Medallion man... and other great football fashions
A new exhibition shows how the beautiful game can be anything but. Robert Epstein reports
It all started in the 1960s: suddenly footballers were earning astronomical sums – £21 a week! – which meant they could splash the hard-earned on a nice pair of keks.
From next week, Strike a Pose, a new exhibition at the National Football Museum in Manchester, will be looking back at the confluence of footie and fashion over the past 50 years, from George Best's boutiques via Liverpool FC's infamous FA Cup Final white suits to today's urban-street-culture-inspired stars.
The exhibition will focus not only on what the players were wearing, on and off the pitch, but also their wives and girlfriends, and the rise of the mods, the skinheads and the casuals on the terraces.
Here, we present our own tribute to the changing modes of the past half-century. It's not always been pretty, but goodness knows it's often been hilarious. Strike a Pose? Our motley collection could just as well be called Defend That.
Looking like a bureaucrat but kicking like a mule, our Bobby did the comb-over cover-up like no one else. His strands, flapping in the wind, were much more dignified than fellow Red Devil Wayne Rooney's weave.
He's had cornrows, he's dyed it orange, he's shaved it all off, he's had a bubble perm, he's gone for the slicked-back Mad Men look. But by far the bravest coiffurious decision is surely his Alice band – though it did make him a role model for 12-year-old girls everywhere.
The Flying Mullet was a vision in the 1980s whether in Marseilles or in tha Toon. The way it flared out to the sides, like an eagle spreading its wings. The way it sat on top of his head, like a hedgehog taking a dump. Magnifique, monsieur. No wonder the French loved him.
If his time in Italy taught Gazza anything, it was how to play around with his barnet. There was the dead weasel of a ponytail. Then the hair extensions that lasted precisely one day. But what a day! He looked like a lion – with a huge perm.
Becks features more than once in these pages. Come on, it's about fashion, it's only fair. And who can forget the famous cornrows? A daring commentary on hip hop culture, surely. "I was in holiday mode when I had them done," he's said. "I think I'd had a glass of wine or two." Well, cheers for the laugh, mate.
The crisp fetishist didn't leave a lot to the imagination in his playing days. Those short shorts were all the rage through the 1980s, but my goodness, the bulge. Of the thighs. The bulging thighs. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Back when men were men and shorts were pretty much trousers, Sir Stanley managed to whizz up and down the line, despite being lumbered down by bloomers that were bigger than Bermudas.
When you next watch a game, count the black boots you see on show. Our guess: probably none. Orange, green, pink, red … or gold, as the Real Madrid star has sported. To go with his Golden Boot, we suppose. Hope they don't tarnish.
Fine, we get it: it's cold here. The full-back clearly was choosing to have a dig at our weather when he wore full-length leggings while playing for Spurs. OK, it's not Guadeloupe, but it's not THAT cold, is it? I mean, it's not even snowing. Today.
The Spurs man might have been pinpoint-perfect with his passing, but he couldn't keep his socks up, could he? The slovenly so-and-so. It's no wonder England manager after England manager couldn't find a place for him in the team.
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He wore the Liverpool No 10 shirt with pride, which is just as well because the bulk of his wardrobe since his playing days has been more likely to induce nausea or migraine. Barnes has toned it down now, but for past low points … well, you could pick anything he wore as a pundit for Sky Sports or host-turned-co-commentator on Football on 5.
The flowing locks, the perma-tan, the bling sunglasses … Savage is to football fashion what TOWIE is to documentary-making. And those shirts. Not always a crime in themselves, but his insistence on wearing them unbuttoned to the navel does rather suggest a man who has only taken his medallion off for the cameras.
Clothing-wise, most of what Lawro wears on-screen is innocuous to the point of M&S menswear. But something is missing and that something is a moustache, because Lawrenson is one of those men whose face has looked bald ever since he shaved his facial hair. His haircut, meanwhile, suggests a barber who hasn't changed the black-and-white pictures on his salon wall since the 1960s.
Clint and his poncho, Martin Bell and his white suits, Motty and his sheepskin … some people are just inextricably linked to a particular item of clothing. But while Motty's coat is now established enough to have a band named in its honour, the items of clothing (all bought at the same time from a man in Hornchurch) have now run out. Thankfully, a bespoke option has been found.
Ah, the 1960s. A time of liberation in the men's wardrobe department. Sadly, by the time such freedoms reached the likes of Jimmy Hill, he ended up looking like an acid-jazz Rolf Harris. Candy-stripes, jungle suits, extra-wide ties … Hill rocked them all, and the ultimate proof of how wrong it all looked is that were he to venture out in east London today, no one would blink.
David Seaman's Euro 96 top. Good lord. Looking like the cast of Fraggle Rock had vomited all over it: the shirt was a melange of red, green, purple and yellow. Vomit. Red, green, purple and yellow vomit.
The epitome of class in a classy top. Block colours were all the rage in the 1970s – on the pitch, at least – and the West Ham kit teamed a deliciously deep claret with the cleanser of sky-blue arms. A balm for the eyes.
Everton's away strip, 1997-98
Howard Kendall's Toffees came 17th in the Premier League in the 1997-98 season, and you can see why. If the players weren't too ashamed to be wearing their bee-like monstrosities, they probably couldn't bear looking at one another to pick out a pass.
It's the red stripe that does it. The vertical badge of honour, the suggestion of the Blood of England running through the crest and through the players that gets the tub-thumping heart going. In-Ger-Land! What do you mean, out in the quarters of the World Cup? We didn't even get to the semis? What a rubbish shirt …
Bradford City's away strip, 2012-13
Yes, they're the fairy-tale team. Yes, they've got to Wembley to play the League Cup final, or whatever it's called these days. Yes, their away kit is an abomination. Gold and black stripes that look like interference on your telly – no wonder Villa couldn't pick them up in the box.
There's a marvellous animated gif out there showing the Arsenal manager failing time and again to get his hands in his pockets – proof, perhaps, of his reluctance to shell out for any new players, but really just highlighting the tremendous knee-length Puffa that makes him look like a corrugated Jabba the Hutt.
When the Special One arrived on these shores, he brought with him an Armani coat that spelled out his ambition to be just that little bit better than everyone else. No wonder he thought he was above the law. Nice shmutter, mind.
Big Mal was one of this country's more flamboyant characters of the 1970s, which is saying something. The fur collar was there for warmth, but combine it with a cigar and a fedora, well … Did someone call for Shaft? You're damn right.
The World Cup-winning manager was notoriously strict with his players, and made sure no one felt like a star, even if they were one. Which included himself. Which explained the tracksuit. Not exactly slim fit, was it?
The legendary Sir Alex has taken to teaming his legendary red nose with a beany in winter. Cosy, no? And perfect for a pensioner.
Not content with wearing the hair on his head in styles ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog centre-strip to Celtic patterns buzz-cut in blond and black, the former Liverpool, Sunderland and QPR striker, above right, now brings his creative spirit to bear on a beard, moustache and sideburns. Styles change as often as his clubs, but his art is lost to us while he spends the rest of the season on loan at the Qatari club Al Gharafa.
In a career of extremes, the one-time Liverpool and Everton defender's hairy high point came while playing for Portugal at the 2000 European Championships. His altercation with a referee over a disputed penalty earned him a six-month ban but also gave TV viewers ample opportunity to study that look: half Hair Bear Bunch, half Old Man and the Sea.
It is a sad sign of the times that while you'd be hard pressed to name one player with a debonair moustache in today's Premier League, Liverpool sides of the 1980s could, at various times, boast Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, Terry McDermott and Mark Lawrenson. They won a lot. The current team has no hairy upper lips and has won nothing. You do the math.
There was and still is genuine affection for the Arsenal and England goalkeeper they nicknamed "Spunky", presumably owing to his surname rather than any resemblance to a 1970s porn actor. The 'tache was bad, but then, suddenly, Seaman decided to twin said facial hair with a limp, unlustrous pony tail. Like an anti-Samson, he never seemed quite as unbeatable again.
The glorious thing about Osgood's sideburns was that – after a youthful spell as a Bill Sikes lookalike – as time went on it became less and less clear where the hair on the side of his head ended and the 'burns began. The king of the King's Road and 1970s scruffy chic.
Oh, Andriy, the shell suit was the Koppite uniform mid-1980s, not the late Noughties. The Ukrainian ponytail was dedicated to the polyester perversions during his two years at Anfield, though at least it meant he shone in at least one thing he did.
Sol means sun, so the Big Man was obviously thinking of the burning bright stuff when he donned his 'loons in 2008. They're big, so they'll be wafty and cool, right? Cool like Ali Baba's bloomers. Not cool like, y'know, something actually cool.
Sarong, so right. It's hard to think of another footballer … check that, of another hunka burnin' love who could wear a dress quite so casually as Becks did in 1998. He was ridiculed at the time, but he started a trend for the wraparounds (for women, anyway).
"Hot pants, hey, hot pants, uh – smokin'." That's what James Brown thought. Probably not of Ronaldo, but it's hard to disagree when the Portuguese speedster teamed the silver shorts with a pink T-shirt. This was daring stuff. "That's where it's at, that's where it's at." Too right, James. Don't know why it hasn't caught on.
Typical Swede – no body issues. Amazing how they have no problem putting their bits out there. Which meant the Arsenal winger gave nary a second thought to modelling Calvin Klein's undercrackers, even if he was splashed all over billboards. Let's be glad no one ever asked fellow Scandi Jan Molby to do it.
Strike a Pose: Fifty Years of Football & Fashion is at the National Football Museum (nationalfootballmuseum.com) from Friday to 27 August
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