In praise of (the very small amount of) stylish football players
Celebrating the lesser spotted nicely-dressed footballer
‘Footballer’ has been used derogatively when it comes to style more and more in the last couple of decades, ever since the money went stratospheric and the circle of people around players allowed to say “No, actually, Djibril, don’t wear that zebra-print coat with those leopard print trousers, mate” rapidly started to shrink.
Since 1992 - the year that brought us John Major, Simply Red, and advent of the Premier League - truly stylish players have been few and far between.
David Beckham ushered in a new wave of fashion conscious footballers with bold choices, operating right at the sartorial coalface, tabloids erect with endless column inches in solidarity and horror of seeing a handsome bloke wearing hair gel and a sarong.
But before Becks was Eric Cantona. Dripping arrogance, doused with aftershave, in cowboy boots and double denim, or silk shirts with rounded, mirror shades, Cantona mixed Britpop staples with Gallic va te faire foutre attitude. As on the pitch, Cantona truly did not care if you liked him because he loved himself, and you should probably just shut up and follow.
In recent years, footballers’ off-duty style has been split into two paradigms: beards and soft tailoring, and streetwear.
The first - usually hirsute playmakers Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo - evoke class and taste, with unstructured jackets, Boglioli, Thom Browne, mix-and-match set suiting, monk-strap shoes sans socks, looking like they’re ready to step onto a yacht at the drop of a Patek Philippe. It’s a look rarely carried well by British players, who, when aiming for “casual tailoring”, look like they’re wearing their little brother’s clothing to the local Dirty Martini.
What they do slightly better is the second, streetwear, with biscuit-boned striker Daniel Sturridge the main proponent: putting high-fashion, super-expensive loungewear together with expensive jackets and trainers so fresh if you picked one up and put it to your ear you could still hear the sweatshop floor.
Then there are players who sit between: Leo Messi, the greatest player of all time, and Paul Pogba, Man United’s dad-bothering emoji man, have choice lines in lurid-but-impeccably fitted suits; and everyone in the Italy squad dresses like Tom Ford’s toddler son, that is to say, fucking brilliantly.
But really, you have to wonder how there are any badly dressed players anymore. When any old pleb can walk into Cos, grab the nearest, most anaemic and black-suited assistant and whisper “Help me” and come out looking like Jean-Paul Belmondo, what must Ronaldo be able to do with the estimated £193,000 he earns per day?
We can but dream.