If you were to ask anyone interested in fashion to nominate a stylish male footballer in 2023, they might – depending on their generation – namecheck Héctor Bellerín, Dominic Calvert-Lewin or David Beckham. But for most men watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night, it would probably be Gary Lineker. The former footballer and host of the highlights show for almost 25 years is a style icon for millions, whether he’s wearing a crisp shirt and Clark Kent glasses on the pundit couch or Blundstone boots on a walk with his dog, Filbert.
Lineker has, of course, been in the headlines for more than his style recently. Thanks to his tweet criticising the government’s asylum policy, he was suspended by the BBC. With Alan Shearer and Ian Wright boycotting the show in solidarity, Match of the Day was broadcast without any presenters on 11 March. Now back on the couch, Lineker can settle into less controversial territory – like working on an edit of clothes for Next. Here, he chats about his outfit choices over the years, Match of the Day wardrobe policies, that tweet and who is going to win the Premier league.
Do you think you’ve become a style icon for a certain kind of guy?
I would never say that of myself. I’ve always been interested in clothes and fashion. I look at some pictures and I think: “What the hell were we thinking?” But I might even think that about [what I’m wearing today] in 20 years, if I’m still alive. Most footballers are into fashion, though. We’re a metrosexual lot. Look at the players or people I work with – Ian Wright loves his clothes, Micah Richards loves clothes. I would never describe myself as an icon, but I’m very pleased that you put the question to me.
Are there any outfits you regret?
When you’ve been a player in the public eye for a long time, there are quite a lot. There’s one in particular at the 1990 World Cup. It was the final week. We got to the semis and lost. I stayed on with Bobby Robson to receive the Fifa fair play award. I wore this super garish suit, like a Versace number, so not me. That’s the thing with fashion – you look back on things, some of the jumpers [we wore]. There was also a shoot from when I was at Barcelona, when I am in cycling gear. It’s quite easy to find [on the internet].
Do you think it’s more acceptable as a player to be more into fashion now?
They are young people who are on decent money and can afford to splash out. It’s always been the case that people would dress to care what they look like; footballers are vain. There was George Best, Bobby Moore. Now you have people like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is quite outlandish, Héctor Bellerín, James Maddison. It’s not what I would wear but I am 40 years older than some of these players. You have to think about that a little as you get older.
Calvert-Lewin has said he has been ribbed by his teammates …
That would also go on. That’s just part of football, and it keeps footballers grounded. There’s so much mickey-taking, but I quite admire the fact he wears what he wears.
How do you decide what you wear on Match of the Day?
We have no wardrobe. Everyone dresses themselves. We just get told to go for “casual” – they don’t want jackets and ties – and it’s left to us. I always wear my own clothes and it’s the same for everyone else on the show. For an FA Cup final or the World Cup final, it’s a big night, it’s like the Oscars, so we wear a suit and tie. I actually prefer wearing a tie to just a suit and shirt because when you’re sitting down on TV, it tightens it up a bit. I lean forward a lot and when I do that, the shirt buttons can come open. The tie hides that.
Is there anything you have to avoid?
Match of the Day is a green screen so it’s like a virtual reality show. You can’t wear green, you can’t wear white, you can’t wear patterns. That means it’s unbelievably restrictive. The cameras can’t cope. You’ve basically got plain dark colours, or light blue.
Do you plan ahead together?
There’s no planning. We don’t have a WhatsApp group talking about the clothes that we’re going to wear for the show. Last week, Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy both wore exactly the same thing – off-white trousers with a black shirt. They looked like the same person, and I ribbed them about it. We don’t go: “Should someone get another shirt?”
Who is the best-dressed pundit?
Ian Wright. He really cares and brings in two or three outfits. Micah and Jermaine are really into their clothes. Wrighty always looks really cool – like he hasn’t made an effort – but he looks good.
Does he have various glasses?
Yes, as do I. I did something a while ago with Vision Express and I’ve got about 40 pairs so I match them with what I wear. Because I wear them all the time now, it just becomes another fashion item.
How is everything on Match of the Day? Are you all friends again?
We’re all friends. We were always friends. It was my friends who helped me out; it was beautiful. But it shouldn’t have happened like that, it was disproportionate.
Would you send a tweet like that again?
Probably. I can’t help myself, if it’s something I care about. I’m fairly careful about what I say, and I’ll continue to be. I think I am on the right side.
Saturday night wasn’t the same on 11 March, without presenters.
It was very different. I watched the first minute, like everyone else. There was no sound, it was so bizarre.
Who do you think is going to win the Premier League?
I tipped Arsenal from about November, but now I think it’s 50/50 between them and Man City. I still think they’ve got a real chance. If they can get anything on Wednesday, I think they’ll win it. If they don’t, it’s difficult. City can win every game because they’re so good. People are saying Arsenal are bottling it and that’s nonsense. Two away draws is not bottling it. [This interview took place before Arsenal’s 3-3 draw to Southampton on Friday night]. I suppose they have given away leads, but away from home [those things can happen]. But they’re a good side, a really good side. If it’s not this season, it will come. They’re well-managed, good recruitment, great young players, they’ll be fine.
How would you describe your style these days?
I think I am fairly conservative. I’m not really garish – because of my age, I don’t think I could get away with it. Wrighty can because he’s naturally that way. We’ve gone through years of tight jeans and now I’m so relieved they’ve gone baggy. I feel much more comfortable and better in them. We all want to be Steve McQueen. It’s never going to happen, but we can keep trying.
You must get asked to work with brands all the time. Why did you decide to work with Next?
I think it’s because it’s British – from Leicester. And then they came to us with a range and I kind of liked it. I never thought I would go with white trousers, [but I’m tempted]. It’s quite flattering that, in my grand old age, I can still do something like this.