When the news broke on December 29, 2022, that Brazilian footballer Pelé had passed aged 82, it was immediately apparent that the sport had lost an icon.
In truth, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the impact the Brazilian made on football throughout his 21-year career with a record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances, including 77 goals in 92 matches for his country.
Even now, 45 years after his retirement, Pelé remains the only player in the sport's history to have lifted the World Cup three times (in 1958, 1962, and 1970) and was even named FIFA’s Player of the Century back in 2000.
When I say there aren’t enough superlatives to describe Pelé, I wasn’t lying.
For me, one thing that will always set Pelé apart from the rest — aside from the goals, the trophies, the personal accolades, and the ever-lasting legacy he’s left on one the world’s most popular sports — is his unique sense of style, something almost as eccentric as the way he played the beautiful game.
Unlike the modern footballer stereotype (you know the type, loud luxury pieces where the price tag means more than the design), Pelé's off-pitch wardrobe oozed both style and sophistication a plenty, two words almost unheard of when describing those playing today's game.
From short-shorts and polos, to red leather ensembles, Hawaiian shirts, and a myriad of three-piece suits equipped with a signature (and inherently 70s) oversized collar, his style didn't fit into any stereotypes, nor did it boast any rhyme or reason, it just worked. Seamlessly, in fact.
While there will always be debates about whether Pelé is the greatest footballer of all-time or whether he would’ve succeeded in the modern game (he would've, FYI), there’s no doubt in my mind that no other footballer will ever come close to having the intrinsic and forward-thinking sense of style of Pelé.