Fashion and sports may seem like curious bedfellows, but the NFL is bridging the gap as never before. In many ways, 2012 is the year of the style-savvy NFL quarterback. Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow all covered September issues of fashion magazines and Mark Sanchez suits up for Hugo Boss, while the Manning brothers prefer Ermenegildo Zegna. The latest trend now involves NFL quarterbacks launching clothing brands - first it was Michael Vick and now Cam Newton has a namesake brand. But is a clothing line necessary and are either collections worthy of your Benjamins? Must the modern NFL quarterback be a pop culture icon off the field?

Cam Newton is a charismatic young man who is more than just an NFL quarterback with immense physical talents. In GQ’s cover story, it’s evident that his agency IMG is positioning Newton as the total package. Newton’s good looks and penchant for preppy classics led him to partner with Belk, a Southern department store chain based in the Carolina Panthers’ hometown of Charlotte. The MADE by Cam Newton line launches spring 2013 in 133 Belk stores as an exclusive house-designed brand. Newton is not the designer, but a style consultant providing opinions and inspirations for the creators. MADE by Cam Newton includes pants, t-shirts, vests, blazers and suits — with a shoes and accessories line to follow in Fall 2013. I applaud Newton’s more affordable range of endorsed attire, as the Manning’s Zegna suits rage from $2300 to $4500 each, while the MADE suits start at $200. His personal brand is now even more accessible to his fans and helps present the image of a well-groomed, professional young man.

Stylistically, the line is safe and traditional with no obvious overtones of Newton’s southern swagger. However, I was disappointed in the fit of Newton’s suit, but hopefully they’ll tailor his MADE suits for his imposing 6’5 frame.

Newton’s biggest issue with his new venture isn’t his interest in fashion (he already endorses Under Armour) but rather his play this season is sub-par. The MADE unveiling happened during the Panthers bye-week, however the team stands at a dismal 1-4. According to the production schedule, Newton was working on MADE in the spring, but nevertheless appears distracted to fans and, perhaps, to his teammates. 

It’s prudent for Newton to scale back on his off-field endeavors during the season, as he’s not yet an elite NFL QB, and a downturn is not out of the question for the talented but unproven 23 year old. Though the scenarios are obviously different, there is a comparison to Michael Vick, who dealt with plenty of off-field issues in the midst of a fashion and financial makeover. His new V7 clothing line is exclusive to Modell’s, an East Coast sporting goods chain. Vick’s V7 tests the retail market and re-introduces him to customers as a hardworking, revamped quarterback. The line screams inclusivity, thanks to its affordability (no item over $20) and familiarity, as the graphics are very reminiscent of Nike’s recent offerings

From a fashion perspective, I’d avoid both lines as neither offers anything special. However, if you want to show your support for either athlete, I cannot criticize your purchase. Fandom is not always stylish, but it’s always personal and beautiful in its own way.