What comes to mind when you think of a football fan? Probably not someone like Sterling Rose Kelly, a young, genderfluid, anarchic artist and post-punk bassist.
Sterling is taking centre stage in the new Converse X Liverpool FC (LFC) partnership which celebrates the rich creativity and diversity of football fans; a new generation who express their love and support for their club while making waves in the creative scene.
GUAP got the opportunity to meet with Sterling Rose Kelly in Liverpool. We spoke about how they became an LFC fan, their art, creativity, and of course their sense of style and favourite pieces from the Converse x LFC collection.
GUAP: You call yourself a trashy artist. What does that mean?
Sterling Rose Kelly (SRK): Absolutely! I make art, and a lot of my art is ‘trashy’ in all senses of the word. It’s literally made out of trash a lot of the time. I collect bits of bright, weird, interesting trash left over from consumer society and rearrange it into something subversive, something that flips the whole narrative upside down. It’s a kind of three-dimensional collage.
The other meaning of ‘trashy’, the dictionary definition, is ‘of poor quality, inappropriate, cheap, tacky, tasteless.’ I consider ‘trashy’ to be a badge of honour, to be honest. My artwork is about embracing the so-called kitsch and tacky, and using it as a queer, feminine power to disrupt the elitist and exclusive art world. It’s about embracing chaos, mess, maximalism, and the things that surround me in my everyday life.
My artwork is made for anyone who’s ever felt ‘other’ – anyone who sits outside the narrow margins of privilege. It’s not made for the people who get to define what ‘tasteful’ is, it’s not made for blank, empty white spaces, it’s not made to be sold. It’s made to collect dust in a corner of the house or end up stuck to the fridge or maybe even back in the bin. Proudly trashy.
GUAP: Football is a male dominated sport both in terms of support and finances given to mens football teams compared to women’s teams, and in terms of the makeup of the fans. What is your experience of this as a non-binary person? How have you made a way for yourself?
It’s a bit funny actually – people don’t expect me to be such a big football fan, purely because I’m genderfluid. Being queer and being into football is seen as something mutually exclusive.
As a genderfluid football fan, especially if I’m in spaces dominated by cis men, I have to be so fearless, and speak twice as loud to be taken half as seriously. In the back of my mind, I’m always aware that certain people might have a problem with me existing, and I have to be ready to stand my ground. Queer people have always been here, we belong here – so if you don’t like it, too bad, we’re not going anywhere!
I’m so proud of Liverpool FC because of the way they always show up for queer fans. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ really does mean all of us. They’re absolutely leading in terms of football clubs making fandom a more inclusive space, and I hope the future is bright for every single one of my non-binary siblings and transgender brothers and sisters.
It’s hard to put into words just how much pride and sense of belonging you have as a Liverpool fan. There’s a reason ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ resonates with us so much – there’s a real sense of community and love and looking out for each other, of sticking together and being loyal through the ups and downs, always. For me, it’s something that’s been a part of my family since forever, something I was born into and always brought up to love and to be proud of. Honestly, I’d say being a Red is the most beautiful thing in the world.
GUAP: How would you describe your sense of style?
SRK: Absolute chaos! My style is like doing a collage every day, but with my clothes. It’s inspired by so many different music subcultures – a bit of 70s punk, there’s some 90s rave and sportswear in there, little hints of goth, even some 2000s emo and indie influences as well. I can’t just pick one look – I have to mix up everything I like, all at the same time. I don’t do subtle very well – it has to be full on maximalism!
Graphic t-shirts are my favourite thing ever, the weirder the better. I love a baggy hoodie or jacket in an interesting pattern as well – bleached denim, camo, leopard print… I’ve always got on layers of jewellery too, silver chains and big mismatching earrings. I love messing around with gender expectations with my style too, combining masculine and feminine styles all in one outfit, creating something fluid and unexpected.
GUAP: What did you initially think when you heard that Converse were partnering with LFC?
It feels really futuristic! I feel like it’s a really interesting clash (and I mean clash in the best way) because you’ve got the vibrant, rebellious, youth-culture, energy and creativity of Converse mixed with LFC, which is such an iconic and historic football club. It’s bringing football fandom into a new world – if any football club was going to be leading the way into the future and creativity of fan culture and redefining what it means to be a football fan, it was always going to be Liverpool FC! And if any brand was going to do it with them, it was always going to be Converse.
GUAP: What’s your favourite piece from the Converse x LFC collection?
It’s either the black Converse x LFC Chuck 70 with the white YNWA print on them. They remind me so much of when I was a teenager and used to sew or draw song lyrics all over my Converse. Or the polo shirt with the gold logos – it’s got a bit of a 60s mod/two-tone feel, which I absolutely love.
GUAP: You’re in a band called The Red Stains. Could you tell us a bit about that?
The Red Stains are an all-femme, all-queer post-punk band. I play bass and write a few lyrics and do the occasional bit of backing-vocal shouting too!
We describe ourselves as plastic fantastic glitch-kitsch-cyborg-housewife ready-meal-punk, which kind of sums up our sound: funky drums and gritty, throbbing bass, layered with cosmic, swirling guitar and fiery vocals. We’re releasing a single called TV Static on 14th April, and there’s a few more top-secret releases planned for the rest of the year that I’m not meant to talk about yet, so stay tuned if you enjoy a bit of feminist microwave-punk, I guess!
GUAP: Do you remember any stages in your life that your love for the sport and LFC community informed your creative expression?
SRK: Being a Liverpool fan is a part of me, and I think it’s always there in my art in some way – if you look for it, you’ll feel it in the undercurrent of a lot of my work.
One of the pieces I hold closest to my heart is a textile piece I made in 2021 called ‘Get Back In The Kitchen!’ It’s a hand-knitted piece, a red scarf with the words LIVERPOOL F.C. woven into it. Making it was my way of connecting back to my family, to the different generations of women who were born LFC fans just like me – my mum, my Nan, my aunties, my cousins. Knitting is an art form that’s been passed down to me from generations, just like my love for the Reds, and it was through this slow, repetitive, labour-intensive process of knitting a scarf by hand that I tried to honour every story and memory, and to connect to the women in my family who I have so much love and admiration for.
GUAP: How do you express yourself creatively?
Clothes, music, art, and really weird memes. I see everything I do as a bit of a collage. Putting together an outfit for the day that sticks a finger up at the gender binary and makes me look like a futuristic punk swamp witch; sticking drawings and magnets to my fridge til it turns into either a headache or an art installation; stitching together a chaotic playlist of songs for my bus trip into town; sitting on the floor of my room with my bass turned up really loud, half-concentrating, cooking up new rhythms and lyrics in a sort of meditative bass-space trance. Creativity’s in the most ordinary things, just as long as you look. It feels as natural as breathing to me.
GUAP: LFC supporters are the club’s beating heart- how does being an LFC fan allow you to express yourself creatively?
Being a Liverpool fan connects me back to my family, it keeps me rooted, keeps me grounded in my identity. No matter how far into outer space my artwork drifts, there’s still my humour and my history in there somewhere, if you know where to look.
There’s so much beauty and joy in being an LFC fan – and in Liverpool as a city too. Liverpool’s got a revolutionary history; it’s a city that sticks together and stands up in the face of oppression. There’s so much beauty in that. It’s so strange to me that the art world only seems to notice the Northern artists who’ve had the resources and privilege to move to London and create art there. I’ll always find the beauty I need in the diamonds that glitter on the Mersey, in the green grass on the pitch of Anfield, and on the wings of the Liver-Birds, their bright silhouettes that glow in the evening sky.
You can see and purchase from the full Liverpool FC x Converse collection here.
Read more GUAP fashion content here.
Talent: Sterling Rose Kelly @Sterlingrosek
Photographer: Shane Duncan @shaneduncan1
Creative Direction: Jide Adetunji @Jideadetunji
Producer: Anthea Agyekum @the.anthea
Production Assistant: Chloe Mcgivan @chloejanellex
Stylist: Bethan Dadson @bethandadson
Stylists Assistant: Sharufa Yuma @sharufa_
MUA: Amie Harfield @muahlondon