The Five Most Stylish Men Of Football’s Golden Age
Mr George Best in London, 29 July 1968. Photograph by Mr Ian Tyas/Keystone/Getty Images
How the likes of Messrs George Best and Bobby Moore changed the way we dressed – beyond the stadium terraces.
The soccer stars of today take great care in the way they present themselves. Consider the natty beard and sprezzatura of Mr Andrea Pirlo; the ever-developing tattoos and hairstyles of Mr David Beckham; the salt-and-pepper stubble and luxury knits of Mr Pep Guardiola. It would be easy to assume this is a modern obsession, but a good look has been important to players and managers from the get-go.
Take, for example, Mr Ned Doig, goalkeeper in Sunderland’s title-winning team of 1892, who was so worried about his receding hairline that he’d take to the field wearing a cap attached with a strap under his chin. Whenever the wind blew it off, he'd race after it, even if the opposition was heading towards his goal. Or how about Mr Hughie Gallacher, the absurdly talented Newcastle and Chelsea winger, often spotted zig-zagging down London's famous King’s Road during the early 1930s in a refreshed and emotional state, yet never less than resplendent in a well-cut pinstriped three-piece.
In fact, some of the greatest style statements in the sport were made in the pre-Premier League era, which stretched from 1888 to 1992. I should know – it’s a period I’ve covered comprehensively in my new book, The Title: The Story of the First Division (Bloomsbury). Of course, during these years, there were some men who particularly stand out for their sartorial chops. Scroll down to discover five of them.
01. Mr George Best
Mr George Best at home in Manchester, May 1968. Photograph by Mirrorpix
Mr George Best was the star turn of the Manchester United side that won the English Football League in 1965 and 1967, then landed the European Cup in 1968, the bittersweet denouement to a journey his manager Mr Matt Busby had begin a decade earlier with the ill-fated Busby Babes. But he was also well-known for his personal style, and was even dubbed “the fifth Beatle” thanks to his fusion of world-class talent and mop-top hair. And the fact that girls would squeal with delirium wherever he went. World football’s first fashion icon – Merseybeat suits and Chelsea boots (sorry, Manchester) and surely the only Belfast boy who has ever carried off a sombrero – he opened several fashion boutiques during the swinging Sixties, doing a brisk trade in the latest silk scarves and corded belts.
02. Mr Laurie Cunningham
Mr Laurie Cunningham, c.1977. Photograph by Mr Ronald Spencer/ANL/REX Shutterstock
The West Bromwich Albion side of the late 1970s was the first in English football with a significant black presence. Their free-flowing brilliance rammed the jeers back down the throats of the more bigoted fans, while charming the majority with their relentless attack. Mr Laurie Cunningham was the supreme talent, and his electric wing-play nearly inspired West Brom to the title in 1979. After that close miss, he left for European giants Real Madrid, and immediately won the league in Spain. He was one of the sharpest wide men in English football history, with flying collars to match. A regular in the boutiques of the King’s Road from an early age, Mr Cunningham would cut a dash in a fedora, kipper tie and Oxford bags, a London lad with northern soul.
03. Mr Bobby Moore
Mr Bobby Moore at Upton Park, February 1970. Photograph by Mirrorpix
Mr Bobby Moore remains England’s greatest icon, the effortlessly brilliant captain of their 1966 World Cup winning side. Immaculate, assured, almost regal, he would orchestrate games from the back with an insouciant swagger, spraying glorious passes hither and yon, not so much evading challenges as ignoring them. Rarely would you see him with a speck of mud on his pristine white England shirt. His commitment to looking slick knew no bounds: he invested in a leather coat business, going so far as to design a few pieces himself, and would arrange the knitwear in his wardrobe from light to dark. That his club side, West Ham United, never came anywhere near winning a league title is one of history’s glorious quirks. It doesn't really matter, though: Mr Moore, soccer’s handsome, statuesque, brooding answer to Mr Steve McQueen, is immortalised in bronze outside Wembley Stadium, the scene of England's greatest triumph.
04. Mr Danny Blanchflower
Mr Danny Blanchflower, October 1954. Photograph by Keystone/Getty Images
England was still a post-war hellhole at the start of the 1960s, but one team exuded a glamour out of keeping with the times. Tottenham Hotspur romped exhilaratingly to the league and FA Cup double in 1961, the first team to win both trophies in the same year since Aston Villa in 1897. They scored 115 goals in the league that season, and their play was beguiling enough to attract Hollywood superstar fans in Ms Jayne Mansfield and her husband Mr Mickey Hargitay, the 1955 Mr Universe. That sort of celebrity endorsement was simply unknown in England at the time. The heart and brains of the side was Mr Danny Blanchflower, who transmitted a detached, intellectual supercool – demonstrated here in 1954, rocking a cardigan-and-tie look the Beatles would revisit in 1963 – and provided the game with its finest quote: “The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” He also found fame by becoming the first person to tell BBC television’s This Is Your Life to do one.
05. Mr Malcolm Allison
Mr Malcolm Allison at Stamford Bridge (where Crystal Palace beat Chelsea 3-2 in the FA Cup), 14 February 1976. Photograph by Central Press/Getty Images
Mr Allison was the manager and tactical guru behind Manchester City’s title win of 1968. Having won the league, he ran his mouth off ahead of City’s upcoming European Cup campaign: “I think a lot of these foreign people are cowards. I promise you City will attack these people as they haven’t been attacked since the old Real Madrid.” Sure enough, his side were knocked out in the first round by Fenerbahçe of Turkey, in those days a footballing backwater. Mr Allison then scuppered City’s 1972 title bid by signing mercurial forward Mr Rodney Marsh during the run-in, a move that unbalanced the team and led to their form going south. It’s fair to say he was a flawed genius. But a genius nonetheless. Because let’s face it, you have to be a little bit special to pull off the look of a hipster pimp: fedora at a jaunty angle, fur-lined coat draped around the shoulders, a Montecristo blazing away. Mr Allison pulled it off all right. There’ll never be another.