If you’re a lover of soccer and fashion, as well as witty but accurate critiques, Simon Doonan’s upcoming book will be the perfect addition to your summer reading list. Soccer Style: The Magic and Madness is an ode to Doonan’s lifelong passions for both style and “football,” and it’s full of his signature sharp humor that will have you cracking up. This book provides hilarious observations with more than 230 photos chronicling soccer culture through the lens of style, looking to its players (including David Beckham), managers, and WAGs.
The book is now available in store and on barneys.com. Plus, join Simon Doonan at Barneys New York Downtown on Wednesday, June 13, 6 to 8 p.m. for a book signing and our celebration of Pride!
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is under way. In an excerpt from his new book, Doonan guides us through the soccer/fashion landscape. Read below!
The Style Tribes of Soccer.
By Simon Doonan
Today’s soccer players are the most fashionable, style-obsessed sportsmen in history. Possessed of a natural elegance, these wiry young studs – Salah, Ramos, Giroud, Piqué, Sánchez, Ramsey, Sturridge, Sterling, Bale, Agüero et al. – are the perfect canvas for today’s retro biker leathers and nut-mangling jeans.
Not only do the lads have the requisite build, but they also dig it, big time. Whether from Nigeria, Bahia or Essex, today’s soccer stars are unapologetically fashion-addicted. And, God bless ’em, they pay full retail. Why? Because they can! Clubs spend recklessly on players, and players in turn spend recklessly on … everything! These overpaid peacocks feed the fashion economy.
The cash-rich soccer/fashion landscape has never been more entertainingly chaotic than it is today. Is there anything, you are tempted to ask, that these pampered popinjays will not throw on their bodies? Closer examination reveals that distinct categories are in play. Today’s fashionable players fall into five principal teams: the Good Taste Ambassadors, the Label Kings, the Psychedelic Ninjas, the Hired Assassins and, finally, the Bohemians and Fauxhemians. Allow me to guide you through the magic and madness of these fashion squads.
The Good Taste Ambassadors
Not every successful player drives around in a mink-lined glow-in-the-dark Lamborghini, wearing a skin-tight leopard jumpsuit while jangling man-jewelry from every limb. There is a large and significant group of players who are actively rebelling against all the clichéd notions of flashy dressing and conspicuous consumption. For every Elvis there is a Duke of Windsor. For every unhinged spendaholic there is a Good Taste Ambassador. Examples include Steven Gerrard MBE, Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, Harry Kane and Chelsea’s new golden boy Alvaro Morata. The latter dresses with the classy restraint of a Spanish aristo.
The ne plus ultra of Good Taste Ambassadors is surely former Bayern Munich central midfielder Xabi Alonso. Like many members of this conventional tribe, Xabi is vocal about his aversion to bling, stating, ‘I don’t wear earrings and necklaces. The only piece of jewelry I wear is a watch.’ According to Spanish newspaper MARCA, Signor Alonso is so elegant, ‘he could even play in a suit and tie’.
There is one key reason why a particular player might retreat from the I-just-won-the-lottery world of high-priced designer flash and elect to become a Good Taste Ambassador: The player is reaching the end of his career and is desperate to be perceived as a bloke who is now ready for future big-boy opportunities – as a manager, a pundit or a full-blown brand. Nobody is going to hire you to shill their cars/ watches/health-food drinks if you skip about all Gangnam style, goes the line of thinking.
The Label Kings
When players arrive at or leave the stadium they are expected to display an air of focused militaristic neatness. Wear your blazer. No goofy hats or gangsta shades. But soccer players being soccer players, they will always find a way to fly their fashion flag. The result? A blinding cavalcade of logo’d designer washbags, wheelies, backpacks and travel accouterments. Enter the Label Kings.
Cristiano Ronaldo snoozes on his private plane under Hermès H blankets. Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge keeps his eye creams in a $1000 Goyard designer washbag. Even Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy crams his personal effects into an MCM studded and monogrammed backpack.
I do not regard the phrase ‘Label King’ as an insult. Au contraire, Label Kings are a force for good. While pampered red-carpet celebs whine for freebies and discounts on designer clothing, Label King players are happy to splurge on Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balmain. They feed the fashion economy. Long live the Label Kings, regardless of which label they wear.
The Psychedelic Ninjas
Psychedelic Ninjas, in their studded Fendi leather jackets, jaunty chapeaux and Comme des Garçons manblouses, are avant-garde extremists who push the boundaries of convention. One thing they all have in common is a commendable disregard for the opinions of others. Examples include Djibril Cissé, Roberto Firmino, Paul Pogba, Neymar and, my personal favorite, Dani Alves.
Formerly of Barcelona and now playing for PSG, Brazilian national Dani Alves is, in European competitions, the second most decorated player of all time (Maldini was top). You name it – the World Cup, the UEFA Champions League – and Ninja Dani has won it. When you are as mind-blowingly accomplished as he undoubtedly is, you have carte blanche to let your freak flag fly. And he does. Alves’s taboo-busting approach to fashion is the gift that keeps on giving. No amount of social media blowback inhibits his fearless style choices.
In conclusion, Psychedelic Ninjas are unconventional style provocateurs, life-enhancing individuals who make the world of soccer a more interesting place. Dressing insanely is a fundamental human right. Long live the Psychedelic Ninjas.
The Hired Assassins
The Hired Assassin look is lean, mean, scrappy, edgy, and screams ‘rough trade’. Wall-to-wall tattoos, sanded denims, worn leather – it’s dressing like you’re Jason Statham in a Crank movie. There is a whiff of sadism in those filthy Rag & Bone jeans, John Varvatos cargo pants and Off-White hoodies. It’s a combo of high voltage and high function. Navy and black are the Assassin colors. Trainers? Black or blinding white.
Why are today’s players, blokes who could presumably afford to buy the most outré designer fashion, opting for the somewhat grim and understated Hired Assassin look in such overwhelming numbers? Players – everyone from Fabregas to Dele Alli – gravitate towards the Hired Assassin look because it is unimpeachable and hater-immune. Psychedelic Ninjas are an easy target for social media, but nobody messes with a Hired Assassin.
Bohemians and Fauxhemians
In the past, soccer players had zero access to cool culture or groovy music. On the bus they were forced to listen to Tony Bennett, or whatever selection the boss dictated via the speaker system. Yes, they rubbed shoulders with celebs, but they were more likely to find themselves hanging out with Beauty contestants than with Iggy Pop or the New York Dolls.
In recent years there has been a shift: not exactly a full-length embroidered burlap Mamas & the Papas muumuu, but a shift nonetheless. Players, for example, are sprouting hipster beards. (See Olivier Giroud.) But most days it’s hard to tell which way the wind is blowing. Contemporary culture has become so vast and chaotic that nobody can quite keep track of what it means to be ‘alternative’ any more. Do Tim Howard’s bald head and beard make him edgy? Are Sanskrit tattoos the sign of an Essex bad-boy or a Brooklyn boho? Are hard-core hooligans allowed to drink organic brews?
In the meantime those seeking more soccer hipsters should probably focus on North America’s MLS (Major League Soccer). Oblivious to the Euro-soccer culture of Ferraris and oversized watches, US players enjoy a much looser relationship with hipsterism. The epicenter of grungy Stateside bohemia resides with the Portland Timbers, whose woodsy crest is adorned with a heart-warming giant axe. The crunchy, bearded hipness of the Timbers knows no bounds: a tree is planted for every goal scored and stadium refreshments include barbecued-tofu sandwiches, spinach salads and chocolate-covered bacon. Bon appetit!
And while we are on the subject of the USA, lets spare a thought for our brave boys who failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia, and send them positive vibes for 2022. See you in Qatar.
Excerpted from SOCCER STYLE: The Magic and Madness by Simon Doonan Copyright © 2018 by Simon Doonan. Excerpted by permission of Laurence King Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Published in the UK as, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER PITCH: The Magic and Madness of Football Style.