My relationship with football can be traced back to secondary school. I remember thinking, thank God that I failed the 11+ exams, because it meant I was sent somewhere that playing football was the done thing. It’s such a huge part of British culture; everyone has a connection to football.

Growing up in threadbare, ‘austerity’ Britain and watching the culture of football evolve was hugely interesting for me. George Best in the early 1960s – himself, a young lad from Bristol – was seminal. He utilised the transformative power of style to completely repackage and rebrand himself. As a successful football player, he was the archetype of that whole ‘heterosexual’ world that was once intimidating to a young gay kid like me – but then, wait a minute, here he was wearing a velvet jacket and floppy collars, and opening a boutique! He was the first footballer to come along to join in with the fiesta of the swinging sixties; it was like George Best was the fifth member of The Beatles.

Back in the day, the common aesthetic thread with footballers was that they were wiry and skinny – in other words, the ‘sample size’ look – so basically, they looked great in clothes. They were all clotheshorses! Another thing, is that they were, predominantly, all working class boys from poor backgrounds, meaning that the idea of clothes gained a lot more power and symbolism. In that era, you’d go out and buy some decent clothes with your first paycheque to show you’d made it!

There have always been two types of footballer… The legends and the mortals – just like the quote from Jordi Cruyff! In the wake of the hedonistic epoch of the ‘rock star footballer’, where you had characters like Paul Gascoigne and George Best, who were on the front pages of tabloids for burning the candle at both ends, along came David Beckham who would go home in the evening and drink a glass of milk. Beckham is one of my favourite case studies in the book; he’s great, because he’s always possessed that wonderful quality that you’re supposed to have when you’re young… You couldn’t care less what other people think! Nothing is a faux pas when you’re that age. Fashion is supposed to be expressive and he’s always waved this flag. Personally, I’ve never understood the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste. It’s like Diana Vreeland said, “No taste is what I’m against!” Experimentation is where it’s at. The same goes for the so-called ‘WAG’ culture. I’ve always thought it was fun, and have never understood the need to be negative about it or them. At the end of the day, footballers and their families are the true patrons of fashion, because they actually go and buy it at full retail price. Somebody has to… 

Click here to shop and read Saturday Night Fever Pitch: The Magic and Madness of Football Style by Simon Doonan from Laurence King. All images courtesy of Laurence King.

In case you missed it, read and shop Abigail's ode to a fashion uniform here

More Book Club:

 Drag: The Complete Story

+ Creative Couples: Collaborations That Changed History

+ She Explores