The off-duty footballer: We’ve all seen him, most likely in paparazzi photos. He’s athletic. He’s well-paid. He’s unburdened by the bodily indignities of a 9-to-5 job. And as a toned and pampered guy who can wear anything and put a wide margin of his budget toward clothes, he’s as recognizable out of context as his counterparts, the off-duty model and the off-duty NBA player. Sometimes you can spot him by how great he always looks, and sometimes by how tastelessly he’s thrown together a mishmash of conspicuous status symbols.
All this is obvious to Jacky Levy, the costume designer for Apple TV Plus’s “Ted Lasso,” who knows that post-match ’fits are nearly as important to global soccer culture as the on-the-pitch uniforms. (See: David Beckham’s impeccable suiting, Paul Pogba’s wild street style, Héctor Bellerín’s relaxed retro-cool.) So when it came time to dress Zava, the internationally renowned soccer god who improbably signs with Ted Lasso’s struggling AFC Richmond in Season 3, Levy knew precisely what to do. She pieced together his look — roughly 3 parts legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 1 part skinny-pants icon Cristiano Ronaldo and a half-shot of Jesus of Nazareth — using real-life inspirations and an eye-watering amount of Versace.
Zava, played by Austrian American actor Maximilian Osinski, first appears on “Ted Lasso” when he enters a stadium and causes an immediate distraction for both the fans in the stands and the players on the field. So it was crucial, Levy says, for his clothes to meet the moment; they needed to offer a glimpse of Zava’s personality and look convincingly like the wardrobe choices of a man who knows he can turn heads in a crowded stadium, even from his seat. But Levy wanted them to also be clothes a real footballer might wear. “He’s quite a big character, in the way that he’s been written,” Levy says. “I wanted to give him a sense of his own importance, but in a real way, not a sort of funny-caricature way.”
To that end, Levy dressed Zava in a Versace graphic tee with the brand name cartooned across the front — but, Levy notes, always partly obscured, in a faint gesture toward restraint — and one of the least ostentatious full-length fur coats she could find. (She added a cushy contrasting collar, for an extra touch of subtle regality, to the one that ended up in the show.)
“We tried to kind of, I don’t know, hit a middle ground where he was stylish, but there was a slight tackiness to him,” Levy says with a laugh. “And we didn’t want to go for that completely over-the-top flamboyant style. We didn’t want him to look like a rapper or something.”
But it is Zava’s subsequent outfits that cement his perfectly calibrated football-sensation look. For example, there’s no quicker shortcut to looking baller, in both senses of the word, than a designer leather jacket. So when he first meets Ted, Rebecca and the rest of the Richmond front office, Zava wears another Versace graphic tee, this time under a leather jacket with gold zippers and — what else? — the iconic Versace Greca print on the trim. (The retail price for Zava’s Greca nappa leather bomber jacket: $2,825.)
Why Versace, specifically? It’s a known entity in the soccer world, certainly, having enjoyed partnerships with high-profile teams such as Real Madrid. But in Zava’s case, “it just sort of gave a flavor of some flamboyance,” Levy says. “It has a little bit of gold,” and the brand’s readiness to announce itself — unsubtly — “just kind of fit him.” (A real ESPN headline from 2014: “Versace’s hideous World Cup merchandise.”)
“We tried other brands, like Dolce & Gabbana,” she adds, “but Dolce & Gabbana was a tiny bit too cool for him. He’s a funny mixture of being kind of cool but not totally cool, … just a little bit too much to be cool. It was a fine line.”
Throughout Episodes 2 and 3, Zava also wears a round silver watch with an enormous sapphire-toned face and multiple dials, reminiscent of the Hublots worn by superstar players, such as France’s Kylian Mbappé. But, according to Levy, the one Zava wears on-screen is made by American Exchange — and available at Macy’s for $22.50.
Levy says she based Zava’s styling choices on the real-life Ibrahimovic, who shares Osinski’s lanky build and Zava’s exuberant confidence and tendency to refer to himself in the third person. She gave him Ibrahimovic’s low, slicked-back ponytail to match.
Though the show stays mum on Zava’s country of origin so far, Levy gave him what she describes as an Eastern European sense of style.
The rest of the Richmond players, too, have their own distinct styles — something Levy likes to ensure by “using where they’ve come from as a sort of starting point.” Like Zava, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) wears brands and styles worn by real European pro soccer players. But while Zava’s signature look is “slightly more old-fashioned,” Levy says, Jamie is “much more English, streety — laddish. We based him on a rapper called Aitch.”
And Mexican sparkplug Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) “is not as on-point fashion-wise, wearing clothes that might have been worn 10 or 15 years ago,” Levy says — because he’s someone who’s a footballer first and a celebrity second.
Nigerian player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), for instance, “goes on a bit of a journey,” Levy says, maturing from a shy newcomer into a confident, fan-favorite player and local restaurant owner. At first, “we gave him things he would maybe have seen other footballers wear, sort of copying the others,” she says. “Then, gradually, he kind of gets his own style.”
And perhaps that’s how one might best understand the series’ funniest visual joke-via-costume thus far. Though “Ted Lasso’s” considerable Versace budget effectively establishes Zava as a wealthy, preening, slightly corny international football legend, it’s the “Zava&Zava&Zava&Zava” T-shirt he wears to hang out with his teammates at Sam’s restaurant — in a style usually reserved for iconic groups or cliques — that says the most about who he is.