The waistcoat’s coming home
- Credit: PA
It’s coming home, it’s coming home...
How could, we wondered, England football manager Gareth Southgate wear a waistcoat in the heat of the Russian football stadia? But now we know, it’s more than just a waistcoat (also available at Marks and Spencer); it’s a lucky waistcoat.
The navy-blue, five-buttoned item of men’s clothing has so far seen England through the group stages of the World Cup, the last 16, and the quarter-final against Sweden. How much luckier could a waistcoat be?
Or maybe, it’s nothing to do with the waistcoat - maybe it’s more about the skill, energy and commitment of the England team. But there again, maybe it is the waistcoat...
In the style stakes, the waistcoat is more to do with well-tailored suits than the sort of thing you wear every day or indeed on the touchline but watch this space – there will be fans watching Wednesday’s semi-final who will be togging themselves out in waistcoats – probably worn over supermarket-issue official England shirts, some of them stretched over a not very England-team-looking tummy. It is, of course, correct to wear the bottom button undone... which might help accommodate a beer belly.
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Meanwhile, today has been dubbed Waistcoat Wednesday and Gareth Southgate shoots straight into the number one spot in the top five waistcoat wearers of all time and not just because he is the most successful England manager since the one who previously managed Ipswich Town and the other one who previously managed Ipswich.
He genuinely looks good in it. In fact, if we were handing out trophies for smartest looking national team manager in Russia, then Southgate would be a contender.
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Who are the top five waistcoat wearers?
1. Gareth Southgate – who, single-handedly has revived the fortunes of the waistcoat even accounting for the longest spell of hot, dry weather since 1976 which makes wearing an extra layer of clothes a challenge.
2. Top Cat – the cartoon pizza-acquiring mastermind who lives in a dustbin in a New York alleyway and wears naught but a matching maroon hat and waistcoat.
3. Francis Rossi – the Status Quo frontman is among the music artists of the world who wears a waistcoat on stage. It is not dissimilar to the one currently being sported by Gareth Southgate. If England do go on to win the World Cup will it be Rossi or Southgate who is the tribute act?
4. Tony Manero – the character famously played by John Travolta in the movie Saturday Night Fever. By dancing in a white three piece suit, Travolta achieved what many men have tried and failed to do; looking cool on the dancefloor in white trousers, waistcoat and jacket. (Don’t try this at home)
5. Patrick Grant of The Great British Sewing Bee... makes a woollen three-piece suit look sexy in a sort of Edwardian way.
High Street retailer Marks and Spencer is cock-a-hoop over England’s success, intoning will barely disguised glee: “M&S (official tailor to the England team) has been proud to see Gareth Southgate sporting his M&S waistcoat on the sidelines for... England’s games. And in a term many have coined the ‘Southgate Effect’, waistcoats have been flying off the shelves of M&S stores and into the online baskets on M&S.com. Sales of all M&S waistcoats have gone up by 35%. With 57 waistcoats available at M&S, starting from £19.50, there’s a waistcoat for everyone to show their support...” I note that there have been calls for the price of the official M&S waistcoat to be reduced from £65 to a symbolic £19.66 (1966). The waistcoat has turned out to be lucky for not only the team but also for the retail industry.
Rewinding to the 1966 World Cup (as I must), fans did not rush out to buy a copy of Sir Alf Ramsey’s bright blue tracksuit with its elasticated red, white and blue cuffs, which he wore with white socks. As a look, it didn’t take off.
The ‘66 World Cup did, however, feature the first mascot in the shape of World Cup Willie, a shaggy-maned lion, most often seen sporting the Union Flag on his shirt rather than the flag of St George.
In 2018, Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat is both a token of good luck and an England mascot – quite something for such a modest garment.