Footballers are modern-day gladiators, other-worldly beings thrust into battle week-on-week screaming “Are you not entertained?” with every well-placed tackle and scorching pass. It’s no surprise than that footballers are prone to bouts of ostentation when it comes to their personal style. Already armed with head-to-toe designer garb and more tattoos than there is silverware in Real Madrid’s trophy cabinet, the last port of call for a footballer to show just how elevated he is from us mere mortals is through his haircut.
Here we take a look at some of the best footballers hairstyles and, if you’ve got the confidence to pull them off, then we’ve got tips from Justin Carr, barber to the England football team and ambassador for shampoo brand Head & Shoulders, on how to get the style yourself.
Justin Carr cutting Dele Alli’s hair
Those fashionistas without even a glimmer of interest in football will recognise Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin. The cavalier Spaniard is a regular on the front row at London Fashion Week where his renaissance-like coiffure fits in well. It’s long. It’s immaculately conditioned. And it perfectly suits his extrovert street style.
If you’re going for the look, it’s not just about growing your hair out, says Carr. You’ll need to get it trimmed often if you want it as luscious as Hector. “As soon as you get split ends it stunts the growth and it won’t grow as quickly,” Carr explains. “It’ll just feel brittle and dry.”
When you’ve got the required length, give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning. “To style, blow dry it over to the side to get that little quiff and use some salt spray for hold. All that hot air will mean you will need a heat protecting spray and also buy a serum to tame the frizz and keep it healthy.”
David Beckham’s hair has gathered almost as many column inches as his sporting prowess. The footballing fashion legend is a man so well put together he’s even got his own award-winning grooming brand and his cuts are ever changing but consistently hit the back of the net. Becks went for this short and choppy cut when he rocked up to the Royal Wedding in 2018, and it’s a great, easy-to-manage cut to consider for summer.
“Since Beckham came out with this cut a lot more people have been asking for this style,” says Carr. “Ask for a short back and sides with just a little bit of length kept at the front. Your barber should add texture by point cutting the hair. It should also be nicely [tapered] at the sides with quite a high fade and kept square. Don’t use much product just keep it nice and natural with a quick blow-dry, and some sea salt spray to give it hold.”
Arguably the greatest player of all time (we’ll look at the other one later) Cristiano Ronaldo’s crisp, tight cut perfectly suits his dedication to the sport. The main point of interest on this style comes from the parting line that would have been carved in by a trimmer according to Carr.
“He has such a strong jawline that the severe cut just works. Fade it up way high, short on the sides and then flick it back up top. He’s got darker hair, so using a pomade to get that wet shine doesn’t take away the colour.”
Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Dele Alli is a bit of a cheeky-chappy and it makes sense that his hair, as cut by Carr, is as carefree and playful as the man himself.
“It’s just a nice little taper fade, with the highlights at the top helping to bring out his skin tone,” says Carr. “Highlights work especially well on afro-style hair and we just did the tips so it’s more natural.
“Ask for a low taper fade. Then a number two around the sides. Shape it up nice and sharp at the front. Give it a scissor all over. Make sure you keep the nice round shape as you don’t want it boxy – it’s not a flat top. In the mornings you just have to comb it out and use a curling cream to give it a nice texture and make sure you condition it.”
England’s super striker Harry Kane is an undisputed gent of the game, a player with a regal touch on and off the pitch. And his cut is exactly that – a classic haistyle fit for a king. Carr agrees: “It really suits Harry’s personality and his face shape. It’s not too short on the sides which helps to keep it clean and simple and is blended in nicely with his beard.
“Ask for a scissor over comb in the sides not too short and a club cut up top to give some texture. For styling, blow dry it in one direction. You can see it’s going over to the right. And then you’d blow dry the bottom side of his hair by the temple line to bring it down and create that nice parting.
“Then use a clay. His hair is really blond, so you don’t want to overwhelm it with a greasy product like a pomade as it will take away the colour. You can even just use a hairspray.”
Manchester United’s midfield maestro Paul Pogba is no blushing wallflower and when it comes to his hairstyle you just never know which bold look Pogba is going to pull off come Saturday. Be it a fire emoji carved in his hair or a bright blue and yellow mohawk, Pogba is here to entertain.
“He’s got the confidence to play in front of millions and that confidence goes into pulling off any haircut he can dream up,” says Carr. “Some people wouldn’t be able to wear this for their job but if you do have a job where you can wear these styles, do. It shows confidence.
“You’ll need a good barber that can do designs in hair. It’s best for them to work to a picture with these designs. Just remember to keep it moisturised with the cut being so short there at the sides.”
Growing your hair out can be a messy business. Thank goodness for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale then, showing us what we have to look forward to when long hairstyles fulfil their potential.
It would take at least a year and a half to get to this length and be able to tie it in a bun says, Carr. “Still go to the hairdressers for a trim every two months to help the growth of the hair, trimming away the split ends so the hair can grow.”
Despite the wait, Carr notes that long hair is a good option for guys with ramrod straight hair like Bale. “Long hair is easier to maintain when you have straight hair. Sometimes guys with straight hair struggle to style it when it’s short, but here you just need to put it in a loose bun and let it hang down the back.”
Argentine megastar Lionel Messi has come a long way, follicularly speaking since his early days at Barcelona. This platinum bob was when the star was at the top of his game on the pitch and on his bonce.
“You can see someone has taken time and effort to get that colour as it’s not an easy one to get,” notes Carr. “Go to someone that’s fully qualified and does colouring every single day. You will go through the process of bleaching it and then after you’d have to put in a silver toner which will bring it down and get rid of the oranges or the yellows that you don’t want.
“Sometimes you can’t do it all in one sitting because you don’t want to damage or stretch the hair. A colour technician will know by the strength of your hair and checking its elasticity whether you will need more than one.”
While Real Madrid centre back Sergio Ramos might not be the cleanest player when it comes to his on-field play his hair is as crisp and tidy as they come. “Ramos has great hair,” enthuses Carr. “The beard helps a whole lot too. Without the beard, it can look too clean and make you look quite young. We don’t wanna call anyone no schoolboy.
“Wear this look with less product and it will fall down naturally and create an undercut feel to it. Whereas if you put more product in it to hold it up it will feel like a pompadour or high quiff faded around the back and sides. You’ll probably be having to go to the barbers once a week, not trimming the top every time, but just keeping the sides tidy.”
Like Pogba, Paris Saint Germain forward Neymar is a man who is constantly changing his hair from straight and spiky like something from Dragonball Z to this more natural curl. “It gives inspiration for people to change their hair and stylists the freedom to create,” says Carr.
Do bear in mind that constantly changing your hair in such a dramatic manner can increase your chances of damage. “The blond isn’t right the way to the roots, so if you’re not going all the way it might damage the top layer but then after you can chop it off and the re-growth won’t have damaged the follicles.”
On the sides, it’s a razor-sharp bald fade, dramatically contrasting the curls on top. It’s deliberately messy so don’t opt for anything stronger than a sea salt spray.
Justin Carr was speaking as an ambassador for Head & Shoulders – Official Haircare Partner of the England Teams