When he dared to bare his legs in skirt-like-shorts for the cover of Arena HOMME+ magazine two years ago, it received mixed reviews and earned him a barrage of abuse. Simultaneously, it secured him the spot as fashion’s latest favourite footballer. “I tend to wear what I feel in the moment, and if that takes me to wearing a skirt then so be it,” the Sheffield-born sportsman says.
Today, though, he is ready to tone it down. The 26-year-old, who is a regular on runway front rows (Versace, Emporio Armani, et cetera) and the face of grooming brand Braun, is by any standard easy on the eye — all biceps, abs, Zeus-style curly tresses and trimmed beard. He attests to having grown out of the frills-and-fancy that have earned him a controversial flamboyant fashion boy rep.
“There was a time a few years ago where I cared more about what people thought,” he says. “I don’t know what the turning point was, [but] I became more comfortable within myself in football and off the pitch, and probably discovered my own identity. Once I discovered that, everything made a lot more sense.”
In August this year, he welcomed his first born child, a daughter, with model girlfriend Sandra Jerze. “I’m going into a new phase of life, it’s kind of mellowed me out a little bit in terms of clothing. I like to dress a little bit more sophisticated now, and match my title as a dad.” So much was proved by the Wales Bonner navy evening coat and slacks he wore to London’s GQ Men of the Year Awards this month. Calvert-Lewin looked every inch a neo-Napoleon, a far cry from the lurid turquoise tailoring he might have chosen in yesteryears.
He gushes about the new addition to his family. “It’s brought a lot of joy to my life,” he says. “My actual day-to-day has not changed all that much. I get up, train, chill out, and recover. The only difference now is that I have to do it with a baby, so my attention can obviously be drawn elsewhere. Obviously there are also interrupted nights sleep.”
It is a personal touchstone for a person swept up in a relentless rise to public prominence professionally, which began when he left Sheffield United, signing a £1.5 million deal with Everton, in 2016. “It’s definitely been an up and down journey,” he says.
A darker period came last year, when injuries forced him off the pitch and saw him play 17 Premier League games. Previous seasons had seen him take part in 30 plus. “That season I had gone through a lot of ups and downs and not being able to play — it was the first time I’d been through that as a player and a person.” There was a happy ending: he scored the game-winning goal against Crystal Palace, which secured Everton’s spot in the Premier League. “I felt that was my just reward for enduring and being patient right the way to the end of the season,” he says.
When he took to Instagram to celebrate afterwards, he dedicated a post to the importance of young men’s mental health. “To all the young kings suppressing emotion I advise you to talk, to a friend, family member or someone that will listen, talking saved my life,” he wrote. He stands by these words. “I was very emotional at that point because of what I had been through, and how it had finished. I just wanted to let that out," he says.
Any troughs are peppered with a stream of online abuse, too, but Calvert-Lewin stays level headed. “The backlash we receive nowadays is social media based. It’s part and parcel of the job, and that’s the way I see it. Every player and every individual in my sport goes through different things, whether that’s performance related or getting questioned for doing external activities,” he says. “How do I deal with it? I’ve developed a very strong mentality and I’m very confident in myself.”
It all plays into the self-assured chapter he is embracing, open-armed. As for the skirts, will they be bound to the wardrobe forever? “Well, I’d never say never,” he says.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin Braun’s UK grooming ambassador, braunshop.co.uk