Hooligan hairdos

At the World Cup of soccer, David Beckham’s “faux-hawk” leads the charge of warrior-style coifs.

Despite the increased security at the 2002 World Cup, soccer hooliganism seems to have infiltrated– in the form of the hottest hairdo on the soccer pitch.

Traditionally a preppy sport, World Cup games usually feature neatly shorn heads. Now, borrowing from the scrappy aesthetic of infamous over-enthused Brit soccer fans, players have chopped, dyed, gelled and teased their hair into warrior-like fins intended to intimidate and impress during battle on soccer’s world stage.

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“The only thing that players have control over is their hair,” top Tokyo hair stylist Aki Watanabe, who regurlary trims the considerable more conservative coif of Japan’s coach, Frenchman Philippe Troussier, told Reuters.

Given its origins in his homeland, who better to usher in this latest soccer hairdo than British captain David Beckham, whose bleached crest is reminiscent of his punk compatriots in Loindon’s Trafalgar Square. After all, as fashion conscious soccer stars are aware, the hooligan lad is the perfect foil for this summer’s urban peasant look for women.

Beckham’s hairdo has generated a following. The only mob incident to date, requiring the deployment of 200 of the event’s specially trained officers, was to restrain a screaming throng, mainly of Japanese teen girls, as Beckham and Co. stepped off the plane in Sapporo. In England’s firat match against Sweden, at least six players with spiky hair up the middle were on the field at any one time. All were variations on the same theme. It’s already a big look in inner-fashion circles, now rampant on the World Cup pitch, and surely coming soon to a teen near you.

While some have imitated Beckham’s fake Mohawk, or faux-hawk, two World Cup players upped the stakes and opted for the real McCoy. Possibly seeking a psychological edge over their opponents, both Clint Mathis of the United States and Christian Ziege of Germany play for their countries with full-blown Mohawks. Like Nigerian defenceman Taribo West, who is primarily bald except for two bright green horns of knotted hair, Zeige has since dyed his tuft to match the black, red and yellow of the German flag.

It’s not merely a heightened sense of fashion, nor simply a knowing nod to the counterculture that is driving the surge in radical makeovers among the ranks of World Cup players. Indeed they do it to be noticed.

“If you’re trying to break into the big time, you change your hairstyle of colour so you leap out from the other players on the field, not just with your skill but your look,” Wantabe said.

And standing out in every way can be lucrative. For many aspiring national players, the World Cup is a showcase of their talent for international scouts who hold big-ticket professional contracts.

Four years ago at the World Cup in France, Japan’s Hidetoshi Nakata did just that. Topped by a shock of crimson hair, his playing was a major factor in qualifying his team for the elimination round. Shortly after the tournament he signed with his first European club, but now plays for Italy’s AC Parma which paid the Japanese star a handsome transfer fee of £18.5-million.

With that kind of cash there’s no chance he’ll be mistaken for a hooligan, either.

Globe and Mail, Style, June 15, 2002

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