[As Seen on NSS Magazine] Tom Davies has decided to take sides as an individual, founding ChopValue UK, and creating a circular economy
This More Than issue was shot in October 2023, in the meantime Tom Davies has faced some unexpected challenges due to an injury he suffered a few weeks after our meeting. In recent months, the Sheffield United midfielder has been working to return to the pitch as soon as possible, pursuing the sustainability-related projects that make him a great inspiration to the whole football world.
Buses and cars speeding in London traffic, the Shoreditch neighbourhood is an expression of a vision of the global city that is hard to find elsewhere in Europe. It's characterised by a contemporary outlook that has not kept pace with the cultural changes of the past half century. The morals and social values that need to be protected require a great deal of adaptability and responsibility by those who feel part of the whole and the individual players, all the more so when they happen to be a prominent figure whose job it is to inspire the collective. Several footballers in England have played his role over the years, yet Tom Davies, Sheffield United midfielder, represents a new generation of sportsmen who give voice to a collective conscience against inequality, waste and indifference through concrete actions. The star of the new edition of More Than, Davies told nss sports all about his passion for the world of fashion, the responsibility he holds as a player in one of Europe’s biggest leagues, and his fascination for Italy and old Serie A Jerseys.
Does Tom Davies think that the world of football is a safe industry, now that the world is trying to build a more responsible society? "A lot of things are changing, including football, but there are still a lot of cases of racism and pay gaps between men and women. I think football is going in the right direction and we're building a fair system. We have structures that will benefit future generations, but we're nowhere near where we should be." Tom Davies' view is not superficially optimistic, but springs from a way of understanding goals as a collective endeavour, the coordination of a disparate group with the aim of protecting themselves as a group. About himself, Tom Davies says: “As a player, I can try to point out or talk about problems when I see and feel it's the right time to do so", but his gaze goes to his own relationship with the team, with this collective of players around which football revolves: “My way is different from that of the player sitting next to me in the dressing room. I can be interested in sustainability, Marcus Rashford can be interested in distributing meals to children in need. Football is made up of teams and groups of people from different backgrounds. You have to communicate because we are different from the person sitting next to us. The great thing is that we then unite and play together."
Football and the role of people in society is a constant shift between the singular and the plural. Tom Davies has decided to take sides as an individual, founding ChopValue, a company that recycles bamboo chopsticks from restaurants to turn them into furniture and household items, creating a circular economy which prevents landfill and more trees being cut down. Since its foundation in 2016, ChopValue has recycled over 123 million chopsticks, reducing the dispersion of over six million kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. The company's challenge is to represent the change of perspective that brings waste to be a resource, and finally a design object, following the ideas of circular economy.
"Even when I buy clothes, I ask myself if I will still be wearing them in ten years' time, if I can give them away or recycle them". One of the most important points of Tom Davies' social commitment is in its communication, the real difference and added value between this generation and those of the past, as the Sheffield United number 22 tells nss sports: “for me, it's important to share everything with my fans because now there is a platform to do that. When I was younger I wished there were more footballers or musicians saying what we can do for the planet and how we can help it."
With Fashion Week being underway in London, we ask Tom Davies about the latest fashion and how the England footballer has always had a particular focus on his own style on and off the pitch, which is a necessary, instinctive, natural and liberating form of self-expression. "I've always loved brands like Gucci and Loewe. When I was younger, I was excited by the idea of being able to afford high fashion clothes. It was a world I had never explored before. I could be who I wanted to be through the clothes I wore". In a world like fashion, in which change is the only real driving force, even Tom Davies admits that his relationship with brands and collections has changed, and is now being guided by the values of sustainability. Instead of investing in big brands and trends, Tom tells nss sports that he now prefers buying items that will last him longer, clothes “that I really love, that I will wear again and again and that will last me a long time, at the moment I buy things that I think are right for Tom Davies, not that they are right for trends”.
“There needs to be a lot changed going forward with football. As players myself, what I can do is highlight these things or try and speak out on them when I see and I feel it's the right time or when the words need to be said. However, there are structures that will help the new generation, it's definitely headed in the right direction.”
Football as a style phenomenon originated in the dressing room and with footballers, and Tom was actually one of the first to showcase different looks among the more predictable ones of his peers. If Hector Bellerin started the trend and "fundamentally got all the other footballers of his generation to combine football and fashion", Tom remembers other footballers who have great style, such as "Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, I always enjoyed seeing how they dressed in the changing room every day. Now I also like Jules Koundé from FC Barcelona, he's so natural and for me it's the best when I see someone who doesn't look uncomfortable or out of place with what they're wearing." nss sports has long been a fan of Tom Davies precisely because of his naturalness when wearing elegant Ferragamo suits, Versace coats or playing on the pitch with his socks down and long hair blowing in the wind: "I've paid attention to what I wear on the pitch since I was a kid, but it wasn't until I played in front of a big crowd for the first time that I realised people notice these things. I was always encouraged to express myself and I continue to do that. I always have to feel comfortable on the pitch because that helps me focus on the game".
The matter-of-factness with which the protagonist of this episode of More Than wears football jerseys is the same with which this item has become a real trend in fashion. In other episodes of More Than, we have spoken to footballers who are collectors themselves, and this is also the case with Tom Davies. "I really like old football shirts. I try to swap as many jerseys as I can with the players I play against, because in the future it will be nice to look back on my collection. I've always worn jerseys and I have an old Barcelona jersey that I like very much and a new Juventus jersey, black and green, beautiful. Milan, Juventus, Inter, Roma, Napoli, I really like the old classic Italian jerseys, they are the best for me." The Liverpool footballer's passion for Italy is evident in the photos he posts on Instagram. He spends his holidays in Puglia and Tuscany, dreaming of the possibility of living and playing in Italy, which he describes as 'a beautiful country'. Davies adds that "the lifestyle is incredible. The football is fantastic too, it has so much history and the league is high quality. As a person, I want to develop and learn other languages, and if it's going to be Italian, I'm smiling just talking about it." In our interview, the concept of change and cycle were recurring themes of conversation, a reflection of Tom Davies’ approach to life. Last summer he made the biggest sporting change of his career, moving to Sheffield United after a lifetime at Everton. The decision wasn't easy for Davies, as the Blades' current midfielder admits, but he can take stock: "I didn't know how I would adapt to the new team, the players, the manager and the city. But to be honest, it's been great. I moved to the city and the team gave me a great welcome. The managers and the staff have been very welcoming, so it's been better than I could have ever hoped for."
Tom Davies' football should be seen as a reflection of the attitude with which the English footballer makes his moral commitment to everything around him. A circular world must not be afraid of change, must not think that a chopstick is merely disposable, but neither must it exclude beauty. Beauty and good taste become the motivation to embrace transitions, a goal pursued with a commitment to taking a wide view of the world. Tom Davies lives football and the world we all live in with the dual responsibility of being both camouflage and illuminant, a source of inspiration and the brick of a great wall, perhaps Liverpool's signature reds, or the stones of a trullo, perfectly embedded for centuries.