In the modern world, footballers are everywhere. From adverts for shampoo to underwear, the game’s biggest stars are in demand for the draw they command the world over. Those at the top of the game have the power to make enormous sums of money from lucrative advertising deals, with superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Paul Pogba associated with a wide variety of luxury brands.
It was a trend that began in the 1960s, albeit in a rather more ___ environment, with Manchester United’s George Best undoubtedly the player most influential in the world of fashion.
Widely credited with being sport’s first genuine celebrity, the Northern Irishman had a champagne lifestyle away from the field. Indeed, so important was he to culture at the time, he became known as ‘El Beatle’ due to the ubiquity that he enjoyed along with The Beatles, who were transforming the world of pop music at the time and remain arguably the most influential band ever.
Of course, Best’s fame rose primarily because of his excellence on the pitch, which helped United win their first European Cup in 1968. He did not stand alone, with Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore among the most fashion-conscious footballers, and the trail was now blazed for footballers to become style icons. Football’s dominant trend of the 1970s was the perm, and no-one epitomised the haircut quite like Kevin Keegan. A two-time Ballon d’Or winner while playing in the Bundesliga with Hamburg, it was with the great Liverpool side of the decade that he made his name, leading them to the 1977 European Cup.
He was as eye-catching away from the field as he was on it due to his iconic haircut.
Into the 1980s, it was the mullet and New Romantic style that took hold, with the game’s best players again happy to adopt the trend of the day. England stars Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle are both remembered for sporting the haircut has they released two singles in a bid to become pop stars. Perhaps the greatest fashion icon of the time in England was Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas, who is now best known for his punditry role on Sky Sport’s Soccer Saturday. ‘Champagne Charlie’ as he was known for his fast living away from the field, even appeared on the cover of NME.
When the game mushroomed in popularity in the 90s, there was a similar explosion in footballing fashion. Liverpool had their ‘Spice Boys’ - Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, named after the Spice Girls pop group – and unforgettably wore cream Giorgio Armani suits before the 1996 FA Cup final, but the decade also produced the football fashion icon to end them all.
David Beckham, with his good looks, wealth of talent and celebrity girlfriend in Victoria Adams – one of the real Spice Girls – instantly became the game’s most marketable player when he burst onto the scene by scoring against Wimbledon from his own half.
‘Becks’ transformed his look successfully throughout his career, often going with daring fashion choices and laying the blueprint for all those who have since followed in his path.
Today’s superstars are keeping football’s close association with fashion going. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, has his own brand of clothing, while other leading stars like Neymar and Paul Pogba are happy to mediatise their love of style. It is one trend that is set to continue forever.