The Vagaries of Managerial Fashion

Alastair Naysmith assesses the virtues of managerial attire…

Sat behind the dug out at Deep Dale recently my eye was constantly drawn, despite the entertaining football, to the sight of Paul Cook the Chesterfield Manager prowling the touchline. He was as animated and vocal as you’d expect from a former player-turned-manager, but what stood out most of all was his attire. Here was a 47-year old man whose job it is to inspire and direct his players, dressed in the kind of ridiculously baggy shorts more commonly seen on boxers, basketball players and hanging up on Nora Batty’s washing line.

As the teams went in at half time I wondered what kind of team talk he’d have to come up with not only to inspire his team to turn around the 3-1 scoreline but also to distract them from the fact that he looked like an over-competitive Dad on Sports Day. This is the bit where I eat my words; Chesterfield came out after half time and got a commendable 3-3 draw. While it is conceivable that the comeback had as much to do with Preston’s defence showing all the resistance of a FIFA delegate being offered a bribe, as it did with their inspirational management/fashion guru, their form this season does suggests that Cook is having a good effect on his team.

In fact they finished the match in the play-off places and above Preston, whose manager was wearing merely club sweat pants and a jumper. Cook (who is obviously paying some kind of homage to a 1950s era Stanley Mathews – big shorts worn at Simon Cowell height) has obviously designed his sporty look to give the impression to his players that he’s not afraid to show them how to do it, literally if necessary, by being ready to replace them. The humiliation of being substituted for someone who looks like they could be your Dad is evidently good motivation.

The sporty spice look isn’t the way to go for all managers. Firstly you need the right physical shape to pull off the bloomers, and those that are vertically challenged risk giving the impression that the father/son dynamic with the players has been reversed. If you’re looking to impress your position and importance on those around you, nothing says power quite like a suit.

While not necessarily a sign of knowledge and intelligence (Andy Townsend frequently wears suits) no-one is in any doubt of your significance when sporting jacket and slacks. Football managers have been harnessing its powers of precedence since the game began and at the top flight, still the majority of managers have it as their costume of choice despite the risk of massive dry cleaning bills for grass stains and champagne.

Garry Monk has recently shown how important some find the choice of technical area apparel. His ascent from playing staff to management has been mirrored by his change in outfit from tracksuit whilst player-manger, to business suit now he has been given the job outright.

From Umbro to Gorgio.

There is a bit of a reverse simile here with the descent into savagery the children in Lord of The Flies experience. The school children lose their school uniforms as they become more anarchic, where as Garry has dressed smarter perhaps to distance himself from instances such as his bust up with Chico Flores. Or perhaps he’s now sponsored by Debenhams.

While the influx of foreign players and managers to the Premier League is a divisive subject, the one thing that we can surely agree on is that the latter group has brought some much needed fashion sense to benches up and down the country. Some of the older British touchline stalwarts had the look of Clint Eastwood’s Frank Horrigan from In The Line of Fire.

Sir Alex looked more like he should be working at a golf course than at the cutting edge of performance sport. Jose Mourinho might not have been the first to go designer with his managerial mode but he was the first to add style to substance and it added to his impressively intimidating persona. Here was a manager with trophies, arrogance, tactics, money to spend, and if that wasn’t enough he was good looking and well attired. Not only was he going to beat your team and make your girlfriend weak at the knees, but he also left you feeling like that kid at school who dreaded non-uniform day.

Since then up-and-coming managers have increasingly gone for garb that’s trendy as well as smart as they hope looking sharp might win them points with the players that might help buffer against any managerial deficiencies as they find their way. The players they are in charge of are notoriously fashion conscious and materialistic due to their outrageous salaries, so are no doubt impressed by a gaffer with dapper threads even if they do insist on zonal marking.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp also deserve a mention for their touchline togs. Pep has nailed the smart casual look, reminiscent of those lads at school who got away with a jumper under their blazer – smart enough to get away with breaking school rules but cool enough to get the respect of his piers. Klopp has a similarly relaxed look but blurs the line even further between smart and casual by sporting a grizzled beard and seemingly not owning a shirt with a top button (bloody hipsters!).

Fashion is of course a whimsical mistress and it doesn’t take long for cool to become… hot… or whatever the opposite of cool is. Respected managers such as Arsene Wenger (Caterpillar Jacket) and Rafa Benitez (Satan goatee) have seen their careers re-defined by questionable fashion choices. The media’s voyeuristic obsession with image and fashion has increased the scrutiny and importance of what people wear to questionable levels and most recently it has raised a question that divides football more than anything else: The Gilet…


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