After a footballing career that spanned the guts of 16 years, Gary Lineker became more than a household name on the pitch.
Stepping on to TV screens once he’d hung up his boots for good, the star kept viewers updated during the sport’s most pivotal moments from the comfort of their living rooms.
However, despite how finessed the presenter may seem now – it was far from a natural transition for the former sportsman.
Ahead of his latest collection with Next, Gary chatted about making the move to broadcast, being labelled ‘smug’, developing his personal brand through his style and who he feels football’s fashionistas are in 2023.
You’ve often been described as one of the most fashionable men in the UK. Who do you look up to for inspiration when it comes to style?
I had no idea people thought that! I don’t really follow anyone in particular but probably going back in time, like Steve McQueen or something of that kind of vibe.
It’s pretty cool. When I grew up, I used to admire the way he looked so someone like that maybe. Nowadays, I’m trying to think of who’s quite cool.
Maybe someone I worked with – Michah Richards – he’s a bit more outlandish than I am but he always looks pretty stylish. Ian Wright, I always think he looks great. A lot of footballers are quite into their fashion.
Obviously, they’re young people with quite a bit of money they can spend on clothes and also I think we’re quite a metrosexual bunch so I think a lot of footballers generally.
Can you tell me about your personal style and how much of it has influenced your collection with Next?
I’m generally fairly neutral. I don’t wear too much busy things so obviously when we talked about this, we talked about what I liked and stuff like that and I think it’s been reflected in the collection.
I’ve always enjoyed clothes. I’ve always been interested in fashion. I’m never outlandish particularly and obviously, I work on TV a lot so I have to think about those kinds of things. Bizarrely in this day and age, with patterns and stuff, it’s quite difficult.
With the technology and stuff nowadays, it still amazes me and that’s an issue but generally my day-to-day wear, I like to be comfortable. I like these drawstring trousers, comfy jeans and tracksuits – that kind of vibe.
It’s also nice to dress up sometimes and go out. Match of the Day is quite casual – if we do a big live we’ll suit up sometimes – so there’s a variety.
Is there anyone on the pitch at the moment that you’ve got outfit envy over?
They’re quite young compared to me and you can’t dress like a 20-year-old forever. As you get older, your style changes and becomes perhaps a tad more conservative.
There are players out there with styles I would never go near but I kind of respect – like James Madison.
Are there any occasions that you find really difficult to dress for or that you dread picking out clothes for?
Not really. For big things like the World Cup final, the FA Cup final, live games on tv – it’s actually quite nice to have the opportunity to dress up a little bit because we don’t wear suits as much as we used to.
I’m generally fairly conservative about suits. I don’t like something too garish and particularly I think when you’re on TV a lot and you’re going into people’s homes, you need to be respectful of that.
Do you always dress yourself or do you ever get a bit of help?
Yes. I mean my ex-wife Danielle [Bux] is really good at fashion and stuff so she still helps me now, but no, I’ve never had a stylist.
I don’t think anyone tells me what to wear. They might advise me and Danielle helps me but apart from that I dress myself.
Are there any trends coming out now that you’re interested in getting on board with?
I quite like the fact that the jeans have gone a little bit baggier. I’m quite pleased that it’s gone a bit more that way and there’s a bit more room, especially for footballers, when you’ve got fairly big thighs and everything’s so tight, it’s uncomfortable!
Anything that you just wouldn’t be caught dead in?
I’m slightly uncomfortable in white jeans or anything particularly really garish but I’m fairly game for most things.
What is your piece of advice for any fashion-challenged men out there?
Go with your instincts.
I’ve spent plenty of time in shops over the years and when I’m on my own, I’m more conservative than when perhaps I was with my ex.
I would just say go with your gut, if you like it, that is what matters and if you go with that attitude, you won’t go far wrong.
Looking back over the years – especially the nineties and noughties – are there any outfits that spring to mind that you’re like, “oh my God, what was I thinking?”
Pretty much every old photo I see. There’s loads of examples I could find on my phone but I think in 1990 when we reached the World Cup semi-final – we lost in the semi-final – and I was receiving the FIFA fair play award on behalf of England with Bobby Robson and I had this awful, awful suit and tie that was black with pink and white bits on it.
Also like some of the jumpers I’ve seen in old pictures but in that time, that’s what people were wearing. So I think that probably applies to most people that you’ll look back on old pictures and go, “what hell am I wearing there?”
You’re extremely good at lending a hand when it comes to charities and other causes. What’s your advice or your words of wisdom for society to encourage it to be more active in that space?
I just think we’re in a time where there’s a lot of polarisation and culture wars and there’s a lot of people driving people against each other. I just think it’s a time where we perhaps need to just try and be kind.
I think kindness goes a long way and I think most people are but I think we can get distracted. The extremists on both sides tend to shout the loudest I’ve noticed but I honestly genuinely think that most of us are in the middle and I think most people are kind and generous.
I’ve not given up hope on that and I think it’s important that we stand against these kinds of people who are trying to make us hate each other.
It’s already April of 2023 – so what are your ambitions for the rest of the year?
I’ve got a quiet summer because there’s no major championship as we had the World Cup in the winter so just kind of more of the same. I think I’ve got another shoot for Next which will be interesting, for the summer range.
I’ll be doing lots of football and I’ve got a podcast business and a film business. The podcast business is thriving. It’s been something new and something really interesting.
I’m looking forward to a summer off. I’ll do a bit of Europe, probably Barcelona as it’s kind of my second home because I used to live there and also spend a bit of time at home chilling with my dog. He’s a rescue but he’s kind of half Husky, half Aussie Shepherd. He’s a beautiful boy.
You mentioned photo shoots and things like that. Do you enjoy them?
I think they’re quite fun but it obviously depends on what it is.
I’ve done lots of filming with Walker’s [crips] ads that were loads of fun, but some of them were quite horrendous and freezing cold and stuff.
But it’s something different and it’s quite hard – when you’re as old as I am – to come up with doing things that are a bit different.
At the start, I’m kind of mildly embarrassed when I’m doing the modelling thing and a bit self-conscious, but as the day goes on we start to have a bit of a laugh.
All those years ago, what was it like making the transition from an athlete to a media personality?
It was difficult. I always say that I was born to be in the box, not on the box.
It took a lot of work and the only way you could learn is really by doing – you can’t practice doing live television. The only place you can do it is actually doing live television because it’s too expensive a thing to do like a pilot and stuff like that to practice.
It was really hard at the start, I did a program called Football Focus, which is still going, and I was on Saturday lunchtimes and there were so many times I’d drive home after the show thinking I’m never gonna be able to crack this really.
It took a couple of years before I started to get really comfortable with the environment and work out how it works. Then you become yourself, so you relax more and then people decide whether they like you or not. That’s the key to television – likability.
There were times I thought it was not for me but I wasn’t quite bad enough for them to get rid of me.
On the topic of likability, what do you feel is the biggest misconception that people have of you?
I get called smug sometimes and I’m definitely not but that’s generally only from the usual haters.
I’m past worrying about them. By and large, I never get anything like that on the streets and people are lovely everywhere. I think there’s only been a couple of times in my life where I’ve had people be unpleasant which I think is encouraging and a reflection of the real world.
Was there ever a time when that kind of thing would bother you?
I’m very stable and secure in myself, so no.
Have you had any crazy fan interactions over the course of your career that stuck with you?
Hmm, everywhere I go it’s lovely and I use public transport like trains and tubes and people are always lovely but I did do a shoot with Walkers in Leicester and there was a lot of people turning, watching the camera crews and stuff.
A little old lady did come up to me and she went, “oh, are you Gary Lineker” just as I was about to do a shooting bit and I went, “yeah, that’s right”.
She said, “oh, what’s going on here then? Are they expecting someone special?” That was quite cool and quite funny.
Do you have a dream TV show that you would either like to be a part of or that you would like to host?
I’m in it – Match of the Day. I’ve done so much TV. I host a game show now and it’s coming out next month and that was really fun. Something different.
But I must admit doing the game show, that was so positive and watching people winning serious money was a really lovely thing to do.
But aside from that, well I do what I love. I present football, I watch football matches and it’s like my life. I’ve done lots of things around it but that’s still me. I love this sport. I love the game and I love covering it and being at matches.
Finally, is there ever a time in your life that you think you’ll get tired or bored of football?
No! That’s the easiest question you’ve asked. Never. It’s always going to be there.
It can p**s me off sometimes when my team loses and I’m always grumpy for an hour, but apart from that, no, no, no.
Gary Lineker’s edit with Next is available to view on their website.
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