Paris, London, New York, Milan – be warned: there’s a new kid on the block. Well, if not quite a kid, then a middle-aged white man with a trendy new take on Gegenpressing.
In England, male football coaches can broadly be split into two sartorial categories. First you have the tracksuit manager, down to earth and on his luck, a pair of emergency shin pads tucked away, carrying the air of an overly competitive soccer dad secretly hoping that his child’s under-12’s team is a player short and suddenly requires the services of a 48-year-old IT consultant to ‘do a job’ up front. Then there is the club suit manager, sharp but sombre, straddling the fine line between used-car salesman and funeral director. Of course, memberships to these schools of style are not mutually exclusive. Many a bright-eyed boss beginning the season in tailored Egyptian cotton can be seen turning to his bench in December, face bewildered and body bedecked in a JD Sports trolley dash, as he contemplates how to dig his team out of their seventh rut of the campaign. Nevertheless, this is the binary choice, from which the only managers granted exemption are either bona fide tactical genii and recognised eccentrics.
In Germany, things are a bit different. The 2006 World Cup gave us a window into the future, when Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw propelled Die Mannschaft to a semi-final in matching open collars and rolled-up sleeves, like twin politicians pretending to use a barbecue for a promotional photoshoot. Meanwhile, Julian Nagelsmann has drawn attention for his attire during several of RB Leipzig’s recent sojourns in the Champions League (more on him later). Over the past decade, the Bundesliga has not only positioned itself at the helm of tactical innovation, but at the forefront of fashion too – at least by conventional football standards.
So join us on this journey through the German top flight, club by club, coach by coach, as we explore and examine the clothing choices of the men on the sideline.
The Man: Frank Kramer
The Club: Arminia Bielefeld
We begin with a man just days into his posting in North Rhine-Westphalia. As his team sits precariously in the relegation zone, it is perhaps no surprise that Frank Kramer is keeping a low profile, his black puffer jacket, dark jeans and furrowed brow evoking the dignified misery of an undercover, world-weary Swedish policeman in your parents’ favourite Nordic noir. He’ll reluctantly take your statement but isn’t making any of his own, if you discount the lesser-spotted goatee, which suggests that part of him still clings to the dream of being the frontman of a mid-nineties grunge band. Don’t we all?
Catwalk Rating: Bend It Like Beck/10
The Man: Heiko Herrlich
The Club: FC Augsburg
A refreshing change from the dark palette that most football managers opt for, even if it’s very much the look of an investment banker on a lazy Sunday. The whole outfit is, however, just slightly too uniformly pallid – slightly too deliberately neutral – that it invites suspicion. What is Heiko Herrlich hiding? What secrets are locked away in the closet, crammed behind his fifty plaids of grey? Points do have to be given for the variation on the captain’s armband, portrayed here by a disposable face mask, both blazing a trail and capturing the zeitgeist as good fashion must. Maybe, just maybe, healthcare workers were the real leaders all along. #makesyouthink
Catwalk Rating: Bla Bla Bland/10
The Man: Peter Bosz
The Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Peter Bosz is not messing about. Clean and clinical, just as you’d expect the coach of a team founded by a pharmaceutical company to be, this all-navy number is as at home on the touchline as it would be in an advert for overpriced and overpungent cologne. Needless to say, I am ignoring the coat, which reframes the above tableau as an angsty teenager, infuriated that his folks have engaged him in a photoshoot on his first day of secondary school. Still, if you can reasonably expect to be played by Stanley Tucci in a biopic of your life without him having to deviate from his personal wardrobe, you’re doing something right.
Catwalk Rating: Eau De Toileverkusen/10
The Man: Hans-Dieter Flick
The Club: Bayern Munich
How would you dress to a Champions League final? Black polo, black chinos, no-show socks and your 17-year-old’s trainers? Thought so. Everything about Hansi Flick’s ensemble is everything you need to know about Bayern Munich: simple, bold, ruthlessly efficient, definitely *a bad thing* but you sort of have to respect it. Only a manager who feels not just confident of winning the trophy – but utterly entitled to it – could rock up like this and get away with it. Yet Flick does, just as Die Roten always seem to do.
Catwalk Rating: Swish Und Flick/10
The Man: Edin Terzić
The Club: Borussia Dortmund
Oh, isn’t he wholesome? The ideal son-in-law, with his Disney Prince locks and gentle eyes, Edin Terzić exudes comfort. The club anorak screams professional pride, while the ashen crew neck indicates somebody with whom you can share your innermost secrets; he might even let you weep into his chest, safe in the knowledge that the woollen fabric will absorb your tears. It’s no wonder Dortmund trusted him with the rest of their season, and a shame that it won’t be on more than an interim basis. The next guy better be pretty special…
Catwalk Rating: Mellow Fever/10
The Man: Marco Rose
The Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Ok, you’ve charmed me. Who are you wearing, darling? Oh, it’s Marco Rose – they had a sale on. Everything about this works: the contrast between the deep marine, perfectly pressed sweater and bleached, un-ironed jeans, not too skinny yet not too loose; the bright blue watch that says “yes, I am one of the most exciting, progressive young coaches out there“; the beard, 50 per cent sea salt and 50 per cent crushed black peppercorns. Even the things that should destroy his chic – the shirt reemerging at the jumper’s base, the overwhelming number of trouser creases – he somehow manages to pull off. When he joins Dortmund in the summer, they will be acquiring an industry icon, and they should be bloody grateful.
Catwalk Rating: Marco’s Polo/10
The Man: Adi Hütter
The Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Maybe it’s the dark motif, maybe it’s the slender physique, maybe it’s the large-upturned-collar-and-scarf combination that seems to hold his head perfectly flush with his body, but Adi Hütter oozes Dracula. Perhaps those blessed with name ‘Adolf’ are motivated to model their aesthetic on other notorious villains in the hope that people’s immediate association will shift to something, anything more palatable. After all, even the most deplorable fictional baddie has never caused any real harm. Whatever the reason, the Frankfurt boss is succeeding, if only he could see his own reflection.
Catwalk Rating: Vampire Chic-end/10
The Man: Christian Streich
The Club: SC Freiburg
If Germans subscribe to the adage that one should dress for the job they want, not the job they have, then it’s safe to assume that Christian Streich has aspirations of becoming a mechanic. Every component plays its part: the branded sports jacket with chevron piping, enveloping a branded, two-tone polo shirt neatly stuffed into blue jeans, faintly worn at the knees. The whole is held together by a mahogany leather belt, drooping at the waist, hinting that various tools might be affixed at its rear. It may not be cutting-edge, but I would absolutely trust this man to service my car at a competitive rate, throwing in some new floor mats on the house. Freiburg certainly entrust him with their vehicle maintenance: at the wheel for nine years and two months, he is the third-longest-serving manager in Europe’s top five leagues.
Catwalk Rating: Formula 1/10
The Man: Pál Dárdai
The Club: Hertha BSC
Is this a man embarking on a spell in charge of Berlin’s biggest football club for the second time in six years, or just some bloke who’s stumbled in from the park, looking for his dog? Either way, Pál Dárdai’s all-purpose apparel does not inspire confidence that he can get his team/doberman out of their current predicament. Come on, Pál, if you are going to derive your look straight from a Loiterers Weekly catalogue, at least have the common decency to do up the drawstring waist instead of allowing the laces to dangle provocatively above your groin as you prance along the touchline. Hold as many biros as you like: it’s fooling no one.
Catwalk Rating: Sports Direct-To-Video/10
The Man: Sebastien Hoeneß
The Club: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Making his debut as a head coach in senior football, the Hoffenheim boss is stepping out of the shadow cast by his father and uncle, whose contributions to Bayern Munich in playing and presidential capacities can be found in the ‘Tough Act To Follow’ file. It makes sense, then, that Sebastien Hoeneß would play it understated. Fitted, muted blues lend an aura of gravitas and, when combined with this thinning buzzcut, mild threat. He may never eclipse the achievements of his forefathers, but cross the house of Hoeneß and expect a visit from little Sebastien.
Catwalk Rating: Jean-Claude Van Dayummmm/10
The Man: Markus Gisdol
The Club: 1. FC Köln
What are clothes, if not a covering for the body? What is the body, if not a head persevering? And what is the head, if not a vessel for thick, nourished, flowing hair? To Markus Gisdol, it really is as simple as that. Getting dressed is a necessary inconvenience that must be endured before he can manicure his luscious mane. As he is legally obliged to wear clothes in public, the less remarkable the regalia, the more his curls shine. This is the only explanation for the shift in tone and effort that occurs at Gisdol’s neckline. Unlike Meghan, this trainer is all about that treble – because he can be. What many men in their fifties would give to be so follically blessed…
Catwalk Rating: The Hairest Of Them All/10
The Man: Julian Nagelsmann
The Club: RB Leipzig
Somebody needs to have a serious word. This is one of the brightest young sparks in football management. Having brought both Hoffenheim and now RasenBallsport Leipzig to previously unattained heights, the world is at Julian Nagelsmann’s exposed ankles. On paper, everything is going so, so right. What excuse, then, for this nightclub-owner monstrosity? Let’s start with the positives. The suit, if the trousers were not made for a small child, could pass as acceptable. The ornamentation is bold and mode, culture do not progress without courage. The shirt and shoes, in isolation and harmony with each other, are fine. However, all together, every garment ensures the other’s destruction. Thunder grey and space blue is a claustrophobic mix, and speaks to a wearer dying to be taken seriously. This whiff of desperation, combined with the jazzy pattern and inexplicably naked achilles, completes the midlife crisis bingo card – he’s only 33. People are already impressed, Julian, but no one likes try-hard.
Catwalk Rating: Julian NOgelsmann/10
The Man: Bo Svensson
The Club: 1. FSV Mainz 05
This out-of-work drama student has somehow talked his way into the dugout of a struggling Bundesliga side, where he will immerse himself in the role of ‘Beleaguered Manager’ in preparation for an unspecified underdog sports movie that he hopes will cast him in the future. It’s a look that doesn’t not work for Bo Svensson who, despite having a name that feels much more suited to the end credits of a mediocre thriller than the pantheon of elite coaching, dons darkness with graceful distinction. Looking back over this list, that’s easier said than done, and it’s not even that easily said.
Catwalk Rating: Madness In Method/10
The Man: Dimitrios Grammozis
The Club: FC Schalke 04
All is not well in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke are rooted to the bottom of the league, 14 points from safety, and on their fifth manager of the season. Wise, then, of latest incumbent Dimitrios Grammozis to wear a sleeping bag to work. It’s a tumultuous time and any coach relying on the solidity of a defence containing Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolašinac would do well not to get too comfortable, though hitting the sack might be good preparation for what’s likely to come. Beyond the bedroll, smart casual seems to be the order of the day but who really knows? He could be sporting a collared mankini under there, destined to remain forever hidden by a jacket not worth taking off.
Catwalk Rating: Nightie Nytol/10
The Man: Pellegrino Matarazzo
The Club: VfB Stuttgart
Someone who is born in the USA and spends their adult life in Germany might easily become culturally crosswired, but not Pellegrino Matarazzo. The Stuttgart boss couldn’t sparkle with more Italian heritage if his skin were made of mozzarella. The sharp tailoring of the jeans and cashmere jumper – you can take the man out of New Jersey but you can’t take the man out of a new jersey – juxtaposed with the nonchalant looseness of the coat, play into two convenient stereotypes of Mediterranean élan and temperament for the purposes of this analysis. Even his two-tone beard is essentially a visualisation of the recommended seasoning proportions for antipasti. It is all coherent and all very pleasing indeed.
Catwalk Rating: San Pellegrino 330ml/10
The Man: Urs Fischer
The Club: 1. FC Union Berlin
It is both gratifying and impressive that Union Berlin sit seventh in the table, given that they are managed by a stuffed toy. While this will come across as patronising, it is meant as a compliment. Snuggled between snood and cap is the perfectly circular head of Urs Fischer, the soft features of his face accentuated by the accessories that surround. Extreme affection is found in his eyes and smile, reminiscent of a benevolent uncle who is capable of feeling disappointment but never anger. For the players, there is surely no more motivating figure than a man whom it would break the heart to see upset.
Catwalk Rating: Fischer-Price/10
The Man: Florian Kohfeldt
The Club: SV Werder Bremen
Has it ever been more abundantly clear why most football managers favour either the tracksuit or the suit, but never both at the same time? Florian Kohfeldt’s clobber is vogue’s answer to the international buffet: where all cuisines are equally disgraced. This is best embodied by the trousers, wedged inexcusably into his trainers, posing as smart evening wear until their elasticated waste is betrayed by two strings poking out at the crest. This reveal is only accentuated by the way his untucked undershirt frills up below the navel, as if to admit embarrassment at its participation in this omnishambles. When scruffy and confused meet so haphazardly, it leaves the impression of someone who still needs the help of an adult to dress themselves.
Catwalk Rating: Woefeldt Is Me/10
The Man: Oliver Glasner
The Club: VfL Wolfsburg
“Come on, Oli, why are you so nervous? Sure, you haven’t been on a first date in 21 years but look how that turned out! Forget about all the money you lost and think about the two beautiful children it gave you. Okay, you only get to see them every other weekend now if they haven’t already made ‘plans’ with their ‘friends’, but you’re basically fond of them…mostly. Plus, you’ve still got it: you’re as hip now as you ever were in the nineties. You drink oat milk lattes and drive an electric car, and you’ve invested in two different cryptocurrencies! The sports gilet is making a comeback, Just For Men is working an absolute treat and your shoes are cleeeeeeeaaaaaan – who could possibly resist? Come on, Oli, time to get back on that horse, her muscles have been wasting.”
Catwalk Rating: Daddy Tool/10