WREXHAM AFC and Chester FC footballers always want to come out on top when they meet at The Racecourse or the Lookers Stadium, but who will out-clobber who in the sartorial stakes?
Rachel Wheatley casts an eye over both sets of image conscious players seeking out their passion for fashion...
“As long as I come out on top of Gary Mills in this, I don’t mind!”
These words came from a very nattily turned out Chester FC manager Steve Burr, who knows only too well the importance of having a great image.
He said: “The better you look, the better you play.”
Having played football all his life, he’s invested a great deal of time and money in his appearance and told me: “Dress sense is important to a lot of sportsmen, but I think in general everybody wants to look after themselves these days.”
With all his players clearly catching onto the growing phenomenon of 21st century male grooming, and all enjoying a wide range of trends, Steve Burr has plenty of inspiration to keep him on his toes.
But it looks like he has got some competition on his hands as 12 miles across the border fierce rivals Wrexham FC seem to be hot on the heels of a first class image too.
Equally stylish manager Gary Mills speaking from Wrexham FC’s Colliers Park training ground said he believes it’s totally acceptable to look after yourself in the sports industry, and it turns out he is something of a pro when it comes to image, particularly as his wife happens to own a beauty salon and his daughter is a hairdresser.
He admits: “I have the odd sunbed at the salon when I can and look after my skin by moisturising. I also have a facial once in a while.”
His hair is cut in the same style once a week, “mainly because it grows wild otherwise.”
The very honest Wrexham ‘gaffer’ said. “I’ve given up on the idea of dyeing my hair. I’ve been grey for years now, but I use a brilliant styling gel called ‘Sexy Hair’, which I buy online for £20.”
He takes great care in choosing his clothes and footwear too with a wardrobe full of Italian shoes, and has recently taken advice from his assistant team manager, Darren Caskey, on the very trendy ‘T-shirt-under-a-suit-jacket’ look.
He said: “There’s some great off-the-peg suits about, and I love Ted Baker and Paul Smith. It’s all about the clothes you wear and the way you wear them. Clothes can make you feel youthful.”
He expects equally high standards from his players.
“I don’t like to see them looking scruffy,” he said. “ Their interpretation of fashion when they turn up to training can be a bit dubious sometimes, but it’s important to me that they represent the club looking smart.”
Over at Chester FC, in between playing golf and riding motorbikes, Blues manager Steve Burr hits the shops on a regular basis, particularly to buy favourite brands like Ralph Lauren, which he claims drives his wife nuts.
He said. “She always moans at me because I go clothes shopping every five minutes!”
One of his biggest extravagances has been a £700 Paul Smith suit which ‘is a great fit’ and a tweed blazer from Jack Wills for £500 which he wears regularly. “I just love it,” he said. “The quality you feel when you’ve got it on is great.”
After proudly pointing out his Hugo Boss watch, he added. “I fell in love with a pair of Louis Vuitton slip-ons while shopping in Barcelona once. As soon as I tried them on, I just knew they were for me.”
Looking after their appearance is something all our leading football stars are into.
Chester FC defender Ryan Higgins reveals he likes having facials at home, while midfielder Ben Heneghan has been using a top of the range men’s moisturiser for about three years.
Wrexham FC midfielder Mark Carrington also admitted using the occasional sunbed and has had his teeth whitened.
He said:“It was mainly to do with getting married and wanting to look good for my wedding photos as my teeth looked like a bag of spanners before. It just helped to boost my confidence.”
Flashing his dazzling smile he said he is equally happy to splurge the cash if he sees something he loves and can’t leave the store without.
He said:“I like jackets from Reiss and once spent £700 on a pair of Valentino trainers. I’d wear smart trainers over shoes any day.”
Looking noticeably stylish in an All Saints top and a £300 pair of Balenciaga trainers, was Chester midfielder Ben Heneghan, who revealed his TW Steel watch ‘was a gift’, and his team-mate. striker Craig Hobson, who said he would pay £120 for a decent shirt.
And good grooming is not just a footballers domain. It seems to cross all sports.
Rugby player Christiaan Roets, full back for North Wales Crusaders, said there is a self confidence link between looking good and playing well.
He likes to dress up on special occasions and uses a sunbed once a week because “he misses the South African sunshine”, but he wouldn’t consider himself vain.
“There’s a lot more vanity in the UK compared to back home,” he said. “We’re pretty relaxed about self-image in South Africa. I just think British guys like to attract more attention.
“The sport you play can influence the image. Take football for instance, which is a relatively clean game compared to rugby. If you don’t play a contact sport, it’s far easier to maintain a well-groomed image.”
It seems getting into muddy scrums with a group of burly men every week dictates the image.
Crusaders centre Stuart Reardon, who was once the face of men’s skin care range ‘Axiom’, and is now the poster boy for the team, describes himself as ‘steady-trendy’.
He said.“Self-image goes hand in hand with how you are on the pitch. Your own personality comes out in the game and ultimately, you’re a product of your own environment.”
This also rings true for the image conscious Simon Furnival, who plays as a forward for Deeside Dragons Ice Hockey squad.
“Image can definitely go with the sport. Take our sport for instance, which is brutal territory.
“Many of the guys aren’t too fussed on maintaining appearances as much as in other sports. Because of the nature of the game they know they’re going to be getting shoved about in the rink. But I personally believe that if you look good, you feel good.”
Super trendy forward Gary Dixon, would also agree and was sporting a Hublot watch and a Vivienne Westwood shirt when we spoke. “I love my labels,” he said.
Owen Bennett, who was sporting the Will Smith inspired ‘backwards jacket’ told me it’s the man inside the clothes that counts. It’s about the person you are, not the sport you play.”
A final word of wisdom came from Laurence Paul, Deeside Dragons team coach, who told me: “The most important tip you can give a youngster about his longevity in an ice hockey career, is to start moisturising now!”
Smooth as ice, or what?
See full story in the Chester Leader