THEY say fashion is so ugly it has to change every year.
In football some things don't move quite as quickly, but the wardrobe of coaches has seen some quirky phases. We hope another trend could be about to emerge.
The football landscape has been shaken by the COVID-19 outbreak, with change on the horizon everywhere. The club polo shirt could – thankfully – be another casualty of this unprecedented time.
It is time for football to farewell its mass produced nylon-materialled partner.
The often garish design and the unforgiving nature of a stretch fit are just some reasons footy's new normal should include a fresh ensemble.
The logo-loaded shirt has been a mainstay of media appearances for decades. It has been the garment of choice in moments of triumph and times of crisis, the armour of under-siege coaches and the uniform of in-sync teams.
Arrive at the game? It better be in your polo. Attend the opening of a local petrol station? Wear a polo. Head to an Auskick clinic? Pack your polo. Get in front of a camera? You really better have your polo. Got your polo? Here's a back-up.
Brenton Sanderson, who coached Adelaide from 2012-14, was an enthusiastic polo wearer in his time leading the Crows.
"People used to say I love the gym, but I only really did exercises and stuff in the gym that looked good in a polo, like the bench press and bicep curls. As long as you've got a big chest and arms, that's probably the key for a polo," said Sanderson, now a Magpies assistant.
But, with player and coach interviews being staged via Zoom, Webex, Skype or another online, whiz-bang link-up during the AFL's shutdown period, the sponsored polo has been noticeably absent. A victim, if you like, of these challenging times.
Players and coaches have a) gotten lax or b) shown their individuality through their dress sense outside of the club kit. We've even seen Essendon coach John Worsfold in his Ugg boots.
When it has been worn, the polo has been less effective with pixelated screens, loungeroom backdrops and tilted cameras at times hiding the badges stitched on the front or the sleeves.
It made us consider a world where club polos are gone, omitted from press conferences and public appearances. It's not as incongruous as you might think (if, in the unlikely case, you had thought about it previously).
The polo spread in popularity via coaches. Marketing teams began to realise the casual sports shirt presented commercial opportunities. If there was a logo on the players' jumpers on the field, why wasn't there one (or many) on the coach in the box, too?
So, we explored the history of 'coach wear' and found there to be a clear evolution in their attire.
Our research showed the club polo killed off the suit and tie, which had effectively ended the days of the bomber jacket, which had taken over from the vest and related knitwear.
The club polo is etched in recent history. Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was brimming in blue when he led the club to its historic 2016 premiership.
In all of Alastair Clarkson's four flags as Hawthorn coach, the mastermind was decked out in the Hawks' official sponsored shirt.
When Paul Roos saluted the Swans' first premiership in 72 years in 2005, he was replete in their mostly bright red polo.
The year before, famously, was the last time we watched a flag won by a suit-wearing coach.
Mark Williams' boundary line theatrics just before the final siren – when he grabbed his tie and pulled it up in reference to Port Adelaide overcoming its 'choker' tag – will live on. But Williams was the last of his kind – by direction from the Power.
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"I would have rather worn a polo with an open neck, as you would get a bit hot under the collar at times and a bit tense while coaching," he said.
"It's a very close and stressful environment, so that's what I'd rather have worn. You might have to have up to eight sponsor spots on the polo.
"But Port went down the path that they thought the traditional suit looked more formal for gameday. Then all of a sudden they ended up putting the logos on the collars. I just did what they said and away we went."
Williams wore a suit on and off until 2008, before Port lost faith in the outfit and followed the competition by going with the polo full-time in the coach's final two seasons.
The club sold that tie on the night of its premiership win for $38,000. The suit? It might be still with Williams. "I'm not sure, I don't climb into it very often," he said.
Coaching was for the most part white collar business in the 1990s. When Leigh Matthews broke Collingwood’s long premiership drought in 1990, he did it wearing a shirt and tie with a black sleeveless vest.
Denis Pagan led North Melbourne to its 1996 and 1999 premierships in a jacket and tie. In between, Adelaide claimed back-to-back flags, which was a crucial era for the sponsored polo to take the limelight.
Malcolm Blight coached both premierships, the first in a shirt, tie and bomber jacket, and the next in a long-sleeved polo, stamped with logos of club sponsors.
"Usually it was someone in the marketing department who picked what we wore," Blight said.
"I hated wearing the tie. You looked like a pimple on a bum wearing a suit coaching, you're out of place. You're going to work at the footy and it's action-packed and there's a tie flapping around everywhere."
The bomber jacket was made famous years earlier, when Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy took his off after a close Bombers win in 1993 and swung it around outside of the coaches’ box. The Bombers wanted him to wear it to promote its sales – it worked.
"I only waved it once, and now kids know me as the guy who waved a jacket," he said. "They wouldn't know who I am."
Sheedy made the jacket iconic, but across his 27-year stay at Essendon the four-time premiership coach saw more fashion trends than Kate Moss.
In 1981, his debut season, he wanted to wear a tracksuit. That was knocked on the head by the Essendon bosses.
He stayed casual instead, leading the Bombers to their 1984-85 flags in civilian wear. He dipped in and out of Essendon vests and heavy bomber jackets, was amongst that horrible phase that saw coaches wear white shirts and club ties under a sponsored tracksuit top, and even tried out the skivvy before digging into the polo shirt basket in the second half of his career.
"I started with normal clothes, and then the CEO and marketing departments want you to walk around lit up like a neon sign," he said.
"There's a delicate touch to it all because you don't want to be walking around AFL grounds looking like a Formula 1 driver."
The 1980s saw an eclectic mix of coach wear. 'T-shirt' Tommy Hafey earned his nickname for his tight Adidas shirts, Hawthorn's Allan Jeans was often spotted in a vest (or V-neck jumper), shirt and tie, and Carlton's Robert Walls was a polo pioneer, albeit without Blues sponsors.
Footy fashion in the 1970s was even more outlandish, with Ron Barassi's wild collars and coloured suits a sign of the times.
"He was a bit loud, wasn't he?" said Blight, who played under Barassi at North Melbourne. "With some of those big collars out there you could take off in a big wind."
Even further back, the game's legendary coaches were providing fashion statements.
Essendon's John Coleman and Hawthorn's John Kennedy were often ground-side in full, long coats (the statue of Kennedy at the Hawks' Waverley headquarters has him in the knee-length jacket), while Melbourne's Norm Smith also carried with him a full-length jacket, often above a sharp navy suit.
Jock McHale, the coach of Collingwood's never-equalled run of four straight premierships between 1927-30, was renowned for his Fedora hats, which had a boom in that era.
What comes next is anyone's guess. But football's new world order should ensure we do one thing: pull the plug on the polo.