In the past century, fashion has evolved tremendously—from corsets to crop tops, and coat tails to tshirts. With hundreds of fashion brands vying for attention, people across the world have become more trendy and fashionable. Not surprisingly, two of the most glamourous fields in the world- fashion and sports- have collided and sports persons have turned into fashion icons. This global trend began with football player David Beckham early in the 21st century.
Just like fashion, cricket has evolved as well since the 1800s, and from being role models, cricketers have become style icons as well. Unfortunately, this seems to have come at a cost. The cost of True Style.
Days of cricket past: When style went beyond fashion
Your personal style is a means of expression of your personality and is an all-encompassing concept, going beyond what you wear. Style reflects in your clothing and hair, the way you speak to someone, hold your fork, or write a letter. This traditional sense of true style was something the gentlemanly cricket players of the previous century possessed and practised. You couldn’t be dressed to the Ts and use abusive language like a drunken slob at the local pub.
For instance, the dignified Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was known as much for his quiet charm as for his understated luxe clothing. The dashing Imran Khan made women swoon with his smart shirts and suits, thick wavy hair and his elegant conversation.
Cricket players have also sought different means to express their individuality and personality. With his carefully groomed side burns à la Elvis Presley, India’s “Brylcreem boy” Farokh Engineer was a vivacious, talkative man and continues to be one. While Sir Viv Richards with his swagger, doffed cap and murderous smile, epitomized Caribbean cool much before a certain Mr. Gayle.
Days of cricket present: Cricket and fashion in the 21st century
Some of the younger Indian and international cricketers are eager to try new trends or even forge their own trend. So Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh carry off grungy jeans with elan, while Kevin Pietersen’s super confidence puts him equally at ease in a printed tee and chinos, as well as in a tailored suit. His versatile style is the envy of a lot of young men.
Off duty, most cricketers like to play safe with their fashion and opt for well-known international fashion brands (a number of them often go shopping on their overseas tours). Of course, there is more focus on personal grooming, along with hot trends, high street and premium fashion. Famous cricketers have been spotted in brands like Ed Hardy (Harbhajan Singh), French Connection (Shikhar Dhawan), Lacoste (Michael Clarke) and H&M (Virat Kohli). At formal events several cricketers sport designer suits from luxury brands.
Current off-duty styles
Off the field, the gentlemen (and fashion icons) of today’s cricketing world have opted for a range of looks and styles, such as:
- Classic– Neutrals like white and black with straight cut jeans (favoured by Kumar Sangakkara, Alastair Cooke)
- Grungy – Distressed jeans, acid washed denim, printed graphic tees (loved by Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, AB de Villiers)
- Sporty– Polo shirts with badges, casual shirts with chinos and jeans (such as Brendon McCullum, Graeme Smith)
- Versatile– Wear a range of looks (like Kevin Pietersen, Brett Lee)
The current crop of cricketers also set out to express their individuality on the field as well. Despite being in uniform, their distinctive features stand out:
- Tattoos: Brendon McCullum, Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn
- Hair: Lasith Malinga’s coloured locks, Brett Lee’s spikes, MS Dhoni’s ever-changing hair styles
- Sunglasses: Chris Gayle, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh
- Facial hair: Shikhar Dhawan’s curled moustache and stubble, Mitchell Johnson’s handlebar moustache, Ravindra Jadeja’s royalty-inspired moustache
Style, fashion and “uniforms”
In the first decade of this century, the idea of style has given way to “fashion statements”, and thus style has become equated only with what you wear. Men and women have become clones when it comes to sartorial choices (solid or graphic tees, skinny jeans, chinos and sneakers). These off-the-field “uniforms” may make you feel part of the peer group, but they don’t express your personality or style.
This limited definition of style has unfortunately percolated to current cricket players as well. While some of them may make a strong fashion statement, their unique style is lacking and invisible. Let me explain: I have never met Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, nor do I recall watching or reading any interview with that legendary cricketer. Yet, one look at his off-duty picture and I am convinced that if I were to meet him, he would be a true gentleman- courteous, respectful, benevolent and, of course, charming. That is the magnetic power of True Style.
True, we shouldn’t judge a wearer by his or her clothes, but what about style as a holistic concept? Somewhere in the past few decades, individual, meaningful True Style has almost disappeared.
Bodyline (sorry, bottomline): Style vs Fashion
Yep, cricket players these days are smart, suave and well-groomed. Some of them endorse fashion brands, appear on fashion magazine covers and sell beauty products, while others are trying their hand at fashion themselves (Virat Kohli’s fashion line WROGN and Zaheer Khan for Sher Singh).
With the overwhelming number of clothing and accessory options for cricket players today, the bright young lot these days is more fashion-conscious than ever. Despite this, the timeless appeal of the erstwhile cricket players is universal, eternal and magical. Young people across the world may want to copy the current players’ clothes, but how many can truly emulate the charm of Pataudi, the playfulness of King Viv, or the elegance of Imran Khan? Now THAT is True Style.
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