In football, as in life, fashion is fleeting.
A century ago, the players wore shorts so long they were basically trousers – in the eighties, you needed binoculars to work out whether your heroes were wearing anything other than socks and boots on their lower half during games.
Trends come and go. Some you yearn to see revisited; others are best consigned to history and never spoken of again. Who can forget the Wayne Rooney header-enhancing headband, for example?
Wayne Rooney's lookalike with that headband. pic.twitter.com/BpXmvnL7jY
— Tom Dodd (@TomDodd_) September 17, 2013
For better or worse, here are seven football fashion trends we’ve seen slip off the radar.
Chalk this one down in the “fad” column.
In the mid-nineties, the Breathe Right company (who are still going and are now owned by GlaxoSmithKline) pioneered the use of nasal strips in sport, and their wee sticky plasters soon became something of a phenomenon. They were widely used across the world of sport, including in American football, tennis and athletics.
Football, of course, wasn’t going to be left out and Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler emerged as the face – or rather the nose – of Breathe Right in England. Rarely was Fowler seen without his beloved piece of adhesive plaster over the course of several Premiership seasons – and it can’t have done him much harm considering the amount of goals he racked up.
Sadly, the efficacy of nasal strips was gradually debunked and they fell out of use.
White boots with white tape
This was a particularly 2000s look.
By the 21st century, white boots were very much in vogue, with classic black footwear largely falling out of favour among the new breed of flashy, image-conscious celebrity footballer – much to the chagrin of the world’s proper football men.
Previously the reserve of those yer da would call “show ponies”, gleaming white boots were de-stigmatised and were soon being augmented with a single strip of white tape worn around the ankle. If there’s a below-the-knee “look” that defines the first decade or so of this millennium, it’s this one.
If you don’t know what we’re talking about, just have one look at this video of Phil Jagielka banging in a goal for Sheffield United in 2006:
It’s 13 years to the day since Phil Jagielka said: “I fancy me fucking chances from here…”pic.twitter.com/0NccUHjxaq
— Proper Football (@sid_lambert) September 30, 2019
Massive shinpads and sock-ties/tie-ups
These days, you’d hardly know the players are wearing shinpads, so miniscule are the wafer-thin strips of polystyrene they trust will keep their tibias intact.
In the past, this just wouldn’t do – tackling was “firmer” back in the day and referees were less keen to penalise wayward lunges. Meaning that most players would have been afraid to set foot on the pitch wearing shin-protection that wasn’t capable of withstanding a direct impact from a nuclear warhead.
All of which led to eighties and nineties footballers going around looking as if they’d strapped their legs into two large tubes running from just below the knee to the instep – which they pretty much had.
Oh, and the look was often topped off by the now-mythical sock-ties. It made for a combo you just don’t see any more, though Hull City’s Andy Dawson remained loyal to the old ways well into this century.
Huge ‘tongues’ on boots
We won’t even get started on what’s happening to football boots at the moment, but one question needs to be asked: whatever happened to the humble ‘tongue’?
Until recently, it just wasn’t a football boot without a gigantic, flapping piece of leather folded down across the laces. Even better if that piece of leather occasionally got in the way when striking the ball or slipped sideways inside the boot, often causing mild irritation.
Who doesn’t pine for those days spent proudly folding down the Puma King or Adidas Predator tongue? There are probably loads of reasons why they don’t make ’em like that any more – but they don’t make ’em like that any more.
Like many football trends of yore, this one began with David Beckham.
Becks, of course, was well-known for being ahead of the curve when it came to hairstyles. His go-to barnet in the nineties was the classic middle-parted “H from Steps” cut, but he caused a stir in 2000 when he shaved his head before a Charity Shield match against Chelsea (apparently under instruction from Alex Ferguson).
That shorn crown would go on to be a defining look for him, reflecting a new, more serious DB7 – the boy becoming a man. Or, er, something like that.
Regardless, footballers up and down the land immediately reached for the clippers and sheared off their previously flowing locks. Up until around 2008, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hair in the English football world measuring more than 2mm.
Socks around the ankles or lower-calves
Sure, Jack Grealish does it. But he’s one of very few modern footballers still persisting with this iconic style choice. Unfortunately.
There’s nothing better (okay, there are plenty of things better) than a nice pair of calves on show on a football pitch, especially if those calves belong to a creative attacking midfielder of Latin origin. Francesco Totti and Rui Costa immediately spring to mind in that regard.
It’s hard to know why this practice fell away – curses be upon those who popularised the Thierry Henry socks-up-to-the-thighs approach – but it’s very much football’s loss. Possibly, it’s not a dynamic enough look for the contemporary footballer – players definitely look more languid, even sloppy, with a pair of socks hanging halfway down their legs.
Or maybe there are an obscure set of rules forbidding sock-length being below a certain threshold. If so, that’s something we clearly won’t be bothering to verify.
Snoods really got a bad rep, largely thanks to Manchester City troublemakers Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri and Mario Balotelli being targeted by the proper football men for wearing them during the first years of this decade.
Anti-snood outrage had spread like wildfire at the time among the yer da community, who were rightly annoyed at footballers having warm necks. So furious did people become that IFAB elected to ban them from the game, citing safety concerns.
Check out this fabulous Mail Online headline from 2011 that shows the prevailing attitude: “Snoods are banned! Football chiefs finally call time on the neckwear designed for ‘powder puffs’.”