Oi Polloi

In Praise of... Roy Hodgson

Published: Fri Jun 15 2018

Some things are so obvious they barely need mentioning — Paul Newman looked pretty cool, the Porsche 911 is a fast car and Galaxy chocolate tastes very nice.

But what of the unsung wonders — those neglected marvels ignored by click-hungry media conglomerates and weak Sunday supplement magazine articles?

In the first of what or may not be a recurring feature, discussing the virtues of various overlooked gems, Proper Magazine writer Tayler Willson sings the praises of a somewhat unlikely master of style… Roy Hodgson.

Take it away Tayler…

There’s a guy down my local that looks kind of like a young Roy Hodgson. A sharp nose, helmet haircut, extremely polite and even a bit of a funny voice. You’ll find him propped up in the corner of the bar, greeting punters with a gentle nod and only a warm Bishop’s Finger and The Guardian for company.

Had I been old enough to go into a pub in the 1990s, I like to imagine that’s where I would’ve found Roy on his days off, away from management and the football lifestyle. Just him, his tipple and his thoughts. 

Such were these visions, I began to grow an infatuation for the former England manager, and came to admire a lot about the man, and for the new Proper Mag (buy it here), I included him in an article I put together on some of life’s unlikely style icons. After weeks of trawling through images of him in big Lotto tracksuits, chunky dad trainers and custom Ray Bans, I had to do more. 

While today’s Roy might be your classic default man, yesteryear Roy was anything but. The 80s were a more glamorous and outlandish time, yet Roy stuck to the basics well. Celebrities nowadays don’t have style – they have stylists, but back then, famous men like Roy dressed themselves; and he did simplicity very well. 

Roy is neither tall, nor dark, nor particularly handsome. In fact, he’s none of the things you’d expect of a typical style icon – and yet, somehow, with his adorable, nan-like charm, unquestionable intelligence and soft charisma, he became one of the most enduringly understated fashion figures in the world of sport. 

"While today’s Roy might be your classic default man, yesteryear Roy was anything but."

His look was at times part BBC showbiz pizzazz; a kind of jet set glamour grandparent, while at other times that pizzazz was tempered with a suave and dignified Britishness that was also jolly, eccentric and effortlessly smooth. 

There are many reasons to love Roy – his admiration for the spoken language (he speaks, like, eight different ones), his soft, calming voice, his absolute lack of shame at Euro 2016 and his full commitment to a haggard Wayne Rooney and popping Harry Kane on corners - but the garms that clothed his early managerial career are something you’d be forgiven for overlooking. 

His time across some of Europe’s finest cities certainly had a lot to do with his pizzazz, seemingly taking in the culture, style and panache of everywhere he managed. Roy became a supreme sartorialist before the word had even gained any mainstream traction. His first job at Halmstads, Sweden, saw him take to the simplicity of Scandinavian lifestyle and adapt it into a new, fresh attire; layering like one of the locals. 

During his first season - one that saw him guide Halmstads to the title after being heavily tipped for relegation that preseason - he started to dabble in track tops and bottoms, and he often resembled a young Tony Pulis, but with more hair. 

"Roy became a supreme sartorialist before the word had even gained any mainstream traction."

In typical Hodgson fashion, he’d regularly be seen matching track pants with open collar button-less short-sleeved polo shirts, something that added that little sprinkle of glitter to an otherwise ordinary outfit. He simply did things differently. 

He had a big influence on Swedish football during the 70s, not just in the sartorial sense. He and former colleague Bob Houghton who was manager of Malmo at the time, were credited with transforming the Swedish game and installing tactics never before seen in the country. To the locals they were given the nicknames English Roy and English Bob. 

After spending the good part of a decade in Sweden with both Halmstads and later Malmo, Roy swapped the nice furniture and questionable meatballs for Neuchatel Xamax, a small club in Switzerland that sounds more like a laxative than a football club, before taking charge of the Swiss national team a few years later. 

It being the 90s, Switzerland was plastered in Lotto; Lotto jackets, Lotto cars, Lotto shoes, the Lot(to) and it was this period that saw Roy’s real penchant for sportswear and the more casual look blossom into something more. This was perhaps his most memorable period of style, effortlessly throwing together loud tracksuits with mad designs and big, massive coats with small running shorts. 

This penchant for sportswear had subsided by the time he arrived at Inter Milan in 1995, fairly ironic considering it was a country responsible for the majority of lovely tracksuits and absolutely everything Lotto. Milan: the fashion capital of the world and home of tall, dark handsome men in nice clothes, yet Roy went for sophistication.

He ditched the zips and instead oozed sprezzatura, style and suave, and although opting not to go full Joe Pesci, he still embraced Italian life with ease, an ease displayed accurately in the infamous shot of him and Paul Ince in 1996. 

Hodgson belongs in a unique group of football managers – men of humble backgrounds whose style honed their public image and current surroundings. While others were easily led, Roy always stuck to the very basics. Much like his managerial style, he did things his own way.

And while the current Roy Hodgson, seeing out his managerial days at Crystal Palace in a full club tracksuit, is a far cry of that from his heyday, he will always be one of the unsung heroes of the sport’s sartorial world. 

Nice one, English Roy  thanks for everything, you nice, nice man.