Lessons From Football’s Most Stylish Managers
From Mr Zinédine Zidane to Mr Pep Guardiola, a coaching session in touchline fashion
Mr Zinédine Zidane, Madrid, January 2016. Photograph by Mr Denis Doyle/Getty Images
At this time of year, voting is under way to decide the players and managers of the season. Around the MR PORTER water cooler, we’ve been doing something similar – only we’ve been rating the managers in terms of style.
At football’s highest level, there is a camera trained on the technical area at all times in order to capture a manager’s every reaction. Given how much screen time they get, you’d think they’d make every effort to scrub up. But, if you’ll forgive us a moment of brutally honest punditry, most of them put the sartorial gaffe in gaffer.
There are a select few, however, who are at the top of their sartorial game and ought to be commended. First of all, let’s quickly acknowledge the nearly men who just missed out on this year’s shortlist. Sorry, Messrs Jürgen Klopp and Diego Simeone. Better luck next season. And while the hitherto suave Mr José Mourinho seems to have been in something of a sartorial slump for the past two seasons, he’ll no doubt be back.
Now without further ado, we present a highlights package of the top, top nominees competing for this season’s best dressed manager award.
Mr Zinédine Zidane, 45, Real Madrid
Mr Zinédine Zidane, Manchester, April 2016. Photograph by Mr Phil Noble/Action Images
Mr Zinédine Zidane was arguably the finest, most elegant, commanding and intelligent player of his generation. (There is a surprisingly watchable documentary, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which does nothing but follow his balletic movements during a La Liga match.) But with 14 red cards in his career – most notably for a chest butt in the 2006 World Cup final – he was also a hot-head. So, it is remarkable that Mr Zidane has kept such a cool head as manager of Real Madrid, whose president likes to fire people more often than Lord Alan Sugar and President Donald Trump put together. With his chiselled features, Mr Zidane looks like a statue of himself (unlike his talisman Mr Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks nothing like his). The famously bald 45-year-old Frenchman is no stranger to the world of fashion, having modelled for Y-3, Louis Vuitton and Spanish fast-fashion brand Mango. He keeps himself trim, which means he looks equally comfortable in training apparel as he does in managerial suit and overcoat. As a coach, he has made Real Madrid more efficient and encouraged their strong sense of togetherness. You could argue there is a parallel to be drawn with Mr Zidane’s sense of personal style. Whether dressed casually or formally, he sticks to a tried and tested game plan of navy, grey or black. It works, although no one would have the guts to tell him if it didn’t. Not even club president Mr Florentino Pérez.
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Mr Joachim Löw, 58, Germany
Mr Joachim Löw, Marseille, July 2016. Photograph by Mr Lars Baron/Getty Images
The youthful German team Mr Joachim Löw oversees is a footballing rarity – a unit of technical excellence that is also interesting to watch. The same is true of the manager’s dress sense. In theory, it is simple and predictable – he usually wears a slim-fit white or navy dress shirt, or a V-neck cashmere sweater in black or navy, controversially without anything underneath – but somehow it comes together as a more expansive whole. Pictured here, Mr Löw exudes an effortless grasp of normcore smart-casual. Not pictured here, his coaching staff, who usually turn up in the same outfit as their manager, like a dugout Kraftwerk. Add to that the Mr-Thurston-Moore-formerly-of-Sonic-Youth haircut – which is suspiciously free of grey for a 58-year-old, don’t you think? – and you have one subversively rock ’n’ roll gaffer. And as the German head coach proves, building a complete team from simple but strong pieces often makes for a winning look.
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Mr Mauricio Pochettino, 46, Tottenham Hotspur
Mr Mauricio Pochettino, Monaco, November 2016. Photograph by Mr Kieran McManus/REX Shutterstock
A surprising selection on this list, perhaps, but Mr Mauricio Pochettino has come a long way in a short time and is clearly one to watch. During Mr Pochettino’s season and a half as manager of Southampton, the former Argentina defender addressed the British press only through a translator. But for his English-speaking audience, his appearance told us everything we needed to know: here was a man who meant business. The high-pressing, confrontational and, contrary to his role as a player, attacking game he favours as manager of Tottenham Hotspur is backed up with a statesman-like wardrobe of sharply tailored suits to flatter his recently slimmed-down frame, here embellished with an open shirt collar, midnight-blue sweater and Aquascutum raincoat. Not one to waver from a style that works, the 46-year-old wears the exact same black jacket, crisp white shirt and black tie every time he is asked to pose for a player’s contract renewal at Spurs – his signature look, you could say. (Although when midfielder Mr Christian Eriksen signed on the dotted line, his boss was sporting tracksuit bottoms out of shot, under the desk. What does that mean? It’s open to interpretation.)
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Mr Quique Sánchez Flores, 53, RCD Espanyol
Mr Quique Sánchez Flores, Barcelona, October 2016. Photograph by Mr Bagu Blanco/REX Shutterstock
These days, football managers generally fall into one of two camps: they either wear a suit (tactical genius) or a tracksuit (charismatic man manager). That’s it. But Mr Quique Sánchez Flores has found a third way. Not yet a household name, he has brought his own brand of panache to some of the game’s less fashionable clubs, notably Watford in 2016. While other managers prowl the technical area in garishly branded training kit or a club-crested suit, Mr Flores has adopted a calm and considered no-logo policy. With his salt-and-pepper beard and louche wavy hair, the 53-year-old seems to improve with age and these days looks like a cross between Messrs Hugh Laurie and Devendra Banhart. Currently the coach of RCD Espanyol in Spain, he keeps in fine fettle thanks to a long-distance running regime. As a result, he wears clothes well. On the pitch, he is all about structure and organisation, but when it comes to his wardrobe he prefers playing with a more relaxed formation. He’s a particular fan of “jardigans” (knitted blazers that are half jacket, half cardigan), such as this double-breasted number. He often wears these with a tonal T-shirt and chinos or jeans, a nonchalantly looped scarf and minimal leather sneakers. Olé!
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Mr Pep Guardiola, 47, Manchester City
Mr Pep Guardiola, Huddersfield, February 2017. Photograph by Mr Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
No sartorial shortlist would be complete without Manchester City’s debonair leader, Mr Pep Guardiola, who has been regarded as the world’s most stylish manager since his rule at Barcelona. The kohl-eyed Catalan continues to dominate the league of elegance in the Premiership just as his team has, but he hasn’t changed his look in a while and might consider freshening up his tactics. Just as his signature intricate style of Spanish possession-based interplay – tiki-taka – is in danger of being superseded by the more dynamic and in vogue high press (aka the Germanic gegenpressing) favoured by Spurs and Liverpool, so touchline fashions have moved on, too. The bald and bestubbled 47-year-old invariably looks the part in slim-fitting suits, often worn with a form-fitting fine-gauge V-neck knit, tie schoolboyishly askew. He has also been known to wear a rollneck with a suit, enjoys retro sneakers and has a natty European way with a scarf. However, sometimes his tailoring just looks uncomfortably snug. Most notably, during that Champions League match in 2015 while in charge of Bayern Munich (who beat Porto 6-1) when he embarrassingly split his suit trousers after getting a little too animated on the touchline. Given the tightness of the tailoring, his insistence on wearing a belt with his suits is even more perplexing. A properly tailored suit should not require one. Final warning, Mr Guardiola. One more and you’re getting a yellow card. Glad we had this pep talk.
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Mr Paul Tisdale, 45, Exeter City
Mr Paul Tisdale, Swindon, April 2010. Photograph by Mr Stephen Pond/Press Association Images
With departure of Arsenal’s Mr Arsène Wenger now imminent, lowly Exeter City’s Mr Paul Tisdale is set to become English football’s longest-serving manager. He’ll clock up 12 years in the job come June. Impressive though that is, this lower-league manager is more famous for his self-styled “very English, slightly eccentric” dress sense. Dubbed “the most stylish man in football”, he has been likened to everything from an “organic greengrocer from Shoreditch” to a “country squire” and a “French cinema critic”. He believes his look – often a tweed jacket, flat cap and cravat – gives him a psychological edge over his opposite number. “I’m not speaking out of turn, but we walk out the tunnel and I’ve made an effort and I’ve got some belief in how I’m presenting myself,” he told The Guardian. “You look in the technical area next to me and I feel one-nil up already – he’s got his tracksuit bottoms tucked into his socks.” Much as we admire Mr Tisdale for his brave sartorial choices on the touchline, he does occasionally step over it. The 45-year-old manager is a wearer of many hats at Exeter, both figuratively and literally. He has a wide selection to choose from to protect his bald head from the elements, but his pork-pie hat is perhaps one that should be left in the dressing room. The only pork pie that should be seen at a football ground is best served with a half-time mug of Bovril.
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