Aurelien Collin does everything with style.
Of course, people don’t often see past the Frenchman’s rough-and-tumble playing style.
During three seasons with Sporting Kansas City, Collin has developed a reputation as one of the toughest centerbacks in Major League Soccer, playing for the top defense in a league regarded as one of the most physical in the world.
Collin, 27, will make his second consecutive appearance Wednesday in the AT&T MLS All-Star Game and was voted to the league’s Best XI last season.
It’s not entirely unexpected.
“When we scouted him, we knew he was going to be good in our league,” said Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes, who signed Collin in April 2011. “He fit the profile of what we think a good centerback has to be in our league for the destroyer-type player.”
Collin’s teammates have come to love his on-field style — a brash, hard-tackling blend that seldom fails to frustrate opposing strikers.
“Collin is our bulldog,” captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “He’s the fighter, and (central defense partner Matt) Besler is more of the elegant guy. Collin’s doing the dirty work and Besler is behind there as a safety net. It’s beauty and the beast.”
But who’s the beauty and who’s the beast?
Away from the field, Collin, whose arms and back bear tattoos evoking angels and the cross, displays a similarly unique style.
During training sessions, Collin hikes up his shorts to work on his tan and each offseason he seems to post photos to Twitter from exotic beaches on different continents every week.
Collin’s thick French accent, easy smile and the ornery twinkle in his eye further burnish his playboy reputation.
Fans who flock to the Power & Light District at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday will get the chance witness Collin’s softer side firsthand with the debut of his new clothing line, AC78, during a fashion show before the free Silversun Pickups concert.
“I grew up in Paris and people really care about fashion there,” Collin said. “People will talk to you in the street about what you’re wearing, so from the time you’re very young you get that in mind-set and become conscious of what you’re wearing.”
Collin’s apartment is littered with fashion magazines and his closets are packed with the latest trends in suits, footwear, other apparel and accessories.
The AC78 exhibition will showcase a series of suits Collin designed with partner Tom Paolini, including the nifty sleek grey number midfielder Graham Zusi wore on the red carpet at the ESPYs.
Zusi, Besler, Nielsen and forward Kei Kamara will serve as models along with Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman and Executive Vice President of Communications Rob Thomson.
“I’m very excited,” Collin said. “It’s my first fashion show, so I’m very happy to be able to show my line to the public. Fashion, my style on the field and my life are very connected. I make a suit that is very fashionable and traditional, but still very special.
“It’s got some international flavor and the cut of my suits is very different than anybody, but I also want to design clothes for regular people with regular bodies and make the point that anybody can look great and look sharp in a suit.”
Soccer remains Collin’s primary professional focus, but he hopes to make a significant mark in the fashion world when his playing career ends — perhaps becoming a runway all-star as well.
“I’ve seen his designs and it’s obvious he’s very talented,” said forward Dom Dwyer, who is from England. “It’s not just a fun thing. Even if he didn’t play soccer, I think he’d still be doing that kind of stuff. He’s very stylish and he’s very passionate about it.”
Occasionally, Collin’s teammates kid him about the skinny jeans or glittery shoes he wears to training.
“Of course, we give him a hard time,” forward Jacob Peterson said. “His style is so different from me and some of the other guys, but that’s why everybody loves him. He’s his own man and he embraces that. That’s just who he is.”
Everyone may not share Collin’s stylish flare, but Sporting KC’s locker room is filled with respect for his drive and passion as it relates to fashion.
“When you ask questions about fashion, you can see the fire in his eyes,” Nielsen said. “He loves to talk about it and he loves to tell you about it. I applaud him for that, because I think you’ve got to follow your passion, no matter what you’re doing. It may not be for me, but if you like it and it’s important to you, go do it. It would be pretty boring if we all had the same passion.”
Of course, there’s nothing boring about Collin.
“He’s a big personality and a loud guy in the locker room,” Peterson said. “But it’s funny, when I came here, I thought he was going to be a tough guy. On the field, he’s so hard and he’s so hard to play against. He’s constantly mixing it up, but he’s such a nice guy off the field. That surprised me at first.”
And the surprises just keep coming.
“He’s obviously got a ton of pizzazz and is an incredibly unique guy, but the thing I appreciate about him is that, for all his eccentricities, he’s a fabulous guy with our fans,” Heineman said. “I know he’s wonderful with my young daughter. He’s so sweet to her and I just think he’s a great person. It’s fantastic to have him here in Kansas City.”
Bringing a style all his own.