Monday, 28 May 2012

Best gear

Flicking through a new book on the fashion designer Paul Smith [Paul Smith A To Z, Abrams, £18.99] I noticed that along with his predictable love of cyclists one of Smith's sporting heroes was George Best. "I met this amazing footballer from Northern Ireland. He is immediately recognisable by his sideburns and his taste for champagne," he writes.
Best's life is capable of being interpreted in so many different ways but it's possibly not so common now to talk about him as a fashion icon, partly because his look - or the look that we remember him for - was very seventies and for all the Sandbrook-inspired retrospectives going round at the moment the seventies lad isn't a style that's particularly popular (although I have noticed the odd big sideburn in the last couple of years).
And yet starting with Best the way footballers appeared became part of their appeal. As a result, one of the reasons he was so loved was because of his look, and, of course, how that look meshed with his lifestyle and playing style. As Paolo Hewitt said in an interview about his book Fashion and Football a few years ago:  "George Best was an amazing player because he was like that off the field. When he got the ball he wanted to entertain and to play and that carried over into all aspects of his life, his drinking, his womanizing and his clothes."

We were (and perhaps still are) enthralled by the completeness of Best's lifestyle. The fact that he played on and off the field in the same manner. Clearly by the time his problem with alcohol became known it wasn't/isn't so attractive. But he was - as Paul Smith and Paolo Hewitt could attest - a fashion icon for a while.
In the 1960s Best even owned his own clothes store, Best Boutique, in Manchester (he opened it with Man City's Mike Summerbee. You can see it in the opening sequence of the movie version of Jack Rosenthal's The Lovers.
I'd love to know if anyone from Belfast (or their dads or Grandads) made the journey to shop there.

The Fashion of Football by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter is currently available on Kindle

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