The shaggy manes and bushy moustaches of soccer days past have been replaced by bleached beards, “city boy” crops and headbands at the World Cup in South Africa.
Players; hairdos are a perennial talking point at soccer’s biggest spectacle and players face razor-sharp scrutiny — right down to their shaving routines.
Brazil’s Robinho has been sporting a new-look beard at the tournament and bloggers back home have launched an online campaign urging the baby-faced forward to visit the barber’s.
“Ugly face, beautiful game — God willing,” Robinho, 26, told reporters last week, laughing off suggestions he grew the beard in a bid to frighten opponents. “I just forgot to shave,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the camp of South American rivals Argentina, the new greying beard worn by Diego Maradona is being seen as a symbol of a more serene, mature air in the squad that seems to be bearing fruit on the pitch.
Maradona, nicknamed El Pelusa (Fuzzy) for the voluminous hairdo of his 1980s playing heyday, grew the beard because he could not shave after his pet dog bit him in the face, but it looks like becoming a permanent fixture.
As far as footballers’ haircuts go, award-winning British hairdresser Mark Woolley said they have got more conservative and sophisticated of late.
The famously clean-cut Cristiano Ronaldo has become one of the sport’s leading style icons and Spain’s Fernando Torres recently chopped off his highlighted locks, opting for a discreet crop.
“There’s been a definite move towards the tailored city boy look, which is great for the sport,” Woolley told Reuters.
But not all the game’s protagonists seem ready to look like office workers.
France’s tattooed marksman Djibril Cisse raised eyebrows in South Africa with his trademark bleached beard, a trend also embraced by veteran Cameroon defender Rigobert Song, who teamed it with lionesque dreadlocks.
The blond mini-mohawk made popular by England’s David Beckham got a twist at the hands of Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami, while firm devotees of long hair like Uruguay’s Diego Forlan have been taming their manes with Alice bands.
Aesthetics aside, footballers’ hair is sometimes motivated more by superstition than fashion.
The entire Romanian squad dyed their hair blond as a lucky charm at the 1998 World Cup and Spanish media have speculated that goalkeeper Iker Casillas shaved off his beard after the team’s opening loss against Switzerland in a bid to reverse their fortunes.
So far it seems to be working. Spain won their two subsequent games to finish top of their group.