There’s a great anecdote in issue 17 of football quarterly The Blizzard about how Malcolm ‘Big Mal’ Allison, famed for his trademark fedora and fur coat, was upstaged – as Sporting Lisbon manager in the 1982 Portuguese Cup final – by his opposite number, Sporting Braga coach Quinito, who wore a tuxedo for the occasion.
Sadly, this sort of flex is the exception rather than the rule. Aside from a few ‘antihero pieces’ – Arsène Wenger’s bin bag coat, Tim Sherwood’s gilet, Tony Pulis’ magic hat – the touchline barely attracts any style commentary worth speaking about. There’s about as much panache on display as in the average Sam Allardyce side.
There are a few bosses, however, who make the beautiful game look good. To paraphrase Brian Clough, we wouldn’t say these are the best-dressed managers in the business – but they are in the top five.
Guardiola’s swag is often spoken of in terms more breathless than Brazilian Ronaldo on the first day of pre-season training. But like his management style, Pep’s wardrobe is not beyond reproach.
His suits can be on the shiny side, and he frequently teams them with a belt, which is a yellow card offence in our book. (It saws you in half visually: besides, if you need a belt, then your suit doesn’t fit properly.)
That said, the Spaniard is indisputably a top, top, top managerial dresser. His tonal tailoring game is generally strong, as is his knitwear (including the odd roll neck). He’s no slouch in casualwear, either, and he’s even pulled off short-sleeved shirts.
The Tactic: Keep It (Fairly) Tight
No, we’re not talking about his porous defences. The main reason that Guardiola is in another league to his rivals is because his clothes, particularly his suits, are close-fitting.
Occasionally a little too close: in the return leg of last season’s Champions League quarter-final, he ripped his trousers on the touchline. There’s no movement, lads!
Ageing like a fine Barolo, oozing sprezzatura, Mancini is one of those well-dressed mature Italian men who would look as at home on The Sartorialist as in the dugout. You half-expect to see street style photographer Tommy Ton crouched pitchside trying to get a details shot.
When he was at Man City, Mancini became synonymous with his retro striped scarf – a free gift for season-ticket holders – wearing it with such trend-setting urbanity that the club made it available for general purchase by popular demand. But his key accessory only diverted attention from the rest of his outfits, which were typically immaculate.
As ‘il boss’ of Lazio, Mancini supposedly instructed the players to wear white shirts with their suits instead of blue, because he felt the former were more elegant. Bene.
The Tactic: Don’t Always Buy The Big Names
Mancini is a fan of Giorgio Armani, rightly declaring his compatriot one of the best designers in history. But he gets his suits from his own “small” tailor in Naples.
As Leicester have demonstrated, you don’t need to splash out on stars to have a competitive dressing room.
The current holder of the bucking bronco that is the Real Madrid hot-saddle, Zizou is relatively new to management but no stranger to fashion. The talented former midfield maestro has previously modelled for Louis Vuitton, adidas Y-3 and Mango.
Zidane’s coaching CV is considerably less filled out, but he certainly looks the part. He’s also that rare guy who can wear sportswear beyond his twenties without resembling mutton dressed as ram.
Like all of the entrants on this list, it helps that Zidane – at 43, the youngest – gives the svelte impression that he could still join in with the five-a-side match at the end of training.
The Tactic: Play With Your Head
The most striking thing about Zidane is clear enough. (Just ask Marco Materazzi.) Yes, his baldness is an asset, but it’s one he assists by sticking to understated pieces and subdued colours. Whether in a suit or a tracksuit, his palette doesn’t distract from his pate.
Ultimately, your face should be noticed before your outfit. If your kit is so garish that it hogs the headlines, then you need to make a substitution.
With Guardiola as his near-predecessor at Barcelona, the Spaniard had big shoes to fill. Or in his case, trainers worn with a suit.
Forever the ultimate utility man to a generation of Champ Man players (SW/D/M/F RLC FTW), Enrique has proved just as versatile with his personal style. He got unfairly trolled by football fans and pundits when Barça played Arsenal at the Emirates for his Replay parka and old-school adidas kicks in matching military green. Which is a bit like a half-time team-talk from Karl Lagerfeld: not worth listening to.
Shout out to FashionBeans chief scout Chester Perry, who identified Enrique’s talent on this forum thread. We’ll skip the fact that the discussion then segues to Jermaine Jenas’ “interesting” shirt on Match Of The Day.
The Tactic: Get Your Foot On The Ball
Enrique gives a masterclass in getting the trainers with a suit thing right: keep the kicks classic and/or minimal, and the tailoring trim.
(On a separate but tangentially related note, can we take a moment to talk about the fact that Barcelona’s pre-game outfit is double denim [courtesy of their contract with Replay])?
5. Quique Sánchez Flores
Like a Mediterranean version of Hugh Laurie in House, the Watford gaffer seems as likely to impart tactical information to his skipper Troy Deeney as grumpily diagnose him with some obscure condition.
While not as much of a household name as the others on this list, Flores is seriously underrated. He rocked up for his introduction to the British press in a slim suit, button-down shirt and canvas trainers. As former Gunners hitman Ian Wright (who is actually pretty sharp – maybe we should do best-dressed pundits) put it: “Cool persona, cool trainers… with José struggling, he could be the new sheriff in town.”
The Tactic: Adopt A Less Rigid Formation
It’s not just diving and actually being good at football that continental fancy Dans have imported to these shores. They’ve also brought relaxed, soft-shouldered tailoring that looks and feels less stuffy, so much so that you can wear it with a T-shirt.
There’s a time and a place for highly constructed suits but, unless you’re at a wedding, it’s not the weekend. Take a leaf from Flores’ book with blazers that are more like cardigans – and in some cases, cardigans instead of blazers – and take a bow, son.
Are you United in approval? Or chanting “You don’t know what you’re doing”?
As Ray Winstone’s disembodied head would say, have a bang on the comments below.