Brazil vs Chile World Cup 2014: Blond ambition of Neymar, dyeing for further success

Bellos on Brazil

His feet may have been crucial to his performance at this World Cup, but let’s not forget his boots, his hair and his underpants. Ever since he turned professional aged 17, Neymar has been a trendsetter as well as a football star.

So far in this tournament, it’s been new game, new look. Against Mexico he dyed his fringe blond. Against Cameroon he was wearing a pair of briefs with a design inspired by the Brazilian flag. And against Chile yesterday he debuted a special-edition, extra-shiny, golden boot.

“We’ve not seen a player like him on or off the pitch for years,” says Daniela Falcao, editor of Brazilian Vogue. “He is different. Not just because of the way he plays but because of who he is. You might think his style is tacky, or that it is too young. But he’s the guy right now. His image is the freshest thing out there.”

When Neymar started playing at Santos, heads turned because of the way he played and because of how he looked. He ran fearlessly round defenders, used dribbles and tricks and scored dazzling goals. His cockiness was also evident by a cartoonish Mohican, which he then dyed blond to make it stand out more, and the way he liked to wear his collar turned up. It sent a message: I’m daring, creative, the star.

His football and his fashion made him a celebrity, and he thrived on the attention. He launched dance crazes based on his goal celebrations. As he changed his hairstyles, children copied him the length and breadth of Brazil. He has managed to be both ostentatious – constantly posting selfies on social media – while simultaneously projecting the image of the charming boy next door.

Falcao says you can’t separate Neymar the footballer from Neymar the public figure because he exudes an informal, warm, playful Brazilian-ness in everything he does. “He is the same person playing football as he is when he not playing football. He’s always smiling, in a good mood, never moody or hot-headed. He is enchanting and natural. He’s got this authenticity, and it’s a long time that we have had a top footballer like that.”

His easy-going manner has been evident over the past month. As Brazil’s only outstanding player during a home World Cup, possibly no other footballer has had as much pressure on his shoulders, yet his behaviour has been as relaxed and irreverent as it always is.

The richer and more famous Neymar has become, his fashion tastes do not seem to have changed. Sure, his accessories – the diamond earrings, the crucifixes, the sunglasses – are more expensive, but he has not become an international metrosexual, the type to wear designer suits and overly coiffeured hair. He prefers jeans and T-shirts, with flashes of bling. When Mario Testino shot him with supermodel Gisele Bündchen for the current cover of Brazilian Vogue, he turned down one of the industry’s top stylists and instead did his own hair in a few minutes. And he dyed it himself at Brazil’s training camp two weeks ago rather than getting a hairdresser to do it for him.

“Neymar’s hair started as a joke, but now no one thinks it is silly any more,” says Falcao . “He has broken with the paradigm of the excessively vain player, someone like David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo. He knows he isn’t handsome like a model but he has the style that everyone now wants to copy because of his naturalness.”

Neymar has his own line of Nike clothes, his own label, NJR, and a partnership with Brazilian outlet Rock & Soda Jeans. One of his many personal sponsors is Lupo, a Brazilian underwear company, for whom he led a campaign selling “lucky undies” shortly before the World Cup.

His love of showing off, however, has got him into trouble. During Barcelona’s 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the Champions’ League quarter final earlier this year, he held up his shirt at least five times to reveal branded Lupo underpants. He was criticised at home for giving the impression that he was more concerned with pleasing his sponsors than winning the game.

The blue, green and yellow briefs he wore last week against Cameroon were seen by millions of television viewers when he was readjusting his shorts in the tunnel as he returned for the second half. They had no visible brand, but were recognized instantly by staff at Blue Man, a Rio fashion label, who had sent a pair to every member of the national team on spec.

His boots yesterday were intended to look like they had been spray-painted gold. He explained on social media that this was because when he was a child he once sprayed his boots gold and white to look like those of Robinho, his idol at the time: “I used two cans of paint, hahaha, but at the end of the game they were black once again.”

We can be confident Neymar will score more goals this tournament, and some fashion ones too.

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