Waistcoats kick back into fashion, thanks to England football team's manager Gareth Southgate

Thanks to Gareth Southgate, England football team's manager, the vest is popular again

England manager Gareth Southgate at the World Cup in Russia wearing his waistcoat.
England manager Gareth Southgate at the World Cup in Russia wearing his waistcoat.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Thanks to Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England football team, the waistcoat has become the unexpected symbol of England's unexpected success in the World Cup; a totem of the power of a dream; and evidence that dedication and belief can unite not just a team, but also a country.

Over the last month, Southgate has raced along the sidelines, hugging his players and whispering in their ears in neatly tailored navy trousers; a matching vest buttoned all the way down; a blue shirt; a blue, red and white striped tie; and black lace-ups.

But it is the waistcoat, freed from the shadow of the jacket, that has caught the eye of the watching world.

And it has elevated Southgate to icon status not just in the eyes of the soccer establishment, but also the fashion world.

He has almost single-handedly returned the third wheel of the three-piece suit to the spotlight, inspiring men all over his home country to adopt the style, causing sales to skyrocket and even getting hashtags - #waistcoatwednesday, #waistcoatsaturday - that connected the garment to the game.

And that is just the beginning.

British Airways handed out Southgate-inspired waistcoats to travellers flying from London to Moscow who wanted to show their national spirit at the World Cup tournament in Russia.

According to the global fashion search platform Lyst, British searches for waistcoats have increased by 41 per cent since the start of the World Cup. And last week, searches were up 210 per cent over the same period last year, with the most viewed colour being Southgate's chosen navy.

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer, the official tailor to the English team since 2007, reported that sales of waistcoats have doubled since the World Cup began.

And Marks & Spencer is not the only name benefiting from the phenomenon; the most viewed brands on Lyst when it comes to waistcoat searches are Ted Baker, Reiss and Thom Sweeney.

Both the Museum of London and the National Football Museum in Manchester have declared their desire to acquire Southgate's waistcoat and officially enshrine it as a cultural artefact.

And for those wondering how best to do waistcoat style, there has been a spike in online advice columns addressing the issue.

It is a fair question, after all, given its illustrious heritage, from King Charles II to Steve McQueen and, more recently, Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine in their dandy phases, and Ultimate Fighting Championship star and vest lover Conor McGregor.

Yet the waistcoat is still generally seen as a niche menswear item.

Perhaps because, as Capitol FM, a radio station in Britain, wrote of Timberlake and Levine, the risk is being "mistaken for their grandpa".

Not any more, apparently.

Now it is a clear sign of Southgate support and national pride.

Fans have posted pictures of themselves on social media in their waistcoats.

It makes sense that the World Cup would yield a major fashion moment.

Soccer has long been one of the most sartorially advanced sports, its teams known for their relationships with designers.

The Italian team has been outfitted off-pitch over the years by Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Ermanno Scervino.

Armani also worked with the English team, as has Paul Smith. Hugo Boss has teamed up with the Germans and Dunhill with the Japanese.

Soccer has given the world style-setters including David Beckham, Aaron Ramsey and Graziano Pelle, to name a few.

And its coaches have usually been dressed for success - aside, perhaps, from former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in his giant puffer coat.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Waistcoat kicks back into fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe