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Ahead of Euro 2024, the England Men’s Football Squad Challenged Typical Sports Fashion

by Madeline Anderson

This week, the men’s England squad for the Euro 2024 unveiled its pre-tournament team photo, with the 26-man roster skirting convention by donning separates from Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) Football Association (FA) Menswear collection in lieu of more formal matching suits.

The photo has sparked debate online, with some criticising the outfit choices as an abrupt departure from the clothes worn in past team photos taken prior to major tournaments, which feature the players dressed in suits and ties.

This year’s more laid-back black, tan, and off-white ensembles worn by the players are all part of the FA’s ongoing collaboration with M&S, which dates back to 2007 when the British high street retailer became the official suit supplier for the England men’s senior team. The FA extended the partnership in 2022, naming M&S as ‘Official Tailor’ to the England senior men’s and women’s squads.

Building on the retailer’s existing relationship with the FA, the new three-year phase of the partnership introduced a 67-piece menswear range, available for customers to shop in-store and online. A womenswear collection was later unveiled in the summer of 2023 to coincide with the Women’s World Cup.

Wes Taylor, Director of Menswear at M&S, said the initial menswear collection was born out of a desire for the players to wear clothes that “better reflected who they really are.”

“After meeting with the England men’s team and discussing their needs, it became apparent almost immediately that they wanted a collection which delivered on style and versatility, allowed for individual preferences but still came across as a cohesive look,” Taylor commented.

The pieces are intended to replace the traditional shirt, suit and tie ‘uniform’ worn by players when representing their team off the field, and instead prioritise comfort, performance and sustainability, Taylor explained.

Navin Singh, Commercial Director at the FA, added: “The FA and M&S are steeped in history, but this modern range aligns with our young, exciting, and relatable players. We are sure that the new men’s and womenswear will prove popular.”

Despite the intent behind the collection, a handful of fans have taken to social media to express their confusion over the outfit choices for the team photo, with some jokingly calling the decision to evade suits and ties as ‘woke nonsense’. One user said the team resembled ‘supply teachers on a non-uniform day’, while another called the outfits ‘bland’.

The criticism isn’t necessarily baseless, as casual wear off the pitch bucks a well-known if outdated trend that pervades many professional sports leagues. Players are ordinarily expected to dress up before matches as a sign of unity and professionalism – a lot of men’s leagues enforce pre-game dress codes that sometimes mandate a tie.

Nevertheless, some Euro 2024 squads elected to obey tradition and dress in suiting for their team photo, including the Italian team, who were fitted out by returning collaborators Emporio Armani. The Milan-based fashion house is no stranger to dressing sports stars, and sponsors several Italian athletes through its EA7 Emporio Armani sporting range, like tennis player Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Paralympic swimmer Simone Barlaam, among others.

Collaborations with major fashion brands have always been a thing in sports, and football has recently been in the fashion spotlight with many designers choosing to create and collaborate on football kit-inspired pieces, including Versace’s FW18 football-inspired scarves, Balenciaga’s AW20 football jerseys, and Miu Miu’s SS21 football boot-inspired heeled mules.

The trend has also taken over the actual football pitch – brands like Wales Bonner, Palace, and Yohji Yamamoto have designed the kits worn by players during matches. Through his Y-3 label, Yamamoto has enjoyed a long-running partnership with Real Madrid, having first designed their kits for the 2014-15 season. 

More recently, Yamamoto designed the 2024 kits for Japan’s national men’s football team. Wales Bonner and adidas created the kits worn by the Jamaican women’s team in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, while Palace also teamed up with adidas to design Juventus’ fourth kit in 2019.

But what place does fashion really have in football? 

Derek Guy, writer and editor at Put This On, suggested the fashion’s omnipresence in football has much to do with the desire to seize any and all opportunities for marketing. 

In a post published on X, Guy noted the problem with the England team’s M&S outfits “is not with the players themselves, but the fashion industry’s need to infiltrate every corner of culture for marketing.”

Guy wrote: “The pervasiveness of marketing — such as Lebron wearing a Tiffany x Nike jacket after the collab was announced — ruins aesthetics because it prioritises money. If the football teams are to get dressed for an event, the question should first be: What looks good? Not, Who pays?”

Now that the England squad has landed in Germany ahead of their first match of the tournament against Serbia on Sunday 16 June, fans can expect to see a lot more of the M&S outfits across the team’s social media channels as the Euro 2024 gets underway. 

Bland or not, the separates appear to be here to stay, in line with football’s fresh status as a touchpoint in the world of fashion. Besides, by the time the starting whistle blows, fans will abandon their assumed roles as the fashion police, and focus on what matters; the game.

Edited by Emily Duff

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