso wears multiple recognizable retro Jordans throughout the second season.
Retros, like the runners in Season One, also represent something important: nostalgia. Across the board, characters in Season Two are looking for older ways of life. Keeley Jones wants more room from Roy Kent, like things used to be. The audience wants Nate to be the lovable wunderkind kit boy, not the person who angrily corrects those who call him a “wonder kid.” Fans of AFC Richmond want to be back in the Premier League and are applying pressure to the team to make it back. And Ted?
Ted deeply misses the past. He gets calls from his son’s school in Kansas and can’t be there. He pulls Jamie Tartt back to Richmond from Free Agency and convinces Kent to return as well. Ted makes three visits to team therapist Dr. Sharon’s office. In the second, Ted insults the entire profession. The audience learns for certain, amidst Ted’s rare rage, that therapy is what led to Ted leaving for England and ultimately leaving his marriage. Ted mentions once that “It’s funny to think about the things in your life that can make you cry just knowing that they existed, can then become the same thing that makes you cry knowing that they’re now gone. I think those things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one.”
Ted is having trouble moving forward, even if somewhere he knows it’s what’s best for him. So his shoe game? It’s stuck in the past.
Red Laces Sad Faces
The second season becomes an even deeper dive into kixology. Thematically, Season One was about “running” and runners. Season Two is about dealing with nostalgia and retros. But Ted Lasso Season Two digs a little deeper than that. In the show’s Christmas Episode, Season Two Episode Four Carol of the Bells, Ted wears the Jordan 1 Low Smoke Grey with one change… he’s swapped in red laces.
Red, as a thematic color, plays well in the Christmas Episode. It’s festive, it matches the Santa hat he wears the whole time, and it initially looks just like a “holiday tradition.” Had the laces ended in jingle bells it would have been appropriate.
But in the show, as the kicks and laces last longer than the holiday special, the laces really signify a shift in Lasso’s attitude. The red laces aren’t normal, and neither is Coach Lasso. Ted was dealing with loneliness, work stress, and the end of his marriage- and that combines to take quite a toll. That toll leads to a very different Ted Lasso. Lasso suffers from panic attacks, lashes out at Dr. Fieldstone, and finds himself alone at the pub much more often in Season Two.
And the red laces? Those red laces are the fiery inside of Ted in Season Two. Sneakerheads understand the process here: when you make a lace swap you’re making a statement. Flipping to the pink laces on the Travis Scott Jordans (low and high) shows how fresh and clean the sneakers are… because they get dirtier much faster than the stock black laces. Ted flipping to red? This happens as the show shifts and shows his vulnerability.
Clean Slate Camouflaged
But he doesn’t just wear the red laces. Coach Ted Lasso wears a different Air Jordan I sneaker when he sits down to meet with Dr. Sharon. In his first meeting with Dr. Sharon, Lasso wears the Air Jordan 1 Low in a “White Camo” colorway. This move is clear-cut and two-fold. From a distance, this shoe looks like a blank canvas. It is primarily white, and its accent coloring is all a “neutral” gray. At first glance, the shoe almost looks like an older white sneaker. But the truth is that the sneaker has subtle details, much like Ted Lasso’s life. The sneaker has camouflage coloring in the check, light grey paneling, and thin black stitching on the heel logo.
Camouflage is meant as a way to hide, but in reality, except inside a jungle, it sticks out. The pattern itself is oddly configured shapes and blotches. While the grey coloring of Lasso’s swoosh is nondescript from a distance, it’s a blaring pattern to wear on your sneakers.
It’s also a pattern that was intended to hide behind. And in the scenes in Dr. Sharon’s office, hiding behind a veneer is exactly what Lasso does. The ever-happy-go-lucky Lasso is an emotional wreck. He came to England to get away from a failing marriage. He struggles with not being there for his son back home. We discover his father committed suicide when Lasso was just a kid himself… which Lasso attributes to his hatred of “quitters.” But all of this only comes up in private scenes with Lasso, and occasionally Dr. Sharon.
In the public? Lasso is, publicly, smiling and bubbly. This is most evident when the club covers up his panic attack by telling the public he had gastrointestinal issues. It’s evident in his reception at the local pub and it’s evident when he’s interviewed by Trent Crimm of the Independent.
Lasso has been covering up his traumatic past and the inner dialogue with himself for his whole life.
In the final episode of Season Two, after news breaks of Coach Ted Lasso’s panic attack, he walks out of his flat hoping for a normal day. But everyone he meets along the way, from the neighbor setting up a sign to Coach Beard ready with two coffee cups, has a copy of the newspaper with Lasso’s name in bold letters on the front page.
When Lasso sits with Beard for a cup of coffee, the camera zooms out to unveil yet another new pair of retro Jordan sneakers: the University Blue Jordan I High. This, too, is no accident. The baby blue colorway shows peace and tranquility. The lighter hue of blue exudes a calmness that the panicked Lasso wished for. Lasso navigates the episode, including run in’s with each of his co-stars, with an unusually calm demeanor. He addresses the issues he’s faced, personally, with his team, directly. He engages with Nathan Shelley specifically over their relationship. Lasso even, in a post-game press conference in the episode, explains his struggles with his mental health publicly.
The University Blue Jordan I’s set the tone for the finale. From that scene on, when faced with moments that would have spelled out chaos for red-laced Ted, Lasso is cooler than his icy blue sneakers. And that’s important, as he has some familiar foes ahead of him in Season Three.
It’s not those specific sneakers are parts of a motif that everyone notices. It’s not that understanding the sneaker connections somehow make the show make sense, either. But for sneakerheads everywhere, including Sudeikis himself, the sneaker choices in the show are beautifully intentional.
Artists pour themselves into every detail of their shows. In Mad Men, Don Draper drinks Canadian Club in his Old Fashioned for a reason. In The Office, Jim Halpert changes his haircut for a reason. The chicken restaurant in Breaking Bad is Los Pollos Hermanos, “The Chicken Brothers,” for a reason. Each shoe worn in Ted Lasso was picked for a reason.
What is unique about the sneaker story of Ted Lasso is that it was something Sudeikis clearly wanted. Sudeikis is a sneakerhead, and the show originates from a comedy sketch he created and then saw turned into a series of commercials. The sneakers add nothing to the understanding of the show, but they do add to our understanding of Sudeikis.
It’s not ordinary that an Emmy-award-winning comedy makes nods to sneaker culture. But Sudeikis, and the cast of Ted Lasso, aren’t ordinary. There are other sneaker storylines, too. Coach Beard wears exclusively New Balance, and we see him constantly trying to find some sort of balance in his own chaotic life… including a wild night out the town in Season Two Episode Nine, Beard After Hours. Sam Obisanya wears green retro Jordan XIII’s for a haircut before meeting Edwin Akufo. Akufo tries to use Obisanya’s Nigerian roots to woo him from Richmond FC… and even sends him a Green jersey from Akufo’s African club in the next episode. Kit boy Nate Shelley wore muted navy shoes while wunderkind Nathan Shelley wears black dress shoes to match his suits.
A story about British football, also called Soccer, can be about fancy footwork here, a toe tap there, and one swift kick of a boot to end the game. Similarly, the show Ted Lasso can be summarized in the kicks Coach Lasso wears. What’s in store for Season Three? Is it Ted breaking out some of the OFF-White x Nike collaborations, with the idea being that he’s been torn down and built back up? Will he wear something from the Kobe line to signify a “Mamba Mentality?”
Or will Coach Lasso just wear whatever is in Jason Sudeikis’s closet, because it’s nice to write off some StockX receipts as “business purchases?”