Esquire (UK)

The footballer­s’ personal trainer guy

How a 17-year-old student from the suburbs of North London became the go-to luxury clothes dealer for elite footballer­s

- By Finlay Renwick Photograph­s by Sam Todd

Paul Pogba wanted a Gucci jacket. It was the eve of France’s 2018 World Cup semi-final, the biggest match of the Manchester United midfielder’s career to that point, against Belgium in Saint Petersburg. He’d heard from Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti, who’d heard from Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy, that there was a kid in North London who could source whatever rare designer item you were looking for: trainers, streetwear, luggage, Gucci jackets, anything. All you had to do was contact him. So one of the most famous footballer­s in France — hell, one of the most famous footballer­s in the world — picked up his phone, dialled the number, and a 17-year-old from Finchley answered immediatel­y.

According to his Instagram page (followers: 118,000), Sam Morgan, aka @SM_Creps, is

a “Personal shopper” supplying “limited/soldout sneakers and clothes”. Neatly arranged, grailworth­y streetwear spreads throughout his grid, a teenager’s wildest wardrobe dream, all of it for sale. It was Pogba who first nicknamed him “The Plug”. (Urban Dictionary definition: “Someone who is a resource for obtaining something valuable, that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain.”) The tag has stuck.

Morgan started posting photos of rare trainers and streetwear on his Instagram feed in 2016. It took two years to make an initial £3,000 profit, but then his business took off. His breakthrou­gh into the world of elite footballer­s came when he managed to get in touch with Arsenal under-23 player Cohen Bramall and West Ham’s Declan Rice, selling Adidas Yeezy Boost 350s to both.

Word spread among the young players of the Premier League. Reiss Nelson, then at Arsenal, reached out, followed by Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. A football club changing room is a small universe and soon the star players were calling: Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Özil, both of Arsenal, Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. He met Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne playing Fortnite online, the modern footballer’s second favourite pastime after shopping. He plays the game regularly against Tottenham’s Dele Alli, too. “I’m better than him, but he won’t want to hear that!” Morgan says, chuckling.

“I started off just selling shoes every day on eBay, Depop and Facebook,” he says. “Now I know people in the sneaker and clothes worlds in America, France, Italy, Germany, Poland — I’ve already said America, right? — everywhere in Europe. I know if something is coming out in a certain country, and I can sort it.”

Morgan lives on the northern outskirts of the capital, where the city merges into suburbia with wide-open skies, jumbled allotments and Hondas parked outside detached houses, with his mum, dad — who doubles as his manager — two elder brothers and a twin sister. The Morgan house is large, neat and pale. A small dog buzzes between rooms. Outside is a garden with long grass and two football goals, knocked askew by wind and rain. Come summer I imagine him lounging in the sun, barefoot on the lawn, cutting deals for bulk orders of Balenciaga. In my mind’s eye he’s talking on a flip phone.

In person, Morgan is just as in the photos where he poses next to the most revered footballer­s in the world, skinny and smiley, youngerloo­king than 17. He’s wearing an Amiri logo hoodie and a pair of the brand’s signature, chaoticall­y ripped jeans. Based in Los Angeles , the streetwear label’s denim goes for £900-plus and sweats for £750-plus and is a favourite of Pogba’s and many other of Morgan’s high-profile clients. He introduced Tottenham’s Érik Lamela to its jeans and “now he won’t wear anything else”.

As we chat in his bedroom — Apple AirPods on the side table, triptych of rare Supreme skateboard­s hung above his bed, the air tinged slightly bitter by supermarke­t deodorant — his eyes flit frequently to his bedroom window, ears straining for phantom rings of the doorbell and a courier with a fresh delivery. He doesn’t keep any stock in the house during A-levels (he’s studying business and psychology) because it’s “too much stress”. Normally, the doorbell rings frequently.

It’s hard to know how much Morgan is making because he doesn’t want to talk about it. Both he and his father assure me it’s “a lot”. By the looks of his client list and personal wardrobe, I’m inclined to believe them. By the time he’d awoken at 10am on this dreary day off college, Morgan had already received orders from Mesut Özil and several players from France’s Ligue 1. Without detailing numbers, these orders amount to a couple of months of a very good yearly salary.

His peers thought it was weird at first, but now it’s cool: “I know who my real friends are,” he insists. The Instagram comments are positive; all from people who want to know how he does it, though he’ll never tell. He doesn’t know what he’ll be doing in five years; he didn’t imagine it would go this far. “I do know that I’ll always be self-employed,” he says, almost staring through me. “I’ll never work for anyone else.”

The business of re-selling rare — or comparativ­ely rare — clothing is not new. But with the introducti­on of scarcity as a marketing tactic by brands to drive interest in trainers and streetwear, a decade or so ago a new breed of DIY entreprene­ur began to emerge. Patient, savvy, wellconnec­ted and relentless, re-sellers learned where and how to buy the latest limited releases and who would pay a premium for them in the aftermarke­t. Not every streetwear fan is willing to jostle in the cold rain on a Thursday morning outside Supreme or Palace in London’s Soho, waiting for the latest “drop”. Plenty of people have jobs, or even better things to do. Like being a famous footballer, for example.

“The problem,” says Simon Wood, of cult website Sneaker Freaker, “is that re-selling has become so ubiquitous and so, I hate to say it, corporate these days. We’ve gone from a few naturalbor­n hustler kids making a few bucks on the side to industrial scale re-selling. I’m sure brands are doing their best to ‘moderate’ this aspect of the business, but there’s only so much they can do.”

Neverthele­ss, re-selling is not going to stop any time soon. According to Matt Powell, senior industry advisor at the NPD Group and an expert in the athletic goods industry, this newwave re-sale gold rush presents an opportunit­y for unpreceden­ted “profiteeri­ng”. “There is,” Powell adds, “big money to be made re-selling.”

What’s the difference between re-selling and being The Plug, I ask Morgan. “If I just buy it and put it on a website, that’s re-selling,” he says. “But if you’re buying it on request, that’s personal shopping. If I buy 20 pairs of Jordans and put them up on a site, that’s re-selling; if I get [those] 20 pairs for eight clients, it’s not the same. I’m shopping for them.”

He breaks off for a moment. He’s noticed me eyeing a pair of black Nike x Off-White Air Prestos that, embarrassi­ngly, I entered three raffles to try and purchase back in 2017. (I failed.) “You like those, don’t you?” he says. “I’d never pay more than retail for something like those.”

Interestin­gly, Morgan doesn’t really seem to care about the clothes the way many kids his age do. There’s a profession­al detachment between him and the product. Which begs the unusual question: if a hand passes over a Balenciaga hoodie or an Off-White trainer 10,000 times, does it start to just look like cotton or leather, mesh and rubber? The photos on his Instagram feed appear strictly business: him with his clients, and the clothes he’s selling. The Amiri seems more and more like a work uniform.

“I didn’t buy things for myself until I had made a certain amount,” he says. “I’d wear general clothes, just Zara or whatever. It’s quite psychologi­cal, I think. I know I don’t need more clothes, but I buy more clothes even though I don’t need them. If I post the same outfit on Instagram and then wear it two weeks later, it looks like I’m just wearing the same item all the time.”

He looks around at his bedroom, at the Supreme box logos, the £750 hoodies strewn across his bed, the plinths to either side that prop up a trainer collection worth thousands. “I’d say it’s a waste of money, but I kind of need to wear that stuff now, it’s part of what my clients expect.”

This much I can tell about Morgan’s business empire: there are several guys who source the trainers. One for Yeezy, one for the rare Nike and Off-White. There’s also a full-time employee who looks after the day-to-day orders while Morgan focuses on the “VIP clients”.

Dele Alli often visits the Morgan house to pick out his new season outfits. “He’s just bought his summer things. I could have brought 50 items for him to choose from, and I know he’d have bought 30 of them, but I brought 200 instead.

“I know a couple of rappers, Fredo and Dave,” he continues. “They’re friends with Drake, so I’ve been able to talk to him. I’m also in contact with Conor McGregor, so I’m hoping to sort some stuff out for him soon.”

Players will try everything on in the lounge, clothes and trainers laid out on the floor, a mirror in the corner. Alli likes Amiri jeans, Dior trainers and Goyard wallets.

“I wanted the Off-White x Nike Air Force 1s and the Off-White x Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars,” West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku tells me, “and two hours later he had them. He’s a nice guy, he’s friendly. Even though he’s young, I like what he’s doing. He knows how to run his business.”

The average Premier League salary is more than £50,000 a week. Top players like Pogba and Özil, can earn in excess of £300,000 weekly. That level of wealth, combined with a player culture that favours a peculiar mix of ostentatio­n and conforming to the status quo, means footballer­s are perfect clients for rare, expensive stuff that makes them look just like their peers. Amiri, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Off-White, Givenchy, Gucci, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton collection­s, Nike, Alexander McQueen, Palm Angels, Supreme and Heron Preston are staples.

“I think footballer­s like me because I’m young and I put a lot of effort in,” Morgan says. “I think they like the fact I’ll work hard for them.”

Pogba likes to set Morgan “little challenges”: requests for rare luggage, sold-out trainers or designer children’s clothing. He’s sprinted into Camden Market to find a PS4 charging cable for Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who sent him the request two hours before leaving on a pre-season tour to Singapore. A player from West Ham recently approached him “just to introduce himself ”. Nathaniel Chalobah, the Watford midfielder, contacted Morgan recently. “I hear good things about you, I hear you’re The Plug,” he said, by way of an introducti­on, before setting Morgan the task of hunting down a Louis Vuitton bag from the 2015 collection. “I’ve found one in America. I’m hoping it’s brand new, if it’s not I’ll just keep going until I find one that is.”

“I’m not sure he quite realises the position he’s in; the contact list he has,” his father says on the phone, before telling me Sam was recently given tickets to Manchester United versus Arsenal, in Manchester. Worried about getting back to London after the mid-week evening game, Morgan texted Pogba on the off-chance he could sleep over. Of course, came the reply, instantly.

“Do you support a football team?” Morgan asks, abruptly. Tottenham, I reply.

“I was a big Arsenal fan, but now I don’t really care about them that much. I prefer to support my clients rather than a team. You’re not putting any of the stuff about the money in, are you?” No, I say.

By the time he’d awoken at 10am on this day off college, Morgan had already received orders from Mesut Özil and several French Ligue 1 players

 ??  ?? Shoe biz kid: online fashion-fixer/
entreprene­ur Sam ‘The Plug’ Morgan in his office/bedroom with
Balenciaga Triple S in white
Shoe biz kid: online fashion-fixer/ entreprene­ur Sam ‘The Plug’ Morgan in his office/bedroom with Balenciaga Triple S in white
 ??  ?? Getting his kicks: this selection of hard-to-find trainers sourced by Morgan includes Off-White
x Nike Air Presto, Adidas x Yeezy Boost 700, Balenciaga Triple S and Dior B22
Getting his kicks: this selection of hard-to-find trainers sourced by Morgan includes Off-White x Nike Air Presto, Adidas x Yeezy Boost 700, Balenciaga Triple S and Dior B22

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom