Life
Life beyond style
@cristiano/Instagram / @leomessi/Instagram

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

Being a professional football player is the good life — an alternate reality of girls, fast cars, and travel where the word “no” doesn’t really exist. To sign that pro contract is to shed your mortal skin and ascend to a new realm, one in which you get what you want whenever you want it. And the best part? It’s pretty much the easiest job ever. Think about it. All you have to do is keep yourself in decent shape and kick a ball about for 90 minutes every weekend, and if you’re good, not only will you enjoy adoration the world over, but you’ll be rewarded with an annual salary that matches the GDP of a small country, too.

Or so the story goes.

The reality is slightly different. Sure, being a pro footballer is great, no doubt, but just like every other job, it’s not without its downsides. To reach the top, elite-level players put in years of work and sacrifice from a very young age, adopting an ascetic lifestyle akin to that of a Buddhist monk. As part of his training at Real Madrid, teetotal Portuguese attacker Cristiano Ronaldo trains three-to-five hours a day, five days a week, and that’s before playing two intense games per week. But when a footballer isn’t getting in shape and honing their game, filling the days can be tough. What else is there to do apart from watch daytime TV, eat Nandos, and play FIFA, exactly? The answer is obvious: shopping.

But footballers have a problem.

Put simply, away from the game many are wasteful when it comes to spending the riches at their disposal — especially when it comes to clothing. From their awful footwear choices to bizarre accessories, for a while now, we’ve observed how players at all levels make the most basic and avoidable sartorial blunders. Sure, fashion might not be a priority for everyone, but when you’re in the public eye so often, knowing how to put together a semi-respectable ’fit should be a prerequisite.

When it comes to style, footballers in the European leagues are still playing catch-up with their sporting peers in the NBA. While Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin’s fashion sense is admirable, in football right now there is no one on the level of a Nick “Swaggy P” Young or James Harden, far less a David Beckham. NBA stars have become fashion icons in their own right, even appearing on runways. In Europe, meanwhile, it was dismissed as quaint when Bellerin turned up at London Fashion Week. Of course, it doesn’t help that players are often forced into stuffy pre-game suits, robbing them of the bus-to-locker room catwalk flex other sportsmen enjoy. But given some of the ’fits we’ve seen elsewhere from football players, that’s perhaps a blessing in disguise.

The World Cup kicks off in Russia this week, meaning the world’s biggest football stars will soon be thrust before an even greater global audience. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of traps all players should strive to avoid while away from the field.

Watch out for ostentatious ’fits

When he’s not busy starring for Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil, marauding full-back Dani Alves appears intent on carving a reputation as world sport’s foremost anti-sartorialist. Prior to former club Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in 2015, the Brazilian put together this eccentric combo, which looks a little like 808s & Heartbreak-era Kanye West as channeled by Bruno Mars. Cut-off trousers with a red suit jacket and shades? Really? And those aren’t even the worst elements — a bow tie should be saved for strictly formal occasions, and is most certainly not pre-game attire.

When you have almost limitless windfalls of cash to spend on clothes, it can be easy to get carried away and lose sight of what makes an outfit tick, instead becoming preoccupied with wacky experimentation. If you must go down the maximalist route, it’s probably best to stick to streetwear. And definitely leave your tuxedo in the closet.

But don’t play it too safe

Diametrically opposed to Alves on the style scale is Manchester United’s Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, whose soporific ’fit above mirrors the conservative playing style of EPL veteran Gareth Barry. Mata lives in the cold north of England, which makes knitwear understandable, but this mishmash of neutral colors just doesn’t work.

When it comes to wrapping up in style, Mata need only look across Manchester to rival club City’s coach Pep Guardiola. With his wool sweaters, polo necks and (tag-free) Stoneys, the Catalan looks more like an upstart cultural critic who spends his time in artisanal coffee shops than he does a football coach. At 47 and with guidance from wife Cristina Serra, Guardiola has had years to hone his dad-look, and understands how to dress his age; having just turned 30, Mata shouldn’t be afraid to mix things up a bit more.

Sort out your denim game

👌👌👌

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

Apparently, the only thing a football player loves more than scoring a goal is wearing godawful jeans. Honestly, you could spend all day looking through the Instagram accounts of players stepping out in mindbogglingly awful denim. Sure, ripped jeans might have been passable during Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent, but these days they’re a straight red card. The same thing applies to super-skinny cuts — you’re a football player, which means you’re probably built like the side of a tank, which means you’ll only look overweight wearing these.

What makes these errors worse is the fact A.P.C’s unfuckwithable New Standard jeans cost about a quarter of the price you’d pay for a distressed pair from Dsquared2, a brand footballers seem unusually obsessed with (it also sponsors Manchester City). With jeans, opt for something safe in the leg department and let what you’re wearing on your body do the flexing.

Stop wearing too many brands at the same time

Are you talking to me…? #balenciaga #tripleS

A post shared by Grzegorz Krychowiak (@grzegorz.krychowiak) on

We admit this is something a lot of celebrities and athletes are guilty of and not just football players. With fashion more accessible than ever, and streetwear brands now the mainstream, some stars give off the vibe that they’ve just been vomited on by an anthropomorphized Dover Street Market. For many fashion lovers, raising the funds to cop grails is the hardest part, but for footballers and their eye-watering bank balances, injecting originality into a look is the main challenge.

A good rule is to avoid wearing too many hype brands at the same time, and instead look in places where your peers aren’t, i.e. sites such as Grailed. Your average EPL player can afford a classic Raf Simons jacket with the change found down the side of their Italian cowhide leather sofa, and you can guarantee no one else at training is going to be wearing it.

If you must, choose just one item from hype brands like Palace, Supreme, or OFF-WHITE, and pair it with something a little more low key. Don’t follow Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak’s lead in the picture above and wind up looking like a Balenciaga billboard. Wear the brand, never let the brand wear you.

Definitely don’t wear your own brands

A lot of footballers helm their own brands — and not a single one of them is any good. Sorry, guys. We get it, you’re treated like a deity and it’s easy to believe you can do anything, but leave fashion to the professionals. Even something as innocuous as a self-branded baseball cap is enough to ruin an outfit.

Steer clear of bad suiting

Vuelta a casa/ going back home

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on

Returning to suits, why exactly do football players struggle so badly to nail them? “Is there anything Lionel Messi can’t do?!” is the sort of question posed by astounded commentators who’ve run out of superlatives to describe the little Argentine’s genius with the ball. On the field, perhaps there isn’t; off it, however, his formal stylings leave much to be desired.

Infamously, Messi’s biggest suiting faux pas have come at FIFA World Player of the Year/FIFA Ballon d’Or/Best FIFA Men’s Player ceremonies. The award’s name keeps changing, but Messi’s style remains decidedly, uh, messy. For reasons probably best left unknown, the five-time winner of the award has turned up to the bash in everything from this shiny red monstrosity in 2015 to a garish Dolce & Gabbana polka dot effort in 2013. Still, those might have been bad, but they have nothing on 2014’s Ron Burgundy-inspired velvet number above.

Rather than look like a goof in red, Messi should have opted for neutral colors like navy blue or charcoal gray. For fabric, stick to a mid-weight wool and always go for a neat cut. Here’s how LeBron nails it. See, footballers, it isn’t so hard, is it?

Now discover how Nike and adidas are influencing sneaker culture through football. 

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