From the fin of Becks, to the curls of Carlos, to the holiest of ponytails: Nick Moore waxes lyrical about the most memorable World Cup hairdos
10. David Beckham (England, 2006)
Apparently every male in England had David Beckham’s haircut in the summer of 2006: even a pensioner nipping into the barber for a short back ’n’ sides would emerge with some kind of approximation of the ‘Hoxton Fin’.
Those stylists had been gripped by World Cup fever, thanks to a Becks chop that made the man himself look (as ever) like a rugged dreamboat, but left everyone else resembling a despicable blockhead emerging from a Foxton’s Mini or begging the Dragons to fund his rocket shoes.
9. Arturo Vidal (Chile, 2014)
As Jez and Mark once pondered on Peep Show, while locked in a flat foyer as a delivery man stuffed pizza through a bristled letterbox: “Does post even need brushing? Who wants brushed post?”
8. Kyle Beckerman (USA, 2014)
Whether white people with dreadlocks is an example of cultural appropriation or not is a question for another day, but the fact is that the roll call of examples is pretty shameful: Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, Mick Hucknall (let’s never forget that a bladdered Martine McCutcheon once vomited into them in a car), Newton Faulkner (shudder) and so on.
Alas, the Real Salt Lake defender’s dreadlocks never quite worked. Beckerman looked like he should be leading a bongo and puppeteering workshop in the Glastonbury Green Fields before selling low-quality marijuana to some 15-year-olds. Beckerman mercifully shaved the clumps off last year, revealing the face of Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray.
7. Paul Breitner (West Germany, 1982)
The Beatles reckoned that if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow. But the Fab Four hadn’t banked on Breitner, who was apparently an avid reader of the Chinese communist’s Little Red Book, and was almost certainly “making it” with whoever he liked.
Breiner’s barnet was a glorious fluffball, earning him the nickname Der Afro, and in ’82 he caused a kerfuffle by shaving himself for a German fragrance firm. The beard later got so bushy that his face was eventually completely encircled in follicles.
6. Chris Waddle (England, 1990)
More words have now been written about Waddle’s mullet than any other topic in football history, but it’s still worth taking a moment to bask and bathe in its visual magnificence.
With thick swathes at the top and an expertly dyed lower portion, it billowed like the tail of a carefree pony as he scampered down the left wing for the Three Lions. Gallop, my beauty!
5. Rene Higuita (Colombia, 1990)
Higuita was appropriately nicknamed El Loco: as well as performing unorthodox scorpion kicks, he bashed out lines of cocaine, was mates with Pablo Escobar, and was in jail during USA ’94 after getting involved in a kidnapping case.
So you’d think twice before mocking his lavish, tumbling locks, which closely resembled the sweetly teased curls of an inaccessibly beautiful girl from your 1980s high school. Any comparisons to Diana Ross, however, were deflected with a truly sinister spiv moustache.
4. Ronaldo (Brazil, 2002)
The chipmunk-like goal genius’s astonishing forehead triangle was, he exclusively revealed in 2017, a deliberate ploy to distract people from his leg injury.
“Everybody was talking about that, so I decided to cut my hair and leave the small thing there,” he said. “I come to training and everybody saw me with bad hair. Everybody forgot about the injury. I could stay more relaxed and focused on my training. I’m not proud about the hair itself because it was pretty strange. But it was a good way to change the subject.” Fair enough, O Fenomeno.
3. Roberto Baggio (Italy, 1994)
Despite being a Buddhist rather than the more traditional Italian Pope-botherer, the Azzurri scoring machine’s tied-back curls were still given religious honours back home, as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail).
In reality, it was a fairly run-of-the-mill ponytail attached to a truly divine fantasista (“The angels sing in his legs,” his Fiorentina boss Aldo Agroppi once said, confusingly). Alas, Buddha (or his Holiness, or the leg angels) cruelly abandoned him for the final kick of USA ’94 at the Rose Bowl, a bar-ballooner that would haunt him for years to come. The ponytail was quietly cut off in 1997. A shame.
2. Carlos Valderrama (Colombia, 1994)
Valderrama deserves to be remembered globally for his skills – a sublime first touch and passing range, in his case – rather than just the victim of tiresome Sideshow Bob gags.
But, hey, this is a list about haircuts, and El Pibe’s barnet remains the gold standard – superior to David Luiz’s tribute act thanks to the sheer tightness and canine undertones of his utterly superb blond perm.
1. Taribo West (Nigeria, 1998)
West was a genuine rival to Higuita in the mania stakes. His wild haircuts often distracted from his brilliance as a player, but with these kinds of stylings, can we be surprised? His zenith was in ’98, where he adopted Keith from The Prodigy meets seven-year-old girl bunches, which sprouted from the defender’s dome like spring onions. Majestic.