AILSA CHANG, HOST:
All right. During the World Cup, most people are watching for goals, dramatic saves, maybe even a well-executed offside trap. But the fashion - that is Simon Doonan's obsession. For years, Doonan has been following what soccer players have been doing with their hair, their clothes, their skin, their shoes, the fashion statements they make on and off the field. He's written a whole book about it. To Doonan, watching the World Cup is about watching some of the most fashionable men in the world strut their stuff. And Simon Doonan joins us now to talk about what he's been noticing in this year's tournament. Hey there.
SIMON DOONAN: Thanks for having me.
CHANG: All right. So forget about athletic ability. Let's just put that aside. I want to know who you are noticing in soccer now and why.
DOONAN: Well, there are so many players who are obsessed with style, and in my book, I've divided them into different tribes. There are what I call the label kings like Cristiano Ronaldo who sleeps under an Hermes blanket on his plane. Then there is what I call the psychedelic ninjas.
CHANG: What's that?
DOONAN: They're the most avant-garde, crazy players like Neymar, Dani Alves, Firmino, Pogba. They have outrageously complicated haircuts, lots of ink. Third, we have the hired assassins.
DOONAN: And they dress super tough, lots of black, a black hoodie, skinny ripped jeans, a perfectly white sneaker that's almost sinister it's so white. And they look like hitmen.
CHANG: Because we always know hitmen wear bright, white sneakers.
DOONAN: Exactly. And then there are the good taste ambassadors, players who want to look pulled together and competent, like they're ready to become a manager. This often is players later in their career. Lastly, we have the bohemians and fauxhemians. It's a growing group of hipsters who have beards, and we see it a lot in America at the MLS. The Portland Timbers - they're very crunchy, and they have beards and they - you know, they serve tofu sandwiches at the pitch and stuff like that.
CHANG: Right (laughter). OK, so a lot of those categories are based on what these guys wear off the field, but what about style on the field? I mean, because they have to wear uniforms during the game, how do these guys show some of their flair anyway?
DOONAN: Well, they find a way. Believe me. I mean, their lives are very tightly controlled by managers, and the managers don't like these bursts of flamboyance. And they try and inhibit it as much as they can. On one notable occasion, Alex Ferguson made David Beckham go back to the changing room and shave off his Mohawk because he thought it was just not right for Wembley.
CHANG: Wow - not because it would interfere with Beckham's ability to play.
DOONAN: No. These things become a distraction, especially in the era of social media. So the managers try and inhibit it, but the players find a way.
CHANG: Have there been any looks that we're going to see selling out in stores because of this World Cup?
DOONAN: Well, obviously, the Nigeria shirt already sold out. That became the hip signifier of the 2018 World Cup. Around the world, people snagged that Nigeria shirt. It's really colorful, great, brilliant. And then, of course, we have Gareth Southgate, the manager of England, the guy in the vest.
CHANG: Oh, like a button-down kind of vest.
DOONAN: Well, you know, a three-piece suit has a little vest under it and he's taken off the jacket and he's just wearing the vest and it's a very pulled together, great look, which has now in this tournament become completely iconic. And all over England, there are tailors frantically stitching away at vests to produce enough because it's going to be the new look. But it's a risk too because if England weren't doing well, then everybody would say, well, the reason is him wearing that dopey vest. But now England is doing so well, they're like, oh...
CHANG: It's got to be the vest.
DOONAN: ...That vest is a talisman.
DOONAN: You know, it's funny. Soccer is a very superstitious sport.
CHANG: All right. Simon Doonan is the author of the book "Soccer Style: The Magic And Madness." He's also a creative ambassador for Barneys. Thank you very much.
DOONAN: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.