During the 2018 World Cup, Gareth Southgate turned to a British institution to help get the lads into semis shape, the Royal Marines. It was hailed retrospectively as the key to the advanced-stage success. Now that England have soundly beaten their undoers of said World Cup last weekend, we can begin looking for sensible reasons why. I think I have found it in tailoring.
Gareth Southgate is by no means a dandy or natural aesthete. His sartorial dexterity Is achieved through some smart and unexpected twists (that Percival polo out of nowhere), which often catch us off-guard. He is someone who realises as England manager that his clothing will bear scrutiny. He let us know something about his maverick style of management when, like some rebellious auteur, he did up the bottom button of his waistcoat. This kind of recalcitrance is hard to predict and opponents must find things hard to plan as a result.
There is a serious point to be made also about his lapels. Received wisdom is that the thinner the lapel, the larger your head will look. His head to lapel ratio is absolutely perfect, with just enough width to complement the shape of his head, but not so much as to seem at all frivolous, again, a man in control of his environment and not wont to make rash errors of judgement.
His shirts – usually light blue – are actually very well made. How can I tell? Well, the yolk of the shirt meets the sleeve at the exact point where his dynamite deltoids roll down, his shirt cuffs don’t gather upwards when he lifts or extend his arms, they sit reliably on the cuff. And he’s opted for a fetching traditional collar rather than the footballers-favourite, the spread collar. Crucially, there is minimal bulge out the bottom of the iconic waistcoat, which shows there is not a problem of surplus material.
His grooming is genuinely good, making the most of a slightly receding hairline with a smart side-parting and well managed facial hair, his boss Prince William should take note. He wore a particularly nice burgundy pair of penny loafers recently, but I would perhaps advise against brown shoes with navy blue suits.
There is plenty of precedent to show that clothes can shape a leader. Our notion of a person’s authority is subliminally affected by what they wear and how they wear it. If the boss shows up looking like he takes both his subordinates and his role seriously then that helps to carry people along. English football will never be the pinnacle of sporting sartorial splendour in the way that, say, Wimbledon or Lords might be. But if Southgate can set the tone through his clothes, then the players will respond, and the homecoming seems all the more likely, don’t you think?