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Phil Walker

The Ten: Cricket’s Iconic Fashion Statements

Phil Walker by Phil Walker

From lovebeads to oversized specs, cricketers have always expressed their sense of ‘personal style’. Here’s Phil Walker with his favourite cricket-related fashion affectations.

10) Waugh’s collar

A little detail that spoke volumes. Just as Eric Cantona starched his United collar so it would stand proud – he understood such things – so Mark Waugh, the most immaculate man in whites since Jeremy Irons punted down the River Cam, was a dedicated devotee of the upturned collar. With the look completed by the white sunhat, short-sleeved jumper and early-era shades, an enigmatic air followed Waugh around the cricket field, especially when he batted, and that majestic collar, with top button always done up, was the trademark touch.

9) Smith’s neckerchief

Being a modest sort, The Judge probably only wore a neckerchief in India in ’93 because he was a bit hot. But for our purposes we’ve chosen to attach an imperialist symbolism to that rag around his neck, for it was none other than Douglas Jardine himself who first made the neckerchief popular, and of course, no English cricketer ever fought so hard to preserve the Empire. We’d like to think that Smith, stylish and cool as ever, was merely carrying on the tradition.

8) Richie’s wristwatch

When Richie Richardson batted in his watch, as he did most of the time, it wasn’t because he was fussed about punctuality. The actual time – minutes, hours, all that – not very important. “Tell me Vivi,” Richie never said, “how shall I proceed, given that  my timepiece confirms there are 12 minutes until the luncheon interval? Methinks caution may be the order of the day?” The simple truth was that Richie loved making mugs of fast bowlers, and so the watch was a prop, a snub to ‘nasties’ everywhere – a clear message to any quicks out there that they’ll never hit him. It elevated the nose-thumbing arrogance of the maroon sunhat to new degrees of cheek and emasculated the world’s slingers to clinic-dwelling impotents before they’d even bowled a ball. Genius.

7) Sehwag’s bandana

Quite a few cricketers favour the bandana these days, lending as it does a certain defiant panache to the premature baldness issue afflicting virtually all of them. The bandana works as a halfway house between, say, Dave Houghton’s proudly shiny pate and the re-thatched con trick of a startlingly hirsute Warne. It applies to the balding batsman a degree of street-style that a lack of real hair has clearly deprived him of, without having to resort to the absurd ‘studio work’ beloved of Warne, Gooch, Crowe, Kallis, Narcissus et al. And Sehwag, beset up-top by a surface of unsettling, isolated tufts – the cranial equivalent of Old Trafford’s outfield – is the coolest bandana-wearer this side of Springsteen’s guitarist.

Brad Haddin should have known better than to diss Sulieman's flares

Brad Haddin should have known better than to diss Sulieman’s flares

6) Big Benn’s flares

Flares, of course – from Lillee to Warne, via Big Bird Joel and ‘Nice Guy’ Eddie Hemmings – have always been a part of cricket’s DNA. But these days no modern player pulls them off with such feverish glitterball-chutzpah as that great West Indian circus act, ‘Big’ Sulieman Benn. The Bajan spinner fancies himself rotten, bowls supremely tricky donkey-drops, has been known to attend Chrissy Gayle’s ‘party events’ and, in his quest to become the new coolest sportsman in the world, makes great use of his lengthy pins by sporting a pair of expertly-cut flares – stilts wrapped in pillowcases. And why? Because he can.

5) Clive’s NHS glasses

Magisterial, steel-rimmed super-specs for the sort of man who values substance over fanciness; eye-shields  for the man of action, hefty bins for the leader of consequence. No fripperies, no cutesy rimless fancies, and definitely no contact lenses – leave them for advertising execs and opening batsmen from Yorkshire – Clive Hubert Lloyd was a different beast altogether, the West Indian godfather, in touch with the higher consciousness and pioneering the heavy-duty NHS-style of bifocal a full three decades before posturing trustafarians with 20-20 vision decided they wanted to look like Mark Ronson. Clive would not be impressed.

4) Warne’s bowling boots

The Blond, staggering through customs with his chargesheet of naughtiness, badly out of form and nursing a dodgy shoulder, was dismissed as washed-up in 2005. But Warnie was channelling Vegas-era Elvis that summer, carrying off the mother of all comebacks to take 40 Ashes wickets, and doing it all in striking pairs of red-tinged tenpin-bowling boots and billowing strides. Even the wicket celebration – down on one knee, arms pumping, eyes bulging – had a touch of that Suspicious Minds encore about it. Only Warne could have got away with it.

Ishant Sharma: part man, part jewellery

Ishant Sharma: part man, part jewellery

3) Sharma’s lovebeads

The Westernisation of Indian culture has already been well covered, and those shimmering über-cricketalists from the East went a step further by throwing the new ball to an extra from Boogie Nights. With a body-ratio of roughly 20 per cent flesh to 80 per cent jewellery, Ishant Sharma looks less like a manly fast bowler than he does a dazed, pubescent Woodstock-victim. Batsmen tend to hear him coming from the rattle of his beads; Indian pundits have ascribed his recent struggles to Reynolds’ Law, a little-known scientific principle which holds that the more medallions a man wears around his neck, the more inherently rubbish he becomes.

2) Gower’s blue socks

“A patriotic gesture and a bit of fun” is Goldenhare’s laconic take on his blue batting socks, though the fun bit may have been lost on England’s chairman of selectors Peter May, as well as the uniforms in charge – Squadron Captain Gooch and Major General Stewart – who grumbled on about a bloody lack of seriousness in that bloody Gower’s bloody approach. To be fair, the logic was impenetrable. “How dare he make hundreds in blue socks when the rest of us are making fifties in grey ones? Take them off, man! Think of the team! Think of the grandchildren! Think of, think of, think of… England!”

1) Viv’s sweatbands

Viv Richards never forgot where he came from or what he was here for. Back when the West Indies cricket team truly mattered to a region fighting for identity, Richards was a gleaming expression of what could be achieved when God-given ability met a mighty hard ass. He was the boy from the Leewards who conquered the world, a whirlwind of runs, passion and pride, all encased in two sensationally brilliant Rasta sweatbands. Richards wasn’t just belting bowlers through mid-wicket for his own sake, or even for the sake of his team; Viv was Viv, the King (after Marley) of the whole damn Caribbean, a shimmering man of the people, and their humble representative – and those bands on his wrists were there to prove it.

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