Pep Guardiola’s style speaks to new reality for managers: they must look as good as their tactics

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Pep Guardiola has built a reputation for making complicated things look easy, dating back to his playing days as a slight but influential midfielder. In February, he lifted the Carabao Cup with his Manchester City squad: a fourth trophy in under three seasons, the first part of a possible quadruple.

That final at Wembley was messy. So too was Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, but Guardiola remained casually resplendent in skinny trousers and a sweater. Based on his outfit, he might as well have spent the afternoon doing graphic design in his studio.

The primary job of a football manager is to instill a singular idea of how his club operates. It’s tactical — managers determine how the team should play and get players to execute that vision — but as the club’s public face, they also need to look the part. In that capacity, the way they speak — and the way they dress — matters.7

Football fans may still think of Guardiola as a debonair clothes horse, but he abandoned suits long ago. He now favours an austere, largely colourless uniform: medium gray, round-neck sweaters over white shirts, skinny trousers hemmed at the ankle with a pair of sneakers, a look that’s more Silicon Valley than soccer sideline.

Sometimes, the sweaters are darker or he maybe even pushes to a v-neck, but the staples are always there. When Guardiola wore a yellow sweater for a Feb. 22 news conference, it was the first — and, to date, only — time in 2019 he’d worn a colour other than Manchester City blue while doing his job as their manager.

Last fall, Guardiola was photographed next to Burnley’s Sean Dyche. Pep’s sweater sleeve fell naturally above his watch; meanwhile, the sleeve of Dyche’s unbuttoned suit extended past the cuff of his shirt. Their clothes told the story of who they are and what they stand for, but Dyche’s outfits, while less snazzy than Guardiola’s, merit equal consideration.

It is too often assumed that managers like Dyche exist in a world without fashion, but this approach wrongly conflates fashion with style. You may not be interested in fashion, to paraphrase Trotsky or Miranda Priestly, but fashion is interested in you.