On the Sidelines - What the Euro 2020 Football Managers Wore

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December 2021

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On the Side-line

On a recent journey with my husband and my brother, both avid football fans, they began to remark on the sartorial choices of the European football team managers. The conversation was an interesting one, so I decided to dig deeper. I’ve discovered that there are sharp contrasts between some of the dress codes in the dugout during the Euro 2021 tournament.

A study found that historically, tracksuit-wearing managers have narrowly beaten those teams run by men in suits. Is that why Wales Manager Rob Page decided to wear a tracksuit on the side-line? Was his decision strategic and based on research?

Research [1] has also shown that clothing has an impact on public perceptions of managers. The study on the clothing styles of French professional football managers identified three broad wardrobe choices managers tend to choose in order to make impressions on their audiences. Some use the business suit to denote themselves as the professional “boss”. Others the “hands-on” tracksuit warrior look (think Page) and then there’s the middle-ground, smart-casual “project leader” appearance (think French manager Didier Deschamps with an open-neck shirt).

Italy is one of the slickest teams in the Euros so far and it’s no coincidence that the style of their touchline team has been carefully curated. They are dressed like top professionals in matching powder blue-grey Armani suit jackets giving the impression of unity. Roberto Mancini has presence, authority and looks like he knows what he is doing (which he does). The team members have similar jackets but without collars. Once the games begin, Mancini’s blazer comes off and he rolls up his sleeves (literally and metaphorically) –  as there’s work to be done.

England manager Gareth Southgate’s appearance is more akin to the “boss” profile. This is aligned to his measured touchline behaviours and how he responds to the media. Southgate recently revealed that while his “boss” look will continue at the Euros, his signature waistcoat won’t because he sees it as a “gimmick” that needs to be removed from his image. Sales of waistcoats rose sharply following the 2018 world cup influenced by Southgate. This time, he feels that a waistcoat downplays the seriousness of the job in hand. In doing so, he has shown a clever awareness of how his attire speaks and creates an impression.

My husband, who rarely remarks on clothing, had noticed that Kasper Kjulmand, the Danish manager had a hole under his arm which was visible every time he gesticulated to his team. Does that signify the humility and approachability of a man who responded so well when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch? Or is he so vested in his team that he hasn’t considered his own image? Or maybe it’s his “lucky shirt”!

We can spend time over-analysing sartorial choices and it’s an interesting conversation. Other professionals could perhaps learn from these high-profile coaches, and consider what they can do to manage impressions in their own careers. Here are a few tips:

1.    Take the time to think about the statement you make when you show-up. Remember, that the details matter – your watch, belt, shoes.

2.    Take account of the environment and your audience taking care not to overdress or underdress. (The more casual the dress code, the more you need to pay attention to your grooming.)

3.    Be authentic. You will be more relatable and those around you will build trust more quickly with you. 

[1] Jean Bréhon, Oumaya Hidri Neys & Hugo Juskowiak (2018) ‘Tracksuit’ or ‘business suit’? Effects of the clothing styles of French professional football managers, Sport in Society, 21:11, 1721-1738, DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2017.1409728