POPPED COLLARS?

A thing of the past or do perhaps popped collars still have some modern style potential? A trend 30 years ago, popping your collar instead of leaving it flat became popular in the newly established Premier League. It quickly caught the world by storm. Thanks to legends like Cantona, it sprung into popularity quickly because of the number of eyes watching the game. Could this make a comeback if modeled by the world’s biggest players.

Wearing your collar up was a calling card and telltale sign of an elite footballer. It was the 90’s equivalent of wearing golden boots, and a trend that blurred the lines of confidence and arrogance with an air of superiority. With football now more marketable than ever before, and with players building their personal brands at every opportunity, perhaps it’s time for a return of this classic trend.

Of course, with all on-pitch fashion trends there was, it seems, a set of unwritten rules one must apply. First, you had to play in the final third or in midfield. Second, you needed an iconic and “fashionable” number, something like a 7, 9 or 10. Last, you needed that alpha mentality and undisputed self belief that you were the best player on every pitch you set foot on.

The derby on November 7, 1993 is significant for one of many reasons. It was the first time Cantona played with his collar up, a trademark that would come to be associated with him as vividly as the number seven he wore on the back of his shirt. Cantona was superstitious, as many other footballers were, and on this occasion, it is said that after feeling a twitch from the neck, he decided to wear the collar up. The iconic look became unforgettably associated with Eric Cantona. Partly because of its evocative imagery, and easily associated with another flamboyant, enigmatic legend in Elvis Presley.

The popped collar hit its peak and coincidentally coincided with the introduction of the Premier League in the early 90’s. This was the footballing equivalent of the red carpet which was full of ego, glamour and it now had increased media coverage that kick-started the impression of the modern day footballer being stylish and invested in maintaining a certain image. Unfortunately for the collar, around 15 to 20 years later, performance enhancing material was introduced and the collar was put to the side and made less prevalent, but it definitely has the potential to rise again due to an increasing appreciation for football heritage.

Although it was trademarked in the Premier League by Eric ‘The King’ Cantona, the look was often replicated, but could never be stolen from the Frenchman. Arriving from Leeds with huge expectations and pressure Cantona let everyone know he was ready from the moment he stepped onto the Old Trafford pitch. with his collar popped up, it became almost a given that all United shirt designs going forward must have a collar. Following the Frenchman’s retirement in 1997, United brought Dwight Yorke to the club who perpetuated the ‘popped collar’ image to the best of his ability, but the style will always be associated with Eric Cantona.

The 90’s were a time when fashion and comfort trumped performance when it came to kit design and apparel with some very interesting and colourful designs. Oversized shirts were standard and pull-string collars were a must, but that all changed when sports science was introduced and started getting more and more common within the beautiful game. Now we have experienced three decades of skin-tight, muscle enhancing and minimalistic jerseys. Brands have progressed to a phase where they can place new emphasis on aesthetics without hampering the performance elements of the player. 

Once technology and innovation moved the game forward, the collar fell victim and was a less regular sight. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the few players on the planet with the perfect match of ability and arrogance, brought it back in 2011 for a while.

Who could be the lead figure and the first player to start a revolution in a potential ‘collar up’ revival? We’ve done a bit of recon and have come up with a few names. M’Bappe is definitely a potential candidate. Already very involved and into his fashion, plus PSG has the Jordan sponsor on their jersey. Imagine this, Jordan jersey, collar up. Now that’s a look. He may be young, but he is a very strong candidate, though perhaps he doesn’t yet mirror that Cantona-esque hardness and character. 

Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic more suited to the character and persona Cantona used to play? It may be a bit late for someone like him as he’s in the twilight of his career, but this could be his final departing gift and contribution to football before retiring. Unluckily for Zlatan, that head-case generation of arrogance and stubbornness has somewhat died out of football and now the collar-up trend should be revived by a younger, more humble yet lethal footballer.

It’s possible it could be brought back by the likes of someone like Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes or perhaps even someone more demure, but confident. Ultimately, the collar-up stance isn’t just a fashion statement, it’s a mindset, and represents a desire to flex a bit. People know when the collar is up, it’s game on. Join us.

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