Did you see the game last weekend? Liverpool at home to Fulham? It was a sartorial six-pointer. Jürgen Klopp against Scott Parker. Club Shop chic vs Jermyn Street style. Yes, relegation-battling Fulham nicking three, audacious points off the current Premier League champions might have made for a pivotal match out on the pitch, but the real action was actually in the managerial dugouts, the fiercely fought 90 minutes highlighting the differing dress codes in the modern game. Tracksuit and hoodie top played against white shirt and proper suit. Result? The German lost the match and the dressing room. One-nil to Parker and the smart trousers.
The Premier League’s technical area is a game of two halves and two distinct looks: athleisure and tailored luxe. The tracksuited manager relies on the club’s sponsors for his match-day clobber, so when Saturday comes he’ll dress up in head-to-toe man-made fibres, colour-coded to his team’s kit, branded with all the correct logos and detailed with his own initials – “JK” for Jürgen Klopp, etc. When it rains, or when the weather gets chilly (during a Champions League tie in, say, Gdansk or Kiev, or a tricky Carabao Cup leg in Rochdale), a branded waterproof hoodie, a baseball cap or one of those strangely emasculating, full-length, school-run-mum down-coat things will be deployed, also initialled, of course.
Exactly why does a man who earns £3.56 million a year choose to go to work dressed like this? A Premier League manager in a tracksuit has likely experienced a career as a former pro player and his chosen attire provides him with the necessary frisson of athleticism and competitiveness; older and slower now, but still very much one of the team. (During his time in the dugout at Spurs, from 2001-2003, tracksuit manager Glenn Hoddle, formerly England player and later England coach, was known for wearing studded football boots, sometimes even matched with team shorts, to home games. The sublimely gifted former midfielder, who scored more than 100 goals for Spurs, was 45 years old at the time, but his touchline gear seemed to be saying, “Listen, lads, if they go three up, I’ll put myself on and get us a couple.”)
The other approach is more conventionally managerial. Sir Ralph Ramsey, England boss for the national team’s famous 1966 World Cup win, wore a suit at every game, assuming the wardrobe of a bank’s regional branch manager, perhaps with a career as an army officer behind him. Sir Ralph was all blazers, flannels, charcoal-grey pinstripe suits, brogues, shirts and narrow ties. Tracksuits? For the training ground only.
In the 21st century, European team coaches such as Fabio Capello, Antonio Conte and Diego Simeone, have modernised managerial suiting with the kind of sharply cut cloth that suggests a hostile takeover bid, not just a reversion to 4-4-2, is imminent. And with their cashmere rollnecks and nano-puff gilets, the likes of Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Germany coach Joachim Löw affect the look of the tech start-up whizz, Ted Talking his way around Davos.
Then there is Fulham FC’s Scott Parker, who, ’fit-wise, on his day, is unplayable. Never known to have worn a drawstring waistband or a hooded top in the technical area, Parker’s style game is matinée idol good looks assisting high cheekbones, a hard-part, RAF-issue haircut and some well proportioned, Don Draper-esque tailoring.
Scott wears soft-shouldered blazers, simple crewneck merino sweaters and cut-away collar shirts. (Rather tellingly, Fulham FC’s official “formalwear partner” is shirtmaker Charles Tyrwhitt.) If a necktie is selected, it’ll be slim, knitted silk with a silver bar tie clip holding it in place. Throughout the game and during post-match interviews, the Eton-sweep barnet, described on one Pinterest post as “hairspirational”, is always perfect.
In-depth analysis of Parker’s performance for 2020/21 reveals a season of confidence and consistency. Back in September 2020, for Fulham’s game at Elland Road against Leeds United, Parker relaxed a little, choosing grey narrow-leg, wool trousers and a navy-blue double-breasted cardie (as favoured by Succession’s Kendall Roy at family gatherings in Scotland) but still staying loyal to the shirt and tie… and silver tie clip. For a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Newcastle United at St James’s Park, it was a navy-blue mohair suit worn with a tone-on-tone dark-blue skinny-fit polo neck. Against Liverpool earlier this month, he was brave and fashion-forward again, channelling wealthy, Swiss banker style in an off-white padded blazer (Moncler? Brunello Cucinelli perhaps?). This famous jacket, by the way, being part of the Parker archive having been first worn for a 2019 clash with then-Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham.
During a (rare) winning streak, earlier on in the season Parker admitted to a “ludicrous” superstition for wearing the same ensemble – short padded jacket, down-filled under-jacket, grey trousers and highly polished burgundy shoes (Berluti, by the look of them) – for several games in a row.
The Parker look, an eye-catching throwback to a more elegant and tattoo-free sporting era, has its roots in Scott’s career as a player for England, Spurs, West Ham and Chelsea. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College boy made sure his football boots were always plain black, he wore his socks rolled up just so, shirt neatly tucked and hair cut as if for national service. He never rocked a Hoxton fin, faux-hawk or a psycho-buzz.
“I was brought up in a slightly older style,” Parker once said. “I don’t play with my collar up.” My dad told me to tuck my shirt in, look good and respect the game, so that has become embedded in me. I am really into looking as smart as I can and have been since I was a kid. I remember the first time I got paid, I went out and spent my wages on clothes. Style has always been a massive focal point for me.”
More recently, Parker has described himself – perhaps not aware of the fashion-speak entendre – as the right “fit” for Fulham. GQ can only agree.
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