As well as some of the most memorable moments of football of all time, the 22 World Cup tournaments have seen some fine displays of sartorial éclat, both on and off the pitch.
From the Italia '90 mascot to Alf Ramsey's 1966 tracksuit, we countdown the 10 most stylish World Cup moments of all time.
1 | Ciao! The Italia ’90 World Cup mascot
Looking like a piece of Lego on the 5/2 diet, Ciao was a world away from previous mascots like Naranjito (chubby Seville orange for Spain ’82) and Pique (Mexico ’86’s sort-of-Mexican-looking Mexican in giant sombrero). Ciao! was abstract, faceless and had enough abstract malevolence to double as a voodoo doll in his spare time. Good keyring, too.
2 | Bergkamp’s three seconds of poetry, 1998
On a sweltering, sun-bleached afternoon in French the port town of Marseilles, Denis Bergkamp sealed victory for Holland in a quarter-final clash against Argentina a goal that says everything about the player who scored it. In the final moments of normal time, and with the game locked at 1-1, Frank de Boer launched a long, diagonal crossfield ball in the direction of his team’s talismanic number 10.
With his first touch, Bergkamp used his outstretched right boot to take the weight out of the ball and bring it under control. With his second, he dragged it back inside the onrushing Robert Ayala, and before taking his third he waited for it to begin dropping from the apex of its bounce before caressing it past the flummoxed Roa in the Argentine goal.
An imperious finish from a player who was the keeper of Cryuff’s flame.
3 | Alf Ramsey's tracksuit, 1966
Incredible though it seems in these days of velour-clad dossers and stuck-in-the-printer technicolour nightmares, the “trackie” was once a stylish item, and never more so than when worn by the architect of England’s greatest footballing triumph. Simple and utilitarian with just the collar detail and a bloody great big badge for variety, this Umbro outfit was as sober and no-nonsense as Sir Alf himself.
It seared itself into national memory as an image of duty and destiny and remains a busy seller in retro shirt stores, while lesser subsequent tracksuits have faded from memory.
4 | The World Cup poster, 1950
It’s a happy accident of history that World Cup tournament posters have often been showcases for great graphic art, and this reached its peak with the work for the 1950 tournament in Brazil. Featuring a player’s leg with all the competing countries’ flags on it, the poster possessed that alluring, abstract “otherness” that’s like catnip to football fans of a certain mindset. Can you imagine how great it’d look on the wall of your living room?
5 | Joachim Loew’s touchline chic, 2010
His exciting young Germany team might have fallen short in South Africa but the 50-year-old coach was the undisputed champion in the best-dressed stakes. V-necks worn without a shirt, fitted white shirts (no obvious sweat patches) and black polo shirts provided the contrast to a haircut that looked like it might have been stolen from Johnny Marr. Vorsprung durch haare, as you might say
6 | The BBC’s theme music, 1978
Who better than to compose the Beeb’s theme music for their coverage of World Cup ’78 than Andrew Lloyd-Webber, the man who’d just scored a massive West End hit with Evita, a musical based on the life of ex-Argentine first lady, Evita Péron. The jug-eared muso-gnome composed a flamenco-ish track that was so catchy it made it to No 14 in the charts.
And you know what he called it? “Argentine Melody”. Ten out of ten for imagination, Andy.
7 | Pele's dummy against Uruguay, 1970
Beyond style, there is flair. Beyond flair, there is panache. And beyond the furthest extremes of éclat there is not just dummying the keeper, and not just dummying everyone in the stadium, but dummying yourself right in the middle of the D in flagrant defiance of psychology, tactics, logic and physics itself.
Time didn’t just stand still when Pele chased down Tostão’s pass in the 1970 World Cup semi-final and then sent him the wrong way. It went pretzel-shaped. And the shot, when it came, didn’t go in — which somehow made this most audacious move even more perfect.
8 | That Denmark shirt, 1986
For much of the mid-80s, both Hummel and Le Coq Sportif duked it out for the title of The World's Coolest Kit Manufacturers. In 1986, Hummel's Denmark strip just shaded Maradona's Argentina shirt with this eye-catching number that twinned stylish, contrasting red and white pin stripes with super cool arrows on the sleeves, both of which looked particularly nifty when overrunning Uruguay in a 6-1, "Group Of Death" thumping.
Esquire recommends extra reading on the subject, in this case the excellent Danish Dynamite (Bloomsbury) by Rob Smyth and Lars Eriksen, which depicts the fetching kit, now worth £300 from collectors, on its front cover.
9 | The Adidas World Cup boot
Amid the current fad of garish boot design (inspiration: atomic blast at the local Dulux factory) it's easy to forget the elegant simplicity of football clobber in the 1970s and '80s. The Adidas World Cup boot was the 'less is more' principle at its most effective: black uppers and white stripes, capped with a simple white band on the heel. Only the most flamboyant midfielder would run the risk of being branded "flash" by folding the elongated tongue over his laces.
10 | West Germany’s kit (and cardigans), 1974
Whoever said that the Germans have no style never saw their kit for the 1974 World Cup. Manufactured by Adidas, it was an island of simplicity at a time when even the East German Stasi looked like a load of Harlem pimps. Even better, the training staff and subs wore beautiful Adidas cardigans with subtle Adi branding, a pocket on the left breast and button fastenings. Swoon.
For the remaining 40 World Cup Style Icons, download the new Esquire Weekly (Issue 39)
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