Retro Icons: Part I

Retro Icons: Part I

A look back on legends and their iconic style
With futbol and fashion now so thoroughly intertwined, it feels only natural to look back at a time when fashion didn’t have much of a place in the beautiful game. There was a time when the fashion of the game, just simply wasn’t as glorified or under the microscope. In those times, it was often individual players, and they’re unique style choices and looks, that represented a divergence from traditional futbol fashion. In this series, we’re exploring a couple of the most iconic “retro” looks and players, and how they helped to pave the way for individual style in futbol.

With the rising popularity of the retro kit look, in streetwear and implemented on the pitch, the first place to start is the mercurial, divisive, enigmatic, and legendary – Eric Cantona. Cantona was as iconic as he was controversial. And while one could write novels on the controversy, the urban legends, and the story of the man – for this piece we will focus on the underappreciated style of Cantona. It’s impossible to look back on Cantona without acknowledging a “larger than life” personality that created one of the most defining styles of a generation.

Back in the late 90’s a popular stylish addition to the futbol kit were collars. One particularly iconic retro kit of the last three decades was none other than the 1997 Umbro Manchester United home kit. During the 1997-1998 season Cantona, in all his bravado and brashness, nonchalantly threw up and “popped” the now infamous collar. At the time, there were murmurs that the popped collar was done to cover up a nasty secret, as Cantona was rumored to have a Leeds United (his former team) tattoo on his neck. Cantona denied this and stated it was done for a more practical reason. “That was not a gimmick,” he said. “I put my shirt on. It was a cold day. The collar stayed up so I kept it like that. We won so it became a habit to play with my collar up.”

Whether it was to cover up a regrettable tattoo or simply due to the cold, the popped collar became an iconic look. The popped collar, combined with the “larger than life” stature of Cantona, became an instant phenom. It was now synonymous with the arrogance and style of Cantona. It became his trademark, a look copied and revered by fans. Not only did this single act enhance the reputation of Cantona, but also elevated the status of the futbol kit. Now
it wasn’t just associated with a team, but rather an individual and a personality.
Since then. The collared kit has become a favorite of many teams over the
years, and plenty of fans of the beautiful game– remembered fondly because of a
certain French martyr.

“That was not a gimmick,” he said. “I put my shirt on. It was a cold day. The collar stayed up so I kept it like that. We won so it became a habit to play with my collar up.”

While it may have been popularized decades earlier by NBA legend Karem Abdul-Jabar, Edgar Davids was surely the one who brought the rec-specs into the futbol community. Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, Tottenham – the list, and Davids legacy, spans multiple countries and many accolades. As a player, Davids played for some of the largest teams in European futbol. Regardless of the city or the team, the rec-specs remained a constant. Like Catona, Davids rocked his signature rec-specs for a more reasons more practical than just a fashion choice, but with less mythology surrounding it. In 1999, Davids began wearing the protective glasses following a surgery in his right eye caused by glaucoma. Davids first wore the tinted sports goggles on 4 September 1999 in a friendly match against Belgium. In the months that followed, Davids continued to be associated with his new unique look, highlighted when he was featured in the Team of the Tournament during Euro 2000.

It’s now impossible to separate the specs from the man and the man from the specs. Davids paved the way for eye-wear in mainstream futbol and has since been the benchmark that other glasses-wearers are compared to. While most end up being temporary due to injuries, players like Roberto Firmino who rock glasses inevitably end up compared to Davids.

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