During the week I reached out to Simon Doonan of Barneys in New York, who has brought out a book on footballer style,, detailing the Psychedelic Ninjas and Hired Assassins of soccer fashion, of which more anon.
Why, Simon, are soccer players more fashionable than, say, rugby players?
“The roots of footie are in the British working class,” he told me.
“It has a long tradition of spiffy dressing going back to the post-war teds and mods. Rugby is more of a middle-class game, where men dressing-up is looked upon as flashy or superficial.
“Also football players with their wiry physiques look much better in clothes: rugby players are more burly and stretch all the seams on a tailored jacket.”
After a nod to Conor McGregor and Lester Pigott’s style, he pondered his top non-soccer fashion plate: “Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma Thunder,” was the immediate response. “He is fly.”
Just off the soccer field, Doonan relates managerial fashion choices relating to personality:
“Bob Paisley, one of the greatest managers of all time, always wore a tracksuit and it suited his no-frills old-school approach and personality.
“Pep Guardiola is a European fashion plate. Last season, as his team soared, he ditched the tailored clothing for a more sport-casual look. Trust me, if Man City have a bad season he will be back in those spiffy suits before you can say ‘Viva Espana!’”
Take us from the field to the street: is a sporting top ever acceptable in a non-sporting social context?
“This is the biggest revolution in menswear in recent years: everywhere you look guys are integrating the coolest football jerseys, new or vintage, into their street-style hipster looks.
The must-have fashion accessory right now for stylish lads around the globe is a Nigerian shirt. In the old days only a hard-core fan wore a jersey: now wearing a jersey means you are a hip bloke who has a global perspective.
“Any football jersey can be incorporated into a cool outfit. Vintage ones are especially fierce. There is a great book - apart from mine! - called- feast your eyes. You will not believe the colour combos and wacky designs.”
Well, I’m fond of that white France change strip, but never mind.
Doonan’s Mum came from Belfast so it’s hardly a shock that his all-time footballer-fashion icon is George Best (“I remember visiting his boutique in Manchester, and his nightclub which was called ‘Slack Alice; what a name!”) but this is by way of a preamble.
Psychedelic ninjas and hired assassins. What does it all mean?
“As I was writing my book I realised that the players have very different approaches to style,” says Doonan.
“They basically fall into five style squads, and each one is totally valid:
“One, the Psychedelic Ninjas - Neymar, Pogba, Alves - these fearless guys wear avant-garde crazy clothes and they love to shock.
“I am a fan. You’re young and rich and crazy, so why not rock an eccentric outfit, a rad haircut and some extreme ink?
After all, David Beckham, the patron saint of Soccer Style, wore a sarong when he was young.”
David Beckham rocked a sarong back in the day too. pic.twitter.com/HCkbtitj4o— Steve Smith (@stevesmithffx) August 30, 2017
Okay, tone it down for me.
“Category two, the Good Taste Ambassadors - think Harry Kane - these guys are classic and avoid sartorial controversy. Many players opt for this look as they get older to show that they are more mature and ready for post-retirement opportunities.
“Three, the Hired Assassins - Antoine Griezman, Cesc Fabregas - they love a black hoodie and a ripped black jean and try as hard as possible to dress like sinister hit-men. They love to intimidate.
“Four, the Label Kings - paging Cristiano Ronaldo! - these guys love a Louis Vuitton wheelie and a Gucci washbag. This is probably the largest group.
“Last, the Bohemians and Fauxhemians, they wear beards and sport Sanskrit tattoos. Think Olivier Giroud. This group is small but growing.
“I first noticed them when Andy Carroll of West Ham threw on his wellies and headed to Glastonbury.”
Coming soon: Simon Doonan on the style tribes of the GAA?
Hall ran out of reasons
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge— Poets.org (@POETSorg) June 24, 2018
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
—Donald Hall (1928 - 2018), Rest in Peace https://t.co/sYxEJBVfhT
Sad to see the departure of Donald Hall last week, though at 89 the great American poet enjoyed a fair innings (see what I did there?).
I first encountered Hall not in the pages of a slim literary magazine but in Ken Burns’s documentary series; I admired his brisk dismissal of an interview question about American poets and their interest in baseball.
“Back in the 1980s a magazine asked me to write a piece about why American poets like baseball. I made something up and they published it.
“Almost immediately another editor asked me to write a piece on the same subject. So I made up another reason. A third time I made up a third reason.
“When the fourth editor asked me, I couldn’t think of yet another reason.”
Pressing need for more than prayers
I was going to say those in thenewspaper in Maryland were in my thoughts today, after several members of staff were shot dead there last week, but I saw the spiky remarks of one of its reporters, Selene San Felice.
“I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers.
“Our whole lives have been shattered, and so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a f--- about them if there’s nothing else.”
San Felice was absolutely correct to call out the meaningless bromides offered by American politicians, particularly how some of them have acted as agents provocateurs in attacking the press.
You know who I mean.
Why did Kildare cause get personal?
I won’t dwell on the Kildare GAA stand-off, which has had its bones picked pretty clean.
Apart from saying (Isn’t this dwelling? - everyone) that the standard of GAA debate looks as low as ever.
You know it’s a GAA argument by one simple metric, the speed with which the ad hominem arguments come out.
Within minutes of the initial problem being formulated the man was being played in every part of the field.
Attacks on the GAA officials in Croke Park, on the spokespeople representing views on both sides of the debate, attacks on Kildare for their facilities, on Mayo for not rushing to the barricades.
The fact that the issue was pretty cut-and-dried meant the chops down across the knuckles didn’t go on for too long.
But the next time there’s a debate which is less clear, or which takes longer to resolve, the personal stuff may go on for longer.
It’s a false argument to try the old ‘well, people are so passionate about their county/team/sport’ line; even if you allow for a certain amount of venting early on, a rational discussion is always the best option.
Pointing the finger may play well to the gallery, or your social media echo chamber, but grown-ups know that a solution is always the target, not virtue-signalling, or just aligning yourself with the cause du jour.